In Denver last week to plug his memoir and rally occupiers, filmmaker Michael Moore made one thing perfectly clear: He has not let becoming a one-percenter change his worldview. Not even a little.
In a nearly 90-minute speech at CU Denver, Moore by turns excoriated the country for turning its back on its young and let those same young people know that their turn to run the country is at hand.
“Why are they charging you to come here?” he asked the students to begin his speech, going on to say that virtually every other “civilized” country provides its citizens with free educations, from preschool through graduate school.
“It’s free,” he said. “Why? Because they know we are all part of the human family.”
“We should not be putting debt on people before they go out in the world.
“We’d better leave a note,” for future anthropologists, explaining why we have “punked on the young,” he said.
From education, he moved on to health care, declaring that private health insurance is an immoral profiteering. “Do you think it is moral to make a profit on the sick?” he asked. “How can we let 50 million people go without health insurance?”
Making it clear that he is coming from a position on the left, he nonetheless said America has become too divided even though “we agree on much more than we disagree on.”
The rich are too rich
His most potent criticisms, though, were reserved for the wealthy. He said that America has always had wealthy people, but they weren’t always hated they way he says they are today. That is because, he said, in previous generations, the wealthy upheld their end of the bargain.
He said his father worked in a spark plug factory, where he made enough money for a middle-class life, owning a house, a car, sending his kids to college. Today, he said, big business prefers increasing profit at the expense of taking care of employees. Big business has gotten together with government to rig the system in their favor, he said. “It is rigged to benefit those at the very top. That is evil and it should not be tolerated in a democracy. Everyone should have a seat at the table.”
Today, he said the wealthiest 400 Americans control more wealth than the bottom 150 million people combined. “Does that look like a democracy? Does that look fair?” he asked to thunderous applause.
It wasn’t the first time Moore has made the claim that 400 people are richer by themselves than the bottom half of all Americans combined. Politifact has looked into it as have others. If anything, Moore is being conservative, say the experts.
“There were rich people when I was young, but there was not this level of angry because the rich built factories and stores, they provided jobs and a living wage. We didn’t bitch because we had jobs. If the workers worked hard, we all prospered. Today we get fired.”
He said he could understand workers getting fired and benefits being cut if companies were in the poor house, “but they are making record profits today. Something is out of whack.”
He said the Occupy movement was, in effect, created by the banks. “They weren’t satisfied with plain old greed. They had to take it to the next level.
“I’m counting on the Occupy movement to save us,” he said, adding that one key to the movement’s success will be its staying power. He noted that American women began agitating for the right to vote about 80 years before they won it. He noted that the suffragettes needed to win over men to be successful. “They succeeded. That is the lesson of history.”
He encouraged people to move their money from big banks to credit unions and small local banks.
“Don’t give the banks another dime,” he said. “They are on a mission to destroy you and destroy the country.”
For President Obama, Moore had both praise and criticism. He said going into a voting booth in 2008 to vote for Obama brought tears to his eyes.
“It was one of the best days I had had in a long time. I got emotional. I was crying in there. I couldn’t believe that in my lifetime I had the opportunity to vote for this individual. I came out all red-eyed. I couldn’t help it.”
He marveled at the fact that Obama chose to include his middle name, “Hussein,” on the ballot.
“To say ‘that’s my name’, what guts, what courage, what fortitude. I want that Obama back. We need you. We want you back.”
He said Obama has lost his way by being too conciliatory, too willing to back down to Republicans. “What part of a ten million vote victory didn’t you understand?” he asked.
He said Obama ran for president knowing he would be taking on two wars and a wrecked economy. “He was willing to take it on, and then he went to the Republicans with an olive branch in his hand and they whacked it out of his hand.
“I believe in turning the other cheek but… we need the tax cuts for the rich gone, we need more regulations on Wall Street, we need the money out of politics, we need to bring the troops home.
Republicans, he said, are good at “kicking ass and taking names. I admire them on some level. They are decisive.”
Moore said young people and people of color put Obama in office, but he keeps trying to please the white male voter.
“Why is he so focused on white male voters?”
Moore pointed out that Clinton won twice without winning the white male vote.
He said if young people continue voting, they will create a better world.
“Fifty-four percent today say yes to gay marriage. How did that happen? You don’t bring with you all the horseshit we brought,” the 57-year-old Moore said.
He said he thinks Obama will win again, but largely because he thinks all the Republican candidates except Jon Hunstman are crazy.
“There are a lot of crazies in this country, maybe 100 million, but that still leaves 200 million who aren’t crazy,” he said.
Young people can make good things happen, “but not until all of you are off the bench and in the game.”
Responding to a question about why Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper seems so willing to continue cutting education funding, Moore said Hickenlooper suffers from the same thing as Obama, thinking he needs to appeal to white male voters. “They don’t matter any more,” he said about such voters.
After his speech at CU, he spoke at Occupy Denver. Video of that below.