Film educates, professor informs
| Audrey Dighans copy editor |
From Alaska to Florida to Hawaii to Pitt State, more than 200 universities joined San Francisco State University via live webcast Thursday, Feb. 20, to watch the documentary “Inequality for All.”
A short lecture and question-and-answer session followed afterward with Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley and former secretary of labor in the Clinton administration.
“I thought the film did a great job of breaking down the inequalities and explaining what exactly those inequalities are,” said Jaci Gilchrist, junior in political science and vice president of Campus Democrats. “It was a great film.”
About 20 students and staff members attended the event, which was sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Student Activities Council and Campus Democrats.
“Inequality for All” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. The film examines the widening gap of income inequality in the United States in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. According to the film, the 400 wealthiest Americans own more of the country’s wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. “Inequality for All” also stresses that though the inequality affects all U.S. citizens, its strains on a now-frustrated middle class cause many of the current dilemmas society faces.
“It was exciting to know we were watching the film and the lecture with 200-plus universities all at the same time,” said David Adams, assistant director of campus activities.
Following the film, Reich welcomed a live audience in the auditorium of San Francisco State as well as online viewers. He began his lecture by summarizing the documentary, in which he himself participates.
“I want this to be an uplifting half hour,” Reich said. “I don’t want people leaving thinking these problems are too large to solve. Change is coming, but slowly.”
Reich says that when it comes to changing government policies, such as ones directly affecting the middle class in terms of finance inequality compared to the 1 percent, it is difficult to do anything with big money involved.
“ (No. 1) goal should be to get big money out of our government,” he said.
Questions submitted online to the forum were also answered. One asked: What can be done to reduce political inequality?
Reich responded problems will continue because people get frustrated when others say, “Oh it’s because of immigrants or it’s because of illegal aliens or whatever group.” Reich says it is easy to find a scapegoat and these problems will continue until people understand the real problem.
“Robert Reich is the most informed man to speak about these issues,” Gilchrist said. “He’s not biased, there is no slant in the documentary. He simply presents what the situation is.”
Much attention was given to the subject of minimum wage during the information session.
“There is no way to sustain our economy without a strong, vibrant middle class,” Reich said in the film.
Reich says that if we were to take inflation or productivity and adjust it as it has been done in the past, the minimum wage would be upward of $10.
“In 1966, minimum was $4.65 and I argued for it to increase to $5.25,” Reich said. “Someone said to me, ‘Well, why not $5.30?’ and I said: ‘Alright!’”
Students interested in seeing Thursday’s webcast for themselves will be able to view it on YouTube later this week. Information about the film is also available at www.inequalityforall.com.