The (toxic) loan arranger rides again: Inside Job ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on November 6, 2010)

Rising up to break this thing

From family trees the dukes do swing

Just one blow to scratch the itch

The law’s made for and by the rich

 –Paul Weller

I have good news and bad news about the documentary, Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s incisive parsing of what led to the crash of the global financial system in 2008. The good news is that I believe I finally grok what “derivatives” and “toxic loans” are. The bad news is…that doesn’t make me feel any better about how fucked we are.

To their credit, writers Chad Beck and Adam Bolt don’t stoop to hyperbole (pandering to those steadily depressing, low down mind-messing, workin’ at the car wash blues that we’re already feeling as a result of this economic nightmare) but step back to give some actual historical perspective. The filmmakers start at the very beginning-all the way back to where the seeds were sown-during the spate of rampant financial deregulation during the Reagan administration (aka, “morning in America”-remember that?).

No POTUS (including Obama) who has led the country post-Reagan is let off the hook, either. The film illustrates, point by painful point, how every subsequent administration, Democratic and Republican alike, did their “part” in enabling the current crisis-mostly through political cronyism and legislative manipulation. The result of this decades long circle jerk involving Wall Street, the mortgage industry, Congress, the White House and lobbyists (with Ivy League professors as pivot men) is what we are now living with today.

The film is very slickly produced; it’s well-paced, nicely edited and Matt Damon’s even-toned narration helps to keep the somewhat byzantine threads of the story accessible. Ferguson was able to assemble a fascinating cross-section of talking heads, including financial insiders, economists, politicians, academics…and even a Wall Street madam (who comes off, relative to the kinds of people she provides services for, as  one of the more virtuous and forthright interviewees).

In fact, the overall impression I came away with was that the entire financial system, taken along with its associative ties to lobbyists, legislators, economics professors and corporate-backed MSM lackeys, is nothing less than a glorified prostitution ring-funded by America’s working poor and middle class taxpayers.

This brings me to the film’s one flaw. Ferguson is very good at getting us riled up (there’s plenty here to get pissed about)-but doesn’t necessarily offer solutions (maybe some suggestions on how to fire up grassroots activism?). But I suspect that you already figured that out (that it’s up to “us”). Me? I’m kind of slow on this stuff-that’s probably why I just do movie reviews around these parts.

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