Undeniably, one of the single most important events of the last ten years to be both fully cognizant and informed about is the Financial Panic of 2008, which persists and continues to deeply affect all of society today. This complete meltdown of the Western banking system has spread leagues beyond American shores to cripple the economies of most of the globalized world and leave them in residual stagnation. While those millions suffer abroad, pain is also felt in the once forever-prosperous and virtuous nation of the United States of America. The subsequent downtrodden at home have been left with usurped retirement benefits, foreclosed homes, and ever-shrinking jobs, standing witness to the physical and psychological transformation that will curse the United States for generations to come.
While the size and scope of the meltdown is far too complicated to even grasp, the effects permeate much worse. Entire industries have disappeared, jobs are few, money is tight, and prices are beginning their rise. The monetary pumps by the Federal Reserve and the gargantuan fiscal deficits by the federal, state, and local governments have only exacerbated the problem that is economic imbalance in all realms of society. While public-sector workers cling to the status-quo in Wisconsin and new crimes on Wall Street are brushed under the rug, the life of the ordinary American citizen has deteriorated to a new historic low, unseen since the cusp of the Great Depression of the 1930s. In that same spirit, partisan and protectionist fervor have sparked intense debate and reactionary policies which cast their flaming arrows at invisible giants they have only manifested in their minds. Progressives are convinced the ‘evil’ conservatives want to legalize rape and gay-lynching, forever ban abortion, assassinate Obama, give national parks to oil companies and put all people of color in jail—fueling their overly-dense trust in government institutions as a whole. Conservatives are “foxbrainwashed” to believe liberals want to flood the country with illegal immigrants, take all their guns away, confiscate everyone’s wealth, legislatively mandate homosexuality, and abort all babies from here to Tripoli—informing their own paranoid delusions which careen their arguments far from reason.
Whoever your shadowy ‘enemy’ may be, the fact is that economics, the economics of this crash in particular, are pertinent to everyone. This Financial Panic has done its part to affect every working or non-working person, with less than one degree of separation. That being said, understanding and comprehending the crisis which still ravages on today in a depressionary state is utterly necessary for avoiding its reccurence in the future. The documentary Inside Job, directed by Charles Ferguson, is an arm in that fight. This film beautifully documents the events leading to the crash of the Western economic system, complete with interviews with those who were witness to the telltale signs preceding the meltdown. The elites who have profited from the crash, being individuals in the financial industry, government, and academia, are specifically mentioned and called upon to answer for their illegal and morally reprehensible actions which directly led to the depressed economy we know today.
While I do have some bones to pick with the film, such as over-enthusiastic faith in the promise of “government regulations” and their omission of the failures of fractional-reserve banking, they do bring up amazing points which smoothly summarize events quite well. There is a large focus on the Federal Reserve, the Treasury department, the reckless Wall Street banks and investment firms, the economists in academia, and the governmental advisors who practically oversaw the crash themselves. The film masterfully criticizes the new Obama administration, staffed heavily with former financial industry employees and policy makers who benefited directly from the crash, and sheds light on the fraudulent ”financial reform” bills which recently were passed. It combs over graphs, portfolios, and profit sheets of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and JP Morgan Chase which demonstrate the massive fraud and excessive leveraging which perpetuated the crisis.
The interviews in this film are excellent, from Wall Street insiders to government spokesholes to prostitutes and therapists, they all masterfully shape the narrative which underpins the film and our lives today. There are direct confrontations with regulators, academics, and government officials who had immense financial conflicts of interest in their studies and reports. There is highlighted proof that they skewed their own work to overwhelmingly favor what can only be known as fraud and corruption, actions which should themselves be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Once the well-researched and poignant questions are tossed out, former power brokers squirm in their chairs, their palms perspire, and their voices begin to crack, a beautiful train wreck of complete desperation and guilt. These powerful encounters alone make the film worthwhile, finally allotting the one-two punch that everyday citizens have been ready to dish out on financial troublemakers since day one of the panic.
Overall, I would give this movie the five stars it ultimately deserves. The telling of this tale, ever-real and drastic, one of deceit, untruths, corruption and human misdeed, should alone be prized for its commitment to bring light to the darkness of our day, a revolutionary act in the most revolutionary of times.