Rating: PG (thematic elements, some violence, language, smoking images)
Length: 89 min
Release Date: September 27, 2013
Directed by: Jacob Kornbluth
“Inequality for All” is a recent 2013 documentary film that focuses on the campaign of Robert Reich, a former United States Secretary of Labor. Robert Reich served under both the Clinton and Carter administrations, focusing on income inequality for all Americans. In “Inequality for All,” Reich compares and contrasts the current state of the American economy with that of other nations that have similar cultures and financial systems. Director Jacob Kornbluth accompanies him on a cross-country road trip during which the pair speaks to both regular working Americans and industry leaders.
“Inequality for All” is unique in that the major subject of the film is such a well-known figure in his field, yet he is the one interviewing people for the documentary. Reich’s passion for income equality is on display throughout the film, and viewers can tell that he truly believes in what he is speaking about. The film begins with an informational overview of America’s economic patterns, both past and present. Reich explains that the country won’t be able to remain solvent at the current rate of expansion between the upper and lower classes. While most countries demonstrate economic success and growth by fostering a strong middle class, the film exposes the deterioration of the American middle class and attempts to shed light on the problems it will create.
As Reich explains throughout the film, America can only be as successful as the majority of its workers. In an economy in which the vast majority of the nation’s wealth is controlled by a small upper percentage of the workforce, long-term sustainability is impossible. Both Kornbluth and Reich offer various solutions for this growing dilemma throughout the film, and Reich’s general opinion is that more must be done to foster growth in the middle class. Throughout the film, the documentary team visits numerous middle-class Americans in various walks of life. The film taps into what it truly means to be a white-collar American working for a living, young or old. Many of the subjects of the interviews are impressively aware of the current economics in the country, and they present their own unique perspectives and solutions.
“Inequality for All” is a strong documentary with an even stronger message. Although the filming style is considerably laid back, the overall tone of the film is ominous. Kornbluth does a masterful job of getting the severity of the economic situation across to viewers, and Reich is portrayed in a realistic but admirable light. While Reich’s career alone could be the subject of its own documentary, he manages to be a fascinating subject while keeping the focus on other Americans. His concern for the economic welfare of his fellow citizens is evident, even to those in the film who clearly disagree with his political views.
While “Inequality for All” is certainly a political film, viewers will appreciate it for its sincerity and fact-based reasoning, regardless of their political orientation. In the end, Reich’s grand solution is not a simple partisan agenda, but rather a bipartisan cooperation that would facilitate communication across party lines and place the focus back on the needs of everyday Americans. Controversial topics such as job creation, immigration reform, taxes, and welfare are addressed in a tasteful and balanced way. While Reich and Kornbluth are honest and open about their political views, they manage to create a film that transcends simple politics and calls for a much broader solution to the problems that face all Americans.
As far as political documentaries go, “Inequality for All” is one of the richest, both factually and emotionally. It is difficult not to be affected by the stories of the real American families featured throughout the documentary. Kornbluth and Reich do a wonderful job of portraying the struggles that these families go through simply to make ends meet. At one point in the film, a man laments that his 70-hour workweek barely results in enough money to pay his bills and afford a decent quality of life. Such conditions raise the question of whether the current economic system is truly working efficiently for all Americans, or whether change is needed. About the later question, the answer, at least as far as Kornbluth and Reich are concerned, is a resounding yes. “Inequality for All” is a brilliant documentary that is sure to facilitate many interesting discussions across the political spectrum. That seems to be exactly what Kornbluth and Reich have in mind. While the film resists imposing any perfect solutions for the complex problems affecting the country, it certainly succeeds at starting the conversation.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars