Michael Moore’s new film ventures into the broken lives of low income Americans suffering in the sub-prime melt-down and so-called global financial crisis, and also into the corridors of US executive and corporate power. It’s not a pretty picture! Moore’s usual cheap technique of walking up to security guards and doormen of said headquarters with his cameras is put to good effect and raises our smiles. And he shamelessly displays the victims’ distress.
Capitalism and corporatism are conflated, but when Moore attacks the US$700 billion bail-out of the banking and financial sectors, its understandable. The contrast between high-flying executive greed on Wall Street and those working class lives deeply affected by property foreclosure and job loss is stark and shocking. The influx of Goldman Sachs executives into senior US Treasury roles before and after their failures shows the cynical control exercised by these vultures. Secretary Hank Paulson is the apotheosis of this take-over, with a fortune estimated at $700 million before seamlessly assuming the top economic job in US government. Their shenanigans with President Bush in pushing the bail-out package through Congress are a travesty of democracy, with some courageous congressmen & women valiantly resisting.
Worker resistance too, in a factory bankrupted by Bank of America, to loss of final pay entitlements is an heroic tale. In a glare of media coverage, the bank finally relents: jubilant workers leave their factory sit-in and receive an average $6000 pay-out! Bank of America paid $228 million to 13 executives last year, or $17.5 million each. Combined with Citigroup their bail-out was $90 billion.
Airline pilots earning $19,000 per year are grossly exploited in that deregulated industry! ‘Pennies for Pilots’ literally allows flying customers to leave money in begging buckets. And so it goes. Ugly, unregulated modern American capitalism in its heartland: no minimum wages, no union protection, no health cover.
Franklin Roosevelt’s lost attempt in his final years to introduce a second bill of rights to guarantee the basic rights of Americans to a job, home, health care, etc. is a little-known episode in America’s relentless drive to incredible income disparity: 1% of the population owns 95% of the nation’s wealth.
Moore’s final light-hearted take on Wall Street when he rolls out ‘crime scene’ police tape around bank buildings, calling their inhabitants to come out, still leaves behind feelings of disgust. KC correspondant had a sneak film preview, but its out later this week. If Moore’s polemical style is off-putting, just look for some fundamental truths.