Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
September 26, 2013
*1/2 (out of four)
What outrageous irony for a documentary called “Inequality For All” to feature such unequal distribution of attention.
It’s fine that director Jacob Kornbluth uses former White House labor secretary Robert Reich as the film’s expert, since the documentary takes inspiration from Reich’s book “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.” But we don’t need to hear how Reich feels about his past (both in terms of his childhood and his time with numerous presidents). This is supposed to be a movie about why the U.S. is the worst developed nation when it comes to economic inequality and what can be done about it.
Instead, “Inequality For All” follows the formula of the stunningly overrated “An Inconvenient Truth” by delivering a lecture, and not a very good one at that. In and out of class, Reich, a professor at University of California, Berkeley, discusses highly paid CEOs, outsourced jobs and the overworked, underpaid Americans whose stagnant wages result in an economy that can’t thrive without prosperity in its middle class. No kidding! And you’re saying taxation is out of hand, and there was some sort of housing bubble too? Go on with all this new information, please.
Obviously, the portrayal of citizens in need and a country that shot itself in the foot is upsetting, as seen in other docs including “Inside Job,” “The Queen of Versailles” and “A Place at the Table.” The fact that many young people have no idea how to build wealth, and may not even be able to even if they know how, deserves more attention. Yet Reich and Kornbluth don’t go after anyone specifically (other than implying President Ronald Reagan’s anti-union stance had long-lasting negative effects) for the greed and corruption that increases the distance between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. They make broad, obvious points about the moral folly of underfunded state institutions, rising tuition costs and billionaires financing candidates and lobbyists. Nowhere do the filmmakers address how people have adapted. Have some opted not to have kids because they can't support families? How have some succeeded by skipping college and using their money in other ways?
For a man who claims to have influenced President Bill Clinton’s economic policy of putting people first, Reich really doesn’t pay much attention to the people at all. By the way, dude: Contrary to what you say in the movie, Great Britain isn’t a country.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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