‘Inequality for All’: Wonks rule

September 26, 2013


The Republican noise machine has become such an overpowering presence in our world – manipulating the media with its messages, preying on the fear of the uninformed – that the whole idea of facts (the reality-based world, as someone in George W. Bush’s administration so dismissively put it) seems to have been undermined, or at least distorted.

The famous quote from the late Daniel Moynihan posited that while you may be entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own set of facts.

Yet, somehow, facts – and history and science – have been tarred with the brush of liberalism in the past 30 years. Suddenly, simply offering the facts – about climate change, women’s health, voter fraud or income inequality – is branded a partisan act, as though facts themselves take sides instead of simply stating the obvious.

As a result, Jacob Kornbluth’s illuminating “Inequality for All,” which focuses on economist and scholar Robert Reich, probably won’t reach the audience it needs to. They’re too busy watching Fox News – or CNN or MSNBC, for that matter. The 24-hour cable-news networks no longer care about actual information, unfortunately.

The information Reich offers is, of course, exactly the opposite of what almost half of this country wants to believe. With charts, graphics and anecdotal examples, he explains why supply-side economics is a fraud, as well as the disconnect between that buzzword “job creators” (used as a synonym for the wealthy) and the actual creation of jobs. And he shows how the economic policies of the free-market crowd – from Reagan through the two Bushes, with a pause for sanity during the Clinton years – helped widen the gap between the very few haves and the growing population of have-nots.

Kornbluth spends much of the film listening to Reich talk (which is always both interesting and entertaining) in classrooms, with friends, even just to the camera. Occasionally, the film will pause to focus on some of those who still strive for the middle class to look at their current situation. Their struggle gets tougher every year – every day – as the business-centric right hammers them to benefit corporations and the wealthy. These are people who want to work, who want to build a life – who in some cases hold more than one job.

But as one woman says to the camera, “How do I accumulate wealth? I have no idea how to even start.”

Reich offers neither lofty theories in flowery language nor polemics in fiery rhetoric. He’s telling it straight, showing with facts and figures how those moments in our history when corporate tax rates were highest were also the times when broad prosperity – instead of the kind we have now, concentrated in the plutocracy – was the norm. The lower the tax rates, the less willing those corporations are to put their massive profits back into creating jobs and spreading the wealth.

A short fellow (he suffers from Fairbank disease, which inhibited his growth) who uses his height for jokes about himself, Reich has a large intellect and an expansive personality. He’s also surprisingly hopeful about the future, the current hateful political climate to the contrary.

He makes great company for the length of “Inequality for All,” which might be seen as the financial counterpart to “An Inconvenient Truth.” Watch this film – and then show it to someone who refuses to educate themselves about what the financial situation is all about. If you can.

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