Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is a popular author
and pundit, but in Inequality for All,
filmmaker Jacob Kornbluth shows us Reich as a charismatic teacher at U.C.
Berkeley. He asks his students to challenge their assumptions about our economy,
and how it has evolved in recent years. If viewers can do the same, they will
find much food for thought in this clear, well-reasoned film. When he screened it
for my class at USC last week, Kornbluth lamented the fact that most media interviewers
insist on politicizing his documentary. He believes that income inequality
should be everyone’s concern, but liberals don’t find his movie liberal enough,
and conservatives feel the same on their side of the fence. Many have no use
for Reich at all; that’s their prerogative, but the film offers historical
facts and contemporary evidence to back its premise that a disappearing middle
class is bad for all of us.
Kornbluth personalizes the story by using Reich’s warmth and humor to win us over and keep his presentation from becoming a dry recitation of facts. Compelling and well-designed graphics also play a vital role in exploring how our economy behaved the same way in 1928, just before the stock market crash, and in 2007, just before the latest meltdown. Once you see this graph depicted as a suspension bridge, you’ll have a hard time forgetting it: it’s the kind of visual metaphor that makes Inequality for All so effective.
Interviews with everyday working people help drive home the point that something fundamental has changed in our country. Even families with two hard-working wage earners are barely scraping by. Why should this be, and how did it come about? Inequality for All doesn’t offer easy answers, but it asks tough questions we should all ponder.