Inequality for All

Synopsis: A documentary that follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he looks to raise awareness of the country's widening economic gap.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Jacob Kornbluth
Production: Radius-TWC
  2 wins & 5 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
89 min


Okay, we're going

in my MINI Cooper.

Now, the thing you ought to know

about this MINI Cooper

is, it is small.

I like having a MINI Cooper.

I sort of identify with it.

You know?

It's pretty little.

I feel as if it's proportion...

that we are in proportion,

you know?

Me and my car,

we are sort of...


facing the rest of the world.

Economic fairness is,

"the defining issue of our time,

and what the millions..."

This kind of gaping inequality

gives lie to the promise

that's at the very heart

of America.

There is income inequality

in America.

There always has been,

and hopefully

there always will be.

If inequality is at a very

much higher level, who cares?

Income inequality

has been ticking up.

Income inequality is bull.

I think it's about envy.

I think it's about

class warfare.

It's class warfare,

and it's the kind of language

that you would expect

from a leader

of a third world country,

not the president

of the United States.

It's true,

because United States of America

is not a third world country

by any measure,

except perhaps

income inequality,

where we rank...

Worse than the Ivory Coast,

worse than Cameroon...


Ah, in your face,

Uruguay, Jamaica, and Uganda!


Okay, are we all here?

My name is Robert Reich.

I was secretary of labor

under Bill Clinton.

Before that, I was at Harvard.

Before that, I was in

the Carter administration.

Do you remember...

does anybody...

You don't remember

the Carter administration.

Before that,

I was a special aide

to Abraham Lincoln.

Those were tough times.

We are going to deal

with three questions.

The first question is,

what is happening

in terms of the distribution

of income and wealth?

Number two, why?

Number three, is it a problem?

Maybe it's not a problem.

Many of you call yourselves


Many of you call yourselves


Those labels will become

increasingly irrelevant

as you get deeper and deeper

into this subject.

I want you to test

your assumptions.

If possible, I want to shake

your assumptions a little bit

about why the system

works as it does.

Some inequality is inevitable.

If people are gonna have

the proper incentives

to be productive, to work hard,

to be inventive...

that's the essence

of capitalism,

and capitalism does generate

a lot of good things.

Look, the question

is not inequality per se.

The question is, when does

inequality become a problem?

How much inequality

can we tolerate

and still have an economy

that's working for everyone

and still have a democracy

that's functioning?

Of all developed nations today,

the United States has

the most unequal distribution

of income and wealth by far.

And we're surging

toward even greater inequality.

One way of looking at

and measuring inequality

is to look at the earnings

of people at the top

versus the earnings

of the typical worker

in the middle.

The typical male worker in 1978

was making around $48,000,

adjusted for inflation,

while the average person

in the top 1%

earned $390,000.

Now fast-forward.

By 2010,

the typical male worker

earned even less

than he did then,

but the person at the top

got more than twice as much

as before.

Today the richest 400 Americans

have more wealth

than the bottom

150 million of us put together.

Now, think about it.

400 people have more wealth

than half the population

of the United States.

Anger rising

over an economic system

that has rewarded some

but leaves many

feeling left behind.

After the economy crashed

in 2008,

inequality suddenly

became front-page news.

Who else wants to join the 1%?

You look like a one percenter.

We're a fabulous percent.

People from both parties were

looking for someone to blame.

But most people have no idea

how it got this bad

or why.

Not until the last few years

have we really understood

all that much about inequality.

I mean,

we knew the top 10% or 20%

were moving in one direction

and the bottom 10% or 20%

was moving in another.

But we didn't know what was

happening at the very top,

to the top 1%.

- Hello.

- How are you doing?

Good to see you.

And then a few years ago,

two researchers,

Emmanuel Saez

and Thomas Piketty,

found a different

source of data.

They looked at IRS tax data,

not just

over the last few years

but all the way back to 1913,

when the income tax

was instituted.

It showed

that there were two peak years.

1928 and 2007

become the peak years

for income concentration,

both of them in which the top 1%

is taking home

more than 23% of total income.

We knew that inequality

had started to increase

in the late '70s and the 1980s,

but we didn't know

how dramatically

income concentration

had increased,

especially within the top 1%.

When you had this study

come out in 2003,

it sat there

for a number of years,

and then suddenly

it became important.

But you see them

starting to recover...

This graph becomes very central

for explaining what has happened

to the U.S. economy

and, indeed, what's happening

and has happened to our society.

It looks like

a suspension bridge.

What happened

the year after 1928?

The Great Crash.

And what happened

just after 2007?

Another crash.

The parallels are breathtaking

if you look at them carefully.

Leading up

to those two peak years,

as income got more and more

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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