Reviewed: Inequality for All

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 12:54 pm by George Smith

I just saw “Inequality for All,” Robert Reich’s documentary on the same. A crowdsource contributed copy, of course, obtained by a friend. Can’t afford to see these things in the Pasadena art house. The self-same fruit of inequality for all, y’know.

Do you know what a year at UC Berkeley costs, where much of “Inequality for All,” was shot, in front of Reich’s class on poverty and wealth?

$50,000 plus change if you’re out of state.

Not that much less if in.

Reich didn’t include this bit of data in his illustrative graphics and if you think it’s a cheap shot, it’s not.

It shows you what happened with one of the points Reich does make, the one showing how higher education slipped away from the middle class. The kids in Reich’s class are largely not from the people maimed and ruined by the relentless climb of inequality in this country although many may eventually become so. They’re the children of the 1 percent and their immediate servants a couple steps down, those who I like to say have “not yet been obsoleted” by our fine system.

However, when our now-our-eyes-are-wide-open explainers are talking about my social layer they conveniently neglect to mention plenty of us don’t need their acumen and eloquence to describe the situation to others. We’re quite capable of it ourselves.

It’s just that we don’t have the six and seven figure union cards.

“Inequality for All” is a fair to good documentary. I suspect it did not get the audience hoped for, released as it did just before the Republican Party shut down the US government.

Reich is a genial fellow and he uses the quality to good effect in explaining matters subject he knows very well. The country has had a forty to fifty year slump, a slump for everyone except the 1 percent who saw their riches get higher and higher and higher.

I’ve lived through it. So have this blog’s readers. There weren’t any good times.

The Clinton administration, where Reich served most famously, was no exception to the rule. It was the Clinton administration, with Congress and now regrettably too familiar financial wizards like Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, that undid banking regulation.

And this is one of the more interesting parts of “Inequality for All.”

Reich turns pensive and a little glum, admitting he knew what was happening but even as Secretary of Labor couldn’t get much done about it. The Clinton administration stopped listening. The campaign platform of “Putting People First,” was only a slogan. Graphs of inequality really begin to soar shortly after 1993. Did you see any of the good times?

In the Lehigh Valley, we all missed it. Manufacturing and middle class jobs continued to vanish after Ronald Reagan during the Clinton years. And Allentown turned into a slum. If you click that link you’ll find no evidence of any kind of populism during the Clinton administration.

Now everyone who isn’t in the top layer knows much of the story.

The wealthy had tax law rewritten to serve themselves at everyone else’s expense. Corporate America turned to straight tax evasion — now called profit shifting. The country de-industrialized for cheap labor overseas. Middle class pay was compressed. Workers were not allowed any share of their gains in productivity, all of it was taken for the top.

It generated what Reich calls “the vicious cycle.” Diminished pay equals less buying power. Less buying power equals less demand. Less demand idles industry and brings on more lay-offs. Lay-offs cause more decreases in spending power. And on and on…

The Rand-ian phrase “job creators,” the great American myth that only wealth makes the conditions for profitable work is trashed, as it has now been thousands of times in the last couple years. The country had the opportunity to choose the wealthy tycoon for president and passed. But nothing changes, the plutocrats and a rogue party have imposed paralysis.

Reich is gentle with the Republican Party, perhaps because he hoped for a wider audience.

Jeff Immelt of General Electric is briefly mentioned, along with President’s Obama’s ineffective corporate advisory committee on job creation. You will remember it was to laugh. The best Immelt, the head of the giant corporate tax evader, could come up with was encouraging more tourism and increasing low wage subsistence employment in the hospitality industries.

That was three years ago. Such advice. Wow. Very rich. Wonderful jobs.

For music, “Inequality for All” chooses Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five,” from the old movie of the same name. It’s to illustrate how even with women working in the family, jobs don’t pay enough any more.

Could you even watch that movie today? I doubt it.

I have better music for “Inequality for All,” as you know. “GE & Jeff (Taxavoidination)” for corporate titans like Immelt who cluelessly wondered on 60 Minutes why more Americans weren’t standing up to cheer his company.

And “Rich Man’s Burden,” a song for pitying billionaires, blessing their talent for taxing everyone below and creating so many opportunities to work and apply for food stamp programs.

Along with the National Anthem, these were part of my “documentary,” Tales from the Great Depression.

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, business section:

“As business and political leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the improving world economy, new evidence emerged about how much the rich have become richer — and how much further behind the poor are falling.

“The 85 richest people on earth now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the global population, according to a report released Monday by the British humanitarian group, Oxfam International…

“Oxfam said the United States has led a worldwide growth in wealth concentration.

“The percentage of income held by the richest 1 percent in the US grew nearly 150 percent from 1980 through 2012. That small elite has received 95 percent of wealth created since 2009, after the financial crisis, which the bottom 90 percent of Americans have become poorer, Oxfam said.”


  1. Tom Paterson said,

    January 23, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Because we all need a laugh now and then.


    *But one particular crowd-puller – and hugely important for all those stressed executives who are a little short of me-time – is likely to be actress Goldie Hawn holding forth on the merits of meditation. The star of Shampoo and Private Benjamin is part of a “mindfulness” panel – one of 25 sessions that will cover mental health and wellbeing.

    For those keen on learning about life away from the boardroom, the private jet and swish ski resorts there is a 75-minute simulation session available which is designed to demonstrate exactly what it is like to be a Syrian refugee.

    Three times a day, for the duration of the Davos-fest, delegates can choose to be detained, chased by replica gun-toting militia and shouted at by aid workers in a bid to raise the profile of the Syrian refugee crisis. Queen Mathilde of Belgium has evidently already signed up and the Cross roads foundation, running the event, hopes to get Damon or Bono – yes he is there, again – to give it a go too.*

    Five minutes after reading that pointed Guardian piece (excerpted above), by an ineluctable association of ideas, I found myself reading S J Perelman’s ‘The Hand That Cradles The Rock’.


  2. George Smith said,

    January 23, 2014 at 9:04 am

    That “Syrian refugee experience” isn’t a joke? Maybe they should have added attendees get splashed with insecticide to simulate being around nerve gas.

  3. Tom Paterson said,

    January 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm


    *[Alexandra Chen] has seen first-hand the difference the Refugee Run experience can make on visitors. “I’ve seen men sobbing on their wives’ shoulders because they realised for the first time here how, their entire lives, they never cared,” she said.*

    Well f*ck my old boots! (I don’t know what DD’s policy on profanity is, but sometimes there’s a place for it.)

    And it turns out that there really was an ogress called Fleur Cowles and a lickspittle called Mort Weisinger.

    *Maybe they should have added attendees get splashed with insecticide to simulate being around nerve gas.* Or just try working with OPs in the orchards and vineyards.

  4. Tom Paterson said,

    January 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm


    Just scroll down to the Organophosphates paragraph. Probably nothing you didn’t already know … it’s just easy to forget sometimes.

  5. George Smith said,

    January 24, 2014 at 11:22 am

    A Facebook billionaire executive, yet. This is the reminiscent of the stunts now called “poverty tourism” here: A pol or someone famous puts out a press release announcing they’ll live on a food stamp budget for a few weeks.

  6. Tom Paterson said,

    January 24, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    *Crossroads believes that only when world leaders experience the chaotic conditions refugees endure will they experience real empathy and act.*

    But they’re sociopaths; that’s their defining characteristic. They have no empathy whatsoever except what their lackey speech-writers fake up for them (often hilariously).

    Yeah, live on food stamps but with soap and toilet paper in the Winnebago with the camera crew.

    And even with a pure heart the one thing you can never experience is the despair of knowing you’re never ever going to be able to escape. I’m pretty sure Barbara Ehrenreich at least was honest enough to admit that.

    I’ve reviewed DD’s profanity policy with a quick Google site search. Well fuck my old boots.

  7. George Smith said,

    January 25, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I don’t believe I really have a profanity policy. Well, yes, sort of. It’s what I put in my prohibited filter to send straight to spam or hold. That stem directly from the time when Akismet blew up and trying to get another plug-in in place took down the entire blog and 86’d the nice blog URLs function in the database.

    So a variety of four letter words are in my home-rolled filter. But they’re not the most by any means, that being reserved for the ever-shifting sales trends of junk merchandise and sports clothing.