Robert Reich is the star of this documentary that examines the current enormous and ever widening income gap in the United States and the demise of our middle class. If you don’t know why the economy tanked in 2008, you must see this film and take anyone else who is uninformed about our economy with you. Reich is a Rhodes scholar who was the Sec. of Labor under Clinton, served in the Ford and Carter administrations, and has taught policy at Brandeis, Harvard and Berkeley, so when he talks about the economy and the policy choices that got us where we are today, he has more than a bit of gravitas. The strength of the documentary is that it isn’t a partisan screed, but an engaging lesson in how we came to be in this fix and what has to change for our country to have a functioning middle class again.
Reich is a character — short, funny, and brilliant. He makes his points in some compelling lectures to his students at Berkeley and through talking with a variety of real people who are struggling to keep their heads above water. His arguments are aided by very effective graphics that show the rise in top incomes and the flat-lining of worker pay. And the image that he uses over and over compares a number of economic indicators from the stock market crash of the 20s with the crash of 08. It essentially takes some pretty complex concepts and makes them easy to understand. And his main point throughout the film is that a thriving middle class is possible and that it is absolutely essential if we want our economy to grow. If there is a problem with the movie it is that he does not give an answer about how to fix it, though there are a lot of obvious clues.
Unfortunately, I think Inequality for All and a lot of other social change documentaries these days are probably preaching to the choir. In this case, the people who need to see it will stay away because he is a liberal, but what he says we need to do would probably appeal to many on the right, if it came from anyone else. When he talks about the anti-democratizing effect of money in politics, he doesn’t just talk about the Koch Brothers, but includes Soros and others on the left. And the families that he talks to about their financial woes are definitely not all from the same party. But the man is an optimist about America, and that is refreshing to see from a man who spent so much time in the government. I only hope that the students in his class take up his challenge and change business as usual. So please, call a friend and go see it.