filmmaker and author. His movies include Sicko, Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine and Roger and Me. He is author of the new book Mike’s Election Guide ’08 and a new online film called Slacker Uprising: A Look at the Youth Vote.
With the election four days away, we spend the hour with Academy Award-winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore. His film Fahrenheit 9/11 took on the Bush administration. Sicko took on the health insurance industry. His first film Roger and Me targeted General Motors. Moore joins us from Michigan to talk about the election, the bailout as "robbery," the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the changing political climate in his home state. Moore also shares his ten proposed decrees for a new administration’s first ten days in office. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: The election is four days away. On the campaign trail, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain spent Thursday largely focused on the economy. McCain campaigned with Joe the plumber in Ohio, while Obama blamed the Bush administration for the nation’s current economic crisis.
I had a chance to sit down with Academy Award-winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore yesterday. He was in his home state of Michigan, one of the hardest hit areas of the nation, Michigan’s [unemployment] now at 8.7 percent.
Michael Moore has recently published a new book called Mike’s Election Guide '08 and a new online film called Slacker Uprising: A Look at the Youth Vote. Michael Moore is best known for his films Sicko, Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine and Roger and Me. He has recently been campaigning for a group of Democratic candidates in Michigan and is a backer of Barack Obama. I spoke to him from Traverse City, Michigan.
AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, Michael Moore.
MICHAEL MOORE: Thank you, Amy. Thanks for having me on.
AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us where you are.
MICHAEL MOORE: I’m in Traverse City, Michigan. I live up here in northern Michigan. I’m actually in the local news station here, so that’s an aerial view of Grand Traverse Bay and of the peninsula up here that’s behind me.
AMY GOODMAN: Michigan is a very hard-hit state right now. In fact, John McCain pulled out of Michigan. Do you see a connection?
MICHAEL MOORE: I’d like to believe it’s because I’m here that he left, but I think that — I don’t even know why he was here to begin with. People here have been bludgeoned during the last eight years. And, you know, the sad part about that is, is that when they — next year or the year after, when they look back on this year, this is actually going to look like a really good year, because once General Motors merges with Chrysler, thousands and thousands of jobs, more jobs, are going to be eliminated, on top of the already thousands of more jobs that will be eliminated in the next few years because General Motors and Chrysler build twentieth century vehicles that either nobody wants or we shouldn’t be building, considering the climate crisis that’s in front of us.
AMY GOODMAN: How did it happen that they didn’t change, that you have now in Michigan the highest unemployment rate in the country?
MICHAEL MOORE: It happened because the workers don’t control the means of production. Oops, I guess I can’t be president now that I said that. No, but seriously, I think that if the autoworkers, years and years ago, could have had a say in the cars that were being built, the Big Three would have built cars that people wanted to drive, instead of the kind of crappy-mobiles that they continue to build, the gas-guzzlers they continue to build. And people wanted something different, and nobody listened, because the auto companies were arrogant, and they had — they have always had the attitude that what’s good for — you know the old saying — General Motors is good for the country. Well, the country changed; General Motors didn’t change. And so, now the people have suffered as a result of it. If we had a democratic economy, where the people, we the people, had a say in the decisions that are made, in terms of how our corporations are run, the things that they produce for our society, what we need collectively as a society, we probably wouldn’t find ourselves in some of the positions that we’re in right now.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re quite a ways away from Roger and Me, but you started right there.
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, that distresses me to no end to even think about that, that it’s almost twenty years since Roger and Me, and I was saying this twenty years ago, that, you know, unless we get a handle on this, things aren’t going to get any better. And they didn’t. They just continued to get worse. If you go back and look, actually, at Roger and Me now, Flint, Michigan looks pretty good. Even though 30,000 jobs at that time had been eliminated, there were still 50,000 people working there. I think the last number I saw is that there’s somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 people working for General Motors in Flint now, so almost 40,000 jobs less in Flint since I made that film. So it’s — I just can’t tell you how distressing that is for me.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, a couple weeks ago, we reported on the Michigan Messenger, that had that report that said that the Republican — local Republican Party was going to be challenging voters based on lists of homes that have been foreclosed. And then it turned out that McCain, at the time, had his campaign headquarters, his office, in one of the foreclosure lawyer's offices. But what about the foreclosure rate in Michigan right now?
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, they’re really bad here in Michigan. I think if we’re not the worst, we’re in the top three, along with Florida and — I forget the other state. But it’s literally thousands each week here, people losing their homes.
And that story about the local Republican Party that was going to try and take a look at the foreclosure list in order to try and stop people from voting, you know, the Republican Party here in Michigan years ago actually — you know, they weren’t great, but they used to be decent. They used to — they passed a lot of the early environmental laws here. The Republican governor was in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment for women, things like that. This was back in the ’60s and ’70s. And then, they just went weird, like all the Republicans did. And the last Republican to run for governor here two years ago was the guy who founded Amway. So, it’s a really bizarre situation here now, in terms of the Republicans that are trying to make some headway.
But, frankly, I’m very optimistic about one thing in this state, and I’ve been working very hard on this locally. I set a goal to remove three Republican congressmen from Michigan in this election. And each of the three Democrats that I’ve been supporting, campaigning for, raising money for here in Michigan, all three of them are now ahead, in the polls, of the Republican incumbents here in Michigan. So I think we’re going to have even better news on election night on Tuesday, not just in terms of the White House, but also the congressional delegation from states like Michigan.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, speaking of incumbents, I assume you’ve heard about the Minnesota Congress member, Michele Bachmann, who went on Chris Matthews’ Hard Ball, right, and said she wanted an investigation begun of Congress members who are anti-American, which led to her opponent, who seemed like a largely symbolic Democratic opponent at the time, Elwyn Tinklenberg, raising something like, well, over a million dollars in the next few days, after people across the political spectrum heard that.
MICHAEL MOORE: Right, yeah, I know. It seems that — it seems to feel like the Republicans aren’t going to have a very, very good time on Tuesday night. And she’s, of course, obviously, one of the extreme cases of why they’re in deep, deep trouble.
But I have no sense of optimism, as I sit here. You know, way too many times in the past, we’ve gotten far too giddy way too soon. And I am just not going to succumb to that feeling right now. I mean, I hope. I hope it all looks good on Tuesday, but for many reasons, there is a chance that McCain will win on Tuesday. And we have to operate with that attitude in mind, because — I mean, let’s face it. People on our side usually aren’t as driven to involve themselves in a political process that they view, somewhat cynically, as not having operated in the best interests of the people. And so, they’re not often as — often — not as much as the other side is motivated to go to the polls, whereas the other side, under, you know, strict orders from, they believe, the voice of God that’s in their head telling them that they must go to the polls and vote for these good people or remove the heathens that are in violation of whatever it is they’re listening to in their head. So, I’m telling you, I think that’s pretty powerful. They’ve been very successful at it. They’ve always been well funded. They’re very smart about it. They are committed. They are up at the crack of dawn, and they will be on Tuesday. Trust me. We have not lived under the Republicans for twenty of the last twenty-eight years by their side being a bunch of slackers. That’s not the case. So they will be out in full force. And I don’t think we need to wake up on Wednesday with that feeling that we all know too well, that — you know, “Woah, what happened? What happened?” I just — I think that’s happened one too many times.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker, has a new film out online for free called Slacker Uprising: A Look at the Youth Vote. He also has an election guide, Mike’s Election Guide 2008. We’ll come back to our conversation with him in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview with filmmaker and writer Michael Moore. I spoke to him in Traverse City and asked him about the, well, well over $750 billion bailout of Wall Street and the baking industry.
MICHAEL MOORE: Look, I don’t call it a bailout. This is a robbery. They are looting the US Treasury. I just — I can’t believe that they’ve gotten away with it so far. They, over the last eight years, but really over the last twenty-eight years, have operated in a matter — I don’t know how quite to describe Wall Street, but just imagine a bunch of junkies just putting more junk into their system and constantly in some kind of feeding frenzy to get more of that junk. And it’s like the US Congress just decided to take a big hypodermic needle and give them another injection — a word they actually like to use — of the junk, of the heroin. I just — I think that — nothing has made me more upset, other than the war, in the last umpteen years, and it’s — I start to think about it, and my brain starts to expand, and the ear piece just flies out of my head.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet, Obama supported it, along with McCain.
MICHAEL MOORE: Oh, yeah. Yep. Well, I have a couple feelings about that, or a couple thoughts or theories, and it has to do not just with Obama’s vote on the bailout, but also some of his other campaign positions. But I’m hoping that he was figuring, well, look, we’re just a few weeks away from the election; I’m not going to do anything to rock the boat at this moment, but come November 5th, and certainly January 20th, I’m going to undo the damage that’s been done here. So I’m going to just put a little pin in that hope and tack it up on the board for right now.
I’m also hoping that Senator Obama is, you know, like all politicians: you know, they don’t always keep their campaign promises, right? I mean, it’s not unusual. It’s certainly not unexpected. They just don’t always keep their campaign promises. So, somehow I’ve told myself that those campaign promises that he will not keep are expanding the war in Afghanistan, pushing a healthcare plan that leaves the profit-making health insurance companies in charge of the plan, and, you know, a number of other things that I think a lot of us are concerned about, but — because, obviously, you’re not ever going to agree 100 percent with any candidate on any particular thing. But I’m just — I’m just convinced that these are the campaign promises that perhaps might, you know, not get made — or kept, I should say. So, I don’t know. We’ll see.
AMY GOODMAN: Wouldn’t that really largely depend on what people demand and who he is surrounded by and who people demand he is surrounded by, if, in fact, he becomes president?
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, that’s why — yes. And that’s why I think that a landslide, in terms of the Congress, in terms of throwing out dozens of Republicans from Congress and from the House and from the Senate, if there is a huge outpouring on Tuesday, I think that will send a very strong message.
I’ll give you an example of how I think this is going to play itself out. I don’t agree with Senator Obama’s health plan. It’s not a single-payer universal healthcare plan. It doesn’t cover everybody. It’s not nonprofit. It still sends billions of dollars into the hands of insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, etc. But there is a great bill in Congress that now has close to a hundred co-sponsors. Almost half the Democrats in Congress support the John Conyers universal healthcare bill. So if we elect a large majority of Democrats on Tuesday, I believe that there’s a good chance of that bill passing and a President Obama, even though that isn’t his plan, is not going to veto a bill passed by the Democrats in the Congress who want this passed. So, you know, I’m hoping, I guess, a lot for — you know, for us to have a long period of what people experienced when FDR was first elected in 1932.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? I mean, Senator Obama has been very clear. He was opposed to the war in Iraq. He really wants to see a surge, as he puts it, in Afghanistan, agreeing with McCain on that. What gives you hope? Why give him the benefit of the doubt that actually he would change his position once he came into office?
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I don’t know if I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. I’m hoping that he breaks his campaign promise, like all politicians do. I’m counting on him to be a good politician and do that.
As far as the war and his idea of expanding the war in Afghanistan, you know, I have Gorbachev’s phone number; I could give it to him. He could call Gorbachev and ask him how that worked out for the Soviet Union. I don’t have Genghis Khan’s phone number or anybody else in the last thousand-plus years who have tried to invade that part of the world, conquer it, control it. Doesn’t usually work out. And it isn’t going to work out for us, either, so we might as well forget it. It just isn’t going to happen, no matter how many troops you send in there. It isn’t going to happen. So I’m hoping that he’s going to do the right thing here and realize that once he’s in office and once he has the proper advice from people who know that just sending in more US troops isn’t going to take care of the problem.
Now, the part that I agree with him on, and have agreed with since 9/11, is that whoever is responsible for the murders of 3,000 people should be pursued and brought to justice. Absolutely. Of course, that’s not what Bush did. But, you know, we all have to believe that any time anybody attempts to or actually takes the lives of any of our citizens, it doesn’t mean we start a war, it doesn’t mean we go in aggressively and do a bunch of dumb stuff that doesn’t get us anywhere, but it does mean identifying who the suspects are and going after them vigorously and bringing them to justice.
AMY GOODMAN: Governor Palin, was she a surprise to you? What are your thoughts about her? And because, especially, you’re saying you don’t know what’s going to happen on Tuesday.
MICHAEL MOORE: I think Governor Palin was a surprise to everybody. And I guess, at first, it was good for comedy, which I always support, anything that happens, you know, to give us a laugh or two during hard times, difficult times. But I think it’s pretty much understood now that while she’ll bring out a lot of people to vote for John McCain, if he loses on Tuesday, she’ll be considered one of the main reasons why he lost, because people in the middle just had a hard time thinking about voting for her.
But I don’t think — I mean, you know what I’ve said to people — I live up here in northern Michigan, so I live in an area that voted three-to-one for Bush in the 2000 election. And, you know, I have neighbors and people like that up here. You know, they’re Republicans. That’s the only thing they know. That’s the way they’ve always voted. And what I’ve said to them is, “OK, I don’t want to discuss, you know, Governor Palin’s politics or what she believes in or whatever with you, I just want to — let me just ask you this question: you know, you’ve only known her for like seven weeks; would you turn the keys to your house over to somebody if you’re going away on a trip to somebody you’ve known for only seven weeks? Would you turn your children over to someone that you’ve known for seven weeks? And if you love your country, why would you turn your country over to someone that you’ve known for seven weeks?”
It makes absolutely no sense to me, just on that level. No matter whether you agree with her or disagree with her, it’s just you don’t know her, and you really — it’s way too dangerous, statistically — not that I want this to happen; I mean, I hope John McCain lives a long life, but, you know, statistically, that may not happen. And you’re going in the booth, and you’re potentially voting for President Palin. And you have to ask yourself that. You know, how do you feel about that? I am hoping sensible people will say, “I just — I can’t handle that.”
AMY GOODMAN: Governor Palin has been, along with McCain, the one who’s been pushing this whole issue of the Obama being a socialist. And I want to ask you about that. Governor Palin, who comes from Alaska, where people are all given money, wealth redistributed from the most powerful corporations perhaps on earth, like Exxon Mobil.
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, yes. I mean, there’s great irony in that. And, of course, it seems like people like Governor Palin, a lot of Republicans, wealthy people, they’re all for the idea of what they perceive to be socialism, if it means that it’s good for them, but — and at the same time, attacking Barack Obama for, you know — but I think he put it best the other day, when he was talking about, yes, it’s true that he shared his toys with other kids in kindergarten, and he might have once shared a peanut butter sandwich in fourth grade with another kid, so he does have these socialistic, communistic tendencies. You know, the only redistribution of wealth that’s happened has been distributing more of the wealth to the wealthy, especially in the last month or so. And they’re great in their Orwellian attempts at trying to turn it around and use that word at somebody else.
But, you know, Amy, maybe the good thing about this is, is that, you know, we’ve heard the word "socialism" used more than we’ve heard it used in decades, almost. So maybe that’s a good thing. It gets people looking it up in Wikipedia or something, start to think about — they start reading about it. “Hey, you know what? That’s not a bad idea there, taking care of everybody, making sure everybody is cared for.” So, also, I think that the dangerous thing that the Republicans have done is by making — tried to make this election a referendum on, would you vote for a socialist? And if the majority of Americans end up voting for Obama on Tuesday, haven’t they essentially said that, actually, they like the idea of socialism. I mean, that’s the paradigm that the Republicans essentially have established with this, with the way that they’ve presented this whole issue. So I guess if Obama is president when we wake up on Wednesday morning, you know, we should all go dance around the May Day pole.
AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on this being the most expensive presidential campaign in history, with Obama opting out of campaign finance?
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, you know, yeah, one good thing that Obama could do as soon as he takes office is to say, “You know, that sucked, what we just went through and what I did, what I participated in, even though it was mostly from small donations. You know, this isn’t the way we should be doing this.”
And I would love it if he would just propose a plan to remove money from politics and to do what just virtually every other Western democracy does, which is to get the money out of politics, to a large extent, to have a shortened campaign season, and to make everyone automatically a registered voter. Simply by the fact that you’re a citizen of the country, you’re automatically registered at that moment. So if you were born here — like in Canada, essentially your birth certificate is your voter registration card, and you’re registered at Elections Canada, you know, when you’re born. They have that all in their data, their data file, and it’s just there.
And we need to go to a paper ballot. We need to go back to the best way to vote: a pencil and a paper. And then the paper ballots are counted in each precinct, with observers from each party present as they count the ballots.
And we need to support third, fourth and fifth parties, so that all voices are heard in this country. They need to be at the debates. I watched the Canadian debate on C-SPAN. They had five political parties there. They all got equal time. And they all think that that’s a good idea, because it’s important in a democracy that all voices be heard.
So I would love to see a number of reforms, as far as our electoral system. It is so crazy. So many people are going to have so many problems on Tuesday. They’re going to show up. They’re going to find out their name isn’t on the rolls, or they’re going to go in the booth and get confused again. You know, in some states, you can vote a straight party ticket, but you can’t vote for individual candidates. The state I live in, you can vote a straight party ticket and vote for individual candidates, and the ballot is good. In other states — I think it’s North Carolina — you can vote a straight party ticket, but you also have to vote for the individual presidential candidate, and if you don’t, your straight party thing that you touched doesn’t count for the president. I mean, there’s just so many crazy rules in fifty different states. We’re one country. There should be one way to do this.
The Canadians have the ballots counted within an hour. They’re just pieces of paper. They count them all. And, I mean, it’s a big country. I mean, it’s the second-largest land mass in the world. They’re bringing, you know, their ballots in by canoe and dogsled and baby seal, I don’t know, however they get them there. But, you know, I mean, they have — within an hour, they know who their prime minister is going to be. So we really have to correct this, all of — the whole shebang here of our electoral process.
AMY GOODMAN: You talked about Canada. What about these third party candidates? You supported Nader in 2000. There’s Bob Barr right now, as well as Nader. There’s Cynthia McKinney. Are you encouraging them all to run as hard as they can, even in these last few days and with the stakes the way they are?
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I think it’s — yes, I think it’s good that — yes, I think it’s good that there are different people running. But in this election, you know, I’m voting for Barack Obama. And it’s — you know, we don’t have the proper setup to where these other parties have a chance. They should have a chance. We should have a different system, so that people could have their voice heard and people who want to vote for these candidates have a chance to legitimately do that and have a legitimate — some form of representation or proportional representation where their voices are heard in Congress. I mean, that just seems to me common sense — doesn’t it? — to anybody who really believes in democracy, that if ten percent of the country, you know, supported the Green Party, that ten percent of our Congress should be Green Party members. If ten percent were Libertarian, then ten percent should be Libertarian, or whatever the percentages are. But in this election, you know, we’re all too beaten down at this point to take it any longer, and we have to stop what the Republicans have done to this country for the last twenty of the twenty-eight years. I don’t think there’s many of us that are under any sort of delusion that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are going to take us all the way to the promised land, but they are going to stop — they’re the tourniquet that’s going to stop the bleeding.
AMY GOODMAN: Academy Award-winning filmmaker and author, Michael Moore. We’re going to go back to our conversation after break. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. And we are going to be broadcasting live for five hours on election night. You can ask your station, radio or television station; you can go to our website at Democracy Now! We’ll be video and audio live streaming. More details at the end of the show. After break, back more with Michael Moore. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn back to Michael Moore. His new book is called Mike’s Election Guide 2008. In it, he offers Barack Obama ten presidential decrees for his first ten days in office. I asked Michael to discuss some of them.
MICHAEL MOORE: First off, I think he needs to bring back the draft, but only draft the children of the rich. If your family makes —- if you’re in the upper five percentile, then your eighteen— to twenty-six-year-old offspring are drafted. If they —- and actually, there’s about three million of them in this country, eighteen— to twenty-six-year-olds, in the upper five percent, and there’s three million in our armed forces right now. So it would be a complete even trade. And I fully believe that we’ll be in less wars if the George Bushes and the Dick Cheneys of this world had to send their own kids off to war, and nor would I think the upper five percent across the country allow their children to be used as fodder in some illegal, immoral war. I just — so that’s one of a number of ideas that I’ve written there in the book.
AMY GOODMAN: You also say, number two, anyone who tries to make a profit from healthcare will be arrested.
MICHAEL MOORE: It should be a crime to make a profit off somebody being sick. I mean, seriously, you know, 100, 200 years from now, anthropologists, they’re going to dig us up, and they’re going to wonder, who were these people? Look at — they’re going to say, “Look at this. When somebody got sick in their society, they actually made them fork over money so that somebody else could make a profit off the fact that they got cancer or had a broken arm or, you know, was in a car accident, or whatever.” I mean, we’re going to look awfully cruel, and they’re not going to understand why we would do such a thing, why we just wouldn’t take care of people, why that wouldn’t be essentially a human right. So, you know, I think it should be a crime. And I’m hoping that we have a universal healthcare system that is nonprofit. Nonprofit, not — nobody should be making any money off this.
AMY GOODMAN: Ban high-fructose corn syrup?
MICHAEL MOORE: You’re not saying — well, you’re not saying the word right, because you don’t — you actually don’t not use that substance. But you’re talking to the poster boy. I think that we’ve allowed this substance into our foods, and it’s caused a huge problem in our society. And again, it’s just one of these things. Why would we allow something that kills so many people? And so, I would have it banned from our food system.
AMY GOODMAN: The American people no longer pay more taxes than the French do.
MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah. The French pay such low taxes, I’d like us to pay as little — as few taxes as they pay. Of course, when you say that, people are going, “What? He must have had that wrong.” And, of course, see, on paper, we don’t call a lot of things taxes. So, it sometimes looks like we pay more taxes than the Europeans, but their taxes cover real things. They get something back for the taxes they pay for. So if you live in France, your healthcare is completely free, your college is completely free, and that’s any college, a technical — all the way from a technical college to the Sorbonne, you go for free. Child care is free or almost free, depending on what your income level is. And the list goes on and on and on. And that’s why, you know, out of all the demonstrating and the rioting that goes on in France over various things, you never see them demonstrating over paying too high of taxes. And why is that? Well, that’s because they get something for it.
We have to pay for our kids’ college education. We have to pay, if you’re not covered by a group plan by your employer — and even then, you know, essentially, you’re paying for it, because you could maybe getting that money in wages. Obviously, we have to pay for our own childcare, all these other things. You know, if you add up what the average person pays, if you’re buying your own healthcare insurance, average family pays $1,000 a month. If you’re — what are you paying on your college loan? I mean, you know, people anywhere from $200 to $800 a month maybe on their college loan. How much do you pay in daycare every week for your kids? A couple hundred bucks? More? Probably. But we don’t call those taxes. But if you add all that up, in addition to the income tax we do pay, we pay more than the French and the Germans and the people in these other countries.
So, what I’m suggesting is, is that we start to look at this whole tax thing in a different way. And I understand why Americans, you know, don’t like to pay taxes, other than their own, you know, self-absorption sometimes and a sort of “me, me, me” society that we live in, whereas these other societies are constructed more around the word "we." Even though that’s the first word of our founding document — “We the people” — it really is about me, me, getting me, getting my, myself, me, my, my, looking out for yourself. “Hey, I got mine; you get yours. Hey, you’re not my problem; I’ve got to take care of myself. You take care of yourself.” You know, that’s kind of the American way of looking at things. That’s not the way they look at things all the time in some of these other countries. And so, maybe if we thought a little differently about this and if Americans actually saw some — I mean, ask the average person what are you getting for your taxes that you’re paying, you know, $10 billion a month are going to the Iraq war. I mean, people can’t even get their potholes fixed here in Michigan on the roads, let alone, you know, being —- having any good feelings about, you know, what they’re getting when they’re paying taxes. So -—
AMY GOODMAN: Michael, your sixth presidential decree for the next president’s first ten days is to feed al-Qaeda and the next generation of America-haters by building wells.
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, there’s over a billion people on this planet that don’t have access to clean drinking water. You know, what if we made it an American mission to make sure that the entire third world had clean drinking water? One of the statistics I read was it would cost about $10 per person in the third world of people who don’t have the clean drinking water right now. So, that’s — geez, that’s $10 times a billion people? $10 billion. That’s just October in Iraq. For the money that we’re spending in Iraq in October, we could provide clean drinking water to most of the people that don’t have it. And I, as an American, would rather be known by the people who are struggling to survive in the third world as the country that gave them clean drinking water or gave them other things that they need to help them in their daily existence to survive. I think most Americans would rather be known for that. Instead, we’re known as the invaders and the occupiers and the people who prop up the regimes in these countries, and I’m tired of that. I’m really tired of it.
AMY GOODMAN: You say make Social Security solvent until the twenty-second century by having the rich pay their fair share.
MICHAEL MOORE: Amy, I think a lot of people don’t realize that those who make over $102,000 a year pay no Social Security tax on any of that money they make over $102,000. I think people think that that’s just a flat tax, whatever it is. I forget what the percentage is now, something like six-and-a-half, seven percent that’s on your paycheck that goes to Social Security. It’s a flat tax that everyone pays, so it doesn’t matter, you know, if you make $25,000 a year or $55,000 a year or $75,000 a year, you’re paying that — that percentage of your income automatically goes to Social Security. But once you reach $102,000, you’re home free, you don’t pay anything, zero, after $102,000. Why isn’t everyone’s income, all their income, taxed for Social Security? Because I’ve got to tell you, a person who’s making a million dollars a year, they can afford to pay the Social Security tax on that amount over $102,000, but it’s a lot harder for a person making $25,000 a year to have almost seven percent of their income go to Social Security. That’s a big bite out of them.
So, if we did this — and Senator Dodd, his staff did the research on this, and he actually brought it up in one of the debates — if the rich paid the same Social Security tax — not more, not more, like, you know, Obama’s proposing, you know, the rich are going to have to pay a little more on their income tax — just pay the same that everybody else is paying, those of you who make over $102,000 a year, tomorrow, tomorrow, if we had that money, tomorrow, there’d be enough money in Social Security until something like 2075. Almost to the next century, we’d have enough money in Social Security. There’d be no Social Security solvency problem. The reason we have the problem is because the rich don’t pay. They don’t pay their fair and equal share.
And if that would change, we wouldn’t have this nutty discussion, which was really, believe me, a big smokescreen, because Bush and his Wall Street cronies wanted to take people’s Social Security, privatize it, put it into these private accounts, and put it into the stock market. That’s what he wanted to do four years ago. That was the — it was the first thing he tried to do when he got elected for the first time there in 2004, when he was elected. And he was going to — our money — just imagine, our Social Security would be in the stock market crash right now. Thank God that didn’t happen. But that’s the way they think, and I think a different way.
AMY GOODMAN: One of your chapters in Mike’s Election Guide 2008 is “How to Elect John McCain,” is “How Many Democrats Does It Take to Lose the Most Winnable Presidential Election in American History?” How many Democrats does it take?
MICHAEL MOORE: Not many. I think Obama’s done a good job of, you know, paying attention to not making some of the mistakes Democrats have made in past elections. It’s really kind of up to us, the rest of us, Democrats or not, just to get out there and do what we can in the next three days to get people to vote. I mean, that’s really what I think is the key thing, and not to be doing a dance on the five-yard line before — thinking that we’ve already scored the touchdown. And, you know, there’s that famous incident there with the football player in the Super Bowl, Leon Lett, who had picked up a fumble, and he ran all the way down and starting around the ten-yard line, before he crossed over the goal line, he puts his arms out, you know, like “Woo-hoo! Touchdown!” and the guy from the Buffalo Bills came up from behind him and whacked the ball, caught up to him and whacked the ball right out of his hands. No touchdown. There’s too many of us that are — and I know why we do it, because we’re so — we’ve been so depressed for the last eight years of having to deal with, you know, what’s happened to the country, it just almost — it feels like we’re on that five-yard line right now, and we want to start doing the dance. But there’s no dancing allowed until, you know, midnight Tuesday. So, everybody’s got to go out and do what they can do in these next few days, and then you should participate in any kind of poll watching or whatever on Tuesday to make sure that things are honest and fair and no shenanigans are taking place.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Michael, you dedicate your election guide to two people. Explain who they are, Shirley Chisholm and Tony Benn.
MICHAEL MOORE: Well, Tony Benn is a former member of Parliament in Britain. He’s the older man in Sicko, the Brit, who talks about the British healthcare system. You know, he has written over the years. If you ever get a chance to read anything that he’s written, he’s just always been very eloquent and said a lot of great things, and I’ve admired him for a while now. And so, I dedicated the book to him.
And also to Shirley Chisholm, because when I was eighteen years old, the first time I walked into a voting booth and got to vote, it was in the Michigan primary in April of 1972. George Wallace had just been shot a few days before that. George Wallace ended up winning the Michigan primary. But Shirley Chisholm was on the ballot. And as an eighteen-year-old, I liked a lot of what she had to say, and so I voted for her, and that was the first vote I ever cast, and I remain proud of it to this day. She was a real fighter, a wonderful person, stood up for all the right things, antiwar. She was against all the evils that capitalism has put upon this world. And, you know, she probably would be called a “socialist” by McCain.
It’s a funny word. You know, to me, all that stuff just sounds like what the nuns told us to do when we were growing up, that the last shall be first, and the first shall last, and that if you only have a few fish and a few loaves of bread, you’re to divide them evenly so that everybody has a seat at the table. That’s the way we were raised. That’s the way a lot of us were raised. And for the other side to debase Obama for believing in those basic principles, that we will be judged by how we treat the least among us, it’s — as Obama said yesterday, at this point it’s just kind of sad to see John McCain and the others going to the dark side, the place that they’ve gone to, a sad way to end his career.
So let’s just — let’s remain hopeful for Tuesday, but let’s not assume anything. And let’s all do what we have to do in the next seventy-two hours here to get out the vote.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, author and activist. His new book is Mike’s Election Guide ’08, and his new online film is called Slacker Uprising: A Look at the Youth Vote. His earlier books, Stupid White Men...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation and Dude, Where’s My Country? His other films, among them, Fahrenheit 911, as well as Sicko, and, of course, Roger and Me shot Michael Moore to fame.