*If you’re one of those that likes to blame absolutely everything on “The Man” then this review is not for you. You’ve been warned.
So, this documentary Inside Job is about the financial meltdown and is narrated by Matt Damon. I’m sure it’s going to be shown in a lot of classrooms as educational material and frankly, I’m not impressed.
#1. Irony is fun, isn’t it? Now, until I hear some breaking news saying that Matt Damon gives most of his money away and is living well below his means, I don’t think he should be the narrator. I get that he has a commitment to social justice and I love that he narrated A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn but, this is a bit much. At some point in the film someone being interviewed remarks something along the lines of “Why do bankers get paid more than engineers? Engineers build something tangible like bridges and bankers simply artificially accumulate money.” I agree, completely. But if we’re going to start creating a hierarchy of professions to determine who gets paid the most then I can assure you most people think Hollywood needs to be taken down a notch itself. Why do movie stars get paid more than teachers? Teachers could radically alter the country in one generation and movie stars just get buff and run away from bad guys. Not that I don’t LOVE the Bourne trilogy, but do I think Matt Damon is over-paid? Most definitely.
#2. There was no talk of individual, everyday Americans except to say that we’re all victims. Well…I think that’s far from the case. I’m not trying to underscore the amount of damage done by bankers and financial institutions but, if you make $50k a year and someone at the bank tells you that you can afford a mortgage on a half a million dollar house and you willingly buy into the delusion, there are going to be problems. Let’s start to use our noggins people. Or, perhaps two better nuggets of knowledge are: 1) If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is, and 2) Trust, but verify.
#3. There was no discussion of how to prevent this from happening again. Financial crises are inherent in a capitalist system, particularly a capitalist world system. How can we prevent this? Such a simple question that I’m sure has more answers than just “limit salaries and bonuses of financial executives!” I’m sorry Matt Damon, but it’s going to take more than that. How about instead of having economics classes around the country watch this while the kids snooze off in the corner (this is a very long, drawn out film) we have teachers walk us through the process of buying a house/car/anything that requires financing? My economics teacher did this, and beside my initial thought of “God this is too complicated, I’m paying cash!”, it was very useful. Do I remember all of it? Of course not, but I know the jist and what are the worst types of financing and which are the best… And that my econ teacher is going to be very busy when all of his former students reach the time to buy houses — because we decided he’s coming with us before we sign our mortgages. Haha
#4. This film focused quite a bit on the crossover between academia and big corporations. While it’s interesting for about a millisecond that hot shots at Harvard who also head up top hedge funds don’t have to disclose this in their published work, is this a genuine surprise to anyone out there? I sincerely doubt it. The revolving door between elite academia/finance/government is not something new. If you want a certain type of economics, government policy, etc. then you need to have studies proving that it works, whether it actually does or not. I ask you: Who conducts these studies? Exactly. People with too many Ph.Ds to count. Chances are most of the kids at these elite schools have parents who work in similar professions and therefore know to read between the lines and I suggest everyone else learn to do the same.
So, I guess my real questions are: Are we truly angry this happened, or are we angry that we let this happen? Are we pissed that they’re jerks, or are we pissed that we all of a sudden started trusting the banks? (Something our grandparents and great-grandparents would never do no matter how nice the banker.) Are we mad that they’re greedy, or that we weren’t smart enough to be on their side? Until we can answer these questions honestly, and Matt Damon takes a severe pay cut, I think this film does not present a very accurate picture of just exactly how and why a financial melt down happens.