Youth leader Kavya and I both felt that Robert Reich’s “Inequality for All” movie was a big eye opener. It really awoke us to just how bad decades of problematic economic policies have widened the gap between rich and poor in the US. The movie did not just tell us facts, but showed us numerous graphs that displayed the shocking findings about the income stratification in the United States. One in particular was the graph showing how income inequality was in the seventies vs. today. In the late 70s, the richest people in the US made, on average, 400,000 dollars, while the average worker earned an income in the mid-30,000 range. Today, however, the 1 percent makes 13,000 times that of the worker occupying the lowest position. That means that the middle class is being completely wiped out today.
The movie outlines several explanations for this current state of affairs. Each of them could be the topic of several blog posts (even books), but a couple stood out as particularly jaw-dropping and outrageous. For instance, the progressive decline in labor unions paralleled the decline in wages. Another is the drastic decline of the rich’s taxation during the Reagan administration. Previously, the tax rate hovered around 70 percent, but the policies referred to as “Reaganomics” decreased that rate to around 50. Currently, that tax rate sits closer to 35 percent with most corporations paying closer to 15 percent after tax breaks and credits. When Obama stated that he would like the rich to pay the same rate of taxes as everyday Americans, Fox News began accusing this president of being a socialist. This situation made it obvious how fox news is controlled by corporations simply because they interpreted a call to just payment as a direct attack on corporation.
This influence led by corporations undermines the rule of democracy by favoring the voice of the rich through a series of plutocratic Supreme Court decisions over the last forty years. The biggest one in recent memory was the overturning the Citizens United. Said ruling granted corporations unlimited power to fund political candidates for elected office positions. Robert Right lambasted this decision as a complete betrayal of democracy to the big corporations.
People (not corporations) were not happy about this decision. Many went to DC, protesting the Supreme Court decisions. It was really refreshing to see people awakened to the emerging culture of oligarchy that these decisions have created and witness how passionate they were about getting their rights back. The movie described the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements as liberal and conservative populist uprisings in response to this changing climate. One wanted a reduction of corporate power and increased access to social benefits; the other wanted to keep government as small as possible. Regardless of these seemingly contrasting goals, this social division led to corporations continuing to be the real rulers of the American empire instead of the Federal government.
This is a really important movie that exposes how much we do not live in a democracy. It can lead to an awakening that can, in turn, shape a movement for economic reform in this country. I think we have allowed this country to be stolen from us and we must try and get it back.