Monday, March 21, 2011

What does Michael Moore have in Common with the Tea Party?

Over the weekend, I watched Michael Moore's documentary "Capitalism: A Love Affair". It was the first Moore film I've ever watched and you're probably saying "Why is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative like Randy even watching such a film?" Well it wasn't as bad (or as good) as I'd been told about his films and it was interesting to hear his opinions first hand, rather than through someone else's filter.

As expected, the film was very anti-Bush, but also took some shots at several Clinton and current presidential appointees. One had to listen carefully to catch them, but they were there. Senators Dodd and Frank (both with a "D" after their name) were shown in a bad light, so both parties were skewered. There were several anti-Obama ads played that talked about Socialism. To me, the tie-in was weak, but the attempt was to show that Obama is not a socialist.

There were some random, seemingly unconnected portions of the movie, it focused on GM shutdowns, foreclosures, a group called the Low Income Families Fighting Together (see here) and a sit-down strike at Republic Windows and Doors (see here). Moore also had a segment on the low pay for pilots. To me, the main (only?) tie in these stories was that unions were shown in a positive light in each case, standing up for the little man against the big-bad company.

There was a segment on dead-peasant policies. To be honest, this puzzled me. Dead-peasant policies exist when a company, (Wal-Mart was highlighted) takes out a life insurance policy on their workers with the company as a beneficiary. Then if the employee dies, the company makes money. I'm trying to figure out why I should care. Assuming of course, the company doesn't do something to hasten the final event. In my case, I'd like the challenge to show the company that they would lose money on the insurance, I'd outlive their interest.

This makes me wonder about the business model of the life insurance company. Surely they have the actuarial numbers to show that over a large number of people, Wal-Mart can't make money in this game. Otherwise, the insurance companies are charging too little for this policy.

There was praise for FDR and his attempt to pass a 2nd Bill of Rights. The film said that Germany, Italy and Japan have these in their constitution. Frankly for me, that doesn't speak well. I for one, am not interested in emulating any of those countries. (As a side note, the film ends with Moore making the dramatic statement that he's not leaving the US, I'm guessing he's heard the people suggest he move to whatever country he thinks is better).

The movie ended saying that Capitalism is evil and should be replaced by democracy. It showed some companies that are run purely democratically. One was a small engineering firm, the other a bakery. It would be interesting to read more about these companies (sorry, I didn't get their name), to see how they got started, how did they manage their funds. How do they pay their CEO and how do they recruit given their democratic approach. I don't recall the companies names, so that research won't get done by me.

One of the questions I kept asking was about protection of property. Suppose I own a house and decide to sell it to you. After you've been in it for a few years, you find you can't make the payment. Shouldn't I have the right to foreclose? If you can't pay me what you owe me, can't I at least get my property back? Moore's film kept showing reasons that the big banks shouldn't be allowed to foreclose (and some were legitimate), but what happens to the bank's property rights? Do we stomp all over those? That question was never answered.

Oh and lest I close without answering the title question - what DO Michael Moore and the Tea Party have in common? Both are solidly opposed to TARP and think the whole fiasco was created by the Treasury Secretary and Wall Street. I wonder, will Moore show up at the next Tea Party Rally?

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