Doctalk: Inequality for all

There’s a popular saying that goes “The richer get richer and the poorer get poorer,” but it had never fully registered just how rich the rich is and how poor the poor is getting until I saw Robert Reich’s documentary Inequality for All, which focuses on the ever-widening wage gap between the social classes.

The 2013 documentary follows Reich, former U.S Labor Secretary for Bill Clinton, on his lifelong journey to raise awareness about the economic gap in America. Reich focuses on the significance of the middle class and the truth behind the wealth distribution in this country.  The graphs, charts and animation used in this documentary not only drive the message home, but it makes it more interesting and easier to understand economics– something that could be a bit confusing. Through animation, Reich displayed how a measly 1% of the society manages to own 40% of the wealth. To make it clear exactly what that means, here’s a comparison: in 1978, the average male laborer made an average of $48,000/year (inflation included) meanwhile an average 1-percenter made $390,000. Fastforward to 2010, the average male laborer’s median wage fell to $33,000, but the 1-percenter’s wage skyrocketed to $1,100,000! And if that wasn’t bad enough, the cost of living continues to soar, as well.

These numbers make it very obvious that this is a problem for anyone who isn’t in the one percentile, which is an overwhelming amount of us, but this film does a great job at explaining how this is detrimental to the economy as a whole. 70% of the economy is dependent upon on the middle class consuming, but if the they’re is struggling to make ends meet for the necessities such as rent, bills and groceries, how much consuming can they really do? And that’s the problem. The economy will not grow if the middle class is broke.

To give it a more personal feel, the film featured Erika and Robert Vaclav, an average middle class family that was forced to live with a friend after they lost their home. Erika works at Costco and Robert decided to go back to school when he lost his job. Jacob Kornbluth, the director of the film, was able to portray just how hard it is for this family to survive. Overwhelmed with emotion, Erika confessed that she only has $25 in her checking account with nothing at home to prepare for dinner.

The most interesting perspective, however, came from Nick Hanauer, an American billionaire. Although the struggles of the middle class are extremely necessary to truly understand that this is affecting real people, it’s very seldom that we hear from the one percent and how it’s affecting them, especially from one that seems so concerned about how the economy is working, even though it’s benefitting him the most. Hanauer explains that the millionaires and billionaires aren’t actually job creators like everyone says they are. The middle class is.

This documentary is definitely a must see for everyone because it affects all of us. Many may be familiar with struggling financially, but not enough people know why they’re struggling. The documentary may not solve everyone’s financial woes, but it can most certainly serve as a stepping stone to get the ball of change rolling.

Shamecha Marie Lywood