Transcript: Michael Moore. ("Sicko" movie), Jun 29 2007
Hey, today's the day! It's the day "Sicko" is opening in theaters all across the United States and Michael Moore is with us.
Thom Hartmann interviews Michael Moore 29 June 2007
[Thom]: Hey, today's the day! It's the day "Sicko" is opening in theaters all across the United States and Michael Moore is with us, michaelmoore.com of course his website. Michael Moore welcome to the programme.
[Michael Moore]: Hey, thanks Thom, thanks for having me here.
[Thom]: Just absolutely great to have you with us on the show. "Sicko". You're already drawing fire from Faux News' editorializing against You have taken on one of the largest and most powerful industries in this country. So far, what has been, from where you're sitting, the way it looks to you, what has been the response?
[Michael Moore]: Well, the industry itself, they're not quite sure what to do because, you see, they already know that they've pissed off most of America, between the pharmaceutical companies and the health insurance companies. There's already a simmering anger out there amongst the American people. So, you know, they, the most creative response I've seen actually, 3 or 4 insurance companies put out a statement last week saying that that they're really happy that I made the movie and that they believe in health care for all, just as long as, if it does go to a government program, all the government money comes to them.
[Thom]: Hmmm, interesting. Right.
[Michael Moore]: And they'll administrate it from that point on, thank you very much.
[Thom]: Yeah, exactly. and tragically, there's a bunch of politicians who are taking a position as well.
[Michael Moore]: Yes, and they are called Democrats. This is not a good thing. The Edwards plan, Obama, they're missing a crucial point here, which is that we need to remove the insurance man as the middle man between the doctor and the patient. When a doctor has a patient in the office and she needs, you know, to do a treatment or a procedure or an operation or whatever, she shouldn't have to call an insurance company, some guy sitting in a cubicle a thousand miles away to get permission. And of course that guy in a cubicle, as I show in the movie, has a vested interest in denying as many of the procedures and operations as possible because he gets a bonus at the end of the year based on how many denials he's done. So there's absolutely no room for private insurance or any kind of profiteering when it comes to, when we're talking about people's health.
[Thom]: Yeah. You know, I'm old enough to remember when Blue Cross, you and I both grew up in Michigan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was a not-for-profit corporation and I believe in virtually every state of the country back in the fifties and sixties, anyway, health insurance companies were required to be not-for-profit organizations.
[Michael Moore]: That's right.
[Thom]: And there was this turning point in the Nixon administration, and you talk about it in your movie. Tell us about that.
[Michael Moore]: Well, we uncovered these of these tapes - they're in the national archives and actually in the Nixon library as part of all the Watergate tapes but they had nothing to do with Watergate. It's the day that John Ehrlichman and Richard Nixon sat in the Oval Office and discussed how they were going to set up these HMOS that would guarantee the insurance companies more profits because they would have to provide less care for the patients. And that was the whole scam, to figure out how to provide as little care as possible so that the insurance company would have pay out as little as possible. Because the insurance company, obviously, can only make a profit if they pay as few claims as possible. If they end up having to pay everything then, you know, they don't make as much money. So I show this, and I actually play the tapes in the movie.
[Thom]: Yeah. Now, you know, I talked to John Edwards a couple of days ago about his health care plan and confronted him about the fact that his plan still has room for private health insurance companies and his response was, and I'm paraphrasing, but I think this is pretty close, was that he's suggesting that everybody in America ought to be able to participate in, or buy into, Medicare and because Medicare has, you know, an overhead of only 2 or 3%, it's always going to be the cheapest and that will put out of business the health insurance companies, you know, through a natural process; that otherwise it's politically unfeasible because they're just so powerful. They'll just say, 'OK, we're going to pull the plug and just shut all these companies down'. It's just, it's something that couldn't happen. What's your take on that?
[Michael Moore]: Well, so, in other words then, they won't figure out that the 'Medicare for all' plan is actually going to put them out of business, too, right?
[Thom]: Well, they, yeah, they know that, but they wouldn't be able to argue in the public arena as effectively because, you know, of saying, 'hey, he's going to take away all your choices', which is the argument they make for people who are arguing for single payer health care. Their political rebuttal is that these politicians want to take away your choices. Edwards, I think he thinks, and frankly I think maybe he's right, is doing what is really kind of an elegant political ju jitsu is, 'OK, we're not going to take away your choices; we're going to give you more choices, and in fact, you have the choice of Medicare, which is cheap, or, you know, this for-profit insurance company', and the insurance companies will die as a result of it.
[Michael Moore]: Well, he is right about that part, because that is what will happen in the long run. But I know, I've heard him say too that he doesn't think that politically, the American people won't get behind it because, in fact, they don't trust the government now, because the government just seems to screw everything up, and so when people think about having government run their health insurance, it's like, 'Oh, you mean the same government that ran Katrina, right?' and that's, you know, a big fear, but that's not the government that's messing that up, that's the people that are elected and are appointed.
[Thom]: Well, this is the ... self-fulfilling prophecy that Ronald Reagan set up. I mean, this, Reagan's famous ""I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help'." And we all laughed when he said it, and you know, it was a great punch line. He used it all the usual time and really what it was, was the beginning of the destruction of the social contract between us and the government that we own.
[Michael Moore]: Right, to the point now where Reagan's offspring in the sort of political gene pool has been depleted down to the point where we have George W Bush, is that when the government says 'I'm here to help', you should run for the hills.
[Michael Moore]: Because whether it's invading a country that we have no business being in or whether it's 'Heck of a job, Brownie', it usually does mean bad news. But the government wasn't always like that. We used to have real leadership, you know, there was an FDR at one point.
[Thom]: Right. We put people on the moon.
[Michael Moore]: But we were on the moon in 8 years. I mean, we defeated the Nazis and the Japanese and Mussolini in less time than it's taken us to secure the road from the airport to downtown Baghdad and that isn't even secure yet.
[Thom]: Yeah, good point. So, here's the practical question. The Supreme Court this week decided, ruled, that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns around "issues". What this means, my interpretation of what this means, and I think I'm right on this, is that if a political candidate, which presumably would be the Democrat in the 2008 election, is taking on the insurance industry, or the for-profit health industry - let's just take the whole thing - this is an industry that has, that measures its profit in tens and hundreds of billions of dollars. And, I mean, all the money that John Kerry and George Bush spent together in the last election cycle in the 2004 election wasn't even $1 billion, yet this is an industry that could take, that could write, a $1 billion check and not even notice it. How do we, given this Supreme Court decision, how can anybody take on this industry? I mean, we think Hillary Clinton having a $300,000,000 campaign launched against her was a big deal, her and Bill back when they tried a very modest reform of the health care system, what could be coming down the road would make that look like nothing. What do we do?
[Michael Moore]: You're absolutely right. Well, the only solution at this point is that all money has to be removed. as a selling constraint, because that's the only way the Supreme Court has been able to come in and say, 'well corporations shouldn't be denied their chance to do this or, you know, PACS, and all the stuff the earlier decisions that came down. But because it was saying, so you're saying, some people can give some money but others can't and they're to be punished because they're rich, and so they would come down and say, you know, their rights are being violated. But if we removed all money from the process; if we had a Canadian system or a British system, a system where essentially, you know, it's financed, the campaign is financed by the government. The campaign for prime minister in Canada, I think lasts for five weeks; it's mandated; that's all it can last, is five weeks. Every party has equal time in terms of ads on TV that are funded by the government and all candidates are at the debates. You watch a Canadian prime minister debate, all five parties are up there on the stage, given equal time.
[Thom]: Right, I agree with you, but that's not going to happen between now and the '08 elections. So, any ideas on strategy for us to push back against this industry when they start dropping millions, hundreds of millions, billions of dollars on television advertising?
[Michael Moore]: Well, we're down to just, we're down, really, to the last arrow in our quiver, basically.
[Thom]: Which is your movie.
[Michael Moore]: No.
[Thom]: I would say one of the best remedies is, go see "Sicko".
[Michael Moore]: No, no, no. No. It's, the fact that it's still one person one vote, and there's more of us than there are of them. There's more of everybody who works for a living than the upper 1% that are going to be putting millions, perhaps billions, into of this next election cycle. They can spend all that money, but n the end, they literally can't buy our vote and when the curtain closes who understand that. in the voting booth, we hold the power. We will always hold the power and so it will become our job, then, to use the power, and to get people out to vote who understand that.
[Michael Moore]: That will be no easy task.
[Michael Moore]: So, all of us sort of have to dig in right now and commit to doing whatever we can do in the next sixteen months.
[Thom]: Yeah, I mean, I look at the mayoral election in New York and, you know, Bloomberg spent $70 per vote versus his opponent, which I think was Mark Green, spent $17, if I recall correctly. It's just the power money in elections is just astounding. So. Anyway, a brilliant, brilliant movie and it's rolling out today. "Sicko" is the new film from Michael Moore and Michael Moore, thanks so much for being with us today.
[Michael Moore]: Oh, thanks for having me, Thom. Thanks, Air American.
[Thom]: Yeah, amen. And thanks for making a marvelous movie. This is such important work you're doing and all the way back. I've been watching your movies forever; all the way back to "Roger and Me". Just great, great work. Michaelmoore.com the web site if you want more information about the movie. It opens today. "Sicko".