Sunday, January 4, 2015

Inside Job


Narrated by Matt Damon

Rated PG-13 for Some Drug and Sex-Related Material

Numbers are not my strong suit.  When it comes to stock markets, financial wizardry and complex business deals, it goes in one ear and out the other.  Before watching "Inside Job," the extent of my knowledge of the financial crisis was this: greedy bankers and big business deliberately screwed over the common people, caused a financial crisis, and still pocketed billions.

So it was helpful to have a documentary that took my through what happened step by step.  The film is neatly divided into how it was allowed to occur (starting with the de-regulation overseen by the Regan administration), how they did it, what happened when it went belly up, and the aftermath.  It is still perhaps a little too clean or too complex because I think I'll have to watch it a few more times to fully grasp the subtleties of what happened (one of the arguments made by these CEO's was that these schemes are too complex for most people to understand...yeah, right).

What's really scary about the whole thing is that it wasn't just one or two people that were behind it.  It was a whole culture that was rotten from top to bottom, and had the money and the political know-how to ensure that it was essentially untouchable.  That, and the fact that making these risky bets and wins lit up the brain in ways similar to cocaine, created a culture that was broken and diseased, but so profitable and so entrenched that no one would, or even could, do anything about it.

The choice of Matt Damon as the narrator helps the film immeasurably.  Not only is he well-known and popular, which helps for advertising, he's a good actor, and relatively low-key.  He's also not known as a particularly political person, which eliminates charges of bias.  Not that one can make that assumption, since this film is definitely apolitical.  Regan, Clinton, both Bushes, and Obama are both shown as being complicit.

Although the film concludes on an element of hope, I don't see it.  Big business is too entrenched in politic for the people to have much of an impact in their government.  They'll spend billions to keep things in their favor, and the majority of us would rather watch Kim Kardashian or buy a new iPhone rather than research who they want to vote for.  Add the social commentators who make millions by firing up their audiences who in turn tune in like a drug addict getting their fix, and you have a very bad situation.  Making it even worse is a pervasive sense of helplessness in the political infrastructure.  Big business and wealthy donors don't have any limits on how much they can spend on campaign donations, giving the belief that politicians can be bought.

Maybe it will change.  Maybe if people pay attention they will see things for what they are and not be fooled or easily misled.

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