Documentarian Charles Ferguson takes us inside the financial collapse of 2008
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
After all of the nuclear partisan politics of the mid-term election cycle, it is time for some clear-eyed realism, something that resembles the truth to shake our belief that one side or the other has all the answers or acts in our best interests. Health care and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have faded off the radar, leaving the economy stupid, as the topic requires our full, undivided attention.
And so, Charles Ferguson, the director of No End In Sight (which explored the ugly truth behind the military’s mishandling of the moral imperative in Iraq), sets his sights on not just the current economic situation, but the genesis of the crisis and finds that neither Democrats nor Republicans can claim the high road because each party has contributed to the epic collapse. From the trickle down economics of the Reagan administration and first Bush era, to the boom and deregulation of the Clinton years, to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the banking implosion that led to record bailouts and the astronomical escalating of the political blame game, it would seemingly be impossible to find anyone, any party or institution that had exerted any positive effort during the last 30 years (and that most certainly includes the current administration).
Inside Job provides history and perspective throughout, in what truly is a fair and balanced approach, adhering to a degree of neutrality that defies expectations. Ferguson’s voice never emerges, either directly or through his editing of the experts and players he enlists to tell their sides of the story. Intriguingly, he recedes even further in the mix at crucial moments, simply allowing his interviewees, in particular those intimately involved at key levels in the developing crises, to hang themselves, a task that several seemingly cannot avoid, no matter how hard they try. Although it should be pointed out that those at the highest levels (long-time former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, former U.S. Treasury Secretary and current Director of the White House National Economic Council, Larry Summers and current U.S. Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner) with integral roles in shaping economic policy at various stages along the way, refused to participate.
In their defense, there is likely no way that any amount of explanation/rationalization could make sense of the complex philosophical theories at play for the average citizen. But these brilliantly ambitious men knew better than to even make the attempt, surmising that it would be best to place their faith in history and its inevitable rewrites. So, they remain shadowy mustache twirlers in Ferguson’s tale (shrouded to some extent by what little personal goodwill President Obama still enjoys), but for the astute viewer, the glare of the bright lights should expose them to the unanswered questions posed by the film.
And that is the point of the endeavor, to spark questions and debate, to force us to step away from the party lines and dogma, to seek answers in language that we can understand. Educate us, explain to us, how we are going to get out of this horrible mess. Ferguson wants us to storm the gates and demand that someone tell us what can/should be done to solve this global problem. That’s quite a task.