The need for full employment is the most important issue in our society. If you don’t have a job that pays a living wage, the need for more good jobs is the only issue. Michael Moore understood that.
“Roger and Me” is an explosive success that has grown more relevant as the decades go on. The film established documentary filmmaking as the new way for muckraking journalists to reach a wide audience. And it solidified Michael Moore as the spiritual leader of the Populist Left.
The film is surprisingly non-partisan. Moore doesn’t take potshots at Republicans and he doesn’t lionize any Democrats. If it were released today, “Roger and Me” would be more likely to be made by Tucker Carlson than Rachael Maddow.
Michael Moore explores the fundamental problems of our Wall Street-controlled economy. He argues that the purpose of a company is to provide jobs. He wonders whether a corporation has value at all if it just sells things but doesn’t employ any American workers. He exposes the fact that a CEO who only cares about increasing profit is nothing more than a Gilded Age Robber Baron.
The Robber Baron in question is General Motors CEO Roger Smith. His crime was to close 11 GM plants in the late 80s, mostly in Michigan. 30,000 Americans went from solidly middle-class workers to desperate peasants living in a rusty post-industrial wasteland.
Michael Moore makes it clear that the plants didn’t close because GM was broke or because they weren’t selling Chevys anymore. The plants closed because laborers in Mexico would work for less.
Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan was devastated. Moore contrasts the empty houses and boarded-up storefronts with the rich suburbs, where the decadent GM executives reaped the benefits of globalist profit.
There are so many political and social issues that divide us today. “Roger and Me” is a forceful reminder that the need for good jobs is THE issue that underpins all the others.
In my heart, animal rights is more important than the economy. Michael Moore addresses that. There’s a brutal scene where a poor young woman is selling rabbit meat to keep from being evicted. Moore is right: people aren’t going to care about the welfare of animals if they don’t have money or dignity themselves.
In my heart, the prison industrial complex is a more important problem than the economy. Michael Moore addresses that. Moore shows us that many laid-off workers turned to crime and ended up behind bars. And one of the best new careers available for former GM employees was to become a prison guard in the new Michigan Correctional Facility. Our choice is factories or prisons, and our society made the wrong decision.
“Roger and Me” tugged at my heartstrings. In the most powerful scene, a newly unemployed worker tells the story of how he was driving home and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by the Beach Boys came on the radio. Like all people with good taste, he loves that song. But this time, it left a lump in his throat. Suddenly, his future was something to dread, not look forward to.
“Roger and Me” is one of the most influential movies of the 1980s. And it isn’t influential enough. There are still people who don’t recognize that the need for good jobs is the most meaningful political and social issue. Politicians pontificate about pronouns and the mascots of sports franchises and who is kneeling for the flag. These politicians are oblivious fat cats at best and dishonest charlatans at worst.
“It’s the economy, stupid,” a wise politician once said. It has always been the economy.