Pressures on the System Threaten the Wealthy's Income Stream

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ROBERT REICH WEARS many hats. He is a professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. He brought his economic expertise to Republican Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter's administrations. As Secretary of Labor during Bill Clinton's first stint in the White House, Reich oversaw an increase in the minimum wage and was an outspoken advocate of everyday Americans.

Reich is the focal point of the 2013 documentary 'Inequality For All.' His central assertion in the film is that while inequality drives the free market, severe wealth inequality makes the market stagnant. When the gap between the haves and have-nots is such that the bottom 47% of Americans have no wealth (and likely have significant debt), and 400 billionaires at the top have capital comparable to 80 million families, everyone loses out.

While I felt aligned with Reich's agenda from the beginning of the film, I did wonder how he would substantiate the claim that massive wealth inequality is bad for the very rich. I hoped that his rationale would go beyond some sort of moral-ethical dilemma of the one-percenters. As the film progressed, I got the quantitative documentation I was looking for.

During 'Inequality,' we follow a number of people, some billionaires, some struggling to keep enough food on the table for a family of four. The most telling interview came from the successful, thoughtful billionaire named Nick Hanauer. When asked about his yearly salary, he responds "anywhere from 10 million to 30 million." He acknowledges this is an absurd amount of money for one person to collect.

Hanauer describes how the gulf between ordinary Americans and a small circle of billionaires is actually bad for his business, and for the free market in general. As it turns out, billionaires only need a few pairs of blue jeans a year; they only purchase one or two pillows when necessary.

According to Hanauer, if his money was more evenly allocated throughout working class Americans, more consumers would be able to afford a new pair of jeans, and he would move more pillows. Sales would increase. Despite incredible capital and his position on the top of the economic ladder, Hanauer's bank account is hurt by inequality. The wealth disparity limits the free market system and each agent, rich or poor.

The documentary is not short on ways to address the widening wealth gap in the United States. Each facet of Reich's plan is rooted in years of economic research, not in dogma or partisan ideology. Some suggestions are a no-brainer. Decades ago, Japan showed the world that investing in education can be profitable for everyone. As Japan developed, officials prioritized training the workforce and made trade schooling widely available. Now, Japan is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Other calls for action are a thorough reform of Wall Street, more equitable tax policies, and greater oversight in the power of amassed wealth in the political system. Whether campaign contributions come from a multi-millionaire or a multi-national corporation, a small number of oligarchs are assuming the arms of democracy and monopolizing the ears of politicians, as per the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

While the challenge is great, Reich wants his viewers to feel empowered. Empowered to demand change, to refashion 'equality' from a buzzword to a basic requisite of the American way, to make sure that every person's voice is heard in their political system, regardless of the number of zeros and commas in his or her paycheck.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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Tarsem Singh | The Fall

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:45 AM EDT, 13 June 2012

The Fall, Photo Still 4 by Tarsem SinghTarsem Singh, 51, born in Jalandhar, Punjab to a Punjabi Sikh family, is the acclaimed director of The Cell, and has created in his movie The Fall, a moving and seamless portrait of mundane life in a 1915 Los Angeles hospital inhabited by rich and mercurial characters.

This movie is filled with a visually sumptuous fantasy world of exotic bandits, evil tyrants, dream-like palaces and breathtaking landscapes.

Finished in 2006 it was later released in theaters in 2008 with music by Krishna Levy. The costume designer is Academy Award®-winner Eiko Ishioka (Bram Stoker’s Dracula). The Fall was shot on location in South Africa, India and many other countries.

After only viewing clips and trailers, the cable provider in our area finally added this extraordinary movie to its content offering. Words cannot adequately describe how magnificently Singh conceptualized this film.

It is in equal measure ludicrous and heart wrenching as viewers cheer for the heroes and marvel at the ­wondrous ability the young Romanian actress Catinca Untaru possesses but which many adults have lost, the power to imagine a world unfettered by the laws of reality.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO0LYcCoeJY]

The framework of the story centers on the desire of the protagonist, Roy Walker, to commit suicide using the young girl, who is also a patient, as an unwitting accomplice. A stuntman by profession, he is paralyzed from a fall after performing a jump scene in his first film, and is now bedridden. He begins to tell Alexandria played by Untaru, an epic story which he will only continue if she agrees to get him pills with which he can overdose.

Tarsem's "The Fall" is a mad folly, an extravagant visual orgy, a free-fall from reality into uncharted realms. Surely it is one of the wildest indulgences a director has ever granted himself. Tarsem, for two decades a leading director of music videos and TV commercials, spent millions of his own money to finance "The Fall," filmed it for four years in 28 countries and has made a movie that you might want to see for no other reason than because it exists. There will never be another like it.

It tells a simple story with vast romantic images so stunning I had to check twice, three times, to be sure the film actually claims to have absolutely no computer-generated imagery. None? What about the Labyrinth of Despair, with no exit? The intersecting walls of zig-zagging staircases? The man who emerges from the burning tree? To the scene of the monkey, Wallace, chasing a butterfly through impossible architecture, "The Fall" is beautiful for its own sake. ;(Source: Roger Ebert review for the Sun Times)

Watch an interview with the director below and I highly recommend readers to rent or buy this movie and lose yourself in an alternate reality worthy of distraction.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOqSHKLrVC0&feature=relmfu]

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Skin Color Wars

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Powerful! In an era when money and fame or lack thereof is the prevailing currency of worth, it is sad to witness people judging each other on the specious notion of skin color.

I experienced this upon my return from Africa and never understood the self-hatred. Not only a must view for Black Americans, but also scroll down to watch a skin lightening commercial for the India market.

Will Bollywood reject you if you are too dark? Apparently so, according to the article below about India's Vogue Magazine featuring darker models.

Lost in the Machine | Metropolis

We must not define ourselves by freedom from religion, from abuse, from rape, from derision. From societal norms, from conformance, from acceptable compliance. From race, from the accident of geographical happenstance of birth or of life whether lived extraordinarily or pedestrian, with unsung aplomb, or within the rarefied strata of the new minted pantheon of 'celebrity' deities.

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