Inside Job (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for some drug and sex-related material
Length: 120 minutes
Grade: A,A,A,A=A
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% favorable, 8.2/10 average|
Budget: $2 million
Box Office: $8 million (4 U.S., 4 Intl.)

Written by: Chad Beck (First Script) and Adam Bolt (First Script)
Directed by: Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight)
Narrated by: Matt Damon
Featuring: William Ackman, Daniel Alpert, Jonathan Alpert, Ben Bernanke, Eliot Spitzer, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Paul Volker.

This is a documentary intended to both explain the reasons behind the economic events of the last five years and to disturb you by showing how much of the problem’s real sources not only haven’t changed but were somewhere between incompetent and sinister.

This movie will probably infuriate you, at least if you understand what it’s saying. And you’ll want to disagree with it if you’re a conservative because it’s going to feel like an assault on the free-market practices and deregulation of Reagan and Bush that you’ve come to admire. But rest assured that the point of the movie is that it doesn’t really matter who’s in office since the real problem is the revolving door between the moneygrubbers of high finance and the oversight and administrative positions in the US government. At least, that’s one real problem. The other problem is that there are not only far too few checking mechanisms to inhibit the kind of risky and deceptive practices which caused the collapse, but the culture of aggressive risk-taking is itself so thoroughly endemic to the banking/finance industry that there isn’t much hope of real change. Oh yeah, and it’s way more profitable to buy influence through lobbyists than to conduct the sort of practices that would be required if serving the citizens and the economy at large were the primary purpose of federal investment regulations.

Discussion Questions:
~What happens in the banking/finance industry when the biggest incentives are based on short-term results rather than long-term economic stability?
~Do you think it’s defensible to pay investment house CEOs $100 million or more in a single year for any reason whatsoever? Should this be possible even in years when their decisions were catastrophically bad?
~A basic rule of insurance is that you can only buy insurance on things in which you have a personal investment stake. Why does this rule exist? Why was the abandonment of this rule so important in creating the environment of the collapse?
~Why were derivatives and other such innovative products (like CDO and CDS markets) unregulated?
~What do you think of the analysis that the academic economists being sought for advice on economic policy have not properly disclosed their own financial incentives?
~What do you think of the practice of producing financial products which were rated AAA but were internally known to be far less reliable and were actively bet against with contrary derivatives?
~How are cocaine, call girls, and risk-taking in finance related? What do you think of the analysis that Elliot Spitzer was brought down but the same information which could have been used to pursue others was not used?
~Given that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was so vocal against the finance industry in this country and our government in this movie from just a year ago, does there seem to be a sinister coincidence in regards to his arrest recently? Who would stand to gain from him being removed from the World Bank? Does the fact that the movie didn’t have this information make the issue with his case (and by inference that of Spitzer) seem more sinister?
~What is your opinion of Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama after watching this movie?
~What is your opinion of Henry Paulson, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke now?
~If you could do anything at all to fix any or all of these problems so they don’t happen again, what would you do? What do you think the makers of this movie want to see happen?

Overall Grade: A
The sort of movie every American ought to watch but that leaves more despair than hope in its wake, if only because the problem isn’t that the problems aren’t known. The problem is that the sources of the problem have so much vested in perpetuating this system that they have literally invested everything in keeping the system just the way that it is.

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