Saturday, October 3, 2009

Not Too Cranky at the Movies

Yesterday I saw Michael Moore's new documentary, CAPITALISM: A LOVE AFFAIR. It's a curious artifact, falling into two distinct halves.

During the first half, I found myself getting impatient for the same reasons everybody gets impatient with Moore: oversimplification of complex issues, injecting himself egotistically in the middle of his subject, going too often for the cheap and flashy effect. Two examples: First, he represents all landlords who evict non-paying tenants as evil and money-grubbing. Yes, these people have lost their jobs, but some small landlords are also in needful circumstances. I know a woman, for instance, who rents out a duplex, her only asset. One of the tenants has stopped paying rent. But my friend must still pay her mortgage and taxes and utilities on the building, and she needs that rent to buy her own groceries. Moore ignores such two-sided argument.

He also ignores facts that contradict his damning picture of modern capitalism. When he says that "Wall Street bought itself a B actor as president," he leaves out a few steps in the process, such as the fact that Ronald Reagan was governor of California. Now, I hold no brief for Reagan, and I think his deregulation of many key industries led in part to our current mess, but to give the impression that he was a man with no qualifying political experience before he ran for president is to falsify reality. In addition, Moore conveniently overlooks the fact that many of the people now in trouble elected him. Twice. There is something to the idea that people get the governments they deserve.

But when Moore gets out of the way and lets people tell their own stories, in the second half of the film, it becomes genuinely moving. The factory workers at Republic Windows and Doors who staged a successful sit-in to get the back pay and severance packages they had been promised. The Indiana sheriff who flatly refused to evict any more families, leaving children out on the street. The rural couple whose Countrywide loan (and those lenders are genuine villains) kept escalating in monthly payments -- from $1700 to $2000 to $2200 to $2400 -- until they lost the farm. And above all, footage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt giving a press conference on an "American Economic Bill of Rights," which he did not live long enough to implement.

This is an engrossing movie, despite its flaws. When Moore gets himself and his flashy antics out of the way, it's an important movie. Go see it.


Mark said...

One reason I like to watch stuff like CNBC/CNN, etc. is that "Knowledge is Power" is totally true, at least, when we choose to actually use the knowledge. I think of the history I've studied and how FD Roosevelt and his successors chose to create make-work jobs for the sake of lower unemployment numbers rather than create something with enduring value, a true investment in a society's future. Namely, the destruction of privately owned mass transit companies and urban infill sacrificed for the raw job numbers of the auto industry and sprawling suburbia. I can also point to W. Bush's half-A deregulation of mortgage and banking requirements, Reagan's pyrrhic victory over the Soviets by becoming more Soviet that the Soviets, and lately the bailout of inefficient, inbred and dishonest businesses.

Yes, in general we (individually and collectively) get what we deserve. So, after I've expanded this for maybe posting on my own blog (appologies for being long winded on yours) I'll get back to studying ways of HOW I can use this current world situation to improve things for me, or, as a flight attendant would say "put your own oxygen mask on first before trying to help anyone else". I've already seen an upturn in my personal career progress from this change in paradigm.

BTW, loved "Fahrenheit 911", but I don't see myself paying to see Moore's latest.

Paul said...

I saw Moore’s film last evening. It’s full of contradictions. For example, if Moore had traced the money in his father’s monthly pension check prior to GM’s bankruptcy, he would have discovered that the GM pension fund was not a pile of cash sitting in the backroom at headquarters, but a global investment fund that held stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate and exotics.

Also, some of people in the co-ops Moore interviewed seemed gleeful that their democratic business model is allegedly more profitable than a traditional corporate dictatorship.

And how does the highest human boss of the priests Moore interviewed feel about capitalism? Considering the Vatican maintains its own bank, complete with investment portfolio, one would think that the Papacy considers capitalism as being compatible with Catholic values.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

A couple of years ago (I forget the particulars), a woman published a carefully-documented article describing the investments Michael Moore has in Big Corporations. Which have pretty much made him a millionaire.

The man is a hypocrite from the words, "DOWN WITH CAPITALISM!"

He is beneath contempt.

Ronald Reagan--Victor of the Cold War, Liberator of Nations--is certainly the greatest president of my lifetime.

I don't know about yours'.

Miggy said...

And Sarah Palin is the Easter Bunny.

TheOFloinn said...

Paul wrote:
one would think that the Papacy considers capitalism as being compatible with Catholic values.

Both capitalism and communism are heresies, in that both reduce man to no more than an economic unit. Chesterton's Fr. Brown mystery, "The Crime of the Communist" lays this out rather well.

Capitalism, which is the husbanding and preservation of wealth, gave way some while ago to consumerism, which is the spending of wealth. This was simply a logical consequence of the Triumph of the Will. I choose!
+ + +
Mark wrote:
W. Bush's half-A deregulation of mortgage and banking requirements

Which was that? The mortgage bubble was pumped up by HUD regulations requiring that a specified percentage of mortgages go to borrowers at greater risk of default. (For 1996, HUD required that 12% of all mortgage purchases by Fannie/Freddie be "special affordable" loans, typically to borrowers with income less than 60% of their area's median income. That number was increased to 20% in 2000 and 22% in 2005. The 2008 goal was to be 28% but the bubble burst.)

The only two regulatory actions I remember from my brief stint down in DC at the time was a) that Fannie/Freddy would now be required to maintain a positive Fed balance during the day, just like private lenders; and b) that Treasury's request for special oversight of Fannie and Freddy was torpedoed in the Congress.

bluesman miike Lindner said...


bluesman miike Lindner said...

Miggy, what Sarah Palin has to do with anything here, you'll have to explain.

After President Reagan left office, he accepted the offer of the Polish government to visit. His motorcade drove through Warsaw in a =solid= rainstorm. Over a million lined the streets to greet him. A father was asked why he brought his two-year old son out in such terrible weather. "So my son can tell =his= sons, he saw The Liberator."

Unknown said...

i haven't seen this new documentary but yes he keeps things simple but then he needs to reach his audience with his message.

America is kind of the place to love capitalism, and he has to change this outlook from within the country, it's a toughy!

This ecconomic crisis has been tough on many people and sometime an equity release scheme can be a real life saver for people that have fallen on hard times.

my parents are out of work and my father is ill, they have been forced to take a lifetime mortgage on my family home which they had been hoping to leave to my brother and i after they die.

is it capitlism fault we are globally suffering? i know it's not my parents!