Film review by: Witney Seibold
Like his brilliant “No End in Sight,” Charles Ferguson‘s “Inside Job” (narrated by Matt Damon) takes a massively complicated and hotly contested piece of recent history – in this case the 2008 financial collapse – and makes it seem, for brief moments, kind of understandable. Of course, part of his point is that modern economics has become so forcefully and deliberately complex and oblique, that no one is supposed to be able to follow it, making sure that the CEOs and investment bilkers in charge of the whole mess can continue to give themselves huge millions-of-dollars bonuses. But the function of “Inside Job” is not merely to inform you of the facts of the Financial Crisis, and make sure you understand how the murky U.S. economy works, but to point out the crimes and horrors and rampant corruption and avarice that led to the collapse in the first place, and make damn sure that you’ll be outraged at the picture drawn.
I was outraged. It’s outrageous. Ferguson not only points out how many of the investment banks and avaricious rock ‘n’ roll brokers saw the collapse coming, and did illegal things to protect themselves, but also how all of the people responsible for causing the collapse are still working in the same positions and have still been getting exorbitant bonuses from the government bailout, and no laws have been passed, nor has legal action been taken, to make sure that those guilty have been punished, and that the system will be redesigned to make sure it won’t happen again.
Another important point that Ferguson brings up is that there is a curious revolving door between politics and high finance. It seems that, if you become rich enough as a CEO, you will be invited to be a consultant for the government on financial matters. Your exposure to politicians naturally puts you in a position where you can soon become a politician. Most politicians are personally wealthy. All CEOs are. This implies that its the wealthy and not the elected that make decisions for us. “Inside Job’s” most damning statement is in the implication tat we are not living in a democracy, but a carefully protected plutocratic oligarchy.
Business school professors also share some blame. They have made theoretical suggestions to classes, and are teaching business students a warped philosophy. What’s more, their views of the economy get them hired by consulting firms and ratings bureaus, and they get paid huge salaries to give positive AAA ratings to bad investments. When confronted, many of the people in “Inside Job” claim that there is no conflict of interest in doing such a thing, and that listening to entire ratings firms on investment suggestions is merely a recommendation. If you lose money on an investment because of a bad recommendation, no one is really responsible but you.
“Inside Job” is a film that will make you want to pull out your wallet, extract the money, and punch it in the face. There is something toxically awry with American capitalism, and “Inside Job” is going to make sure it point out what that is: I suppose its central thesis is that bankers and moneymen have made the U.S. economic structure so very opaque, that only they are allowed to tinker with it. They typically tinker with it to benefit themselves and their friends in power, not realizing – or, more chillingly, simply not caring – that their actions effect the markets of most everyone in the world (why else would Iceland’s economy collapse as a result of the U.S. housing market? “Inside Job” makes the connection). Is there a solution? Well, we would have to start by punishing those who do the tinkering. But then, no on is ever punished. The only people who feel the brunt of this are the millions of people all opver the world who have lost their jobs.
See “Inside Job.” Try to make sense of this mess, and realize that there’s little sense in all of it. Just be sure to have a cheerier film waiting as a backup, because it will make you furious.