Film: Inequality for All (2013)
Cast includes: Robert Reich
Director: Jacob Kornbluth (The Best Thief in the World)
Genre: Documentary (89 minutes)
As the film opens, we follow a tiny man we recognize as Robert Reich. “Ok, we’re going in my Mini Cooper,” he tells us. “As a small man, I sort of identify with this car… Me and my car, facing the rest of the world.” Reich is headed to UC Berkley, where he teaches a class on economic fairness… and we’re getting a front row seat. As the semester begins, he talks about the many different views… fairness, freedom, envy, class warfare, socialism.... He says he doesn’t care if we’re liberal or conservative… “The labels won’t matter.” He wants to shake our assumptions. He explains that inequality is inevitable in a democracy. Inequity per se isn’t a bad thing. The question is “how much inequity can we tolerate in a democracy and still have a functioning democracy?” Right now, the US is 45th in the world, when it comes to income equality. (The only countries lower than the US are all in the developing world.) In 2010, the 400 Americans at the very top had wealth that equaled the combined wealth of half the rest of us. He shows all these statistics in interesting, compelling visuals, so it’s very easy to follow. Take for example his suspension bridge visual… what do years 1928 and 2007 have in common, besides the huge spike in inequality? Well, there were the crashes that followed the next year. Coincidence?
“There’s no such thing as a free market,” he explains. “Governments set the rules. Without rules, markets couldn’t exist.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with wealth… until wealth buys undue influence on writing the rules. He takes us step by step through many complexities of economics, governments and inequity and shows us why it’s important. Take, for example the iPhone… ever wonder which countries make the most money from the development and manufacturing? It’s not the ones you’d guess. But the bigger question is why.
So you think you know Robert Reich and the bla-bla-bla he endlessly talks about… “he’s a socialist-slash-communist,” says Bill O’Reilly. Reich tells us he used to be “something of a centrist.” After all, he started his government service in the Ford administration. Reich says his views haven’t changed… the political landscape has changed. He’s still standing… albeit not very tall… in the same place he’s always stood and saying the same things he’s been saying for 30 years. The problem is he’s been proven right. At the beginning of his Berkley course, he tells students he wants to “shake their assumptions.” By the end of the movie, he’s shaken ours… not just about the economics, but about who Robert Reich is and why he’s so passionate about inequality. He’s not just standing up for the little guy… he’s standing up for our whole democracy. Is Reich a socialist? Far from it. “Losers in a rigged game can become very angry,” he points out what should be obvious. People are indeed angry… looking for someone to blame. The next question is where do we look for examples of how to fix it what needs fixing. The answer to that question might surprise some. Reich says we should look at our own history. In the years from 1947 to 1977, the US had the most dynamic economy the world has ever known. “The most pro-business thing you can do is help the middle class thrive.” This film will make you a believer.
4 popped kernels
Robert Reich teaches economics with great graphics, music and wit
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Primary Driver: Convey information
Language: True to life