Inequality for All
Directed by Jacob Kornbluth
U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich tries to raise awareness of the country's widening economic gap.
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★★★★ review by truman segal on Letterboxd
rob reich seems like such a genuine dude. i’d love to sit down & have a conversation with him.
★★★½ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
Much has been said about the current economic situation following the huge market crash back in 2008. For the vast majority of us it feels like it will never end, despite the sporadic shouts from political quarters that things are 'picking up' and their are 'shoots of recovery blooming'. We have all experienced an effect on our own lives or those close to us in some capacity in the past five years. In a year where a warped perception of the American Dream has become integral to many films, Inequality for All lifts the lid on just how unlikely it is to achieve that today.
Focusing on America, former U.S. Labor Secretary and passionate economist Robert Reich takes centre stage to look at the wider reasons behind the reason why the now infamous 1%, the highest producers of wealth in the country who are comprised of a mere 400 people, collectively earn more than over half of the American population.
Rather than solely focus on the recent downturn, he looks back across the modern history of the economic climate, highlighting the period from the late 70's up until the modern day. It is his belief that was the period when corporations began to increase their wealth share and the ordinary workers stagnated. It has been a drum he has beaten for over thirty years, writing numerous books and now teaching classes at Berkley University.
The driving question is just why has the gap between and haves and the have-nots become so large? Reich identifies the middle class as the key battle ground for a stable and more equal economy. We cut between his straight to-camera talks, his presentations at Berkley and several case studies across America. The reoccurring theme being that middle class America is struggling as much as anyone else, the supposed safe section of society where life apparently becomes easier.
The danger with a subject matter so laden with facts and figures is that it can threaten to become overbearing and let's face it, boring. Reich may be a particularly short man (a sufferer of Fairbanks disease) but he certainly compensates with personality. Like a warm, friendly Uncle, he injects humour along with his vast knowledge, never over-complicating the key issues with jargon. The vast majority is shot with a straight-forward approach, using some simple graphics that help our understanding.
Thankfully he doesn't paint the picture as hopelessly bleak, leaving the documentary on a positive note, placing the responsibility on us all to change the current situation. It would be easy to be cynical about the uplifting ending but ultimately he is right. If we just give up without any hope of change, what do we have left? Whilst Inequality for All is centred on America, it shouldn't be forgotten that the state of the richest and one of the most powerful nations in the world affects us all eventually, which is what makes this essential viewing.
★★★★ review by Ruksana Faraon 🌻 on Letterboxd
Robert Reich, among other things former Labor Secretary under Clinton and an exceptionally charming and intelligent human being, brings us this informative and conscientious overview of income inequality in the United States. Reich does an excellent job of placing the widening gap into fact-based historical, political and activist contexts. If you're interested in this stuff (and, well, shouldn't you be?), this is a must-watch. If nothing else you'll be introduced to a person with a sharp mind, a delightful personality and a good heart. Can't say there's a lot of those in politics or finance lately.
★★★½ review by Michael Casey on Letterboxd
This is less a documentary and more a power point presentation, a lecture, a confession, an education, a life, an idea, a “what else have you got?” movie. If you were to look for this in the video store, it will probably be tucked away in some rack with the heading “Special Interest”. I think that probably fits better than anything else. Do you have a special interest in the widening gap between the haves and have-nots? Would you like the history and ramifications of this explained to you from a passionate former United States Secretary of Labor? Boy, are you in luck! Have we got the movie for you!
INEQUALITY FOR ALL is an essay film of sorts. Like most documentary/essay films/special interests in the past decade, structure is tossed out in favor of free association, a stylistic choice I heartily approve of. Robert Reich, former Rhodes scholar, served first under Ford, but functioned mainly as the Secretary of Labor during the first Clinton administration. Reich takes great pride in the work he accomplished with Clinton (and he should) and because of this, he (and the movie) take a left leaning perspective. I do not think this muddies or distorts the facts presented or the solutions given because the subject of the movie is not just inequality in America, the subject is the life and work of Robert Reich. Since Reich thinks and leans left it would only make sense that he would problem solve from that position.
Reich’s problem concerns the widening gap of inequality in America. The facts he gives, you are probably well familiar with: the connection between the Great Depression and where we are today, the years in between that provided so much prosperity, tax rates and cuts for the wealthy, etc. Reich offers some solutions, even if they are a tad abstract and general, but the reason to go is not the data or the history. The reason to see this movie is to enjoy the company of Reich. Few things are as enjoyable as watching a highly intelligent individual describe difficult and complex situations with ease. Listening to Reich describe the history of the US economy is like listening to Julia Child discussing which size chicken to select for roasting. He does not flaunt his knowledge, he does not talk down to anyone, he simply talks about the ideas he has, and he is passionate and energetic about those ideas. When Reich gives his talking-head interviews, he does not addressing the director (Jacob Kornbluth), his gaze directed slightly off camera. No, Reich stares down the lens, talking to us directly. People who believe wholeheartedly in what they say will stare down the barrel of the gun while they talk. Reich believes in what he is saying, and I believe Reich.
★★★½ review by PRY on Letterboxd
A well constructed, sleek, and accessible infograph on the disparage of income in America.
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