Saturday, September 28, 2013

Film Review: Inequality For All

"Inequality For All"  **** (out of ****)

As we "celebrate" the five year anniversary of our economic collapse, as we had a presidential election last year in which a candidate stated "47 percent" of Americans, basically are looking for a handout because they are dependent upon government and as "occupy Wallstreet" protest continue, although without the vigor and national media attention they once had, comes the political documentary "Inequality For All" (2013) directed by Jacob Kornbluth and featuring the former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich.

Ever since Michael Moore and his documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004), the political documentary has become quite popular and because of Moore has proven to be profitable. There is an audience willing to watch these pieces, which are increasingly divisive and informative in nature.

"Inequality For All" is one of the year's best films and a real rabble rouser. I'll confess a documentary such as this one is basically preaching to the choir. I believe, despite what you may have heard, America has a class system. There is such a thing as "the two Americas". We are a country divided between "haves" and "have nots". And the gap between these two groups has widen at an alarming rate, tilting heavily in favor of the top one percent. I also believe social mobility is a thing of the past. Individuals born in poverty will probably never become rich. You can label me a "class warrior", "a socialist" or "a communist" or whatever else you may like. I'll label myself a "realist". And it is these very positions which "Inequality For All" argues.

Reich, whom I usually enjoy watching on the Sunday morning political shows, makes this case using facts and figures and pie charts. We follow Reich, who is a professor at Berkley, as he lectures a class about economic inequality. Starting in the late 70s, 1978 to be exact, a great divide happened in this country. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The middle class has seen their wages remain stagnate for the past 30 years and when you consider the rise in the cost of living, workers are actually worst off now then they were before. Meanwhile however, the top one percent has seen their wages grow 10 times that of the average middle class worker.

Back when our economy collapsed Michael Moore released his documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story" (2009) which was an attempt to touch on some of the themes presented here. I reviewed it and enjoyed watching it, but, "Inequality For All" made my blood boil. I despise the national conversation we are having. I want to pull my hair out listening to Republicans say we can't raise taxes on the rich, though they now say "job creators" since it was deemed to poll test better. Who wants to hear politicians defend the rich? Better to change the word to "job creators" than to actually change policy and do something productive for the American people. That would require work. It is easier to change a word. Remember, we are dealing with politicians, not intelligent, honest people.

I can imagine there are people who don't believe a word of what Reich says here. They can watch this documentary, hear and see all the information Reich throws at them, and still walk out of the movie theatre holding their beliefs. Reich is biased and a "socialist". But they are living in a fantasy world. They must be doing well in our economy. Why are corporations making hundred of millions of dollars in profits yet downsizing? Why has Wall Street hit record levels? The Dow Jones is at an all-time high yet unemployment is still more than seven percent. Greedy, rotten, blood-sucking CEOs are giving themselves bonuses while cutting the pay of their employees, cutting their benefits and cutting hours. Not one CEO has went to jail since 2008 and our collapse. Each and every one of them should have been hung. I can't afford to turn my head to economic injustice. I have to pay rent and pay off student loans. I can't pretend to live in a world where the playing field is even.

Reich gives a voice to people like myself. I can write all kinds of nasty things about these CEOs and the top one percent. But, who cares? Who am I? But, if the former Secretary of Labor says it, if he makes a strong, rational case, presenting all the facts, using all the data collected on this issue, that means something.

A documentary such as this shouldn't be divisive. It shouldn't become a "liberal" or "conservative" issue. The working and middle class should embrace this documentary, no matter who you voted for in the last election. Why? Because the interest of the rich are not our interest. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. I have no reason to defend their interest, just as they don't see fit to see the world from mine.

"Inequality For All" is hard-hitting and powerful. If you read a newspaper or have a job, nothing presented here should surprise you.

Again, this is one of the year's best films!