In this very well presented documentary directed by Jacob Kornbluth, Robert Reich explains in detail all the inter-related factors underlying inequality that exists today in the United States.  The U.S. is 46th in equality rankings for developed nations across the world, an embarrassing statistic for one of the richest countries in the world.  Reich’s account is politically neutral and his background in economics is extensive, which adds to the validity of his account.  In addition to being Clinton’s Labor Secretary, he has had positions in Carter’s and Ford’s administrations.

 Reich debunks some common claims, such as that the rich are job creators and that their wealth “trickles down” to lower classes.  Reich shows that it is the middle class that keeps the economy moving; the rich cannot possibly buy enough manufactured goods to help the economy, nor do they hire enough people to create more jobs.

 There are a number of events that started occurring in the late 1970’s that have influenced the U.S. economy.  These include corporations taking their manufacturing jobs overseas, the proliferation of financial companies, deregulation of the financial industry, and assaults on unions.  These factors, along with de-emphasis on education on the part of government have restricted upward mobility in this country.

 Another factor in the increasing discrepancy between the top 1% in income and everyone else is that a trend in the 1990’s for corporations to cut their labor costs (e.g., salaries and benefits of working Americans) and to increase CEO and other top level salaries and stock options.  At the same time, President Reagan reduced taxes on the wealthy by more than 50%, which added to their earnings, but did nothing for the economy.

 The middle class has tried to preserve their standard of living by more mothers working outside the home to increase income, working longer hours (some have 2-3 jobs), and borrowing money by using their homes as collateral.  It turns out, this has only been a temporary solution, in that wages have stagnated over the last three decades, and the housing bubble crashed.  So not only have the middle class lost jobs and had their pay cut or stay the same, but many have lost their homes, which used to serve as a savings plan.

 The upshot of all this is that our democracy is being undermined.  Citizens do not have a big a voice, particularly since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, and there is no limit as to how much money they can contribute to political campaigns.  Reich maintains a positive outlook about the situation eventually being turned around, but he says its turn-around is dependent on people uniting, organizing, and taking action to change it.

 This documentary should be widely distributed, because it has relevance for every American.  It is presented in a classroom format—which may not be as interesting for some—but he shows multiple graphs and charts that support his arguments.

Grade:  B  By:  Donna R. Copeland