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Life Arts

"Inequality for All," a Review

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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H4 9/28/13

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From Dollar Crisis
Dollar Crisis by One Way Stock

Inequality for All

Directed by Jacob Kornbluth

Narrated by Robert Reich

  "[T]his is the same Robert Reich who along with his crony and fellow international banker waterboy Bill Clinton set up the modern era of Reign by Central Banks which first the Bushes and next Obama have extended so grandly into the world's daily bloodletting in middle eastern drone wars. I know, I know, this review awaits moderation but you guys sitting like schoolchildren at the knees of this arch criminal Reich . . ." --comment from New York Times reader on the paper's preliminary, unenthused review (9/27/13)

        This film comes across as an upbeat version of Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth , upbeat because one of former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich's personae in the film is the energetic and sanguine Berkeley professor addressing a rapt, filled-to-overflowing audience of students who claims to be an optimist about the future. We must return to the heyday of the American middle class that lasted from post-World War II to the mid-seventies, he responds when asked for a cure for our infested economy.

      Another persona is Reich himself benignly and reassuringly addressing viewers. Then there are a few "suspension bridge" graphs (of the economy and distribution of wealth in 1928 and 2007) and other witty illustrations and animation.

     In college I took econ 101 to dispense with a distribution requirement and only began to realize its importance as well as enigmas, after becoming a progressive and running into so many experts. As a result of this and ingestion of so many excellent prog websites, OEN not the least among them, I learned very little from the film and recommend it heartily to those in need of it, wherever they are--the Tea Party in particular.

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     One of the main points is that the four hundred richest people (the "job creators"), who hold as much wealth as the entire poorer half of the rest of the U.S. population, would fare far better if the middle class wasn't tanking so badly, we whose spending comprises 70 percent of the economy. [Remember how well Karl Rove fared during the Clinton administration as head of Halliburton.] The looming threat of baby boomers aging into social security collectors (we've earned it!) is also foreseen as a burden the economy will have to struggle with.

     There is the token presence of a few one percenters, Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer in particular, whose view is that "the most pro-business thing you can do is to help middle-class people thrive." His federal income tax is only 11 percent of his seven-figure salary, which he thinks is unfair.

     The American dream has become exactly that, a ghost of the past--the fifties through the seventies when the middle class thrived in all of its dimensions. We have the highest degree of income inequality of all wealthy nations in the world--"so there, Ivory Coast and Yemen," or some words to that effect, injects a cameo of Jon Stewart, referring to countries that immediately follow America's dismal position on a relevant list. Forty-two percent of Americans born into poverty will never make it out, as opposed to 30 percent of Britons and 25 percent of Danes.

     Reich criticizes his former boss Bill Clinton's revoking of the Glass-Steagel act and deregulation of derivatives, as seeds of the great recession nurtured by the two Bush II administrations that followed. If the world economy doesn't tank as a result of our [justifiably] benighted Congress's decision to allow defaulting on the national debt, the feudalistic greed of the "top four hundred," attempting to devour the country like hot lava, will rock the foundations of democracy. I do believe this has been said before with a great deal more emotionality.

     As I wrote above, most of the film is old news out of the mouth of an amiable icon revered by many. Productivity has never been higher in this country, he emotes, and yet workers' salaries, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were thirty years ago. The cameo of a haggard, struggling member of the victim class, most lately suffering from a blunt cut into her pathetic wages by her corporate bosses, is most effective, as are brief glimpses of Occupy and Tea Party rallies, implicitly paralleled for having arisen out of the same shameless eruption of the basest extremes of human nature.

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     "Except for styles in facial hair, it can be hard to tell the groups apart," writes film critic Kenneth Turan, whose take on the film in the Los Angeles Times is far more positive than the Gray Lady's. 

     Most poignant is the persona of humorous self-effacement. The four-foot-ten Reich suffered from bullying as a child--he has always been shorter than the rest of us. Ingenious then as now, he sought protectors among older students. One of them turned out to be Michael Schwerner, one of three martyrs of the civil rights movement murdered while registering black voters.

     As an adult, says Reich, he is fighting back against the bullying one percent. The regret the Times reviewer notes, that the protagonist didn't accomplish more as Clinton's labor secretary, escaped me. I admit that I dozed off and on throughout the film, "Econ post-mid-seventies" or something like that. As an undergraduate, I never slept during my economics classes. But the best one all term was held in the evening when my nice professor came to dine on our soggy overbaked dormitory food. When we sat around afterward chatting, the field briefly came alive for me.;

A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three (more...)

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First, the opening comment was really referring to... by Scott Baker on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 12:54:00 AM
Scott,     thanks for your feedback... by Marta Steele on Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 8:37:12 AM
"... It is not just a coincidence that tax cut... by Lance Brofman on Saturday, Oct 5, 2013 at 11:58:41 AM
".. The capitalists, or if you prefer, job creator... by Lance Brofman on Saturday, Oct 5, 2013 at 12:00:27 PM
Thank you for both of your comments. I am aware of... by Marta Steele on Saturday, Oct 5, 2013 at 1:12:35 PM
Well, in fact, as the movie demonstrates, the surp... by Scott Baker on Saturday, Oct 5, 2013 at 1:36:12 PM