Susanne and I finally watched “Inequality for All” (available through Amazon) last night. It’s a 2013 documentary directed by Jacob Kornbluth which won an award at the Sundance Film Festival in the year of its release. The “star” and narrator is Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and now professor at Berkeley.
The film points out with precision, facts, and figures that while the last thirty years in the U.S., before the last recession, the economy doubled, the gains went to a very few. In fact, the top 1% now take in more than more than 20% of all income (three times what they did in 1970)and the four hundred richest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined.
Of course, anyone who followed the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders will not be surprised at these facts, but the film uses lively lectures by Reich, compelling graphics, and personal interviews to make the economics leap off the screen. Anyone who doubts the veracity of Sanders’ claims and (to some degree) Hillary Clinton’s simply must watch this movie! Although a Sanders’ supporter, one wonders why Reich didn’t ‘go on tour’ with this film during the campaign. Bernie could have used him!
Reich blames the income inequality primarily on two factors: globalization and technology. Both of these factors, in various ways, have hollowed out the middle class while dramatically increasing income inequality. The only real prescription for a reversal of this lethal trend in the film is to invest in the middle class who are the real job producers. This can be done by requiring the wealthiest among us to pay their fare share of taxes, make the minimum wage a living wage, and shore up our crumbling educational system to provide college educations and technical training to all who are willing to engage in them.
A not-surprising, but sobering observation is that the graph tracing income inequality over the last thirty years (which looks like the Golden Gate Bridge outline, spiking at either end) and the inability of the major political parties to find common ground are almost identical. In other words, the farther apart the parties become and the less common ground they can find, the wider income inequality becomes.
The film is not sanguine about solutions to this dilemma, but does end on a hopeful note with Reich challenging his students to become informed and to get involved. I see the passion once demonstrated by the Occupy Movement and the surprisingly enthusiastic support of so many young people for the elderly Senator Sanders with his progressive ideas as signs of hope.
While many are not as fired up for Hillary Clinton as they were for Bernie, I can only suggest that everyone view this film and then compare the party platforms of the Democrats and Republicans, There will only by one way, then, to cast your vote.
You’ll know it when you see it!