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Rising Inequality is Theme of New Documentary (By Arnie Alpert)

Inequality For All“Inequality for All,” the new documentary that centers on Robert Reich’s exploration of the deepening chasm between the ultra-rich and everyone else, opened this weekend.  It took in $140,000 at the 28 theaters where it’s playing now.  Please try to resist comparing these box office figures to the $35 million weekend gross for “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” which played in 4001 theaters.  Try instead to find out whether “Inequality for All” is playing near you.

Reich, best known perhaps as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and since then as a prolific pundit/writer, these days teaches at Berkeley, where his classes apparently fill large auditoriums.  He is smart, witty, and an effective educator.  With clips from his lectures and interviews, combined with great graphics, viewers will get a good intro to how the economy got so screwed up since the 1970s.

The film’s emotional punch comes more from a series of interviews with people we generally think of as “middle class” but who in recent years have been having a harder and harder time getting by.  There’s also one billionaire, pillow entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who explains that part of our economic problems are caused by the fact that people as rich as he is can’t spend their money fast enough to affect an economy in which most consumers can’t afford to consume the goods and services they need.

Reich and the film-makers want us to know how bad it’s really gotten.

A single top income could buy housing for every homeless person in the U.S.

On a winter day in 2012 over 633,000 people were homeless in the United States. Based on an annual single room occupancy (SRO) cost of $558 per month, any ONE of the ten richest Americans would have enough with his 2012 income to pay for a room for every homeless person in the U.S. for the entire year . These ten rich men together made more than our entire housing budget.

For anyone still believing “they earned it,” it should be noted that most of the Forbes 400 earnings came from minimally-taxed, non-job-creating capital gains.

“Out of 141 countries,” states another fact on the film’s web-site, “the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon,”

According to a study cited today in “Too Much,” a weekly newsletter from the Institute for Policy Studies, it would take $175.3 billion to lift 46.5 million Americans to the poverty line.   That’s just 58% of the amount by which the nation’s 400 richest individuals saw their fortunes increase over the past year.  I could go on.

These facts are not facts of nature.  They result, Reich explains, from globalization and technological change but also from changes in tax policy, an attack on unions, divestment in higher education, and a corresponding increase in control of the nation’s politics by those who control most of the money.  “With money comes the capacity to control politics,” he says.

From a “virtuous cycle” of rising middle class incomes in the post-WW2 economic expansion, we entered a vicious cycle of contraction when wages for most workers peaked in the 1970s.  With upward mobility new trending downward, the squeeze on the middle class is a threat to democracy.

Reich winds up by saying “history is on the side of positive social change.”  Perhaps, but “history” in that sense is no more a fact of nature than the drastic cuts in the marginal tax rates of high-income individuals.  History is up to us.

This film doesn’t explain everything.  For example, it leaves out the story of the people – mostly people of color – who were excluded from the “virtuous cycle” of the 1950s and ‘60s.  He doesn’t devote sufficient attention to the de-regulation of finance responsible for so much of the rising wealth of the 1%.  I think he still is too wedded to the notion that more education in technological fields will tilt the labor market back in the right direction.  But the film is entertaining as well as informative, and can spark some of the conversations we need to be having.  Go see it if you can.

Originally posted on InZane Times

‘Made In America’ Is The Focus Of The New Movie “AMERICAN MADE MOVIE”

American_Made_Movie_RGB_no-creditsThere is no doubt that American manufacturing has suffered a significant decline in the last few decades.  This drop in our manufacturing base was a big factor leading to the current economic downturn.

What caused this reduction in American manufacturing?  Most of it can be attributed to the offshoring of jobs.  Manufacturers are taking advantage of free trade agreements and low-wage workers in foreign countries.  Vulture capitalists on Wall Street helped push manufacturers to move overseas to increase their profits.  The effect of reducing our manufacturing base is becoming increasingly obvious.

“So when you think about it, this loss in manufacturing jobs is kind of the backbone that broke that has caused this incredible unemployment in this country.”

— Gilbert Kaplan a trade lawyer with King & Spalding.

After World War II, the United States made up almost 50% of the global economy.  This number continued to grow all the way through the 1970s, with American manufacturing industries employing over 19 million people.  After 1979, offshoring pushed 8 million of those workers out of a job.   Since 2001, more than 50,000 American factories have closed their doors – leaving workers stranded.

“When you as an economy get rid of your manufacturing base, the results are very cataclysmic. You have a domino effect of decline that starts to affect everybody in every industry.”

— Chris Michalakis – Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, President

This is the basis of a new movie that will be hitting a theater near you very soon.

“The American Made Movie” focuses on the decline of our manufacturing base.  It takes an in-depth look at how we lost so many good jobs, and how companies are reviving Made in America.

“By revealing the successes of companies that have prospered without adopting the practices of their competitors, American Made Movie shows the positive impact manufacturing jobs have on national and local economies, aiding them in the face of great challenges. The livelihood of our country depends on understanding how we can maintain the American Dream while competing in a global economy.”

The film’s director and producer, Nathaniel Thomas McGill, knows this story first-hand.  Growing up, he watched as factory after factory closed their doors, costing his family members their jobs as mechanics and assembly line workers.  Co-director Vincent Vittorio has a family background in Detroit’s auto industry.

The movie focuses on what manufacturers are doing now to help expand the “Made in America” movement.  The movie highlights Boston-based New Balance.

“What the country is realizing now is that making things is important. The reason making things is important is because it employs a lot of people, it gives you expertise that other markets want, and it teaches you to innovate.”
— New Balance CEO Robert DeMartini

Some companies have realized that making products in America is beneficial in two ways:

  • It helps to rebuild our economy by employing local workers and putting much-needed funds into our local economy.
  • ”Made in the USA” is also a very profitable marketing niche.  Consumers want to support companies that are employing American workers; and the “Made in the US” logo lets people know that their money is going to fellow Americans.

“This idea that we have to make things in this country is back,” said Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

We asked Co-director Vincent Vittorio where we could see the new movie.  He said the movie premiered in the Atlanta metro area and Chicago Labor Day weekend.  It will premiere in New York City and Los Angeles on Friday, September 6th.  Following that, it will be rolled out to several different cities coast to coast.

Title_Block_background(Below is the official trailer to ‘American Made Movie’)

American Made Movie (Trailer) from Life Is My Movie on Vimeo.

Coming Soon An Epic Mini-Series “Strength In Union”

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Edmund Burke

I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken.  The labor movement’s history is long and glorious.  There were many points along the way that, looking back, we can say “that was the moment when….”  There were good days and bad days.  Stories of life and death.  All of these stories are important.

The NH Labor News along with other pro-labor websites are working to ensure that our proud history is not forgotten.  We regularly post ‘Today in Labor History‘, where we talk about some important moment on today’s date.

What if we could capture all of these moments in an epic mini-series? That is exactly what Arete Living Arts Foundation is doing.  They are creating a five-part mini-series of the best and worst moments in our history.

“Strength In Union” will most likely air on PBS.  The films will also be shown at film festivals throughout the country.   Here’s how the Foundation describes the project:

The Strength In Union film will….

  • Present union workers in a heroic light as men and women who have sacrificed for the public good
  • Combat anti-union propaganda that is presented in right wing media such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck
  • Use engaging entertainment to educate the public on the many rights and benefits unions have given to all workers, such as weekends, 8-hour work days, sick days, health and retirement benefits, safety regulations, etc.
  • Create an emotional connection and personal identification with the labor movement for people all across America

According to Film Director Caeser Pink, “This is a great story that must be told, and it is another way of understanding the history of the American people. Among the film’s goals are to educate the public so that they understand the struggles and sacrifices that were made by heroic union men and women so that working people are able to enjoy the lifestyle that we now take for granted.”

Principal filming is progressing rapidly. Over 50 top labor leaders, historians, and activists have been interviewed for the project, including

  • Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steel Workers,
  • Cliff Guffey, President of the American Postal Workers Union,
  • Captain Lee Moak, President of the Airline Pilots Association,
  • Lawrence J. Hanley, President of the American Transportation Workers, and
  • William Dougan, President of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Narrators include famed actor Reg. E Cathey (The Wire, Person Of Interest, House Of Cards), Emmy and Golden Globe winner Barbara Hershey, and legendary activist and folk singer Pete Seeger

Here is a much more in-depth look at the movie from Arete Living Arts.

Are you as excited as I am to see this movie? Here’s a sneak peak for you:

Be sure to visit Strenth In Union website for more information and release information.


NH AFL-CIO Presents Movie Night : ELECTORIAL DYSFUNCTION with Mo Rocca


Thursday, February 7

New Hampshire  AFL-CIO 
Movie Night!

Electoral Dysfunction
is the first documentary project to take an irreverent — but nonpartisan — look at voting in America. In the same way that An Inconvenient Truth revealed the need for immediate action on global warming—the film will help spark a national dialogue on the steps ordinary citizens can take to ensure that every vote counts.

Mo’s quest—set against the backdrop of the historic 2008 presidential election—leads him to Indiana, home to some of the toughest voting laws in the country. As he progresses on his journey, Mo investigates the heated battle over Voter ID and voter fraud; searches for the Electoral College; critiques ballot design with Todd Oldham; and explores the case of a former felon who was sentenced to ten years in prison—for the crime of voting.

Movie Night is FREE and open to NH AFL-CIO members and guests.
Call (603) 623-7302 for more information.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 – 6:00pm
161 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett

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