I'm a little groggy this morning. My wife and I caught a 4:37 pm train to NYC last night and got home this morning at 1:00 am. It was a long day, but it was well worth it. I had the opportunity to see Steve Bannon's brilliant new documentary on the financial crisis - GENERATION ZERO. This is a film that every American must see. I thought that I.O.U.S.A was an excellent documentary about our fiscal crisis. I thought FOR LIBERTY was an inspirational documentary about the Ron Paul movement. But, GENERATION ZERO is a powerful, moving, scary telling of a crisis that was 30 years in the making and had its roots in the 1960s.
I didn't realize how close the country came to collapse during the dark days of September 2008. This film makes it clear how close we came to the abyss. The film opens and closes with video from CSPAN that reflects the anger of middle class America and how close we came to a complete and utter meltdown on September 18, 2008 when there was an electronic bank run that was hurtling out of control. Watch this clip to understand the situation.
[link edited for length]
The film opens with well respected financial bloggers like Barry Ritholtz, Michael Panzer and yours truly discussing the breadth of the crisis. The film begins in a low key manner and slowly builds to a crescendo of fear, corruption, greed and incompetence among the elite who control the country. Bannon puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of Wall Street bankers and their corrupt protectors in Washington DC. Essentially, the theme of the film is that the rich ruling elite have gamed the system for decades and have destroyed the middle class of this country. Government malfeasance in passing the Community Reinvestment Act, repealing Glass Steagall, and allowing 5 Investment Banks (Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch,and Morgan Stanley) to leverage 40 to 1 led to the crisis. When these firms converted from partnerships, with individual liability, to corporations with no personal liability, Pandora's box had been opened.
Bannon skewers the Baby boomers who came of age during the turbulent 1960's and then turned into the greedy yuppies of the 1980's and 1990's. Bannon brilliantly ties together this financial crisis with Strauss & Howe's Fourth Turning book. The film proceeds through the Unraveling of the 1990's and early 2000's. Neil Howe is the calm voice of reason throughout the film. The Unraveling is induced by greed, shortsightedness, inability to make tough decisions and most of all debt. The prominent spokespeople in the film included Newt Gingrich, Tobin Smith, Shelby Steele, Amity Shales, and Peter Schweizer.
The film is very stylistic. When discussing the Wall Street investment bankers you see Great White sharks devouring huge chunks of meat. The symbolism is fitting. I think that every American who is concerned about the direction of this country should see this film. The ending to this film has not been written. We have entered the Fourth Turning. It can end in glory or annihilation. Neil Howe points out that we have come out of each previous Fourth Turning as a stronger nation. That bit of optimism competes with the massive debts and poor decisions that have been made over decades. A feeling of doom resonates throughout the film. Whether America can rise up and take this country back from the ruling elite is unanswered. The more people that see this film, the better chance we will have.
Fox Business Channel will air a 10 minute segment tonight at 7:00 pm about GENERATION ZERO. Steve plans on a general release to movie theaters in mid-March. A tie in to the National Tea Party on April 15 would be a perfect way to have as many people as possible see this important film.
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I am proud to be associated with this film in my small way. It is people like Steve Bannon who give me hope that we can get this country back on track.
James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university.
James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of (more...