Saturday, June 11, 2011


“For decades, the American financial system was stable and safe. But then something changed. The financial industry turned its back on society, corrupted our political system, and plunged the world economy into crisis. At enormous cost, we’ve avoided disaster and are recovering.

"But the men and institutions that caused the crisis are still in power, and that needs to change. They will tell us that we need them, and that what they do is too complicated for us to understand. They will tell us it won’t happen again. They will spend billions fighting reform. It won’t be easy, but some things are worth fighting for.”
Those are narrator Matt Damon's closing words in Sony Classics' Academy Award winning Inside Job, a 2010 film about the worldwide financial meltdown that began in 2008.

Economics may be the dismal science, but this is not a gloomy movie. Infuriating, yes. Scary, for sure. But the fast-paced narration, ironically funny sound track, montage of damning interviews, and frequently interspersed factoids will keep your adrenaline flowing for all 108 minutes of it.

Inside Job is politically charged but not partisan. In the slice of history it covers, there are no heroic presidents or pure parties. The administrations of Reagan, Bush the father, Clinton, Bush the son, and Obama all contributed to the train wreck - by a combination of philosophy, inaction, lack of oversight, unwise appointments, and bad policy decisions.

Widespread corruption has infected Democrats and Republicans, hedge fund managers and academics, CEOs and regulators, lawmakers and lobbyists. The result - massive job loss worldwide; an enormous widening of the gap between rich and poor, especially in the United States; a housing slump that seems to have no end; decimated pension funds - and eye-popping bonuses and government jobs for the financial geniuses whose insatiable greed brought us the catastrophe in the first place.

Here's a sobering thought for those of us who tend to think that Republican policies lead to financial doom: perhaps they do, but some of the major villains in this film are currently in high positions in the Obama administration. We now have a government not of men, not of laws, not even of political parties, but of Wall Street.

1 comment:

Greg metzger said...

I have been meaning to watch this but honestly have not had the stomach for it. This review is the prod I need. A couple comments as well:

1. I agree that Obama administration has too much continuity with those in both parties that caused the train wreck, thereby limiting the effectiveness of recovery, but I don't see how his administration caused the train wreck when it had already happened by time of his inauguration--in fact, the decisive moments in his campaign were when people saw the sharp contrast between he and McCain in responding to the financial meltdown in August/September 2008. In his otherwise pedestrian book The Promise, jonathan Alter has an extraordinary first chapter retelling those precarious times. It is worth reading as a reminder of the crucial differences between Obama and Bush/McCain. As disappointing as Obama's team has been on making fundamental changes, it is worth remembering that that Phil Gramm, arguably the Senator most responsible for the disastrous financial market meltdown, would have been in McCain's cabinet.
1980-2008 is with justification seen as the Age of Reagan because his economic vision carried national policy across parties and presidencies. But be sure to watch Enron:Smartest Man in the Room and the documentary version of Casino Jack to see the difference Democratic losses made in laying the groundwork for the collapse.