Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

CAPITALISM IN THE FRAME

In R.Richardson on June 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm

“Capitalism: A love story”: A film by Michael Moore, reviewed by RUTH RICHARDSON.

Many Clarion readers will be familiar with the films of Michael Moore. We reviewed his “Sicko”, an expose of the US health care system, some time ago.

Michael Moore’s latest target is broader. His film, “Capitalism: A love story” , shown last month on Channel 4, exposes the injustice, the hypocrisy and the greed at the heart of American society.

The “golden years” of American capitalism after the Second World War are briefly outlined. It was in the Reagan years that the socio-economic gap really widened, with unfettered free enterprise holding sway. Unions were weakened as corporations gained more political power. Moore quotes a recent Citigroup memo that declares with approval that the US is a “plutonomy” , a society where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few. Moore interviews columnist Stephen Moore, who believes that “capitalism is a lot more important than democracy.”

QUESTIONS:
Moore explores the role of the US Treasury during the time leading up to the housing bubble which, when it burst, devastated the lives of many ordinary citizens. He interviews Elizabeth Warner, head of the US Congressional Oversight Committee which should have kept a check on excesses. He asks her, “Where is the 700 billion dollar bailout money which Congress gave to the big banks and Wall Street investment companies? After a dramatic pause, she replies, “I don’t know”.

On Wall Street Moore tries to uncover the truth behind dubious practices in the derivatives market and credit default swaps. His conclusion is that the complex system and terminology are there just to confuse, and that Wall Street is just an “insane casino”.

THOSE WHO SUFFER:
There are some truly moving moments featuring ordinary folk who have suffered, some of the footage being taken from the families’ own home videos. Another reflective moment is a conversation he has with his father in which they share memories about the car industry that once supported his home town of Flint, Michigan.

The film is fairly bleak, but not totally so. Moore includes some positive portrayals, such as a county sheriff who put out a moratorium on home evictions. Moore expresses the hope that Barack Obama’s regime might be a turning point in a society where the top one per cent of the population controls more financial wealth than the bottom 95 per cent combined.

Our reaction to Michael Moore’s film may well be to hold up our hands in horror. But we would do well to remember that many of the practices that he outlined are mirrored in our own society.

RUTH RICHARDSON
“Capitalism: A love story”” is now available on DVD.

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