Yesterday, I took the opportunity to see the documentary Inequality for All with Robert Reich. (Information and trailer at inequalityforall.com.)
During the film, he is shown a number of times teaching a course on income inequality in the United States at University of California – Berkeley. Reich appears to be a great teacher. I was especially impressed with his ability to make the complexities of the topic understandable not only to his students in the filled-beyond-capacity lecture hall but also to a general movie-going audience who may be lacking in knowledge of economic theory. The documentary also includes the stories of individuals from across the income spectrum, making it easy to relate to your own situation and the conditions in your neighborhood, region, and around the country.
My husband and I graduated from college during the Reagan recession, which features in the income inequality graph as the start of the huge rise of inequality. Our daughters graduated from college in the aftermath of the 2007 meltdown, which was also a peak of income inequality, equalling that of 1928 before the 1929 market collapse. Reich’s graphs and explanations made sense not only as data and analysis but also in our lived experience of the economy and the concerns we have for our extended family’s future.
Like Robert Reich, I am shorter than average. The implications of being short appear throughout the film and are handled with humor and grace – the practicalities of driving a Mini and of carrying his own box to stand on at the lectern so he won’t disappear behind the microphone, his own gentle joking about his height, the visuals of Robert Reich and (the very tall) Alan Simpson hosting a television show together, what it is like to be picked on as a short child by taller classmates, and finding protectors. The most poignant moment in the film for me was Reich telling the story of one of these older friends who helped protect him, who was subsequently tortured and killed while engaging in civil rights activism in the South in the 1960s. Reich’s passion for social justice and for fighting against all forms of inequality are so evident in his decades of work and in his writings; I appreciated hearing him tell the story of the roots of that passion.
Because this is a documentary, it may be more difficult to find a screening, but I would urge people of every economic level to see this film and enter into the discussion of how the current situation intersects with our civic and moral values and our history and what our path forward as a nation and a society should be. Thank you, Robert Reich, for sharing your knowledge, passion, and vision with us!