Michael Moore’s new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, opens in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday, but Moore has been screening the film this month in places where audiences may be less enamored with the blessings that capitalism brings. At one screening in Pittsburgh, a steelworker was so struck by the greed he saw on the screen that he stood up and shouted “Shame!” during the middle of the film. On Monday night, Moore discussed the film at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown.
“I love this country dearly and the people in it, and I think my movies are acts of patriotism and not anything but that,” Moore said.
Here are Moore’s thoughts on four of the most explosive parts of his new picture.
1. FDR Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before
Moore’s movie includes rarely seen footage of Franklin D. Roosevelt discussing his hope for the creation of a second Bill of Rights for workers, guaranteeing the right to a living wage, access to health care, and education. “You are amongst the first Americans to see that footage,” Moore told the audience. Moore said the film of FDR’s remarks had been nearly lost, but his crew found a reel in a South Carolina library. “When this opens on Wednesday, the American people are going to see his vision of this, what he wanted for this country, that he felt 65 years ago…he wanted to leave behind a film record of what he hoped America could be and unfortunately nobody got to see it.”
Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, told The Daily Beast that Moore “is absolutely right” to focus on FDR’s second Bill of Rights. She said she has never seen a film clip of Roosevelt describing his proposal.
“It was a radical proposal, suggesting a positive role for government in protecting people against the vagaries of the market, and had he lived, it is fascinating to wonder how much of these ideas might have been translated into policy,” Goodwin said in an email.
2. Foreclosures on Film
Perhaps the most startling scenes in the film are shots of families being thrown out of their homes by police and bank agents. The movie opens with a scene from inside a home in North Carolina, as a family waits for sheriff’s officers to break through a door. That sequence was actually mailed to Moore unsolicited. “It was kind of harrowing, actually, the first time I remember watching it, not knowing what was going to happen,” he said. Moore invited one family, who was forced to surrender their farm in Peoria, Illinois, to the New York screening. “I think it’s great,” the family’s patriarch, Randy Hacker, said of the movie from the balcony.
3. Chris Dodd Gets a Loan
Another unsolicited piece of mail arrived from a loan officer at Countrywide Financial. Bob Feinberg was responsible for providing special loans to friends of Countywide CEO Angelo Mozilo. Feinberg, the loan officer who appears on camera, provided documents showing that those friends included Sen. Chris Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, who is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and has been an outspoken critic of the predatory loan practices. Moore said he put an offer out online that was taken up by Feinberg. “If you work for these investment firms and these banks, mortgage companies, send us the goods, and I will be your conduit to get the truth out to the American people,” Moore said.
4. The Infamous Citigroup Memo
In an internal memo from 2006 that sounded notes of triumph rather than concern, Citigroup described a change in the economies of the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia. These countries, the bank said, had become “plutonomies,” defined by massive income and wealth inequality. “The Plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger, its membership swelling,” the report’s author, Ajay Kapur, wrote. What could go wrong? the report asked. “The rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfranchisement remains as it was—one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich.”
The film includes a host of other challenges to banks and how the government handled the financial crisis last fall. Moore said he would like to see the banks investigated by the Department of Justice but added, “I didn’t make the movie just to get a few of the CEOs put in jail. I tried to speak to a much greater thing here, that we have an economic system that’s unfair. It’s unjust. It’s not democratic, and I want to see a new economic order in the 21st century.”
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