The Sicko Reviews: Part 1

UPDATE: Despite the obvious mistakes in this piece, it managed to be quoted at length, approvingly, in the business section of the New York Times. This is simply unreal.

MTV's Kurt Loder reviews Sicko, and shows an ignorance so remarkable, I am left nearly speechless.

Moore is also a con man of a very brazen sort, and never more so than in this film. His cherry-picked facts, manipulative interviews (with lingering close-ups of distraught people breaking down in tears) and blithe assertions (how does he know 18,000* people will die this year because they have no health insurance?) are so stacked that you can feel his whole argument sliding sideways as the picture unspools.

How does he know? Well, Mr Loder, if you bothered to take advantage of this wonderful invention called Google, you will learn that -- gasp! -- they actually calculate these figures. They have studies and everything! It is quite fascinating. Yes, of course, we don't know that 18,000 people will die this year. It may, in fact, be more. But we do know, thanks to the wonderful invention of statistics, how many people die, on average each year from lack of health insurance: 18,000.

What's worse, this is a commonly used statistic that as far as I can tell, is entirely undisputed.

Jesus ...

UPDATE: All right, I managed to make it down to the rest of this review and again, I can not allow such nonsense to go unchallenged.

At least when Cato or something, critique the logic behind a national health plan (or this movie) they hire people who understand policy. They obviously have different values than I do, and I would disagree with their conclusions, but they are capable of research.

The problem with many of these piss-poor Sicko reviews (this weeks review in the Weekly Dig was one of the worst articles, review or otherwise, that I have ever read in a publication that wasn't funded by a Student Government Association) is that the film critics are just that: film critics. They are not policy experts. But when they try to review a movie that is inseparable from policy, they just end up wasting valuable space.

Onward to Loder's nonsense.

The American health-care system is in urgent need of reform, no question. Some 47 million people are uninsured (although many are only temporarily so, being either in-between jobs or young enough not to feel a pressing need to buy health insurance). There are a number of proposals as to what might be done to correct this situation. Moore has no use for any of them, save one.

Loder has stooped to outright red-baiting. "One," clearly means -- oh no ... don't say it ... it can't be -- Socialism! (The next sentence begins "A proud socialist, Moore ..." ) This is all the more fitting since Moore pointed out in great detail how the tactic of claiming that health care reform is the obvious first step to outright Communism, has been employed often and in laughably absurd ways for years.

First of all, Moore actually does not offer only one solution. France, Canada, the UK, and Cuba have health policies that are totally different from one another. The obvious similarity, and the point Moore drove home quite well, is that they are publicly funded and universal. But this is not radical. This is true of all developed countries, sans the US. It hasn't turned the rest of the world into commies, not even close. They just treat health care as something so important, as to warrant making sure everyone has it, much the same as the US approaches firefighters, or public schools, or whatever else.

Loder, however, manages to contradict himself without hesitation.

n 1993, when one of Moore's heroes, Hillary Clinton (he actually blurts out the word "sexy!" in describing her in the movie), tried to create a government-controlled health care system, her failed attempt to do so helped deliver the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives into Republican control for the next dozen years. Moore still looks upon Clinton's plan as a grand idea, one that Americans, being not very bright, unwisely rejected.

Where to begin. First of all, Loder makes the claim that Moore supported the Clinton plan. He doesn't (Again, Kurt, try the Internet, it is really quite valuable). In fact, the Clinton plan, far from being Socialist, actually would have preserved the private health industry, which counteracts with Moore's stated goal, which he has said in every interview he has done: get rid of the private health insurance industry.

The point, was not to show support for the plan, but to show the type of reactionary opposition that was thrown at it from the right -- so reactionary and vile, so hyperbolic and absurd. Even proposing band-aid solutions, as Clinton did, is enough to get the politicians (with financial incentive from the drug and insurance companies) into a frenzy.

(Which is why, as an aside, the likes of Edwards and Obama should just back HR676 (Medicare for All) rather than have these Clinton-esque hybrid plans. Both will meet intense opposition, but the Medicare for All bill would actually be worth fighting over, and has massive grassroots appeal. When was the last time you saw a rally in the streets with people screaming for an individual mandate?)

Moreover, the Clinton bill was killed, not by the people, who never had a say in the matter, but in DC by the GOP. This was due in large part to a memo (there is no health care crises) by then political operative (now editor of the Weekly Standard) William Kristol, that ordered the GOP kill any Clinton health plan, no matter what it was, so as to not give the Clinton's a political victory.

And in fact, people have no real influence on the health care debate. If they did, than a single-payer system would not be considered politically impossible. As I have noted before, the majority of Americans support a single-payer system to our current system. It is only considered "politically impossible" because in the US corporate dollars have way more influence in matters of public policy than people do.

And even if Moore did support the Hillary Plan, than Loder would have to concede, contrary to his previous meanderings, that Moore has more than one solution he likes. It seems quite clear that Loder does not know the difference between what Clinton proposed and what they have in France or Canada. In short, he seems to know nothing at all about the issue he is writing about.

One last passage:

Moore's most ardent enthusiasm is reserved for the French health care system, which he portrays as the crowning glory of a Gallic lifestyle far superior to our own. The French! They work only 35 hours a week, by law. They get at least five weeks' vacation every year. Their health care is free, and they can take an unlimited number of sick days. It is here that Moore shoots himself in the foot. He introduces us to a young man who's reached the end of three months of paid sick leave and is asked by his doctor if he's finally ready to return to work. No, not yet, he says. So the doctor gives him another three months of paid leave — and the young man immediately decamps for the South of France, where we see him lounging on the sunny Riviera, chatting up babes and generally enjoying what would be for most people a very expensive vacation. Moore apparently expects us to witness this dumbfounding spectacle and ask why we can't have such a great health care system, too. I think a more common response would be, how can any country afford such economic insanity?

So a guy gets cancer and then has the audacity to take three months off to grow his hair back, and get well. This is a bad thing? And why is this economic insanity? Sure, generous social services can slow growth a bit, but so what? 18,000 people die a year from lack of health insurance in the US. I would gladly sacrifice a little bit of economic growth to save 18,000 lives. How do you measure wealth? Is going through life without having to worry about losing your income due to illness not valuable?

This review is just insulting. Even those who oppose the type of health reform that the entire world has and that Moore advocates, cannot possibly trust this review since the author literally offers no valid argument, and clearly does not know what he is talking about. Why would Andrew Sullivan (whose blog linked me to this review, or I would not have found it) approvingly link to such a wasted argument?

Amazingly, however, this is not the worst review. So tomorrow sometime soon, in part two of this series, I will address the aforementioned Weekly Dig article.