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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Saving Capitalism is a 2017 documentary in which former Labor Secretary Robert Reich discusses the widening income gap between the rich and poor in America. For those interested in the recent history of the rise of consumerism and the collusion between large corporations and government, this should be required viewing. Reich is filmed traveling "outside the Beltway," where, through his book tour (the book also called Saving Capitalism), he meets with those fighting to raise the minimum wage and those struggling to make ends meet in a time of stagnant wages and rising costs, and has spirited yet civil debate with those who don't necessarily share his views. Despite so much of the doom and gloom conveyed in the movie, the documentary does end on a positive note, encouraging citizens to become active in the political process, with some very practical advice on how to keep hope and optimism while fighting for change. Profanity includes "s--t," "hell," and "ass."
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What's the story?
In SAVING CAPITALISM, Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, discusses the increasing separation between the haves and the have-nots, the shrinking middle class, how we got here, and what can be done about it. He meets with farm families in rural Missouri, successful Republican businesspeople and lobbyists in Kansas City, and a McDonald's employee struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage to get a better understanding of the rage and discontent so many feel about a system they believe to be rigged in favor of "elites." Through personal anecdotes of his own rise in Washington, D.C., government as well as through history lessons and statistics, Reich shows how big business interests starting in the 1970s began to assert more and more of their power over government, using their deep pockets to ensure the laws that are passed serve their interests more than the public at large, and the explosive growth in the number of senators and representatives who become high-paid lobbyists after serving their terms in Congress. Reich concludes on a hopeful note, seeing the similarities between these times and the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s, and the populist revolts that fought back against similar financial power and won.
Is it any good?
Robert Reich readily admits that this documentary has a provocative title. As Saving Capitalism films Reich on his book tour promoting the book of the same title, he jokes of how, upon seeing the title, those right-of-center question what about the free-enterprise system needs "saving," exactly, while those left-of-center question why anyone would want to even bother saving such an immoral system. Be that as it may, Reich and the filmmakers do an excellent job of showing the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, the shrinking middle class, how we got here, and what can be done about it. Through personal narrative discussing his career in Washington, D.C., instances of recent American history, and easy-to-understand graphs, Reich goes to the origins of what eventually led to an American system skewed to favor the rich at the expense of average Americans. He is shown as Labor Secretary in the 1990s offering a chillingly prescient prediction of the anger and resentment that develops as the rich get richer and everyone else works harder for less money.
And yet, despite all the doom and gloom, the documentary does offer glimmers of hope. Snapshots of the various protests that have arisen since Donald Trump's election are underscored with Reich connecting the problems of today with the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s, when populist revolts stood up to the economic injustices of that time and eventually won out. He also sees many connections -- at least in terms of concerns over how "crony politics" rig the system -- between progressive protests and the Tea Party protests of 2010. He ends the movie encouraging viewers to get involved in democracy, and even offers suggestions on how to fight for change without becoming discouraged and losing both your hope and sense of humor.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about documentaries. How did Saving Capitalism present facts and statistics in an interesting way? How did it convey the opinions of Robert Reich?
How might someone who disagrees with the opinions expressed counter the arguments presented in the documentary?
What's something presented in this documentary that you found surprising?
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