Interview with Jake Kornbluth, director of the documentary, Inequality for All and the upcoming, much anticipated Saving Capitalism
My guest today is Jacob Kornbluth, award-winning director of the documentary, Inequality for All.
JB: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Jake. We last talked about a year and a half ago, when Inequality for All came out. For those of our readers who may not have seen it yet, can you tell us briefly what it was about?
JK: Inequality For All follows (former secretary of labor under Clinton) Robert Reich as he gives context to widening economic inequality, and why it is bad for us all -- not just the poor, and middle class, but the rich as well. The big idea in the film is that economic inequality is bad for our economy and for our democracy. Economically, consumers don't have enough money to buy anything so the overall economy stagnates. But economic inequality also affects our democracy. As more and more money goes to the top, so does the political power to control the system. Regular people wind up feeling the game is rigged, and the losers of a rigged game can get very angry.
That makes it sound like it is just a political treatise, but my background is in comedy (believe it or not!) and I think what surprised people who watched the film was that a film about a topic as seemingly heavy as economic inequality could be entertaining and funny. It helped, of course, that Robert Reich is incredibly funny himself and that we had a great time making it.
JB: Also, let's not forget those terrific graphics which added a lot to our understanding of the issues at hand. Okay. You made the film, set up a useful website full of concrete suggestions for how to move things forward. So, how did it go? Did a lot of people see the film? It didn't have a traditional theatre run. Did you get many visitors to your website? Did you stir things up?
JK: We did have a theatrical run, and very successful one at that. The film was released by The Weinstein Company, though their Radius Division. It came out in over 250 cities, and did the best box office of any issue documentary since Waiting For Superman. I haven't checked recently, but it was above 90% on rotten tomatoes for the entire release, so critics were very positive about it it as well.
As for the impact.... you always want more, but my favorite part of making it is, to this day, Bob and I get a few e-mails each week from high school students or college students who saw it in class, or from a conservative who saw it and was blown away by how much they liked it, or from a middle class person who saw it and "got it" for the first time. Many people who haven't seen the film still have a basic understanding of how widening economic inequality has affected our economy and our democracy. The film continues to have a life and make an impact.
JB: How gratifying. The film made me understand income inequality and its fallout in a way that I hadn't up until then. I have a sneaking suspicion that you're not resting on your collective laurels these days, Jake. So, what are you two up to?
JK: I thought you'd never ask! I want to tell you about our new long form project, Saving Capitalism, but it is easiest to understand as a continuum from Inequality For All. Since Inequality For All, I've started a nonprofit with Reich, called "Inequality Media", that makes short videos explaining the economy in a way everyone can understand. Last year, we had a goal of 15 million views, and we wound up hitting 25 million. This year, we set an ambitious goal of 30 million views for the year. To date -- mid April -- we have over 45 million views already.
JB: Wow! That's impressive.
JK: The fascinating thing about the response is that it proves that people are looking for smart, sensible ways to understand complex economic ideas. Those economic ideas affect their lives, and they know it.
That work has led to our new long form project, Saving Capitalism. In it, we acknowledge that the usual debate about economics boils down to if you are an activist government liberal, or a (so called) free market conservative. This is a false, meaningless debate. The real story is what the rules of the market are, and who they benefit and who they hurt.
To test this theory, we go with Reich out of the "bubble" of the coast, and take a road trip through the heartland of America to see if his ideas can be heard. It's a fascinating experiment, and one that I can't wait to share the results of. We've launched a kickstarter to help us finish the footage. The link is here.