Last night, the Pell Center at Salve Regina University hosted a free public screening of “Inequality for All” – Jacob Kornbluth’s award-winning documentary about former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and his lifelong effort to combat rising income inequality in the United States.
The audience discussion after the film was lively, smart and engaged. Reich’s economic analysis, and the film’s presentation of it, clearly struck a chord with viewers. To deal with the problems presented in the film – flat wages and declining assets for average people, while those at the top accumulate historic levels of wealth; and related shifts in political power and influence – audience members were ready to propose everything from a “cap” on the ratio of CEO pay to average workers’ pay, to street protests, to changes in whom we tax how much.
The film brought important ideas to life, and many viewers were ready to act on them. And students in the room got a taste of the experience of their counterparts across the country at U.C. Berkeley, where Reich teaches the course the film’s material is drawn from.
What’s not to like?
If this stimulating event left anything at all to be desired, it might be that virtually all who participated in the discussion seemed to be strongly in agreement with the ideas in the film, and it would be hard to tell if there was anyone in attendance who agreed with the charges of “socialism” shown in various clips from Fox news and other sources. Does a film like this, by its nature, attract an audience of the “converted?” Is it possible to show a film with “inequality” in its title, featuring a public figure associated with the Clinton Administration, and draw people who come to the material fresh and impartial?
In some form or other, agree with them or not, the ideas in the film are important enough for our economy and our society that they should be put in front of all Americans for a fair public hearing. Screenings and discussions of the film are an important step in that direction – let’s hope there are many others.