Marilyn M. Barnewall
March 25, 2011
A Film for All Seasons
Regardless of how little or how much you think you understand the current financial crisis, make plans to see the movie ‘Inside Job’ while it is still playing in theaters – or, the DVD is now available (see below). The film will mesmerize, horrify and stun you as it explains what caused the pain and suffering through which so many Americans have lived.
‘Inside Job’ begins with New York’s skyline scrolling across your movie screen – and then proceeds to take on the bankers behind the financial crisis. It is an excellent explanation of the terrorist attack against America’s economy, featuring research and extensive interviews with financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics.
The term ‘inside job’ is defined as a crime committed by a person holding a position of trust. The film was written, directed and produced by Charles H. Ferguson, who describes his movie as reflective of "the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption."
On the downside of the film, as a commercial banker, I find it offensive that Ferguson doesn’t distinguish between investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, and J.P. Morgan Chase – the troublemakers – versus the First National Bank of Main Street. Most non-bankers don’t understand the difference – but when you’re filming a movie to inform the public, it’s usually a good idea to get informed. It was the unlawful acts of investment banks that caused the crisis, not those of your community’s commercial banks.
In this movie, you will find risk taking, impulsive decisions involving trillions of your tax dollars, cocaine, prostitution – and that’s just one day on Wall Street. When, in an interview, Ferguson is asked, “Why wasn’t a more intense investigation undertaken?” his answer is the only logical one: “Because they might find the culprits.”
‘Inside Job’, won the Cannes Film Festival and a 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary. After watching this film, American taxpayers can declare themselves winners of the “Sucker of the Year” Award in just about every category of economic ignorance. This film offers a harsh dose of truth to those who prefer to ignore it. You will see the greedy reality of intentional fraud perpetrated by politicians and too big to jail banksters.
Ferguson’s film is supported by interviews with Nouriel Roubini, Barney Frank, George Soros, Eliot Spitzer and others. But the mega achievement of ‘Inside Job’ is the voice of Jason Bourne – oops, I mean, actor Matt Damon (who plays Jason Bourne in the Bourne film series). Damon narrates while viewers watch investment bankers and the American government begin the takedown of the Goose that has always laid America’s Golden Eggs. It is a chilling film and one that has made many viewers angry.
‘Inside Job’ stabs deeply, exposing extensive and unethical conduct (including obvious and shameful conflicts-of-interest) of many professors of economics. The movie is particularly hard on Frederic Mishkin, a Federal Reserve governor until August 2008 and now a professor at Columbia University. According to the film, Mishkin co-authored a fraudulent paper titled "The Stability of Icelandic Banks." Iceland’s economy failed. Mishkin didn’t make known the Iceland Chamber of Commerce’s $124,000 payment to him to write the paper. I’d call that a “conflict of interest.”
As you watch, the moderator lists the elements of Mishkin’s conflicts of interest to John Campbell, the chairman of Harvard's Department of economics. Campbell is speechless, truly at a loss to explain this kind of unprofessional behavior. He is obviously bewildered when asked about potential professorial conflicts-of-interest in his own economics department at Harvard.
In his ‘Inside Job’ interview, George Soros says: “Chuck Prince famously said we have to dance until the music stops. Actually the music had stopped already when he said that.” Prince is the former CEO of Citigroup. Soros is also called upon by Ferguson to comment on the Glass Steagall Act… strange, having a known communist comment on the single most important piece of legislation passed to protect American consumers after the Great Depression.
The film focuses on change within the financial services industry. The first two articles I wrote for NewsWithViews.com in October 2008 present the history of the banking industry. I recommend reading them before watching ‘Inside Job’ to help keep things in a proper perspective. You can find them here and here.
There is no doubt, as the film clearly says: deregulation preceded the evolvement of complex investment products – like derivatives – and there is no doubt that derivatives increased risk-taking within the investment banking community. Why was it allowed? Good question.
There is also no doubt that as new products were introduced into the marketplace, regulations designed to prevent conflicts of interest and risk-taking were required. As the history of banking proves, all of the consumer protections put in place after the Great Depression were removed, not just the past ten years on which ‘Inside Job’ focuses. The worst of deregulation occurred twenty and thirty years ago. Our 2007 crisis is, I believe, a planned event that had to be set up long ago for it to occur.
One of the things ‘Inside Job’ points out is the prevalence of the revolving door between corporations and government. It has given America a full house of Goldman Sachs employees who were heavily involved in policy-making positions leading up to the current economic chaos. Financial regulators should not be able to leave a government job and be immediately hired by investment banks (where knowing how to beat the regulators at their own game results in multi-million dollar incomes).
Reviewers of ‘Inside Job’ all comment on what a bold move Matt Damon made when he agreed to narrate this film. I think not. I believe ‘Inside Job’ has a strongly biased, anti-capitalism tone. It’s an excellent film… but all of those progressives and liberals didn’t get in the movie by accident. Damon is anything but pro-capitalism. His public political statements place him to the far left – even left of Barack Obama. ‘Inside Job’ gives the Big Screen’s ‘Jason Bourne’ the reason he needs to bash the candidate for whom he so strongly campaigned. To Matt Damon, socialism has not yet been achieved and for that he blames Obama.
In public, Matt Damon has taken Obama to task, saying he’s “disappointed in the health care plan and in the troop buildup in Afghanistan.” In ‘Inside Job,” Damon takes Obama to task for surrounding himself with “those who pushed deregulation.” I’ve written articles about this topic, explaining that politicians who want more power (or a power structure change) ignore existing regulation. I repeat: They ignored existing regulations after deregulation occurred. Why?
Anyone who understands banking knows that if regulations aren’t enforced, major problems will result. The expected crash from not enforcing regulations occurred in 2007 and everyone yelled for “more regulation!” And, the politicians got the power they needed to cover up the unlawful behavior that caused the crisis in the first place. In reality, had the 2007 regulations in place been enforced, the crisis would not have occurred. Though this film focuses on deregulation, it pays little attention to regulations ignored – a far greater cause of the crisis than deregulation of the ten years on which “Inside Job’ focuses (that’s why I see a hidden agenda).
Informed viewers of the film will accept the truths presented, learn from them, and will recognize the somewhat subtle, liberal attack against capitalism. Informed viewers realize we have not had ‘capitalism’ in this country for many years and that when someone blames ‘today’s’ capitalism for our economic ills, they don’t understand what capitalism really is. Or, they do understand and want to get rid of it.
‘Inside Job’ correctly points out that there was no push on the feds to pursue any criminal cases against executives on Wall Street, but doesn’t report that two years before the financial crisis began, the FBI informed Congress about the dangers of derivatives, liar loans, sub-prime loans, and the inability of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to monitor the products Wall Street was so aggressively pushing. How did the liberal Congress reward the FBI? It cut its investigative staff by over half. The film does not point this out, preferring to place more blame on corporate America than on politicians.
When watching ‘Inside Job’, you will know immediately that you aren’t in Michael Moore’s fairy tale land watching his comedy, ‘Capitalism: A Love Story.’ This film is smart. It brings to light heretofore unpublicized facts. Be careful you don’t get lured into the ‘capitalism has failed’ trap. Capitalism didn’t – and has not – failed. Like our political parties, it was taken over by an oligarchy of thieves.
You can watch a ‘trailer’ of ‘Inside Job’ here. Or, you can listen to Dylan Ratigan (MSNBC) interview author, director, producer Charles Ferguson here. I found the DVD at Amazon.com for $14.99. It’s worth that – and more. The film was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.
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In his New York Times review of ‘Inside Job’, Paul Krugman says:
“I think this film will stay with us; when you ask how the even worse crisis of, say, 2015 happened, the fact that these people got away with it will loom large.”
Krugman is right – probably one of the few times I will agree with him. The fact that Bernie Madoff’s butt is the only one sitting in prison is evidence of the total lack of a Rule of Law in America.
© 2011 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved
Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and one work of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.
Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officer Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America (2005-10), Who's Who of American Women (2006-10), Who's Who in Finance and Business (2006-10), and Who's Who in the World (2008).
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