Inequality for All InequalityForAll

14 april, 2014

Robert Reich and the Charging Bull: Income Inequality in the United States

by Arnoud Arps


Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor is holding a 100-dollar bill, the size of a cape, in his hands. Across Reich, the shadow of a large bull and its horns create an image of peril. Instead of a defiant or heroic look on his face, Reich looks slightly anxious and worried. He is awaiting the charge of the bull.


This is neither the beginning of an adventurous film, nor a scene from the documentary Inequality for All (Jacob Kornbluth, 2013). This is a description of the poster of the film, an image that captures a lot of the ideas behind the documentary. Director Jacob Kornbluth has found a capable and charming character in the persona of Robert Reich to narrate the information to the viewer. As a former US Secretary of Labor he emits a certain authority on the subject of income inequality in the United States. Based on his knowledge, a convincing and clear argument is presented throughout the documentary. Whilst Reich explains various causes of the income inequality in the United States of America, Jacob Kornbluth has chosen to illustrate Reich’s arguments by using various graphs, archive footage and images. In doing so, the viewer is presented a clear argument in the 89 minutes running time of the documentary and will leave the cinema with a much clearer idea of what is happening and what already has happened within the problematic American economy. Because of this structure, prior knowledge of the American economy is not needed before watching the film. Furthermore, after viewing this film you will have a general idea of how it has come to this problematic economical situation.


To conclude let us go back to the poster. Robert Reich is portrayed there as a matador de toros, a killer of bulls. And the bull that we see is the infamous Charging bull also known as the Wall Street Bull. Reich holds the 100-dollar bill in his hands just as a matador holds his cape in front of a bull, because it is the money that attracts the bull. One the one hand the money attracts the bull, but simultaneously the money is also what is part of the downfall of the bull. And so it seems it is the same with the income inequality in the United States. Money is on the one hand the instigator of the problem of income inequality because it emanates something that is tempting. Simultaneously however, money is also part of the downfall of the problem of inequality. 



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