The Traverse City Record-Eagle yesterday reported that filmmaker Michael Moore expects to receive between $650,000 and $1 million in state film subsidies for producing part of "Capitalism: A Love Story" in Michigan.
Actually, the Record-Eagle reported that Moore has "a new project - revitalizing derelict, depressed downtown theaters in communities across Michigan." The fact that he would use taxpayers' money to pay for his philanthropy was barely noted. The irony that Moore might receive state funds for a film that denounced government handouts to the wealthy and politically favored went completely unremarked.
The Mackinac Center reported in January that a production person working for Moore had applied for a tax refund of up to 42 percent of the filmmaker's total spending in Michigan on the "Capitalism" documentary. Because of Michigan Film Office secrecy, it was not known if the money would be awarded. The office seemed unconcerned that Moore's membership on the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council might present a conflict of interest.
But there appears to be something conflicted taking place. While promoting his documentary on "legalized greed," Moore conducted a lengthy interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and argued that the United States does not have a true democracy because wealthy people have access to politicians who provide them with taxpayer handouts:
"I'm saying that we do not have a complete democracy if the economy is not a democracy," Moore told Blitzer in September 2009. "You can't call it a democracy just because I get to vote every two or four years. There has to be democracy in the economy, there should be democracy in the workplace. What's wrong with democracy? Why do these companies hate America? What is it about America and our love of democracy where they just go, 'oh, no, that's not good - we think the one percent, the richest one percent should be calling all the shots, should be buying the politicians, making the decisions.' That's the kind of democracy they like - where the one percent control everything. It's just not right, it's not fair, it's not American..."
Yet today, Moore indicates he's willing to take up to $1 million from the taxpayers of the hardest-hit state economy. Where is the democracy in that? Michigan residents didn't vote to give a wealthy filmmaker a generous subsidy.
Sure, Moore says he plans to use the windfall to revitalize derelict theaters. It's easy to be generous with other people's money. If handled with the right PR effort, a gift might just take the spotlight off the inconsistency of a favored, well-heeled industry getting benefits from politicians at the expense of downtrodden taxpayers.