"}
Film

Inequality for All

Preach, Robert Reich

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Documentaries about economic and social ills too often turn into glorified PowerPoint displays. For all its acclaim and worthiness, that essentially describes An Inconvenient Truth.

Inequality for All, a documentary featuring Clinton administration Labor Secretary and current University of California, Berkeley, professor Robert Reich, does a bit better, perhaps because Reich, unlike Al Gore, is eminently unstiff. He’s an engaging host for what otherwise might be, well, a PowerPoint display.

Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, the film follows Reich as he crisscrosses the country on the speaking circuit. Interspersed are clips and stills from his past, including stints in the Ford and Carter administrations, as well as snippets from his large “Wealth and Poverty” classroom lectures at Berkeley.

Reich’s thesis, complete with the requisite array of graphs and flow charts, is derived from his recent book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future. He demonstrates, with breathtaking efficiency, that the 400 wealthiest people in America make more than the bottom 150 million people combined.


From this Reich derives much woe: serial financial crises, societal polarization and rage, and the diminishment of the middle class, whose wages, adjusted for inflation, have stagnated or dropped. (Paul Krugman in the New York Times recently reported that, again adjusted for inflation, the income of the top 1 percent rose 31 percent from 2009 to 2012, but the real income of the bottom 40 percent fell 6 percent.)

Reich’s point is not simply that such statistics reveal a systemic unfairness. He’s a capitalist after all—not a “communist,” as Bill O’Reilly would have it in a Fox News clip—and to some degree he endorses inequality as an economic incentive. But Reich believes that, as opposed to in earlier eras, low-wage earners as well as those in the middle class believe the stagnating system has been rigged against them. (He cites the statistic that 42 percent of kids born into poverty will stay there.)

He argues that we have to replace “trickle-down with middle-out economics” because “the most pro-business thing you can do is make the middle class thrive.” He disparages the tea party “Taxed Enough Already” anthem by pointing out that the marginal tax rate on the rich during the booming Eisenhower era was 91 percent. Does Reich think we’d be better off with a 91 percent tax rate now? And if, as he says, the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor and the middle class, how can he argue that a pro-middle-class agenda would benefit the very rich?

These and other questions might more profitably have been debated in the movie by politicos who are a bit more on the beam than O’Reilly. The only super-rich person interviewed is venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who pooh-poohs the idea that the very wealthy are “job creators.” But Kornbluth isn’t really interested in fashioning a full-on debate here. His film is more in the nature of a testimonial to Reich.

Still, Reich’s message hits home, and he’s such an endearing pedant that I didn’t mind all the showboating. Standing around 4 feet, 10 inches tall, he’s a fund of self-deprecating jokes about his height. (To those who accuse him of being in favor of big government, he says, “Do I look like ‘big government’?”) He extols the virtues of his Mini Cooper: “We are in proportion. Me and my car.”

It’s unseemly, I know, to praise a movie like this for the standup-comic affability of its host. But Reich’s engagingness also gives credence to the seriousness of his message. He’s all about fairness, and, in his demeanor, as well as in his presentation, he embodies that ideal.

SVCR-0603 Buffet_ 770x150 CW
More Film...
Hell or High Water
Making them like they used to

Oh, they do not make heartland crime dramas like they did back in the ’70s—smart, ornery, low of budget and high of attitude. Steeped in seedy characters and lousy luck. Above all lacking in the least amount of body fat, moral or cinematic.

Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, Badlands.

more »
Florence Foster Jenkins
The flat lady sings

Perhaps she was a tragic figure, or a clinical case worthy of Oliver Sacks, or the incarnation of a dishonest middlebrow culture. But in the end, Stephen Frears’s enjoyable, sentimental movie turns this bizarre real-life figure into a version of Eddie the Eagle, swooping and crashing…

more »
Sausage Party
Kids need not apply

For those of you who have ever envisioned Seth Rogen reconstituted as an anthropomorphic processed meat product—and you know who you are—Sausage Party may be savored as, if not a dream come true, then a drug-fueled hallucination without the potentially harmful side effects. A madcap crazy…

more »
Events
Today
Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Wednesday Market

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Brewers Cruise

6:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Music at Maritime

6:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

The Gun Show

8:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books
Tomorrow
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bow Little Market

1:00pm|Belfast Feed Store

Garden Dedication

3:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Blues, Brews & BBQ

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Vintner Dinner

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Riverwalk Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Riverwalk Park

Move to Amend

6:00pm|Mount Vernon

Fiction Writing Group

6:00pm|Village Books,

Elizabeth Park Concert Series

6:00pm|Elizabeth Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Swinomish 2016
Friday
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

What's Next?

9:00am|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Summer Concert Series Finale

6:00pm|Seafarers Park

Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Farm Tunes

6:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Final Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Wine and Music

7:00pm|Artifacts Cafe and Wine Bar

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Artifacts Wine Bar Village Books Swinomish 2016 Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Andrew Subin Northwood Steak and Crab 5 Point Film Festival