Inside Job, directed by Charles Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon, tells the story of how Wall Street Bankers nearly took down the global financial system, cost the economy 20 trillion dollars, and got away with it. At times during the movie there was laughter – but if laughter can be bitter, this was. When we walked out of the theater, we felt numb.
Why were these crooks allowed to walk off with millions of dollars in compensation, leaving behind them a devastated wasteland of underwater houses, ruined businesses, diminished 401 (k)’s, a ravaged middle class, and a mountain of debt that others must pay? Why no perp walks? Did we suddenly run out of handcuffs? Prison cells? Chain gangs? Can’t we at least seize their yachts, private jets, vacation homes? It seems we cannot.
One of the more disturbing parts of the documentary looks at how academia has been corrupted by money in the form of consulting fees, seats on boards of directors, and positions of power within the government. No matter which party wins the White House, these bought-and-paid-for academics from Harvard, Columbia, and Yale end up in positions of power. They use these positions to craft policies that benefit Wall Street.
Government jobs in the Treasury, the SEC, and the Federal Reserve routinely go to academics, bankers, and Wall Streeters. Think Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, all of whom declined to be interviewed for the documentary.
For the last thirty years, through Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton, and now Obama, government policy has been to deregulate. This policy clearly benefits Wall Street to the detriment of the American people. The rich keep getting richer, the middle class is shrinking, and the poor are getting poorer. In the documentary you see pictures of homes in the Hamptons, yachts, and private jets juxtaposed with footage of tent cities. You see skyscrapers and bank buildings, and you see boarded up homes and businesses.
Americans tolerate this trend to deregulate, to offer tax breaks to the rich, to favor Wall Street over Main Street because they want to believe it is possible for them to one day to have a quarter of the things these people have. At the very least, they want these things for their children. It worked for Bill Gates. Why not me? Why not my son or daughter?
Because it isn’t possible. They – the Wall Streeters, bankers, academic economists, will see to it. You are locked out of their fancy schools, the exclusive clubs, the halls of power. The greed of this class of people is beyond anything the ordinary American can imagine.
The movie ends with the disturbing conclusion that the US government belongs to Wall Street. With billions of dollars feeding into our political system, five lobbyists for every congressman, the ordinary American stands not a chance.
No one spoke as we walked out of the theater. Only when we were out in the hallway heading to the exit did we finally lift our heads and begin to talk to one another.