Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Inequality For All

I am a big fan of the documentary. Unlike the products of years gone by, today's films are engaging and provocative, frequently providing us with a window to a world we may previously have had only a passing acquaintance with. Whether political, social, or environmental in nature, documentaries are truly useful tools for educating us about the world we live in.

Much has been written about the decline of the middle class, that socio-economic stratum to which we were all taught to aspire. Yet, for a variety of reasons, that goal is now fast becoming unattainable for millions of people. While the reasons for this are many, a good starting point for understanding the problem is Inequality For All, a documentary by Jacob Kornbluth featuring Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labour under Bill Clinton.

In language and terms accessible to all, Reich makes an impassioned plea for a course correction in American politics that, not coincidentally, would also work well in Canada, given our current leaders' embrace of the neoliberal agenda that has caused so much misery for so many. While there is no simple solution to the woes we face because of that agenda, Reich offers a solid strategy, some of which is gleaned from other countries, for putting North America back on a solid economic footing that will benefit our increasingly imperiled populations:

Invest in Education: The countries that have fared best in the face of globalization are those that have encouraged and made accessible higher education and traning. Germany is one example cited in the film.

Strengthen Unionism There is a very interesting graphic in the film that shows an inverse relationship between income inequality and unions. When union membership is high, income inequality is low, and vice versa.

Raise the Minimum Wage This seems so obvious, but is always decried by the monied class as a job killer. The more money people earn, the more they spend, hence strengthening the economy. Henry Ford's wisdom has been forgotten.

Fix the Tax System Although we are constantly barraged with the propaganda that lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy are job creators, bitter experience shows us this is a falsehood. As one wealthy entrepreneur who makes upwards of $10 million per annum says in the documentary, "I don't buy $10 million worth of goods and services."

There are others suggestions Reich makes in his crusade to improve people's lives, but I will leave you with this poignant paraphrased comment from a woman in the film:

My wage and my benefits have been cut. I don't begrudge CEOs making millions of dollars, but why can't they leave me with a tiny slice of the pie?

Now available on DVD and ITunes, here is the film's official trailer:


  1. Lorne, Harper is quite different. :) He believes in equality for the rich and for the rest it is their problem. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, knew in 1903. He believed that if his workers did not get good wages then very few will buy his cars and his business will default.

    What happened to Henry Ford's common sense? I suppose greed took over and hence we are headed for a bigger economic disaster than 5-6 years ago when Wall Street fell to 6000 points.

    1. There is a great part in the film when Robert Reich urges his audience to do the following: Mobilize, Organize, Energize, and Act. I fear that until sufficient numbers heed his call, your dire prediction will hold true, LD.

  2. Reich has been a cogent criticism of neo-liberalism for a long time, Lorne. From where I sit, the little guy makes a lot of sense.

    1. I hope as many people as possible either see the film or read Reich's book Aftershock, which addresses these issues, Owen.