I had a nice chat recently with Michael Moore, who was promoting his soon-to-be-released film “Capitalism: A Love Story,” a documentary showcasing the ills of corporate greed and exploitation of the common worker. I previewed “Capitalism” last week at a journalists’ screening, so I had many questions to ask the Academy Award-winning American filmmaker. Two of “Capitalism’s” travel-industry motifs haunted me: firstly, should we be afraid to fly on airlines which pay their pilots meager salaries, and secondly, if capitalism is evil, is it likewise evil to enjoy a luxurious cruise or other mirthful getaway when some people can’t afford to do so?
Moore interviews pilots in his film who reveal their pay is so low they are living on food stamps. Moore details how Rebecca Shaw — who co-piloted Continental Flight 3407, which crashed in February near Buffalo, N.Y., killing 50 people —earned an anemic salary of just $16,200. She had to take a second job waiting tables at a coffee shop just to make ends meet.
I live in Italy part of the year, so I know that commuting this time of year entails flight. I asked Moore which carrier he took to Italy last week when he attended the Venice Film Festival. He confirmed he flew Delta, not by private jet as some Internet charlatans assert. I predicted it wouldn’t be United, ranked last month by Rudy Maxa at The Daily Beast as the carrier having the worst safety record of the ten largest in the US.
Curiously, I asked Moore, “Which carriers are you afraid to fly on?” His simple answer was “All of them!”
Hourly wages for regional pilots start at $12.50, according to AVjobs.com. I’m surprised there’s no tip jar placed at the exit after each flight.
The message in Moore’s film is “Capitalism is evil.”
“Is it evil for me to take a vacation when so many people cannot afford to do so?” I asked.
I half expected him to tear into me and rant about children starving on Air India. It was the exact opposite – Michael Moore was warm, charming, and intellectually articulate.
“Of course not,” Moore replied, as he reminded me of the Second Bill of Rights, “I believe everyone deserves a vacation, and it should be paid for!”
In “Capitalism,” Moore expounds on The Second Bill of Rights – a proposal made by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944. Footage of the event was believed forever lost until it was uncovered in 2008 in South Carolina by Moore as he meticulously researched his film. One of the tenets proposed by FDR was that every human deserves recreation. These revolutionary ideas were taken by FDR’s Nobel Prize-winning Secretary of State Cordell Hull to post-war Germany and Japan, where the concepts were written into their new constitutions.
Moore told me how minimum paid vacation days and paid public holidays are built into European work life. All members of the European Union must provide workers with a minimum of 20 paid vacation days a year plus public holidays. This works out to Finns receiving 44 paid vacation days per year, with most countries guaranteeing at least a month.
Michael Moore wants us to fully enjoy vacations without guilt, and would like to see everyone have a right to one each year. His ideas have some scientific sustenance to back him up. Brooks B. Gump, PhD, MPH, AND Karen A. Matthews, PhD from the State University of New York in Oswego discovered in a 9-year study of 12,866 men that the frequency of annual vacations is correlated with lower mortality rates.
Should I feel guilty spending beaucoup bucks lounging on the deck of a luxury ocean liner, or sipping a tropical cocktail while sitting on the sugary sands of a fabulous all-inclusive resort?
The price of a cruise cannot be compared to robbing $750 billion from taxpayers, Moore noted. Furthermore, “It’s not a sin to be rich,” he stated unequivocally.
David Horowitz’s Discover The Networks site says Moore’s net worth exceeds $50 million. “I do not disparage anyone from working hard and becoming financially successful,” Moore told me, “as long as you don’t exploit workers and mistreat them along the way.”
“Even in socialist countries like Sweden, there are multi-millionaires who have earned their wealth honestly,” said Marco Airaghi. “ABBA, Ingmar Bergman, Greta Garbo and Björn Borg all realized great fortune within a socialist framework.”
The upcoming movie “Capitalism” contains many provocative ideas to ponder, but the one about free vacations for everyone strikes a chord in me. I’ll certainly toast to that one!
Interestingly, the film opens nation-wide on October 2, Cordell Hull’s birthday.