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?


Pauline said...

Michael Specter created the term 'denialism' in an article about anti-science, defined by him as what happens “when an entire segment of society, often struggling with the trauma of change, turns away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie.” You could apply that to capitalism, too.

nocomme1 said...

Sorry to see you seem to have bought mulit-millionaire Michael Moore's latest reiteration of his usual spiel against capitalism (anti-capitalism being the main, underlying theme of most of his movies).

Moore is one of the great frauds of all time, of course. While building a fortune making a living attacking America he has extolled the wonders of the prison-island, Cuba, a nation wherein disagreement with Castro has led to the imprisonment, beating and murder of thousands and from which hundreds of thousands have fled, the bullets of the Cuban military whizzing by their heads as they take to their rafts in flight.

Capitalism certainly is far from perfect; nothing created my man ever is. But it takes an astonishing moral blindness to say that a more statist society is the solution. For a look at the wonders of greater state control I draw your attention to The Black Book of Communism It sets forth in "exquisite" detail the murder, mutilation, family destruction etc of communism in the 20th century. The death toll is put at more than 100 million. Cuba is covered in detail. (By the way Pete Seeger was a big supporter of the murderous Soviet Union. Oh, and fyi Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to the president for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Obama administration is a self avowed Maoist. Mao is responsible for the death of an estimated 60-70million people.)

Other statist variations include Nazism and fascism. Hitler and Mussolini were "big government" guys, of course who bore far more similarity to our current administration than they do to Reagan's.

Capitalism has many flaws which need regular fixes but the good that it has done so far outweighs the bad that it seems remarkable to me that any serious person could discuss making any essential changes to it. The standard of living today in the US is so much greater than it was 100 years ago that it boggles the mind. Most "poor" people in the US have better standards of living than the average citizens in most state-controlled govts. Better health care, TVs, air conditioners, houses; American "poor" have better lives than ever. But we need more opportunity, not redistribution of wealth. It is anathema to freedom and the human spirit.

Michael Moore attacks the system that supplies his daily 5,000 calorie intake and it makes him a truly despicable hypocrit.

nocomme1 said...

And to address some of your other points: Cars are so expensive in large part because unions and govt regulations have added so much cost to the production of cars that the car companies actually lose money on each car they build. Energy costs are largely so high due to govt intervention in the market and oh, energy cost will soon "skyrocket" per Obama. House foreclosures are so high because the govt mandated that banks lower their lending criteria so more people could "afford" houses. They couldn't, of course and finally the whole artifial house of card collapsed, precipitating in large part this current economic crisis. Doctors are afraid of lawsuits because the Democrats refuse to do anything to reign in lawsuits or enact tort reform. This is because the Lawyer's lobby lines their pockets more than almost any other group.

The govt has caused or greatly exacerbated most of the problems that you lay at Reagan's feet.

More govt is the problem, NOT the solution.