Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story is a scathing indictment of modern America's "me first" approach to the social contract. He may have made more tightly focused films, but this is still an urgently important piece of work.
As he's done through his career, Moore wraps his arms around a big subject - the profit motive as a form of Darwinism - and then begins lobbing grenades in all directions.
The result is a film that can infuriate on the same level as Sicko, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Roger and Me. If Moore's shtick has grown familiar - showing up on Wall Street, for example, to make citizen's arrests of bonus-dealing bankers - his message never gets old. In Capitalism, which opens in limited release this week before going wider, there are two Americas - and most of us are living in the one that routinely gets the short end of the stick.
Why? Because that other America - the one in which the bulk of the country's wealth is owned by the richest one percent of Americans - is so firmly committed to hanging on to what they've got and getting more. Because, since the Reagan years, Republicans continue to foment the idea that poverty is a flaw of character, rather than a product of social forces, often beyond an individual's control.
Class warfare? You bet. Yet somehow that phrase - intended to denote the way the upper class keeps the struggling mass under it heel - has been hijacked by that same ruling strata of society, as if to say: Hey, quit pointing out the inequities of a system that favors me and harms you.
Moore, however, has no intention of letting up. Capitalism points fingers in a variety of directions, starting with the Reagan and Bush administrations, which did so much to deregulate and destabilize our economy in the name of the free market. He offers hilarious examples - well, hilarious but painful - of how the joys of capitalism have been fetishized over the years.
Indeed, the examples he cites proselytize the notion that capitalism is not only preferable, it's positively patriotic - and a Christian value as well. And then Moore easily knocks the pins out from under that notion, offering example after example of both the misery that unchecked capitalism has wrought - and of the un-Christian behavior practiced by the very corporations who wave that banner.
Just one example: the "dead peasant" life insurance that corporations (including WalMart) routinely take out on their employees.
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