by Michael Dean Benton
Originally published in North of Center; posted on Smirking Chimp
“There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning.” ---Warren Buffet, (listed by Forbes Magazine’s in 2008 as the Richest Person in the World worth $62 Billion: NY Times Interview, November 26, 2006)
Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) is a fitting film to mark the 20th anniversary of Michael Moore’s celebrated first film Roger and Me (1989). In Roger and Me, Moore examined the effects of the decision of General Motors CEO Roger Smith to close the Flint, MI factory, which caused 30,000 workers to lose their jobs, and how this decision economically devastated Moore’s hometown of Flint, MI.
Capitalism: A Love Story catches America in the throes of a larger-scale economic disaster in which everyday workers are losing their jobs, homes and lives, across the nation, while those in the upper echelons of the economic elites continue to reap huge profits. To make matters worse, the Bush initiated and Obama administrated Bank/Finance bailout has totaled in the trillions of dollars. As too-big-to-fail institutions continue to return to the trough for new tax-payer funded handouts, working citizens continue to lose everything without any safety net offered to help them out.
This is the major focus of Moore’s newest documentary. He seeks to understand and explain how we essentially moved from a struggling democratic nation, at least outwardly, that attempted to develop a more equitable society, to a literal “modern day plutonomy” centered upon what John Tasini has termed “The Audacity of Greed.”
The phrase “modern day plutonomy,” as explained in the film, is lifted from a leaked 2006 Citigroup report (http://www.scribd.com/doc/6674229/Citigroup-Mar-5-2006-Plutonomy-Report-Part-2 ) in which the financial giant recognizes the fact that the top 1% of the upper-class dominate American wealth and are supported by the rest of the top 10%. The smart investor, the report continued, will invest in stocks of companies that cater to these wealthy elites because all signs indicate that they will get richer while the rest of America will lose economic ground.
In fact, the Citigroup report cites an IRS report that the income inequality in America is at its highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1920s and that it is steadily worsening. The original Citigroup report was circulated to only the wealthiest of clients and was not intended for the broader public’s eyes. The report points out the plutonomy’s greatest strength is that those who are not a part of the plutonomy (everyone else) are generally kept in “the dark” about the realities of our economic situation. The cynic amongst us might add that not only is everyone else kept in the dark, but that they are actively misled to irrationally target others with their insecurities and anger (immigrants, gays, socialists, France, muslims, liberals, etc…).
The sad reality is that most of this manipulative propaganda, including the talk show pundit led teabagger rallies, are funded by the same people who are reaping enormous profits before and after the economic crisis.
Once again, as cited in the Citigroup report for their wealthiest clients, what the wealthy elites should fear the
most is that the ignorant public will become aware and angry about the true cause of the last 30 years of stagnant wages, the increasing income inequity, and the current economic crisis. The reason they worry about the “laborers” awareness of these realities is, again, from the report:
“RISKS -- WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation, would likely damage the plutonomy. Furthermore, 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 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. This could be felt through higher taxation on the rich (or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect indigenous [home-grown] laborers, in a push-back on globalization -- either anti-immigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However we are keeping a close eye on developments.” (“Plutonomy Report, Part 2”: Citigroup, March 5, 2006: pg 10)
To Read the Rest of the Review