I went to a sneak preview of “Sicko” at the Lagoon theater in Minneapolis on Saturday night. I had watched “Roger and Me” when it came out on DVD and saw “Bowling for Columbine” just two nights before going to see “Sicko.” I’ve always viewed documentaries as being like good medicine: I’ll take them when necessary, but the taste doesn’t keep me coming back for more.
I do think that Michael Moore serves a purpose as a filmmaker and as someone contributing to public debate. For the first time since I was in college and listening to The Clash, I feel like it’s (maybe) OK to mention “socialism” as a valid form of managing a nation’s resources.
I feel that this view is closer to the center than I ever would have thought before. Yesterday on the internet I caught an outdoor segment of Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” in which he was talking to Ann Coulter. She was surrounded by about fifty of her fans on this outdoor set. Let me ask you, if Rush Limbaugh’s fans are called “dittoheads” are Ann Coulter’s fans called “sawdust skulls”?
The reason I bring her up is that she mentioned FDR as having been good on foreign policy for “crushing the Nazi war machine” but had been terrible on domestic policy. Why? Because he had saddled us with socialist ideals which she said we are still struggling to get rid of. I wonder what she’s referring to: Social Security or the minimum wage?
In “Sicko” Moore takes a smart tack in that he doesn’t say that we are in terrible shape because of the number of people in the U.S. who do not have medical insurance. That could lead a lot of us to think to ourselves, “Hey, I step over the homeless every day on my way to work, what does this have to do with me?”
Instead, he asks the rest of us who do have health insurance, “What do you really have and what is it costing you?” And the point it, once you factor in deductibles, co-pays and the fact that you are unsteady ground any time you have something that needs really serious treatment, you’re left wondering why more of us aren’t bankrupt over medical bills and why we aren’t carrying signs in the street?
Moore gives us lots of reasons why we should look to other nations for an example of what can be done well and use the best from each. He examines the Canadians, the British, and the French as examples. From what I can find on the internet, the United Kingdom charges rates from 10-40% (those making over $4,460, between $4,461 and $69,200, and above $69,201) and has a number of deductions allowable. France appears to go from 10-48% while Canada levies from 7-29%. VAT taxes also apply which are considerably higher than most state sales tax rates. Canada has the lowest VAT at 7%.
Some of the more humorous moments come when Michael Moore is trying to get the Canadians to understand the predicament their southern cousins are in. One Canadian fellow (we’ll call him “Bob”) describes having sawn off four of his fingers with a power saw and shows he has decent use of them after they were reattached in a Canadian hospital. Moore then tells him about an American who cut off his middle and ring fingers and goes to the hospital to have them reattached. Since he has no insurance, he is given a choice of having the middle finger reattached for $60,000 or the ring finger for $12,000. Because he’s so sentimental, the fellow chooses the ring finger. Bob, the Canadian whose every doctor’s bill is paid by the government, has a confused look on his face.
After the movie, I felt somewhat ashamed. Ashamed that I wasn’t in the streets with a bullhorn shouting my anger and demanding better treatment for myself and my neighbors. I’ve never done this before. But the stakes keep getting higher.
Next year’s Republican National Convention is being held in the Twin Cities. In one way or another I plan to be there. It’s a matter of organizing under a political banner I can work for and that my conscience will agree with.