Screen Rant's Kofi Outlaw reviews Inside Job
Inside Job is the newest documentary from Charles Ferguson, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind No End in Sight, a documentary that pondered the long-term impact of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
With Inside Job, Ferguson once again performs a much needed public service, piercing the veils of mass media and politics in order to offer a comprehensive and accessible look at the root causes behind the 2008 global economic crisis.
Politics were raging back in 2008, but no matter what side of that line you stood on, all Americans (and many citizens of the world beyond our borders) were gripped by fear as the American economy (and thereafter the global economy) ground to a halt with the collapse of AIG, one the largest insurance corporations in America.
The crisis began when (and I'm delivering a very simplified version of this) AIG's credit ratings were discovered to be worth far less than many within the financial services industry had speculated and traded on. All of a sudden, the largest insurance corporation in America was being called on to cover the cost of loans and debts it had no money to pay for. This led to one of the cornerstones of the American economy being crippled, trillions in investment losses, and a mystery that no one in a position of power (including America's new president) seemed able to answer - namely, why did this happen?
Well, some two years later as the world is still trying to sift its way out of this latest Wall Street blunder, Charles Ferguson is doing what so many world leaders and economists could not: explaining how Wall Street cause global economic near-collapse in clear, concise terms that any layman could understand.
With methodical precision, Ferguson looks at American investment policies of the past decades and how those policies were deregulated over time, giving rise to an age of speculative investment banking, high-stakes trading, and the mad-dash for big fortunes which fuels it all.
There are two aspects of Inside Job which truly distinguish it as a great documentary: the organized manner in which Ferguson presents his information and the cast of "characters" he has interviewed.
As to the former: Ferguson wisely uses time as his guide, looking at the history and progression of the U.S. financial sector - from a highly regulated system of simple borrow/lender relations, to the complicated system of high-risk loans and derivatives it is today. Here are the epochs of history that serve as the documentary's "chapters":
- 1930s - 1979 - Post-Depression era of "Traditional American finance." A look at all the safeguards put in place in wake of the Depression that kept financial services resigned to a simple system of borrowers and lenders (banks) who actually had the money to lend. Bankers and traders earned income that matched most working Americans.
- 1980s - Reagan era of laissez-faire business and trickle-down economics. The deregulation of Wall Street and the savings and loan industry leads to less oversight, and soon after multiple cases of fraud, insider trading and bad loans/investments that lead to massive losses.
- 1990s - Clinton era and the bridge between Washington and Wall Street. More and more Wall Street CEOs infiltrate the government, taking up administrative positions. Depression era safeguards are repealed, allowing for huge Wall Street mergers and new laws favoring the financial services industry. The derivatives industry is created, which Wall Street government administrators refuse to regulate. Bankers/traders now make huge commissions off "junk deals" that lead to the Dot-com bubble burst. The financial sector is ultimately given a slap on the wrist.
- 2000s - The Bush era of further deregulation and relaxed enforcement. With lax laws on regulation and oversight, more and more cases of heavy lobbying, fraud, inflated speculation and unethical practices arise. Complex systems of investment are created, which tie everything from mortgages to credit up in the risky practices of the financial services industry. The result: inflated speculation and unethical practices by the nation's leading finance, insurance and credit rating agencies, leading to the 2008 economic collapse.
- 2008 - The Great Recession. A look at the fall of dominoes that brought down America's biggest financial, insurance and credit rating agencies. Corrupt CEOs and their cohorts still walk away with massive fortunes, and more than a few of them still hold government positions.
- 2010 - The Obama era: Business as usual. A look at how - despite all the campaign promises of "Change we can believe in" - the Obama administration is in fact employing the very same Wall Street execs-turned-government administrators who have pitched the U.S. into multiple financial crises over multiple decades of unethical practices.
As you can see, this documentary doesn't get bogged down in the illusions of politics, but rather pierces that veil to reveal the truth: that there is very specific sector of American industry that has repeatedly proven toxic when left unregulated and unattended. To quote a great man, "Cash rules everything around me..." Politics be damned.