Documentary a Day – Inequality for All

Documentary a Day – Inequality for All

Inequality for All Poster2013, 1 hour 29 minutes. Jason and Stacy both give it 4/5.

Written by Jason

I’ll start by saying that this was actually a very entertaining and often funny film, which I would have thought was highly unlikely given its content.  The main character is former Secretary of Labor and current Professor at the University of California, Robert Reich.  Mr. Reich reminds me a little of John Stewart and that’s what makes this movie interesting.   As the title suggests, this film examines the income equality in the U.S., which today has matched its previous peak reached in the early 1930’s.  According to the film, the top 1% account for 23% of total income in the U.S.  Income inequality has been cyclical  throughout the history of our country.  If history repeats, the top 1% share of total income should begin to decline going forward.

How did we get to this extreme?  The major forces increasing this disparity over the past 40 years are globalization and technology.  Beginning in the 1970s, firms starting moving U.S. manufacturing overseas to take advantage of lower labor costs.  That trend has continued uninterrupted ever since.  Advances in technology, particularly in factory automation, have also resulted in fewer middle class jobs.  And when there is excess labor, wages don’t normally rise very quickly or at all.  A few years ago I visited the largest steel factory in Cleveland.  They told me that in 1975 the factory employed 20,000 people but today they have only 1,000 and the factory makes three times as much steel.  Walking through the enormous plant we almost never ran into employees except in the control rooms.  On the other side, top executive pay has continued to rise.  In many professions today, being near the top results in enormous income – think corporate CEOs, professional athletes, or entrepreneurs.

How do we fix this problem as a society?  This is a challenging issue because many of the proposed solutions could have negative consequences.  The simplest solution would be to tax higher earnings at ever increasing rates and that’s what we did last time.  In 1945, the marginal  tax rate on income over $200,000 (the equivalent of $2,400,000 today) was 94%.  That’s almost unbelievable, but that actually happened.  It’s easy to say tax the rich more, but the problem is that assumes the government will use that money for more productive uses.   Should we tax the rich and redistribute the proceeds to the poor?  Would that make our country stronger?  These are difficult questions and this film will certainly  help you think about these topics in different ways.  This is a major issue for our country and I would encourage you to watch this movie and consider this issue in greater detail.  

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