Capitalism: A Love Story

It was Charles Wilson who famously said “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” During the Golden Age of U.S. capitalism in the post-war period, that identification of the national interest and of individual well-being with corporate capitalism was widely believed. The working class found the key to the American Dream in a good paying job with GM or other such employers. Workers loved capitalism. Such was the world that Michael Moore grew up in. So did most of us and our parents. The life of entire cities like Moore’s Flint, Michigan, Detroit, Pittsburg –indeed, the industrial heartland of America—was based on corporate capitalism.

But then in the late 1970s and the 80s free market globalization hit. GM closed its auto plant in Flint and moved those good paying jobs to Mexico, to places like Silao where it didn’t have to pay so much. Corporate capital abandoned U.S. workers and the industrial heartland became the rust belt. Michael Moore tells the story of that betrayal in his first hit film Roger and Me and now in his latest film Capitalism: A Love Story

Capitalism: A Love Story comes home to the issue Moore has been examining throughout his career: the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans. But this time the culprit is much bigger than General Motors, and the crime scene is far wider than Flint, Michigan. Free market capitalism has not only bankrupted GM, it has also crashed the banks and Wall Street and it takes massive government bailouts to rescue them. The result of free market capitalism is that there is no middle class anymore –– there is only, as one subject of the film puts it, “the people who got nothing and the people who have it all.” This assesment is confirmed in a leaked Citibank report that enthuses about how America is now a modern-day “plutonomy” where the top 1% of the population control 95% of the wealth.

This documentary is a tragedy wrapped in an entertaining comedy. But it is also Moore’s call to arms against the robber barons who shamelessly empty our pockets while we do nothing about it. Perhaps the most poignant moment comes in a 1944 historical film clip of President Roosevelt calling for a “second bill of rights,” asserting that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” The image of this visibly frail president, who died the next year, appealing to our collective conscience — and mapping out an American future that remains elusive — is moving beyond words. And chilling: “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

“Capitalism: A Love Story” Michael Moore

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