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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

My Income Tax File Gets Flagged After This One...

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       First, let me make your head explode: I like Michael Moore.


       No, I don't agree with his take on every issue, and I sometimes find his methods a little over-the-top, but then again, he's trying to make points AND sell movie tickets. If he did his documentaries the old way, like a 1966 Chet Huntley NBC News "White Paper", no one would watch.     Moore's style makes him hard to ignore--he was inconvenient long before Al Gore saw his first melting glacier and backstroking polar bear.


       I found "Bowling For Columbine" to be one of the best documentaries I'd ever seen, not for it's take on gun control but for the five or ten minutes that Marilyn Manson was on-screen, talking about fear in advertisers, politicians and marketers use it to move merch and accrue votes.      Toss in the obvious connection with firearms and their potential application to those we deem to be worthy to be afraid of, and you understand why Moore kept Manson's take from hitting the cutting room floor.


        I'm admittedly late to the game on Moore's most recent film "Sicko" so I apologize to those of you who already saw it, processed it and moved on.       As with "Columbine", I'm not moved so much by Moore's argument that the American health care system is terminally broken and that we should follow the lead of Canada, France and Great Britain in establishing some sort of government-run alternative.       I'm no fan of what we have now: to me, there's  a ton of money being spent to support a broken system that cares little about the sick and is all about those making the most profit  (pharmaceutical concerns, insurance companies , health care providers and the AMA).


        In the interest of full disclosure, the preceding screed comes from a father who's paying some $30,000 out of pocket for his daughter's dental work--a girl born with five missing permanent teeth plus other toothy concerns that my insurance company deemed "cosmetic".     I guess it is, if you think being able to chew is considered "cosmetic".      This isn't a kid who wants nicer snags to pursue a modeling career.     She just wants to be able to eat an apple.


        I've always been struck by how much drugs cost here as compared to overseas, and wondered why the aspirin you get in a hospital is worth so much more than the bottle you'd buy at Walgreen's.       I, like you, wonder why we have to dance through hoops each year at work, shopping for the best and cheapest health plan while our employers remind us every step of the way how much more it's costing them and why those growing prices mean fewer and fewer options.    It's no secret that the rising cost of health care is why so many struggling companies find it necessary to trim payrolls or fill jobs with part timers who'll work nearly 40 hours a week but never get a whiff of the company insurance plan.      Gotta keep those costs down, y'know.


        With all that said, what struck me most about "Sicko" was the scene where Moore is sitting around a Paris restaurant table with folks touting the virtues of the French health care system.      How everything is free.      How accessible it is.     How little it costs in terms of taxes.      I've read enough to know that all is not well in France, with many wondering if a system that entitles employees to a month of vacation with  35 hour work weeks is the best way to keep their nation globally competitive.     There have been recent protests in Paris over the fact that it's virtually impossible to fire a French worker, making it easier for the unmotivated to stay employed.


        The point the French diners made, though, was that the government there is AFRAID OF THE PEOPLE.     Those in power want to keep it, and they know that the only way they can do that is to make the voters happy.       When the electorate gets it's fill, the Paris streets get full of banner waving, angry voters ready to fight for what they want.     It seems they get it, more often than not.


        Do you honestly think anyone in Washington is AFRAID OF YOU?


       What would it take to make you hit the streets, take a blast of tear gas in the chops and keep marching for change?     A military draft?    $10 a gallon gas?      The only thing that I've seen that's made people even MILDLY upset lately is the ongoing tussle between cable and the NFL/Big Ten Networks, but I have yet to see an angry tavern patron toss his glass into the bar mirror and yell, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"     


        What are our politicians afraid of?     Lobbyists and special interests who control the money spigot, the one that decides who'll have enough cash to spend on commercials designed to curry favor with we, the people.      And, of course, everyone knows there are no strings attached to any of that cash.         We, in the meantime, are expected to shop for candidates like we buy beer--making our choice not after a thorough review of policy papers and watching televised debates, but by who has the funniest/snarkiest/most mean-spirited ad.


        We get the government we deserve.    


         Please don't think I'm going to go all Karlton Armstrong one of these days--I'm not advocating violent change.     I'd just like to see someone--anyone--get p-o'd enough to call a few bluffs.        Where's the certain-to-be-one-term lawmaker who has the stones to stand up, rail against the machine and call this system what it is?      He or she probably can't get elected, because spouting off like that would no doubt mean an empty war chest.      Agents of change don't often win the allegiance of special interests who stand to do quite well with the status quo.


        Maybe that's why Michael Moore sells so many tickets.     It's a lot easier to have your outrage served up with hot buttered popcorn and Raisinettes than it is to get a mug full of tear gas.


        It might be time to start getting angry, America.     Or, at the very least, start getting healthier.


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