Sometimes it's been hard to tell with socialist filmmaker Michael Moore whether he's trolling you or really serious when he says certain things. Case in point: An old tweet on Venezuela, vintage 2013, in which Moore celebrated the nationalization of that nation's oil company, PDVSA. It's been an unmitigated tragedy.
"Hugo Chavez declared the oil belonged 2 the ppl. He used the oil $ 2 eliminate 75% of extreme poverty, provide free health & education 4 all," Moore tweeted nearly four years ago.
Time hasn't been kind to Moore, in many ways. This tweet in particular now seems like little more than rank ignorance by someone who actually seems to believe that socialism — a system that has never succeeded anywhere it's been tried on earth — is superior to the free market.
But we shouldn't be surprised. After all, Moore's "documentary" "Sicko" paid glowing tribute to the Stalinesque, two-tier Potemkin village that is the Cuban health care system. Moore was used by Cuba's communist rulers, who let him film scenes of "typical" Cuban health care in clean and well-stocked medical centers that were used exclusively by VIPs, communist officials and cash-only foreigners.
He didn't film what the average people are subjected to: filthy clinics, bloody and bug-ridden hospital beds, medicine shortages and substandard care.
So you wouldn't expect Moore to get Venezuela's oil disaster right, either.
We mention this old tweet now because in a piece this week in Forbes, Johns Hopkins University economist and energy expert Steve Hanke shows just how wrong Moore was, calling Venezuela's PDVSA "the world's worst oil company." It's not hard to see why.
After socialist Hugo Chavez took Venezuela over in 1999, oil output for the newly nationalized oil company immediately began to slide, along with the nation's proved reserves. In 2003, faced with growing unrest and resistance to his heavy-handed rule, Chavez purged the company's management and replaced them with his socialist cronies.
The result has been an utter disaster. Venezuela used the oil company as a national cash cow, draining its coffers for short-term social spending projects that came to nothing. PDVSA, meanwhile, is a company in collapse.
Chavez died in 2013, which is what prompted Moore's tweet. But he was replaced by Nicolas Maduro, another deluded socialist. The country's decline has continued apace, and so has PDVSA's.
Hanke notes that the giant oil company owes just over $10 billion this year in debt payments but, after being raided repeatedly for its cash, is desperately short of financing for badly needed investment. Citing unnamed sources, Hanke says PDVSA has just $2 billion in cash on hand, while the government's foreign exchange reserves — all it really has to stave off mass starvation, since Venezuela imports most of its food — stand at just $10.5 billion.
Oil output is off 23% since Chavez came to power.
PDVSA, says Hanke, is in a "death spiral." So is the entire country.
Venezuela's devastated oil company, which sits on one of the world's largest pools of oil, is emblematic of the entire deeply troubled country. Because of the imposition of socialism, Venezuela's economy is collapsing. The once-prosperous nation is now ranked 179th in the world on the Heritage Foundation's respected Index of Economic Freedom, just ahead of another socialist paradise: North Korea.
Today, Venezuela suffers from endemic corruption, 800% inflation, a -19% annual GDP growth rate, and interest rates of over 20%. Rampant food shortages are causing malnutrition, and all the diseases that come from that. One area of improvement: Income inequality. Now, most of the country is equally poor, with the exception of those in power.
Maduro, of course, blames his country's woes on "capitalism." It's a bad joke, but it doesn't hurt capitalists. It hurts average Venezuelans. Children die for lack of decent food and medicine. Jobs are scarce, and families are being destroyed. Crime is rampant: The murder rate is now the highest in the world, a dubious honor that makes it safer to live in downtown Damascus or Tripoli than in Venezuela's capital of Caracas.
Just like the Castros in Cuba, Venezuela's older socialist twin, Chavez, Maduro and their allies have turned a country once known for baseball and beauty pageants into a living hell. Michael Moore and the many other celebrity fools who have held out Venezuela as a shining example of enlightened socialism should be ashamed.
Today, in the U.S., more than a third of college students in recent polls give a big thumbs up to socialism, preferring it to U.S. style capitalism. So here's an antidote to this Moore-inspired foolishness: Rather than continue to waste money on their kids' obviously useless left-wing indoctrination at college, parents would be wiser to fork over their money instead for their precious progressive snowflake to spend a year studying in that socialist paradise, Venezuela. That would be a real education, one that would last a lifetime.