Michael Moore's new documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, opened this weekend with a staggering $240,000 box office in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, giving it the highest per-screen average of any film this year. As the recession rolls on powered by increasing unemployment, and with the nation's palpable hunger to understand how the meltdown happened and assign blame for it, Capitalism may go down as one of the most timely and subversive films in movie history. And with its mix of humor, heart, investigative journalism, and righteous indignation, it also shows that Moore is truly master of the unique genre of documentary film that he created 20 years ago with Roger & Me. It's hard to believe that there will soon be long lines at theaters to see a documentary -- a documentary! -- that uses an excoriating critique of America's economic ideology to explain our financial crisis, but such is the unique influence and role that Moore has created for himself in this country and around the world.
Capitalism is poised to explode like thought bombs across the nation when it hits theaters on October 2. It may even succeed in taking the anger republicans feel towards Obama and redirecting it to banks and corporations where it belongs. That would be huge.
Watch my ReThink Review of Capitalism: A Love Story below.
One of the more explosive revelations in Capitalism is "dead peasant" insurance policies (also known as "janitors" policies). This is when a company buys a life insurance policy on a rank-and-file, low-level employee -- usually without the employee's knowledge -- and claims the company as the beneficiary should the employee die. The company retains the policy even after the employee leaves, and if the employee dies, the company receives a large, tax-free payout, which they then refuse to share with the family of the deceased.
Another surprising disclosure is an internal Citigroup memo that claims that the US doesn't have an economy, but a "plutonomy" -- an economy based primarily on spending by the very rich. With the richest 20% of Americans responsible for over 60% of overall spending, the richest 10% accounting for 43% of income and 57% of net worth, and inequality between the rich and poor increasing unabated, the memo's authors feel that the smart investments are on the rich and their luxurious toys. The non-rich proles (AKA the rest of us) can fuck off and die unless we use our vast numerical advantage at the voter booth to pass laws restricting the redistribution of wealth from the poor and the disappearing middle class to the rich.
To see me on Cenk Uygur's XM/Air America show, The Young Turks discussing Capitalism, "dead peasant" insurance policies, plutonomy and CEO pay, watch the video below. To learn more about "dead peasant" policies, go here and here. If you want to read the Citigroup "plutonomy" memo (which I highly recommend), go here.
I'll bet that if a company offered an employee a life insurance policy where the company would pay all the premiums and give the family of the employee 20% of the award should he/she die, many employees would agree to it. But that sort of "spreading the wealth around" would clearly be socialist since the company paid the premiums while all the employee did was die. What are we, Nazi Germany?
While we've seen cases of governments nationalizing and controlling corporations, I cannot think of a historical precedent where a government was controlled by corporations. But that's the experiment we currently find ourselves in, and it doesn't seem to be going well. That's because despite what republicans, too many democrats, and all corporatists would have you believe, the free market is not God, nor is it ethical, wise, compassionate, democratic, fair, or even "free." Unregulated, the free market is simply the collective will of the greediest among us, maximizing their own greed no matter what the cost. A great country will never be built -- or rebuilt -- on such a rotten foundation.
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