His column from the Sunday, July 22, 2007 of the Star-Ledger:
Moore's the real sicko
I drove to the local multiplex the other night to see Michael Moore's latest movie. My wife came along, but she wisely choose to see the latest Harry Potter flick instead. I envied her.
Michael Moore has always seemed to me to embody the essence of the middle-class socialist as described by George Orwell. "The underlying motive of many socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order," Orwell wrote. "The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy."
That certainly seems to be the case with Moore. He has no real empathy with the forlorn characters he puts up on the screen. They are just vehicles for his enduring urge to have the government run things. And in Moore's world, the government always runs things better.
The supposed high point of "Sicko" is a trip to Cuba he makes with some rescue workers who claim various injuries from responding to the 9/11 attacks. After a quick tour of Havana, he trots them off to a gleaming hospital where they receive top-notch medical care. Moore assures us that the care is exactly the same as a typical Cuban would receive.
Not quite. Anthony Boadle, the Havana correspondent for Reuters, reported that the hospital featured in the film was "Cuba's flagship hospital with a view of the Caribbean sea, a sharp contrast to many Cuban hospitals that are crumbling, badly lit, and which lack equipment and medicines."
Moore also glosses over the fact that the average Cuban lives in conditions that would appall the typical American. When I traveled there in 1994, I was amazed to find people raising pigs and chickens in the halls of what had once been gracious apartment buildings. The livestock supplements a diet of rice, beans and not much else. This points to the sole unique accomplishment of the Cuban socialists in the area of health care: They have cured obesity. I kept waiting for just one lighthearted moment during which Moore would contrast his own immense bulk with the trim physiques of the Cubans.
But there are no light moments in "Sicko." Moore pounds his points home the same way those immense hams of his pound the sidewalks as he visits Canada, Cuba, France and England.
The central premise of the movie is Moore's assertion that "we remain the only country in the Western world without free and universal health care." This is nonsense. Moore spends day after day in France, for example, without discovering that the French do not have a no-fee system like the English, but in fact have a system of basic insurance, supplemental insurance and co-pays. The typical resident of neighboring Germany, meanwhile, has 14 percent of gross pay deducted for a so-called "sickness fund." The big difference between other countries and the United States is not that they have free health coverage. It's that they have mandatory health coverage.
And even those countries that have entirely state-run systems are not quite as "free" as Moore makes them out to be. Early in the movie, he highlights the case of an American couple with a deaf child whose insurance company would not pay for cochlear implants in both ears. Being able to hear from just one ear was sufficient, the company said.
That may sound cruel, but according to a recent article in the Nottingham Post, an English family was told the same thing by the national health service there. The big difference was that the American company eventually relented and let the kid have his implants. As for the English kid, his parents had to shell out $63,000 for the second im plant.
Moore highlights an American cancer victim who died after he was denied a bone-marrow transplant. But that patient might not have fared any better in England, where a so-called "post-code lottery" either awards or denies treatment to patients based on how much money is in the budget of the health care district in which they live.
There is indeed plenty wrong with the American health-care system. But the government takeover Moore advocates would not cure it. Later in the movie he notes that 65 percent of American kids don't know where England is. In other words, the same government that can't teach kids to read a map is going to somehow be entrusted with our lives.
This sort of thing might be amusing if Moore had a lighter touch. But the movie didn't induce a single chuckle in the audience the other night. Perhaps that's because there was only one other person in the theater with me. The other theater-goers were all off watching something the English really are good at: acting out the Harry Potter books.
I assume that you trust the current for-profit health care system because you have health care. If you did not, and had not for years on end, you might feel differently. There will always be problems with the limited resources of ‘healthcare’ per se ----whether such resources are distributed by the for-profit industry or by the government in a socialized single payer system. The real issue is the current system of for-profit healthcare in America has left more than 40 million uninsured and millions of others grossly under-insured, period.
Your critique of the system in the UK does not address that issue. Just as the capitalist system needs regulation and systematic adjustment by the FED in order to operate functionally and provide people with the foundation of credibility in order to operate successfully, so now does the healthcare system in America. The government would never allow 40 million people to be under-educated or under-fed or un-housed without some major initiative to correct the issue.
The Clintons had the right idea: Everyone in America deserves and needs to be covered, period. Whether this comes about by a single payer system or Congress requiring all private companies to cover everyone in America in an affordable way if they wish to operate as companies ---and figure out a way to do it, is fine by me. But this will continue to be an issue until it is solved.
Joseph R. Novick
"If you understood your own point, you would be opposed to it.”
Snippy, pointless, and typical for a neo-con. The neo-cons, on just about any issue, are as predictable as ever.