In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic policy expert Robert Reich takes on the enormous question of what has been happening to our economy. In the wake of the financial crisis and the recent rise of the Occupy movement, the issue of income inequality has gained unprecedented public awareness. Over the last thirty years, the U.S. economy itself doubled. But these gains went to a very few: the top 1% of earners now take in more than 20% of all income—three times what they did in 1970.
In a comprehensive and digestible way, Reich lays out the stark facts of income inequality (for example, the 400 Americans richest currently earn more than half the country's population combined) and how we got here. He blames the decline of unionization, globalization, and technology for suppressing pay, and enriching the few, who then use their increasing political clout to protect their status. "When the middle class doesn't share the gains, you get into a downward vicious cycle," Reich explains as the film cuts to an Wheel of Fortune-type animation illustrating that cycle: Wages stagnate, consumption drops, companies downsize, tax revenues decrease, government cuts programs, workers become less educated, unemployment rises—and so on.