INEQUALITY FOR ALL
By Gary Murray
Starring Robert Reich
Directed by Jacob Kombluth
Running time 85 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating Cable
Robert Reich was the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration. The Rhodes Scholar and professor of economics has appeared on many different television shows, pushing his brand of government spending and responsibility. The film Inequality for All is about his Berkley Lecture series with different interviews showing his theories.
When we first see Reich, he’s driving a Mini Cooper, a car that fits his small stature. At 4’10”, he is a diminutive speaker/lecturer, used to bringing a step-stool when he talks at a podium. He takes a different track from the idea of ‘trickle down’ economics. He believes that the middle class is the generator of the economy, not the wealthy. His précis is that the inequality of wealth is the harbinger of our societal doom.
The documentary is not just a series of lectures. Director Jacob Kombluth goes out into the heartland to interview different people in dire straits. He turns his lens at both the TEA parties and the Occupy Wall Street crowds. He interviews people like Deborah Frias, a woman struggling to raise her family on $36,000 a year. There is also Nancy Rasmussen who lost her benefits and pay and asks, “If you have $12 million, if you have a billion dollars, why do you need that little bit that I have?”
We also get to see the 1% super rich. It is represented by pillow manufacturer Nick Hanauer who says, “Rich business guys like me are not the job creators. It’s actually our customers who are the job creators.”
Reich states that consumer spending is 70% of the US economy. He never takes on the idea that government spending is the major driver of the economy. Since he is a big government guy, he seems to believe that only federal intervention can save the system.
The film claims that it does not vilify the rich but it sure does paint them in a negative light. Granted that Americans are frustrated and disillusioned, but the solution that Reich suggests feels much more like Marx than Rand. The solution is not that the middle class should spend more but that the government should spend less. He seems to make out that the economy is a finite proposition, not an infinite system of possibility.
Watching the film, one gets the idea that Reich has a bit of a Napoleonic Complex. His lack of physical stature drives him way that a taller person does not understand. He says that as a child, he would find bigger kids to protect him from bullies. As a young man, he attaches himself to the biggest kid of them all, the President of the United States Bill Clinton.
Inequality for All is a one-sided argument, without any challenges. It pushes the idea of fairness without realizing that the world is not fair. Yes, the system does not seem to be working the same for every individual but the solutions he proposes do not seem like anything more than socialism.