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With: Robert Reich
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Jacob Kornbluth
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and smoking images
Running Time: 88
Date: 09/27/2013

Inequality for All (2013)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Falling Into the Gap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Many documentaries these days are about how terrible everything is right now. Maybe this is because things actually are terrible, and because there are a few heroic, outspoken souls out there who want to try to do something, even if it's something small. Everything big starts with something small, after all. It can be hard to sit down to watch something that's going to be depressing, which is why most of these films end with a bit of hope, and with information for viewers who wish to get involved.

Jacob Kornbluth's Inequality for All does all of these things, but it has an advantage. It focuses on Robert Reich, the former U.S. Labor Secretary under president Bill Clinton. Reich is a Rhodes scholar and a man who knows what he's talking about. He has written several books on the economy, including "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future," upon which this movie is based.

Reich is also a little guy; he suffers from a rare genetic disorder that stunted his growth. But he's very funny and makes light of the situation. He proudly drives a Mini Cooper and carries a wooden box he can stand on at podiums. He's a great, charismatic movie hero, and he makes you feel you're in safe hands. Currently he teaches at UC Berkeley and Kornbluth centers most of the film around his lectures there.

The centerpiece of the movie is the concept of inequality, and how the distance between the upper class and lower class is incredibly wide right now. Reich shows us a graph that looks like a suspension bridge. The gap was also very wide back in the days of the depression, but things leveled out after WWII and up through the late 1970s. Reich outlines several of the reasons for this. Education was a priority after the war, and labor unions were in place.

At the end of the prosperous times, in 1980, Ronald Reagan was also a major factor, lowering taxes on the rich and deregulating banks and Wall Street, therefore starting the process of widening the gap. Reich says he's not necessarily a liberal or a communist. He explains that he once worked for President Ford (a Republican) and was once a regular on Fox News. It's just that, with the widening economic gap, there is also a widening political gap, and he has merely remained in one place while conservatives have moved further right.

He shows several other viewpoints of the economy, and the film turns them all into neat animated graphs and compares them with his suspension bridge graph, and they all match. So the way to fix the economy is obvious on paper, but incredibly difficult in life. He explains that the reason he's teaching is that perhaps a few people at least from his class will go on to make some even bigger waves. (Viewers of the movie and readers of my site can check out for more information and ways to get involved.)

Note: Director Jacob Kornbluth is an acquaintance from the late 1990s. I worked as an administrator for a San Francisco theater company, where his brother Josh Kornbluth was a part-time artist-in-residence. I got to know them a little, and interviewed them both when Jacob directed his first movie, a hilarious feature adaptation of Josh's one-man show Haiku Tunnel. I have not seen Jacob since then, and have not been in contact with him, though I hope to drop him a note to tell him how much I liked his new movie.

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