Continued Riches for the Rich and a Sobering Message for Everyone Else in Inequality for All


The rich get richer, the poor get the picture, as noted U.S. policy experts Midnight Oil once said. And in America at the outset of the 21st century, the picture for those at the ass end of the wealth distribution spectrum is getting very bleak indeed. As we learn in Inequality for All, earnings for the “1 percent” have doubled in the last 35 years, while wages for workers have diminished dramatically. Former Secretary of Labor (and current University of California, Berkeley, professor) Robert Reich, as informative and self-deprecating as always, examines this gulf. The doc is centered around a lecture to his public policy class and supplemented by interviews with some of these new über-rich as well as Americans in danger of falling through the cracks. Using income tax data going back 100 years, Reich draws parallels between the crashes of 1929 and 2008: identical concentrations of wealth at the top and the destabilization of the middle class. He also highlights the effects of globalization, technology, the decline of labor unions, and the rising costs of healthcare and education. Unfortunately, for every Nick Hanauer (billionaire CEO of Pacific Coast Feather Company and critic of so-called “speculative instruments” like real estate and derivatives) there are many others struggling with job loss, bankruptcy, and underwater mortgages. The testimonials from a few of these people, with the realization they speak for tens of thousands, reinforces Inequality for All’s sobering message while at the same time undercutting Reich’s optimism.