Beginning with the 1989 classic Roger & Me, the Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore says his films "come back to this central core concern, which is the economic system we have is unfair, it’s unjust, it’s not democratic." With his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore tackles the financial system and the interchanging circles of Washington politicians and corporate managers that run it. Moore says, "I thought I’d just cut to the chase and propose that we deal with this economic system and try to restructure it in a way that benefits people and not the richest one percent." [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZALEZ: It was a year ago today when President George W. Bush gave a primetime address urging Americans to support the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. Bush spoke just days after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the fall of AIG.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Financial assets related to home mortgages have lost value during the housing decline, and the banks holding these assets have restricted credit. As a result, our entire economy is in danger. So I propose that the federal government reduce the risk posed by these troubled assets and supply urgently needed money so banks and other financial institutions can avoid collapse and resume lending.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Despite public opposition, Congress eventually approved the bailout package. Our next guest went to Wall Street to try to get the bailout money back.
MICHAEL MOORE: This is Michael Moore. I am here to make a citizen’s arrest of the board of directors of AIG.
NARRATOR: From Michael Moore...
MICHAEL MOORE: We’re actually here to make a citizen’s arrest.
SECURITY GUARD: Speak to my supervisor.
MICHAEL MOORE: In the white shirt?
SECURITY GUARD: Yep.
MICHAEL MOORE: Blue tie?
SECURITY GUARD: That’s him.
MICHAEL MOORE: Receding hairline?
NARRATOR: ...the guy who brought you Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko...
MICHAEL MOORE: Who else do you want to leave the building?
SECURITY SUPERVISOR: Your cameraman and your crew.
MICHAEL MOORE: Oh.
SECURITY SUPERVISOR: Come on out, sir.
MICHAEL MOORE: They don’t speak English. Donde.
NARRATOR: ...this fall, the most feared filmmaker in America...
MICHAEL MOORE: Can I talk to you, sir, for a second? Can you tell me what a credit default swap is? Can you explain a derivative to me?
NARRATOR: ...will reveal what happens when Wall Street tanks...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Stock markets crash.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Bankruptcies.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Foreclosures.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: A global meltdown.
NARRATOR: ...and the government bails.
MICHAEL MOORE: By spending just a few million dollars to buy Congress, Wall Street was given billions.
REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER: The motion is adopted.
REP. BARON HILL: You know who Michael Moore is, don’t you, Betty? The film director? He’s filming me right now.
MICHAEL MOORE: How did this collapse happen?
REP. BARON HILL: I got home on a Friday. Everything was just fine. I call back after my plane landed in Indiana, and all of a sudden we’ve got this crisis on our hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There’s got to be some kind of a rebellion between the people that have nothing and the people that’s got it all.
REP. MARCY KAPTUR: Everything was being handled by the Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs. They had Congress right where they wanted them. This was almost like an intelligence operation.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is straight-up capitalism. Tch-tchik, boom!
MICHAEL MOORE: Where’s our money?
ELIZABETH WARREN: I don’t know.
REP. MARCY KAPTUR: The people here really aren’t in charge.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I guess you win.
MICHAEL MOORE: We want our money back.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Capitalism offers people the freedom to choose where they work.
PAT ANDREWS: There isn’t anything in here. I’m not going to be a gentlemen’s club hire dancer.
MICHAEL MOORE: We’re here to get the money back for the American people. I got more bags. Ten billion probably won’t fit in here.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Michael Moore is back, with his new film Capitalism: A Love Story. It opened in New York and Los Angeles yesterday. It opens nationwide October 2nd. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore joins us in the firehouse studio for the rest of this hour.
Michael, I went to the 10:40 showing last night on debut here in New York. Why Capitalism: A Love Story?
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I’ve been making movies for about twenty years now. Actually, it’s twenty years ago this week Roger & Me
was at the New York Film Festival. And the films I’ve done, from that one all the way through Sicko, always seem to come back to this central core concern, which is the economic system we have is unfair, it’s unjust, it’s not democratic, it seems to lack any sort of ethical center to it. And I guess I can keep making movies for another twenty years about the next General Motors or the next healthcare issue or whatever, but I thought I’d just kind of cut to the chase and propose that we deal with this economic system and try to restructure it in a way that benefits people and not the richest one percent.
This is the way it is now in this country. The wealthiest one percent right have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined. When you have a situation like that, where the one percent essentially not only own all the wealth, but own Congress, call the shots, are we really telling the truth when we call this a democracy? I know we get to vote every two or four years. Is that it? Just because we get to vote every now and then, we can call this a democracy, when the economy is anything but? You and I have no say in it. The people watching this, listening to us today have no say in how this economy is run. There’s not democracy in the workplace. I mean, through most of our daily lives, the idea of democracy is fairly nonexistent. And I think things work better when the people who have to work with whatever it is we’re working with have a say in how it’s working.
So I made this movie to do a number of things. One, to just go head on at this system. I’m not a reformer. I’m not looking for Congress to pass a few new regulations, which, by the way, it’s been a year since the crash, and they haven’t passed one of these things, which is what they said they were going to do right away, right? “All we need is a few rules. Don’t get rid of capitalism, just a few rules, and we’ll get everything back in shape.” Of course, they have no intention of doing that, and the banking industry has lobbied them successfully over the last year to leave them alone so that they can keep doing their crazy schemes. That’s one reason.
The second reason is, I wanted to present a filmed explanation of just what exactly did happen a year ago, what led up to it. I think a lot people, including myself — you know, we’re not economists. We don’t — we hear these terms, we don’t understand what they mean — derivatives, credit default swaps and all this stuff. And I thought, you know, I’ll bet you there’s a way to tell this story so that anybody will instantly get exactly what the looting was that took place a year ago this time. So I wanted to do that.
And then I guess I’m — I guess I’m doing what I’m always trying to do and what I think what all filmmakers try to do, is that I’m — I recognize that I’m asking you to leave the house on a Friday or Saturday night, get a babysitter, drive to the theater, spend money, spend outrageous amounts of money on popcorn and soda, and sit in the dark with 200 other strangers. I really want you, at the end of those two hours, to walk out of the theater saying to whoever you’re there with, “That was really — that was a good way to spend two hours. I learned something. I laughed my ass off. I cried.”
And I think this movie provides a range of not just emotions, but also really solid information and a number of exposés of things that have not been discussed in the media, or if they have been, they get brought up quickly and then are rejected, and nobody talks about them again. So I show you a number of things in the film. I think, you know, early audiences I’ve seen it with are fairly shocked at some of the stories that I presented.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Michael Moore, the Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, and he’s back with his latest film. It’s called Capitalism: A Love Story. We’ll be back with Michael Moore in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour, Michael Moore. He’s just released his latest film — this is the anniversary of — twentieth anniversary of the release of his films — Capitalism: A Love Story. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Michael, you started making this film actually before Lehman Brothers collapsed, before the AIG collapse or huge bailout. Two questions, I have. One, did you, when you started and as you saw this unraveling, expect that it would get as bad as it did? And two, were you shocked by the fact that a lot of the same people that — I know you mention, you allude to this in the film — a lot of the same people that got us into this mess are now working in the Obama administration supposedly to resolve the crisis?
MICHAEL MOORE: Mm-hmm. Yes, I did start making this movie about six months before the crash. And, I mean, I was like, I think, a number of other people who felt that what was going on on Wall Street was really a house of cards that had been constructed to create this illusion of wealth for the investor class, which they like to now — which they say, you know, Americans are all invested now in the stock market because of pension funds and whatever. And I just felt that we weren’t that far away from something happening. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I thought this would probably an excellent time to begin this film.
Before the crash, something happened in August. You know, in America, we don’t, in daily discourse, use the words "capitalism" or "socialism." They’ve been kind of nonexistent words, I would say, amongst the general public. And then in August of ’08, Obama is walking down a suburban street near Toledo, runs into this guy, Joe — we’ll call him Joe — and he says to him that he, Obama, believes it’s good to spread the wealth around, which, of course, is the basic tenet of socialism. And immediately, the Republicans not being that stupid, picked right up on that and started calling him a socialist, and we heard this word every day, “socialist, socialist, socialist, socialist.” I’m like, wow, I’ve not heard the word used that much in quite some time. It was, you know, partially amusing.
But barely a month later, the crash happens. And what does President Bush do? He goes on TV, a number of times. He starts making speeches at the Manhattan Institute and other places about capitalism. Today’s topic is capitalism. You know, and I’m thinking, now, when in my lifetime have I seen a president of the United States use the word — or make it the topic of a speech, where everything is about capitalism, capitalism, capitalism? I’m going, wow, now this word’s being used.
And I thought, well, we should probably take advantage of this moment, that now — now these words are OK to say amongst the general public. They’re not, you know, scary words, or they’re not necessarily loaded with whatever that was before — I can’t really put my finger on it, but, you know, say, if I were on the Today Show or, you know, something like that, and I just started talking about capitalism, you know, two, three, four, five years ago, they would have looked at me like, you know, why are you doing this? Are you nuts? And so, it allowed, in a strange way, for me, this film, and all of us really, now to have this discussion.
And I think that this economic system that we have is an evil system. I truly believe that it is essentially designed to cause harm to people. It’s not an accident that this happens, because capitalism is, in its own way, its own Ponzi scheme. You know, we talk a lot about Bernie Madoff, and I guess he became a nice poster boy and a distraction from the real subject, but, in fact, capitalism, especially capitalism now as we know it, is a pyramid scheme, and it’s set up so that, again, the richest one percent sit on top of the pyramid. Their job is to convince everybody under them in the pyramid, all the worker ants, that they, too, could be at the top of the pyramid someday, when, of course, they know only a few people can sit on top of that pyramid. “If you just sell enough Amway, you can be up here with us.” No, that’s really not how it works. But it has worked for a long time, because a lot of everyday average Americans started believing this, this ruse that they, too, could be rich someday.
And so, I just — I just felt like it was time to just go after this and name it and not be afraid to name it and realize, OK, I know all the names I’m going to be called and, you know, this, that or whatever, and, you know, what I’m going to, you know, be dragged through, but I just — I just am tired — it really is — I am tired of having to dance around this or deal with this symptom of the problem or that calamity caused by capitalism. I mean, I could keep doing this ’til the end of my life, and I don’t think anything is really going to change that much. And I’d like to see change in my lifetime. And so, I made this film to just kind of, you know, go for it and start a discussion and stop these people, who are just blocks from us, who right now are planning today’s moves to make life miserable for millions of Americans and people around the world.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the issue of the people who are now dealing with the crisis?
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, you know, the day that President Obama named Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, and actually before that, when he brought Robert Rubin in on the campaign, former head of Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and also Larry Summers — if you don’t know who that is, he’s a very famous feminist from Harvard University. When Obama did this, I thought, OK, you know, instantly, in order just — I do this all the time. In order to sort of prevent myself from sinking into a deep pit of despair, I start, you know, spinning it in my head.
Well, OK, maybe Obama is like me and everybody else: you know, he doesn’t understand derivatives and credit default swaps. So he’s going to the people who helped, you know, create this system. And then I thought, and maybe he’s like my dad. Maybe he’s like, you know, OK, you made this mess, come in here and clean it up. And so, who better to go to than these guys? You know, the large banks, they hire bank robbers, former bank robbers, to advise them on how to prevent bank robberies. And really, again, who better to do that than a bank robber? Well, who better to help fix this mess than the people who helped to create it?
Now, that’s my hope. But as I point out in the film, President Obama received an enormous amount of money from financial institutions, employees of those institutions. And the employees of Goldman Sachs were his number one private contributor, donating almost a million dollars to his campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore, I wanted to turn to an interview that you did in Capitalism: A Love Story with the former bank regulator Bill Black about Timothy Geithner, President Obama’s Treasury Secretary and the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
BILL BLACK: ...pretty much everything he’s done in life. Most of the institutions that destroyed the economy were under his direct regulatory authority.
MICHAEL MOORE: How did he get the job as Treasury Secretary?
BILL BLACK: By completely screwing up his job as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
MICHAEL MOORE: That makes no sense.
BILL BLACK: Of course it makes perfect sense. This is not new to Washington. People who will give you the wrong answer, but the answer you want, are invaluable, and they often get promoted precisely because they’re willing to say and do absurd things. These are the people that promised us that financial deregulation would make all of us rich, and these are the people who were personally made rich.
AMY GOODMAN: Timothy Geithner and then Bill Black, who he is?
MICHAEL MOORE: Mm-hmm. Bill Black is a former bank regulator for the federal government, and he was one of the people who helped to uncover the savings and loan scandal back in the ’80s, and he went after them. And he’s quite well known and beloved by people who pay attention to this sort of thing. And he’s been very vocal about this crash and this bailout. And he plays an important role in this film in terms of helping to explain, in very simple language, how the American people have had this money stolen from them and how he doesn’t think things are going to change a whole lot with the foxes now guarding the henhouse.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, and Michael, of course, one of the issues that created or helped to spur the financial crisis was the tidal wave of home refinancing and subprime loans. And let’s go to an excerpt from Capitalism: A Love Story that deals with the foreclosure crisis.
MICHAEL MOORE: The scam to swindle people out of the homes they already owned was masterful. Here’s how it worked. First, tell these homeowners that they own a bank, and that bank is your home. So if your home is worth $250,000, that makes you a quarter-millionaire. You’re sitting on a gold mine! You own your own bank: the Bank of You. And you can use your bank to get more money. Just refinance. Everyone’s doing it! Of course, hidden in the dozens or hundreds of pages of fine print are tricky clauses that allow the bank to raise your interest rate to a number you didn’t know about, perhaps so high that you won’t be able to repay your loan. But that’s OK. If you can’t repay it, we’ll just take your house.
AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Capitalism: A Love Story. It’s debuting in New York and Los Angeles, then opening around the country in the beginning of October. Make your home a bank, Michael Moore.
MICHAEL MOORE: Yep, that’s what Alan Greenspan said and told people, and they went after — if people remember this, they went after elderly people who already owned their home. The home’s paid off. And they figured, geez, you know, these people are sitting on these homes; we could get them to think that their home is a bank and borrow against it. And that’s how it started. And the first wave of people who started to lose their homes were senior citizens who had taken out loans that they didn’t quite understand, that had a lot of funny language. These contracts are sometimes fifty to a hundred pages long, with these balloon payments. And, you know, it’s not unusual that people would try to take advantage of old people, but to have it be done by the federal government, people that we pay, people that are supposed to be there representing us, this was tragic.
And after they got away with it with the elderly people, they figured, “Well, what’s the next group we can go to? You know, how about — how about the poor and the working class? Because, you know, they’re probably desperate to own their own home, because we don’t actually let them own their own homes with the way, you know, our economic situation here is set up.” So, they go after — they go after people with low incomes or people who may have bad credit because they have low incomes.
But as Bill Black points out in my movie, this — I mean, I tell you, it was disturbing, the week or so after the crash, where the instant explanation, if you remember this, from the media was that this crash was caused by all those people — “those people” referring to, often, people of color — who took out loans they shouldn’t have had. They shouldn’t have been — you know, they couldn’t afford a house, and why were they doing this? Do you remember this? It was really — it was disturbing, and it was —- parts of it were racist, I thought. And -—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, even beforehand, I recall that in early 2007, when I did a series of columns in the New York Daily News about the subprime crisis as it was spreading —-
MICHAEL MOORE: Mm-hmm, yes.
JUAN GONZALEZ: —- and I had the people in our business section of my newspaper and others saying, “Oh, that’s just a few minority people who took out bad loans, and the subprime crisis is not going to affect the general economy. It’s only a small portion of the overall mortgage economy.” So this was being spread for a couple of years.
MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You begin Capitalism: A Love Story with one of these families — actually, not a family of color, a white family — in North Carolina. They are filming their own eviction.
MICHAEL MOORE: Yes, one day, a videotape arrived in the mail, and I didn’t know what it was. And I popped it in, and there unfolds — it appears that — I mean, all of a sudden, this house is being, you know, surrounded by seven police cars and all these sheriffs. And it’s kind of harrowing when you first watch it, because you don’t quite know what’s going to happen here or if there’s going to be violence or whatever. But they film their own eviction. You see it really for the first time from the point of view of the person being thrown out of the house, as opposed to, say, my camera on the outside filming what the police are doing from the outside and then going in the house. And it’s — you know, first of all, I’m happy they sent it to me. But I get this stuff a lot. I mean, I get a lot of things in the mail or through email or whatever from people who are hoping that I can give voice to their condition.
I just want to point out one more thing, Juan, on what you were saying, and thank you for those early columns. I’m sure, you know, business writers and people would look at you and say, “Oh, well, what do you know about this, you know? Where’s your economics degree? You know, this is — get with the program here.” But now the FBI has said that this mortgage fraud, that 80 percent of it — 80 percent of it — was caused by the banks and the lending — other lending institutions, mortgage companies, etc., not the people. Eighty percent of it.
And the number one reason, it turns out, that people lose their homes is because of medical bills. It’s the number one cause of foreclosure and the number one cause of bankruptcies in this country. And we’re at a point right now where one in eight homes are either in delinquency or foreclosure, homes with mortgages, and there’s a foreclosure filing in this country once every seven-and-a-half seconds. Every seven-and-a-half seconds there’s a foreclosure filing in this country. I mean, this is a crisis.
You know, I can’t stand the nightly news with that Dow Jones average they always show to report how well the wealthy are doing on Wall Street and how it’s climbing every day, etc., etc., and there’s never any indicators about what’s happening to people in their daily lives, the bulk of the people in this country, the 14,000 yesterday who lost their health insurance and the 14,000 who will lose their health insurance today and tomorrow and the day after that. Where’s that index? Wouldn’t that be great to see that on the nightly news each night, where before cutting to commercial break we list the number of people who lost their homes today, lost their jobs today, lost their health insurance today, people who died today because they didn’t have health insurance? You know, these statistics are readily available, so this isn’t just rhetoric. I mean, these are actually proven facts. And they could report that every night.
But instead, they — you know, they’re there to report on what benefits those in power, and they go to places of power to cover that, but what they consider power. But the actual power, the way this country’s set up, is you and me, everyone listening and watching, everybody else who’s not listening and watching. The power is supposed to be with us, but we rarely, rarely, rarely hear our stories being covered by the media, other than in your column, on your show here, and a few other places.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go back to Capitalism: A Love Story. In this scene, Michael Moore takes, well, an armored truck to Wall Street.
MICHAEL MOORE: We’re here to get the money back for the American people.
GOLDMAN SACHS SECURITY: I understand, sir, but you can’t come in here.
MICHAEL MOORE: Can you just take the bag?
GOLDMAN SACHS SECURITY: No.
MICHAEL MOORE: Take it up there?
GOLDMAN SACHS SECURITY: Absolutely not.
MICHAEL MOORE: Fill it up? I got more bags. Ten billion probably won’t fit in here.
We want our money back!
I went to all the banks.
You’ve seen this guy?
MORGAN STANLEY SECURITY: Yeah, yeah.
MICHAEL MOORE: OK, we’re here to make a citizen’s arrest, actually.
And just drop it from the windows.
And everywhere I went...
I’m going to take it back to the US Treasury right in this car. It’s safe. You can trust me.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore, as you’re going through that revolving door, you can’t push it. Was it locked?
MICHAEL MOORE: No, no. There’s a guy you can see —- you’ll see it on the big screen. There’s a guy on the other side pushing the other way, so it’s like a tug-of-war. That was at AIG headquarters. So at least they’re good for that, I guess.
AMY GOODMAN: So the whole area is a crime scene?
MICHAEL MOORE: As far as I’m concerned, it is. I want to know where the investigation is on this. How did this happen? How did Goldman Sachs end up as king of the hill and their competitors in the dust? How much did the fact that there were almost a dozen or so former Goldman people inside the Bush administration concocting this bailout? I think these are legitimate questions to ask, and I hope that the Obama Justice Department will conduct some sort of criminal investigation.
There’s the larger crime, though, of course, of how the pie is divided in this country. And the fact that one guy can come to the table and take nine slices of that pie and leave one slice for everyone else at the table to fight over, that is criminal. That is offensive on so many levels. If we say we believe in democracy, it’s offensive on that level. If you have any kind of moral or ethical code that you live by, whether it’s because of your religion or your own spirituality or just because you know right from wrong, anyone, anyone over seven years old, maybe even a few five— and six-year-olds, know that if one guy takes nine slices of the pie and leaves one slice for everybody else, that’s just inherently wrong. And we allow that to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. His latest film is just coming out. It’s called Capitalism: A Love Story. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Michael Moore. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Michael, as you mentioned earlier, Capitalism: A Love Story comes twenty years after your classic debut film Roger & Me that examined how Michael’s home town of Flint, Michigan was devastated by plant closings at General Motors. While Moore was filming his new film, GM filed for bankruptcy.
For twenty years I tried to warn GM and others that this day was coming, but to no avail. Maybe now they’d listen. So I went down to the headquarters of General Motors one last time to share some of my ideas.
GM SECURITY GUARD 1: Hey guys, if you don’t have — if you don’t have permission, you can’t film here.
MICHAEL MOORE: Huh?
GM SECURITY GUARD 1: If you don’t have permission from General Motors, you can’t film here.
MICHAEL MOORE: I’m just going up to see the chairman.
GM SECURITY GUARD 1: No, sir. No, sir.
MICHAEL MOORE: You know, I’ve been doing this for like twenty years.
GM SECURITY GUARD 1: I understand, sir.
MICHAEL MOORE: And I have not been let into this building for twenty years.
GM SECURITY GUARD 1: Four [inaudible] and a seven, six bravo, or alpha.
GM SECURITY: [over walkie-talkie] Go ahead.
GM SECURITY GUARD 1: Yeah, it’s Michael Moore here to see the chairman.
GM SECURITY GUARD 2: Gentlemen?
MICHAEL MOORE: Yes.
GM SECURITY GUARD 2: You need to get prior permission. You cannot film here, OK?
MICHAEL MOORE: But if I can’t go in and get permission, what am I supposed to do?
I guess they’re right: Breaking up is hard to do.
GM SECURITY GUARD 2: Stop that. Don’t do that.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore in Capitalism: A Love Story. You’re back at GM.
Well, for one last visit, I guess. I really — you know, I thought, honestly, I thought they would call my bluff this time and invite me in, considering how I’m now one of the owners of GM, as you are and everyone now listening. And I was ready. I mean, I brought along some things I was going to talk to them about, about how General Motors could be building things that we need for transportation for the twenty-first century. Not the internal combustion engine, I think that’s caused enough damage to the planet, but there’s another way to go. And our industrial infrastructure could help provide these things that we need, whether it’s transportation or alternative energy systems or whatever that is that would help advance our society, would help make us a better people, a better world. There’s a lot of good that the old, or I should say now “the new,” General Motors could do, especially as long as it’s in receivership.
As long as it’s pretty much still in our hands, we can really tell them what to do. And I wish that President Obama would exercise his authority as the de facto chairman of the board of this company, and of Chrysler, to tell them, “I’m sorry, this is the way it is from now on. This is how we’re going to do things, because, you know, the polar icecaps are melting, because we need to have jobs, real jobs, that pay real wages that people can raise a family on, and here’s how we’re going to do it.”
I mean, listen, I live in Michigan. The state is in desperate shape. The official unemployment rate is approaching 20 percent. Where I live, the county and the area that I live, it’s — in some areas it’s 22, 23 percent. So, you know, I see this every day, and it’s pretty devastating to witness.
Michael, General Motors may be under new management, but it has a long institutional memory. I understand you were like banned from a showing of your film in Detroit because — at a GM-owned theater?
There’s only one movie theater in the entire city of Detroit. The entire city has one open movie theater, and it is in the — it is in the General Motors headquarters complex. And so, we were able to rent the theater for the Detroit premiere of the film. And after we did that, I think somebody upstairs figured out what was going on, and so they — when I showed up for the premiere, they tried to stop me from going in there. And in fact, they did, and they — finally, the compromise was I could come in, but there could be no press or cameras or anything around, because they didn’t want that shot of me actually being inside the belly of the beast for the first time in twenty years. So the press had to stay outside, and I was allowed to — you know, to go in.
Inside the belly of the crippled beast.
The crippled these. The poor crippled beast that has crippled tens of thousands of families in my state and elsewhere.
There is a section of your film on religion that is very important, I think will speak to a lot of people, “Christianity and Capitalism,” and the film that you use to illustrate this, Jesus of Nazareth.
Well, you know, this is the first I’ve ever really talked about this in any of my films, because I’m kind of loath to talk about religion. I think it’s a private matter, and I’m sick of hearing everybody discuss it or shove it down our throats. I’m not a proselytizer. I was raised Catholic. I am a Catholic. I have a lot of problems with the institution known as the Catholic Church, all the obvious ones that we don’t need to go into right now.
But the lessons that I was taught as a child, I’ve always felt were very good lessons, that we would be judged by how we treat the least among us; that the first shall be last, the last shall be first; that the rich man is going to have a very hard time getting into heaven. And one day, when someone asked Jesus, like, what’s the password to get in through the pearly gates, and JC said, “Well, actually, I’ll give it to you,” and he said, “This is what you’ve got to do. We’re going to ask you a series of questions when you get up there, and these are the questions. When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was homeless, did you give me shelter? When I was sick, did you provide aid and comfort? When I was in prison, did you come visit me? If you did any of these things for the people who are the least among us, who have the least, then that means you did it for me, and you can now enter. But if you are thinking that you’re going to — if you’re going to live your life making as much money as you can and then using that money for your own purposes, for your own pleasure and enjoyment, and not share it with others, not help others, then, I’m sorry, that’s not going to — that’s not going to work.”
Now, I’m being a little facetious here, because, you know, the whole issue of the afterlife, I think, has always been used by those in power to get us just thinking about the reward that’s some place off in the distant future, like when we’re dead, so for right now just go ahead and, you know, suffer through whatever it is you’re suffering through.
But I believe — I’m just, you know, so tired of hearing this term, this idea that Christianity is somehow — or this is a Christian nation or whatever, and it’s like — well, first of all, there shouldn’t be any kind of a religious nation. But it’s also a lie, too, because what part of what Jesus said relates to what we’re doing now? I mean, I can’t see this guy, if he was here, you know, being part of a hedge fund. I can’t see, you know, Jesus trying to claw his way into the one percent so he can punk on the rest of the people. You know, I just — these people say they believe in him; I wish they actually would, frankly, because we’d be living in a kinder and gentler society.
So, in the film, I appropriate a piece of film from Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, and I imagine if they actually think that Jesus would approve of what they’re doing, what would Jesus sound like if he were a capitalist? And so, I — you know, our editor, actually, dubbed in his voice into Jesus’ mouth, and he goes around preaching the capitalist bible. Yes, it gets a lot of laughs, and it’s also — I’m waiting for the onslaught of believers who are not going to appreciate what I’m doing here.
But, you know, I go to see the priest who married my wife and I, and I go to see the priest who married my sister and her husband. And every priest I go to — and those are just the first two I start with, people I know. I didn’t go looking for, you know, socialist priests. And they both just rail against capitalism as a sin. It’s evil, it’s destructive, it’s contrary to what’s in the Bible. It’s contrary to all the major religions, not just Christianity, but Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, the church of Bill Maher. Whatever you believe in or don’t believe in, it’s just contrary to what — to what we know right and wrong is.
Michael, you have obviously amassed a lot in terms of the indictment of capitalism as a system, but some would say the film doesn’t offer much in terms of the alternative. Where in the film do you see your offering of what alternative would be like?
Well, I’m very clear in the film that, you know, I’m not an economist. But the alternative, the economic order that we need to create for the twenty-first century — and that’s what we really need to do. We need to quit having the argument about the economic system that was invented in the sixteenth century versus the one that was invented in the nineteenth century. We need to — come on, we’re smart people. We’re in the twenty-first century. We have a whole new set of issues and problems that we face. Can’t we come up with an economic order that has these two basic underpinnings: that it is run democratically and that it is run with a sense of ethics and morality? So, whatever we construct, for me, personally, it has to have those two things in its foundation.
I do show in the film some very specific examples of workplace democracy, where a number of companies have decided to go down the road of having the company actually owned by the workers. And when I say “owned,” I’m not talking about some ding-dong stock options that make you feel like you’re an owner, when you’re nowhere near that. But I mean these companies really own it. And I’m not talking about, you know, the hippy-dippy food co-op, and I don’t mean that with any disrespect to the food co-ops who are listening or any hippies that are listening. But I go to an engineering firm in Madison, Wisconsin. These guys look like a bunch of Republicans. I mean, I didn’t ask them how they vote, but they didn’t necessarily look like they were from, you know, my side of the political fence. And here they all are equal owners of this company. The company does $15 million worth of business each year.
I go to this bakery. It’s not a bakery really; it’s a bread factory out in northern California, Alvarado Street Bakery. And they’re all paid. They all share the profits the same. They’re all shared equally, including the CEO. And they vote. They elect, you know, who’s going to be running this and how this is going to function. The average factory worker in this bread factory makes $65,000 to $70,000 a year, which, I point out, is about three times the starting pay of a pilot who works for American Eagle or Delta Connection. And that’s another harrowing scene in the movie, where I interview pilots who are on food stamps —- pilots who are on food stamps because of how little they’re paid. So -—
Finally, Michael, before you go, your film before Capitalism: A Love Story was Sicko, and now you see this whole debate. We only — well, we have less than a minute, but your thoughts on the healthcare crisis and debate and where it’s going here?
President Obama, the reason why this is failing is because you took a half measure. He only went halfway, this public option. That’s why the base isn’t excited. That’s why there aren’t millions of people out in the streets supporting him. Had he done what he said he was going to do in 2003, when he first started thinking of running for Senate, that we need a single-payer system, like every other Western democracy, you know, I think all of us, everybody, would be out there massively. And it would make the town hall meetings and the teabag stuff look like the Disney Channel. You know, that’s what he would have had. But he can’t get anybody excited with this. He started out with a compromised position. You don’t start out compromising. You may have to compromise somewhere along the line, but you don’t start out that way.
So I hope he goes back and he rethinks this, now that he realizes that all his olive branch, bipartisan thing really wasn’t too accepted by the other side, and they have no intention of ever helping him. And, in fact, they will continue to whip up racism and other things to oppose whatever it is that he wants to do. They don’t care what it is. They’re just completely opposed to it. So, hopefully, I think he’s understood that at this point. And he’s got to go back to being that person who was raised by a single mother, from the working class, graduates from Harvard, goes to work in the inner city. That’s the Barack Obama we need to see right now.
In a word, would you describe yourself as a socialist?
AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.
MICHAEL MOORE: I’m a heterosexual. I’m, you know -— I’m — I’m —-
AMY GOODMAN: Six -—
MICHAEL MOORE: I’m overweight.
AMY GOODMAN: — five, four —-
MICHAEL MOORE: I’m, uh -—
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore, here on Democracy Now!