Sun 4 Oct, 2009 07:58 am
Review of Michael Moore's "Capitalism -- A Love Story"
By Steven Leser
I didn't know what to expect with this latest Michael Moore film. I knew what to expect going into “Sicko” and “Farenheit 451” and “Bowling for Columbine”. As I watched this new effort unfold on the screen, I realized this is a very different Michael Moore movie.
Previous Moore movies hit you over the head with what they wanted from you. The intent of Sicko was to motivate the country to seek Universal Healthcare for all. The purpose of Farenheit 451 was to stop the war in Iraq. Bowling for Columbine was a clear call for more gun regulation. “Capitalism " A Love Story” is more subtle with what it expects from us.
I'm sure that Conservative Pundits will spin the movie as a call for Socialism or Communism. Lazy thinking would certainly lead someone in that direction, i.e., “Well, if he doesn't like Capitalism, what other economic systems are out there?”. I hope this subtlety doesn't end up hurting the film. People who can (and are willing to) think will figure out what Moore is trying to say with this movie.
Moore's ire is not aimed at Capitalism in general, but what American Capitalism has become since the 1970's and 80's. Moore speaks lovingly, albeit indirectly, about the brand of Capitalism that existed in the US in the 1940's, 50's and 1960's, using examples from his own family and his father's tenure in the auto industry replete with good health insurance and a good pension that cannot be taken away.
This film shows how something has gone wrong since then, something that we need to fix. The movie addresses US home evictions, the destruction of American manufacturing, the bailouts of the financial industry and much more. But consider what I wrote above about Moore's father. Michael Moore's dad worked over 30 years with the same company, he wasn't laid-off or furloughed, and he had great benefits including healthcare and a pension for life after retirement. What has happened to all of that? Did we get something better in return for having given that up? Not that we had a choice, those kinds of things were simply taken away from us.
If we could all vote to go back to the economic system in the 1950's and 1960's versus the system we have now, what do you think the vote would be like? I think it would be 85% for the 1950's and 1960's and 15% for what we have now. So what do the 85% of us do, if anything? That is the question with which Michael Moore intentionally leaves us. In some ways, not having “what to do” wrapped up all nicely for us is refreshing. It makes one think, assuming one is inclined to do so.
The most interesting rub in this is, even if you are in the wealthiest 1% or a CEO or both, what has to hit you is that American businesses were more successful in the 1950s and 1960s than they have been since. “Capitalism " A Love Story” is a great film that should be seen by everyone. We have lost something in this country and this movie makes that clear.
I have not watched the movie, but I do agree based what I have read about it.
The best interviews were on, of course, The Daily Show, Jay Leno Show and Tavis Smiley (the best of the lot).
We have lost something in this country and this movie makes that clear.
I don't exactly disagree with this statement (it does seem that something has been lost, however being in my late 20's, I personally have never lost anything, this is just the way it's always been).
Where I have a problem with this approach is that it appears to assume that America did something to make this happen; as opposed to the rest of the world changing and 'catching up' with America.
Maybe the movie addresses this, but your post does not.
The rest of the world has caught up with us and surpasses us on many fronts. Start with education.
Everything in our economy will eventually go by way of the buggywhip. However, it does seem that our pols, the people at the Chamber of Commerce, et al., have done their best to hasten this relative to the U. S. economy.
I think one of the biggest mistakes the U.S. made is the implementation of NAFTA.
From @badbanana (paraphrased) "Capitalism is evil, says Michael Moore's latest film. Tickets on sale for $8.50."
The following is an excerpt from a review of Chris Hedges latest book. The book, inter alia, explains how we are living under a prosperity illusion crafted by our politicians. The question I have is when all this comes crashing down on us. This appears to be inevitable.
The last chapter is a sort of general overview of the dismal state of this country. Hedges writes that our financial crisis is rooted in the destruction of American manufacturing since the 1970's. An example of the decline of American manufacturing ability, he observes, occurred when the city of New York in 2003 offered a several billion dollar contract for a company to build subway cars. No American company took the offer, which was eventually given to Canadian and Japanese companies. Since the 1970's our economy has rested on the accumulation of un-unsustainable amounts of corporate and house-hold debt, used to a large extent not for productive investment but for participation in speculative bubbles and consumption to support luxurious living. Our economy is kept afloat by the willingness of foreigners to buy up this debt. As government social services are continuously slashed, the bailouts of 2008/2009 have only strengthened the stranglehold of corporate America on our economy and government resources.
While the annual compensation packages of CEOs soar well into the tens of millions of dollars, the median American family income has declined in inflation adjusted terms since the early 70's. We call ourselves a free market economy but a leading pillar of our economy is the taxpayer funded military-industrial complex, powering companies like Lockheed Martin. Hedges notes the example of the US government's annual provision of 3 billion dollars of taxpayer funds to the dictatorship in Egypt, 1.3 billion dollars of which (taxpayer dollars) is required to be used for purchasing weapons from private American defense companies. The US uses half of its annual discretionary spending on the military and spends more on its military than all the other countries in the world combined.
While trillions of dollars are spent on weapons and foreign occupations, our health care costs spiral out of control. Hedges writes that our private health care system is nearly twice as expensive as the national health services "in countries like Switzerland."Hedges notes how the percentage of budget devoted to overhead and administrative costs in our for profit health system is so vastly greater than the same costs in traditional government run Medicare. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 people die every year because they can't afford health care. 46 million Americans have no health insurance and 25 million more are under-insured. Half of all bankruptcies in the US are due to health care costs overwhelming family budgets. Americans pay 40 percent more than Canadians for prescription drugs. Our politicians, Obama included, do everything they can to accommodate the for profit health care companies. In his overview of health care problems, I wish Hedges would have included some comparisons of a few health indicators between the US and some of the countries that have the most efficient socialized medicine systems.
Meanwhile, our politicians have covered up our unraveling. According to Hedges, the Consumer Price Index is constructed to under-estimate the real rate of inflation. Ronald Reagan lowered his unemployment rate by including members of the military in the employment count. Bill Clinton lowered the official unemployment rate of his reign by excluding from the employment count people who had stopped looking for work and also by counting low wage under-employed workers as employed. American jobs have gone to the low wage third world. Hedges notes that, contrary to Clinton's prediction in 1993, NAFTA has thrown 2 million Mexican farmers off the land and many of them have ended up in the US. Even more illegal immigrants have come from Mexico as northern Mexican factories have closed down and relocated to the even lower wage and even lesser regulated paradise of China.
Hedges gives a great deal of space to quoting various scholars and philosophers in order to back up his sociological observations. Other topics he discusses include positive psychology, the destruction of higher education and the willingness of corporate media hacks to take at face value the words of the powerful.
Hedges suggests possible future scenarios where most Americans are virtual corporate slaves, controlled and monitored by the ever expanding power of law enforcement. He fears that the biggest contrast in this country will be between a marginalized literate minority on the one hand and on the other a barely functionally literate or functionally illiterate majority enchanted by corporate entertainment and the vacuous PR spectacles and slogans of politicians. He fears that as social conditions worsen, right wing demagogues will make great headway. He is very worried about future environmental catastrophes. However he ends his book with the hope that decent human values can be utilized to confront our growing corporate tyranny.
The film is not advocating that capitalism is evil, it's exposing the evils within capitalism.