DVD: Inside Job

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DVD: IJ

As he did with the occupation of Iraq in No End in Sight, Charles Ferguson shines a light on the global financial crisis in Inside Job. Accompanied by narration from Matt Damon, Ferguson begins and ends in Iceland, a flourishing country that gave American-style banking a try--and paid the price. Then he looks at the spectacular rise and cataclysmic fall of deregulation in the United States. Unlike Alex Gibney's fiscal films, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Casino Jack, Ferguson builds his narrative around dozens of players, interviewing authors, bank managers, government ministers, and even a psychotherapist, who speaks to a culture that encourages Gordon Gekko-like behavior, but the number of those who declined to comment, like Alan Greenspan, is even larger. Though the director isn't as combative as Michael Moore, he asks tough questions and elicits squirms from several participants, notably former Treasury secretary David McCormick and Columbia dean Glenn Hubbard, George W. Bush's economic adviser. Their reactions are understandable, since the borders between Wall Street, Washington, and the Ivy League dissolved years ago; it's hard to know who to trust when conflicts of interest run rampant. If Ferguson takes Reagan and Bush to task for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, he criticizes Clinton for encouraging derivatives and Obama for failing to deliver on the promise of reform. And in the category of unlikely heroes: former governor Eliot Spitzer, who fought against fraud as New York's attorney general (he's the subject of Gibney's documentary Client 9). --Kathleen C. Fennessy, Amazon.com


This priceless documentary presents a devastating expose of the staggering Wall Street swindle that caused the economic meltdown of 2008. The interview with Martin Feldstein brought back to mind the hoopla of his appointment as chief economic adviser to President Reagan. The movie points out that Feldstein initiated the financial deregulation follies that led to the looting of the Savings and Loans and culminated with the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, the lead sponsor of which was Senator Phil Gramm. It was truly depressing to see how this massive swindle was pulled off through the collusion of the economic advisers, politicians, high-flown professors of economics with scandalous and highly unethical conflicts-of-interest, investment banks, and ratings agencies. At the end of "Inside Job," Robert Gnaizda lists various groups that should be prosecuted. When asked why this has not been done, he answered: "It's a Wall Street government!"

Some of the topics in the movie were covered in the FRONTLINE broadcast "Inside the Meltdown" and in the FRONTLINE broadcast "The Warning." The latter exposed how Brookley Born was sabotaged by Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers--the Troika that is directly responsible for the massive fraud perpetrated by the Wall Street crowd.

It is reassuring to see that some members of Congress were competent. Senator Byron Dorgan (D. North Dakota) voted against his own party, predicting that the repeal of Glass-Steagall would lead to massive taxpayer bailouts. On 19 September 2009, Senator Dorgan was interviewed by Scott Simon on "Weekend Edition Saturday." The following is from the transcript at: Sen. DORGAN: Well, I mean, it does precious little to say I told you so, but this was 10 years ago on the floor of the U.S. Senate. At the time, I said I thought it was a huge mistake and, you know, I was critical of the Clinton administration and critical of the Republicans in Congress who were pushing it.

But what I said is I think within a decade we're going to see massive taxpayer bailouts. I didn't necessarily know that for sure but it turns out my prognostication was a pretty expensive lesson. Because it made no sense that we should repeal Glass-Steagall and the protections that were put in place after the Great Depression.

And the result of that, in my judgment, was to steer this economy into the ditch and cause a significant economic wreck that's going to take us some time to get out of.

SIMON: The timing is something that intrigues me, 'cause you said this in 1999, whereas you note your party was in party.

Sen. DORGAN: Uh-huh. Well, but let me just say to you that the legislation that was passed by the Congress was called Gramm-Leach-Bliley--all three Republicans. Phil Gramm--those three Republicans led the approach. It was Republican legislation but warmly embraced by President Clinton, Secretary of Treasury Rubin and so on.

But I was one of eight U.S. senators that went to the floor of the Senate repeatedly in opposition to what they were doing. And, you know, as I said, I made some prognostications and say if we do this we're going to see massive taxpayer bailouts in the future.

And unfortunately, that has been the case.

"Inside Job" goes much deeper in exposing the extensive unethical conduct and shameless conflicts-of-interest of so many professors of economics, especially Frederic Mishkin, a governor at the Federal Reserve until August 2008 and now at Columbia University. According to the movie, he co-authored a fraudulent paper "The Stability of Icelandic Banks," without divulging that he had been paid $124,000 by the Iceland Chamber of Commerce to write it. In his current list of publications, he has changed the title to "The Instability ..." John Campbell, the chairman of Harvard's department of economics is left speechless--with a bewildered facial expression--when he is asked about the conflicts-of-interest of his department members.

This priceless documentary presents a devastating expose of the staggering Wall Street swindle that caused the economic meltdown of 2008. The interview with Martin Feldstein brought back to mind the hoopla of his appointment as chief economic adviser to President Reagan. The movie points out that Feldstein initiated the financial deregulation follies that led to the looting of the Savings and Loans and culminated with the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, the lead sponsor of which was Senator Phil Gramm. It was truly depressing to see how this massive swindle was pulled off through the collusion of the economic advisers, politicians, high-flown professors of economics with scandalous and highly unethical conflicts-of-interest, investment banks, and ratings agencies. At the end of "Inside Job," Robert Gnaizda lists various groups that should be prosecuted. When asked why this has not been done, he answered: "It's a Wall Street government!"


Some of the topics in the movie were covered in the FRONTLINE broadcast "Inside the Meltdown" and in the FRONTLINE broadcast "The Warning." The latter exposed how Brookley Born was sabotaged by Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers--the Troika that is directly responsible for the massive fraud perpetrated by the Wall Street crowd.

It is reassuring to see that some members of Congress were competent. Senator Byron Dorgan (D. North Dakota) voted against his own party, predicting that the repeal of Glass-Steagall would lead to massive taxpayer bailouts. On 19 September 2009, Senator Dorgan was interviewed by Scott Simon on "Weekend Edition Saturday."

The following is from the transcript:
Sen. DORGAN: Well, I mean, it does precious little to say I told you so, but this was 10 years ago on the floor of the U.S. Senate. At the time, I said I thought it was a huge mistake and, you know, I was critical of the Clinton administration and critical of the Republicans in Congress who were pushing it.

But what I said is I think within a decade we're going to see massive taxpayer bailouts. I didn't necessarily know that for sure but it turns out my prognostication was a pretty expensive lesson. Because it made no sense that we should repeal Glass-Steagall and the protections that were put in place after the Great Depression.

And the result of that, in my judgment, was to steer this economy into the ditch and cause a significant economic wreck that's going to take us some time to get out of.

SIMON: The timing is something that intrigues me, 'cause you said this in 1999, whereas you note your party was in party.

Sen. DORGAN: Uh-huh. Well, but let me just say to you that the legislation that was passed by the Congress was called Gramm-Leach-Bliley--all three Republicans. Phil Gramm--those three Republicans led the approach. It was Republican legislation but warmly embraced by President Clinton, Secretary of Treasury Rubin and so on.

But I was one of eight U.S. senators that went to the floor of the Senate repeatedly in opposition to what they were doing. And, you know, as I said, I made some prognostications and say if we do this we're going to see massive taxpayer bailouts in the future.

And unfortunately, that has been the case.

"Inside Job" goes much deeper in exposing the extensive unethical conduct and shameless conflicts-of-interest of so many professors of economics, especially Frederic Mishkin, a governor at the Federal Reserve until August 2008 and now at Columbia University. According to the movie, he co-authored a fraudulent paper "The Stability of Icelandic Banks," without divulging that he had been paid $124,000 by the Iceland Chamber of Commerce to write it. In his current list of publications, he has changed the title to "The Instability ..." John Campbell, the chairman of Harvard's department of economics is left speechless--with a bewildered facial expression--when he is asked about the conflicts-of-interest of his department members.
How can anyone believe anything that is published by economists?
Domenico Rosa



Inside Job is a great documentary on an extremely important topic. It drags out a lot of hanky-panky dirty laundry and points out a lot of lies and stupidity -- and the tempers will flare of the ideologues who helped get us into the current economic crisis/mess, but so be it. It also can give the average intelligent person a foot in the door to understanding the world in which we live and the background for the financial crisis, that in my considered opinion is not yet over. In fact no end is in sight. Only the shape of the slippery slope is uncertain.

I have looked into this quite a bit, and at first I thought it was going to be simply a super sort of Frontline documentary with great photography of Iceland American cities, etc. that integrated well with the interviews and narration.

I think though, that in the end they did a very nice job and there was a freshness to bringing together even the many facts that have been published here and there over the last few years.

I especially appreciated their preciseness about the clear warnings of the impending economic "tsunami" from respected scholars and the International Monetary Fund and European Finance Ministers and how these were brushed aside by the old-boy network of Washington and Wall Street. As they sing in the Opera Evita, "When the money keeps rolling in, you don't keep books." There were more warnings than they presented in the film. I would have included those by Kevin Phillips for example. But the film had enough to make its points.

I also very much appreciated that they brought out the really terrible conflicts of interest among professional academic economists at universities. They did not go deep enough for my tastes, but at least they got into it. In fact they could also have gotten into the very selective use of mathematics in academic economics, by these economics professors that get fat checks from the finances industry, in building idealistic models that can have too little to do with the real world. Instead the film focused on the cozy relationships between professors of economics, universities, and Big Money. They left out that university administrators love to see cozy relationships with business because it brings in money and connections and fame.

It was very interesting to watch big faces on the big screen as they were caught in their evasions and lies. Very well practiced people!! Usually not a flicker of guilt. Though a few did at times show nervousness when they were being caught.

After the film some of us discussed how it was possible that some of these culpable executives could have agreed to go on camera when they were so vulnerable. My theory is that they have gotten to where they are because they are smooth talkers. And they are egotistically self-confident that they can answer or deflect any questions. Moreover they are not used to giving interviews with media that has done its homework. In this respect I give the film makers credit for doing their homework.

The film did a nice job of tracing the origins of the crisis to the deregulation policies of the Reagan administration in the early 1980s and what became the permanent installation of Big Money ideologues and players into the highest levels of government. They could have said more about how difficult it would have been to reverse these policies and undo the networks that were brought into power. They could have said more about why banking interests were able to sell their ideologies to the American people. But one cannot include everything. There was already a lot to chew on.
P.J.R.

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