Can't Stop Writing About SiCKO
Ezra Klein's review of SiCKO makes the good point that Michael Moore's position is essentially an idealistic and patriotic one. He believes that his country ought to be good enough to care for all of its citizens, ought to be concerned enough with its fellow man that they can ensure they'll never go untreated or hungry or sick.
Every story, every tale, every vignette asks the same question: "Who are we?" Who are we that our fellow citizens have to decide which fingers they'll pay to get reattached? Who are we that our hospitals push the ill and indigent into cabs, and drop them off, disoriented and clad in a paper-thin gown, on skid row? Who are we that we let insurers deny coverage to our neighbors because they are too tall, or have too many seasonal allergies? Who are we that we don't guarantee paid sick leave, or vacations, or child care, leaving that all instead to the whims of employers? And most of all, who are we to have let national pride blind us to these better alternatives, and let moneyed interests and powerful lobbies construct a country that best serves their needs rather than ours?
It is possible, of course, that Americans will see this movie and disagree with its implications. They will not think that the volunteer rescue workers who shredded their lungs inhaling the debris of the 9/11 attacks should be given health care. They will not think that all working Americans deserve paid vacations. They will not think that health care would be better if the first thing the hospital biopsied was your broken ankle, rather than your wallet. But Moore clearly doesn't believe that. This is not a movie of arguments, but of examples -- of practices Moore thinks more humane, and more in accordance with his countrymen's preferences. In that way, his critique of America is, itself, dependent on a glittering view of the country. In the end, he is an idealist, and a patriot -- confident that if he can just remind us of the forgotten America, it will be forgotten no more.
Of course, this does cut against the "rugged individualism" that is also a characteristic of America. The question is whether people watching will be stirred by a sense of compassion and humanity, or whether they'll be repelled by all those lucky-duckies in France who are getting health care and sick days without earning it.
On a completely different note, the Washington Post gives us this interesting vignette behind the scenes of the film.
Michael Moore is getting a lot of mileage out of the hit he takes on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in his provocative new movie "SiCKO," which made its Washington premiere Wednesday night at the Uptown theater.
Moore said after the premiere that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, a personal friend and supporter of the Clintons whose company financed the film, "begged" him to remove a scene exposing Hillary Clinton as the second-highest recipient of campaign donations from the health-care industry.
"I said, 'No, Harvey. I gotta do the right thing.' He understood."
Clinton comes off as chastened after her health care plan failed in the early 1990s. And then, as the blurb notes, bought off. Now, Clinton has been strong in her campaign in saying that it's time for universal health care. However, she is trying to build a consensus from all of the players on the health care stage (other than the insurers, against whom she's been pretty strong). So I don't know exactly how damning the contribution list really is, actually. Even single-payer advocate Sheila Kuehl is trying to build support among hospitals and doctors. Do they factor in as the "health care industry"?
I worry that Clinton will end up releasing a plan that keeps the status quo and tries to reform instead of overhaul. In fact, that's what her ORIGINAL health-care plan was all about. But the whole campaign donations thing might be a bit of a red herring.
UPDATE: Lots of anger over this LA Times article trying to sow tension between single-payer advocates like Moore and the more modest plans of top Democrats. It is true that the major health care plans by Democrats are not single payer. However, having seen the film, Moore doesn't explicitly argue that, though he supports it, and has criticized proposals that don't go that far. But IN THE FILM he doesn't lay out any specific plan. It's more designed to provoke discussion.
In California, there's a debate in the Legislature between half-measures and single-payer. This article is really pegged to this quote from the CNA, which reflects the debate here.
Advocacy groups are already planning to use the film to pressure the Democratic hopefuls.
"The candidates haven't sensed the political fever in this country that fundamental change is called for in the healthcare system," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Assn. "What we are going to do is call on the candidates to reconsider their positions."
It's actually really GOOD to have single-payer advocates out there pushing the whole debate to the left. Far from a problem for Democrats, it can be a great boon, because then a universal plan along the lines of Edwards' (putting private and public plans in competition with one another), which would be seen as radical not long ago, can become the sensible middle.