Benny's World

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Call to Action for Democracy

Once in a while, I miss JRE's campaign for One America. I was so swept up in the cause of bridging the haves and have-nots, and creating a rising tide for all boats, especially the working poor and the middle class.

This afternoon, Mr. Benny and I went to see Michael Moore's latest film Capitalism: A Love Story. And with its overall populist tone, I felt as though I were back in time being a volunteer monitor for JRE's blog for a couple of hours.

Michael Moore grew up believing that capitalism was supposed to be a rising tide too for all boats. If one worked hard, received decent wages, got a good pension, and received health care for little or as part of the benefits package, then we were living the American dream. As Moore puts it, "if capitalism was like that when I grew up, I was all for it. " That's what I believed too growing up.

Moore smacks the Clinton and Bush Administrations equally for the repeal of the Glass-Stegall Act and the abuses thereof, although Moore could have made a better tie with explaining Glass-Stegall first if he was trying to make comparisons with the FDR era in certain respects. In fact Moore doesn't really mention the name of the act, perhaps recognizing that many of his fans may not know the name of it, and perhaps didn't think it to be as important. However, Moore rightfully admonishes Ronald Reagan for commencing the dismantling the unions, deregulating S & L's, and for being the poster man of Corporate America/Wall Street taking control. Moreover, Moore doesn't let off Congress either for taking gifts and giving so much power away to Wall Street either for the past 20 years, doing nothing to make the CEO's of the manufacturing sector accountable for their short-term shareholder outlooks.

As with any Michael Moore film, some new unseemly corporate practices are revealed and are shocking. I'm a business librarian by trade, and I wasn't aware of some of those practices. To me they are unethical, but as Moore points out, they aren't illegal either. I think they should be and I think Moore would like us to push for more watchdogs.

The title of the movie is somewhat a double entendre, whereby many of the financial services folks, such as Bernie Madoff and the CEO's of many banks, were so into predatory lending practices and derivatives that they got lost. One VIP lending officer at Countrywide gave heavily discounted loan rates to many members of Congress (ie Chris Dodd, Kent Conrad, etc) and friends of the CEO. He believed he did nothing wrong, it was his job as instructed. Thus, he and the others didn't feel remorse. Borrowing from the last line of the 1969 movie Love Story, their work didn't merit "having to say you are sorry." Yet, they all should have.

Moore doesn't really advocate for socialism, communism, etc. Instead, he advocates to make our elected officials more accountable and to have more regulations on industries in which the service is invisible, difficult to understand. Likewise, CEO's can share the fruit of the labor as an alternative business model. One example was Avocado Street Bakery in California.

The most poignant aspect of the movie was the historical film sequence of FDR giving his State of the Union message on the radio, but having a film company film a certain part of it so that folks could see it on the movie screens (if I understood this correctly). The sequence moved me deeply, and that's when I wanted to be part of an One America movement again. It was exactly what JRE and EE talked about, and at least we know EE believes to this day.

This movie is funny and at times, will move you as I mentioned above. I think this is my favorite Moore flick, although I will always be fond of his first one, Roger and Me, maybe as this kind of returned to that sort of theme. Difference is making this more quickly with "heavy capital" producers (which is fine, Moore is not criticizing making a lot of profit, it's exploitation as an intent by companies thereof). In the credits, he mentions everyone, including researchers, etc. And he hired editors instead of attempting to do more of the work himself; he is exercising more vision.

Capitalism: A Love Story is a must see for all JRE, Dennis Kucinch, Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, Alan Grayson, and Jeff Merkley supporters. If one loves the true progressive blogs like Bleeding Heartland, JRE Movement Continues, Old Elm Tree, Docudharma, Montana Maven as well as the DU,Open Left, or Progressive Blue --this film will resonate as this is Moore's finest to date. His remedy is spot on: spreading wider the populist seeds and pushing for extended fruits of democracy but deeper in the bushes and trees, where it be in Congress, the White House (Mr. President that means you as well) or in the workplace. Following our POTUS's new Nobel Peace laureate and his call to action missive, this movie is timely.

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