by Tony Dayoub
Whether it's Fox News or MSNBC, if you watch cable news, you've seen Robert Reich before. The 4'10" economics expert is a frequent guest pundit on political talk shows. Currently a Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and famed for his tenure as Bill Clinton's labor secretary, Reich also comes across as a bit of a showman in Inequality for All. This is not entirely a bad thing as the new documentary demonstrates. Sometimes it takes someone with a sense of the theatrical to explain our fractured economy in a way the layman can understand.
Inequality for All presents Reich's position on the decline of the middle class in the United States and how it is affecting the economic recovery in the short term and the country's economic dominance in the long term. Admittedly, Reich's views on the subject are largely liberal, promulgating the idea that the slow drop in labor unions, the growing income gap between "job-creators" and workers, and deregulation have all created a climate where it is difficult for the poor to ever move up in the social ladder. But the film's director, Jacob Kornbluth, doesn't ever disguise the fact that Inequality for All is unabashedly promoting progressive ideology.
What does become quite clear is that Reich and Inequality for All have a considerable amount of facts and notable allies (even from the opposite side of the aisle) to bolster their left-based argument. Among them is Republican Alan Simpson, former Senator from Wyoming and co-chair of what has now become known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission. Though a true conservative, he rails against the disparity that has arisen between rich and poor in this highly charged partisan atmosphere. One of the most damning facts presented in Inequality for All is this: 42% of all American children born into poverty will never get out. This ranks well below countries like Denmark, where only 25% will live out their lives in poverty, and even Great Britain, a country more often associated with the class divide, where the number is only 30%.
However, Inequality for All weaves a positive narrative that punctures through even the most practiced cynic's pessimism by making Reich's own personal struggles with his small height a metaphor for the plight of the proverbial little guy. A thundering call for action from someone so physically slight, Inequality for All is the rare economic policy lesson that's as inspiring as it is absorbing.