Jeff Greenfield Responds To FAIR's Critique Of Michael Moore Piece

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, or FAIR, today posted a critique of CBS News chief political correspondent Jeff Greenfield's "Evening News" piece on Michael Moore's film "Sicko." You can watch the piece by clicking on the video box.

In the piece, Greenfield asserts that "no one, Democrat or Republican, has come close to advocating the kind of government-run national health system Michael Moore proposes." Writes FAIR: "This is incorrect; Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio), a presidential contender, supports the very same approach, as do dozens of congressmembers who have co-sponsored H.R. 676, a bill that would provide single-payer coverage in the United States."

The piece also includes a quote from Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health System Change, who says "[w]e're much less willing to have government make decisions for people than is the case in Canada and Europe." FAIR argues that "[t]hat assessment is contradicted by recent polling." It cites two recent polls to back up its argument.

I asked Greenfield to respond to the FAIR piece, which has generated more than 70 emails to Public Eye in just the past hour. He did so over email. His response in full:

FAIR's critique is not. The organization is comparing apples and oranges; actually, apples and bowling balls is more like it.

Michael Moore is very clear about what he is proposing: it is not simply a "single payer" system. What Moore advocates is a government-run system in which the doctors work for the government, as they do in Britain, Canada, and elsewhere. He devotes part of "Sicko" to an interview with a British doctor, who lives in a fine home and drives a nice car, to make his point that state-employed doctors need not face privation. Later in the film, he answers the charge of "socialized medicine" by noting that we already have "socialized" police officer, firefighters, and teachers: all of whom are public employees.

Unless I am very much mistaken, this is very different from the "single payer" system that Rep. Kucinich advocates; nor is it supported by the members of congress who back a "single payer" system. (Medicare, for example, is a government-paid system; but recipients go to the same doctors the rest of us do).

Similarly, what polls show is that most American do indeed want major changes, and believe it is a matter of public responsibility to provide health care for all--that is very different from the proposition that Americans are open to a government-run system along the lines most other industrialized nations have.

My point is not that such a system is a good or bad idea; only that what Moore advocates is simply not on the political radar. Moore himself told me in an interview that there is a "pioneer mentality," an "everyone for himself" tradition that needs to be confronted if his goal is to be achieved. In this regard, Moore shows a much clearer understanding of the American political climate than does FAIR.