The ‘Inequality for All’ is a documentary based on Robert Reich’s lecture at the University of California Berkeley. The film, directed by Jacob Kornbluth, incorporates infographics, footage, and profiles of families whose living standards have been scarred by the new economy. After watching the documentary, I felt frustrated. The frustration is that the rich will continuously swim in their wealth, whereas the poor are left to suffer in their misfortunate. The economic inequality in the world affects each one of us. Looking at the policies put by the government, a majority of them favor those in the upper class. In the film, Reich argues on behalf of the middle class and the poor, explaining how the broadening income gap has a demoralizing impact on the American economy. Reich uses humor and a wide range of facts to show and explore how a selected few’s massive consolidations of riches threaten the feasibility of democracy and the American labor force. The government has allowed the one percent of super-rich Americans to take have a more significant share of the country’s economy. According to Reich, this is a threat to both economic welfare and democracy.
The movie had quite a couple of instances that got me thinking widely afterward. For example, with Reich talking over and over again about the widening income gap, I began questioning in what ways does this deteriorates the country’s economic health? If anyone told you to watch a movie about economics, expectations are that it will be dull and dry. However, this is not the case with ‘Inequality for All’ as it explains to the audience why middle classes are gradually having a smaller and smaller section of the economic pie. From the documentary, we know that 70% of the US economy is made up of middle-class buying stuff. The implication of this is that if these people do not have the money to buy stuff, then there is no economic growth (Kornbluth).
There are quite numerous causes of the widening gap in the distribution of wealth and income in America, one being the government. The policies being enacted favor the super-rich to continue dominating the economy while the middle class and poor are burdened with taxes. In the documentary, Reich associates the expanding income inequality with the loss of unionization. Economic growth has diverted from wages to profits and CEO compensation, cutting taxes for the rich and financing the economy. In addition, the government no longer invests in infrastructure and education. And this deteriorates the living standards of those citizens who are not part of the upper-class category. The virtuous cycle of higher productivity and wages that used to give consumers money, hence push the economy forward and generate funds for the government, have been washed away by a vicious cycle where wages are constant, undercutting consumer’s purchasing power, lowering demand and government spending (Kornbluth).
Although most Americans know that the rich are getting wealthier as everyone else is squeezed, the movie’s crucial contribution reminds us that whatever the middle class is undergoing is not by accident. It is all happening because of some decisions made by the government and businesses. The economy has failed to prosper equally because of the decisions made. According to Reich, we have the power to change such rules, but unfortunately, nothing substantial is done. The question that policymakers should be asking themselves before implementing the rule is who will be hurt and who will benefit. People have fallen victim to the lie that the free market is good, which is not true. Nick Hanauer, who is among the one percent of super-rich citizens, believes that he does not pay enough tax and that crushing the middle class who create demand is not suitable for the economy. “The system simply isn’t working,” Hanauer says.
The third cause of the widening gap in income distribution is the lack of full democracy, which is all because of big money. The rich are too influential and are in conjunction with the government in ensuring the middle class, and the poor are held in the same bracket. Society is falling apart because of the threat posed to democracy by the rising concentration of wealth. Reviving the middle class will require the country to reverse its long-run trend of widening inequality. The possibility depends on if the political power of the executive class is laid aside. Currently, so much income goes to the high class, leaving the middle class with less purchasing power, and this keeps the economy sinking deep in debt.
Reich’s documentary is quite exciting and puts a lot of economic happenings into perspective. The core issue affecting the US is not only income inequality but also standards of living. Citizens in the middle class and below can hardly maintain a decent lifestyle of good food, quality education, health care, and security.
Inequality for All. Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, Perf. Robert Reich, Lily Tomlin. 2013. 2014.