Just Jake

Jake Highton is a journalism professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno. He teaches media law, history of journalism and advanced reporting. Highton is the author of numerous books, including "Nevada Newspaper Days." He writes a weekly column for the Daily Sparks Tribune.

Location: United States

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wall Street and money rule

We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend.
-- Economist John Maynard Keynes

Michael Moore has capitalism dead-on: it is immoral. Profits are all that matter to the immoralists.
The nation is governed by Wall Street, corporations, lobbyists and campaign bribes to members of Congress. Money and politics rule, not the pretense that the people rule.
For politicians it is mandatory to proclaim that America is a great country. Moore makes it plain it is not.
He ridicules the preamble to the Constitution which makes the false promise to “establish justice…(and) promote the general welfare.”
Moore’s answer to capitalism is socialism. Capitalism is taking. Socialism is sharing. Socialism is humane, caring, sensitive, everything capitalism is not.
Capitalism is a plutonomy. It means wealth for the few, skimping for the many. Capitalism is mean, oblivious to everything but big profits. It is evil. It is unfit for human beings.
Moore establishes these truths in his latest film, “Capitalism: a Love Story.”
He notes that the Treasury department and Wall Street run the country. Capitalism busts unions. It slashes pay and eliminates pensions. It exploits people. It pays low wages while overworking its employees.
Moore points out that capitalism has even hijacked Jesus, whose teaching argues for everything that capitalism opposes.
Capitalism is ghoulish. An insured employee is worth more dead than alive.
Some corporations are candid about it, referring to “dead peasants.” Yes, peasants, serfs, mere soil-tillers, uneducated, low class.
A grim joke in the airline industry: “Just don’t apply for welfare in uniform.” Many students leave college owing $100,000 and taking 20 years to pay it off. Civilized nations provide free college education.
Moore opens the film in ancient Rome, the rulers gathering all the money, the masses appeased by bread and circuses. He closes with a jazzy version of the leftist fight song, “The Internationale,” with its stirring phrase “a better world’s in birth.”
Moore shows that the federal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans was once a well deserved 90 percent. Reagan and Bush II changed that, completing the reaction with tax cuts for the wealthy and abetting the capitalistic beast with deregulation.
Reagan once exulted in a speech to Wall Streeters: “You can now turn the bull loose!”
“Capitalism is the legalization of greed,” Moore said in an interview with Naomi Klein of The Nation. "We have a totalitarian situation allowing the richest 1 percent to have more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined.”
America has socialism for the wealthy, privatization for nearly everyone else.
Moore plays himself: wearing jeans in sharp contrast to the “suits” with their white shirts, neckties and jackets. As always, he wears his baseball cap,
He speaks slowly, solemnly, despairingly, mournfully. But he has the happy faculty of soothing his anger with humor.
He cordons off Wall Street with crime-scene yellow tape. He speaks of the “condo vultures” who get rich in Florida’s housing bust.
The one problem is Moore’s incurable optimism. He talks movingly of people rebelling. He speaks glowing of the few workers that win fights against capitalism. He brings tears to the eyes with accounts of struggling people.
But the incidents are so few. Moore forgets that so many people vote against their best economic interests. He forgets that the bulk of American people will reject socialism despite the far fairer life it offers.
He forgets that Americans are conditioned by schools, the media, churches and society. They drum in the message that capitalism is good, socialism is bad.
Moreover, the propaganda of the system is effective, the wonders of free enterprise and the idea that everyone can get rich.
No wonder America is a frightfully conservative country.
Nevertheless, Moore convincingly proves the point made by Chris Hedges earlier this year in a Truthout online article, “America is in need if a moral bailout”:
“We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding.
“The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered.”
Moore is always on the side of the angels. His films have included “Roger & Me,” an indictment of the auto industry; “Sicko,” a plea for universal health insurance; and “Bowling for Columbine,” a scathing look at America’s lust for guns.
He is the most important documentary filmmaker in America today. He speaks for the disenfranchised. He is one of America’s few heroes.


Blogger Social Democrat said...


In your rush to bash capitalism I do not suppose you took the time to ponder the fact that Europe has some of the highest standards of living (universal health care, etc.) while also using the capitalist economic system. If capitalism really reduces everyone to slaves than why does a continent that practices it (quite a bit better than the United States in my opinion) also have some of the most progressive policies on Earth? I consider myself a social democrat rather than a liberal and I do agree that capitalism needs to be tamed. However, socialism is clearly a relic of the past. I defy you to name a single socialist country which can compete with Western Europe for quality of life.

I realize that there will be no changing your mind on this. I have observed that "leftists" who admire Michael Moore are little different from the right-wingers who idolize people like Michael Savage or Ann Coulter. They reduce the thinking capacity of their respective audiences and submerge them in a world of black and white where people are either good or evil.

Also, it is a small point but I think you mean to type "Bowling for Columbine" instead of "Bowling for Dollars." I have to say though, the latter does sound like a good title about the current financial mess!

9:17 PM  
Blogger Jake Highton said...

Conservatives may be in power in
Europe (except for Spain) but socialism is deeply embedded. France, for instance, has cradle-to=grave socialism that Sarko does not dare touch. All of Europe has some form of national health. As for "Bowling for Dollars," what you saw was a draft not ready for release. Dollars was fixed to read Columbine in the final version. (And has now been fixed in the version posted here.)

4:21 PM  
Blogger Social Democrat said...


I am rather surprised. For someone who damns capitalism at every turn, you acquiesce to it readily enough as long as national heath care and a cradle-to-grave social safety net comes attached. Despite what you (and coincidentally most of right-wing radio) thinks, Europe is a bastion of capitalism. What you mistake for socialism is simply a means of smoothing out the rough edges of capitalism.

You use the presence of some form of national health in all of Europe as an example of socialism. What developed country of the West (aside from the shameful exception of the United States) doesn't have national health care? "The Economist" is constantly insisting that the United States adopt a health care system like Europe's. I guest that particular magazine must be a red flag waving proponent of socialism. ;-)

9:31 PM  
Blogger No One In Particular said...

Michael Moore does the legitimate left no favours by being so speculatively inaccurate so much of the time.

9:42 AM  

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