As Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich was the lone voice raging against the madness of the economic machine. He knew the system was rigged and had been for some time; that was why Clinton hired him in the first place. They had been Rhodes Scholars together, familiar with one another, but obviously two bright students preparing to blaze off on their separate paths. Reich studied the system and issued alarms, the kinds of warnings that no one caught up in the current system could recognize as indications that something was wrong because everything appeared fine.
In Jacob Kornbluth’s Inequality for All, Reich continues to make his plain and simple case about a system that so many economists, investment professionals and members of the government would rather remain a great and perpetual mystery. That’s not to say that there are easy answers or quick fixes for the mess we find ourselves in, especially on the global front, but what he’s trying to do, lifting the curtain to expose the backroom tricks, is allow for some common sense and self-interest to influence the decisions we make as individuals struggling to achieve a modern version of the American Dream. The documentary comes across like a college lecture because many of the segments were actually taped during Reich’s appearances as a guest lecturer, but he’s no blowhard know-it-all. The well-heeled economist is an engaging man of the people, self-deprecating and empathetic, as willing to share personal anecdotes, painful memories and sentimental flashes to convince us that he is one of us. He appreciates that these factors and decisions, playing out on the grandest of scales, touch his daily world as much as ours. Opens Oct. 18 at Esquire Theatre. (PG) Grade: A-