I saw Michael Moore's film on the American health care crisis tonight at a New York City multiplex. It's a strange experience to go out for an evening's entertainment only to view a piece of agitprop that indicts in the strongest moral terms where we're going as a society--hospitals dumping indigent, disoriented senior citizens on Skid Row, babies dying after they're turned away from a hospital their insurance doesn't cover, a hardworking middle aged couple that loses their house because of medical bills. You cry, you shake your head, but what does it all mean? A blockbuster for the Weinstein brothers. Democratic proposals for health care don't come close to the free universal coverage in the rest of the Western world that Moore touts as superior to our system (OECD statistics agree.) How are we going to get from there to here? Not (just) by watching a movie.
Moore also mentions student loans several times as part of a complex of debt and lack of security that makes average Americans into worried workers desperate to keep their jobs under any circumstances, loath to protest either the government or working conditions. He features an elderly, distinguished British Labor Party politician who speaks eloquently about how debt keeps people afraid and demoralized.
On the other hand, looking at the reforms currently on the table for student loans gives me hope. Political consensus can change lightning fast and I can and do hope for the system to be set on the right path and improved considerably in the next Presidential term. I think Sicko could be good just because it forces even the most chauvinist to admit that America doesn't do everything better than everyone else.