Sunday, November 8, 2009
Where is Our Woody Guthrie?
I went to see Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" last night. Excellent film. Go. If you disagree with him, it's most important that you go. Go to scoff, but go. Listen.
I took it hard; the facts are so cold when presented on a large screen, when you see the faces of the people who are being crushed by the Capitalism machine:
"Dead peasant" insurance policies that enrich an employer for a worker's untimely death. Citibank crowing to its top investors that America is now a plutonomy, with the only possible threat to a perfect corporate/government synergy being the one man one vote policy. A laundry list of Goldman executives who have been or are now the top financial people in the government.
Moore did a terrific job of contrasting life before Ronald Reagan and life after him. He describes him as the perfect pitch man, and what he sold us was trickle down economics; the idea that if you let the rich get richer, the money will come down to the rest of us. And the incredible part is that many bought that argument so solidly that despite the fact that they're sinking, that they can't pay their bills, that their salaries have been flat and families must work at least two jobs to survive, despite the fact that car loans are now routinely for five years because we can't possibly pay off a car in three, despite the fact that it is nearly impossible to get a young person through college without massive loan debt, despite the fact that we work longer and harder, make comparatively less yet have little or no job security, despite the fact that we lose our homes, go bankrupt because of health costs, and get poorer quality care from lawsuit-fearful doctors, despite all of this, they still BELIEVE the Reagan line. They believe it with all their hearts.
They're convinced that government is an evil which much be contained, rather than believing that government can be a tool for ensuring the public good. Is government evil right now? Yes, for the most part. It's corrupt, it's become what the Reaganites wanted - an arm of corporate America. It is populated by people who are indebted to the very interests they should be regulating, rather than the voters who put them in office. That's the system we've allowed to exist. And that's what has to change.
There are a few lights shining in the dark. Marcy Kaptur, for example, has my vote if I could vote for her. I like Dennis Kucinich. Don't dismiss him as a strange little man - that's what the System does to threats - it either attacks them or mocks them. He envisions a government that I could support. Bernie Sanders is a democratic Socialist? He's immediately got my vote if only for raw, buck the system honesty. He believes that government should be used to ensure the public good. Maurice Hinchey shares my philosophy, and would be an ally if Congress took a step toward reform.
The list of legislators who should be tossed out on their ears is too long to list and it is totally bipartisan. If you participate in the game as it's currently played, you should be fired. Period.
And you, you reading this, if you're in the US, you should be getting involved. You should consider running for office. Yes, it's a total drag and not what you want to do with your life, but that's exactly the kind of people who should be in office; citizen legislators who view the job as jury duty; I'll do it for a term because I should, but then I want out so I can have my life back. It isn't supposed to be a career.
But how do we get people riled up enough to act? Michael Moore's doing his part. He's pretty much doing it in a vaccuum. The Depression had Woody Guthrie to spread the message of discontent. The sixties had Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, even Woody's son. Who is the Troubador for the New People's Movement? Who can speak to both Red and Blue and make them see that their interests are the same: they want an America where they can live, work, raise their families and pursue opportunities to better themselves.
Our businesses make record profits while the workers go bankrupt. Giant corporations push through a bailout that they use to give bonuses to the people who created the banking crisis, for conferences in exotic locations, to increase their profits while attempting to crush the local competition. Small businesses are driven out by giant box stores and farmers are squashed by giant agribusiness.
It's simple logic: it's gotten too big to be sustainable. We're less healthy, less happy, less hopeful and more angry. To paraphrase the Great Communicator: Are You Better Off Than You Were Before We Made Capitalism America's God?