Inside Job

It is generally accepted that the 2008 financial meltdown was due to criminal behavior by the banks and by Wall Street investment firms, yet no effort is being made to bring these people to justice. Indeed, it is well known that the people responsible for the crisis have gotten richer, while millions of people who lost their jobs are still without work.

The documentary filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, is one person who refuses to accept this state of affairs. His film, Inside Job, is a thorough examination of the events leading up to the meltdown. One of the things I liked about this film is that it is unsparing towards the Obama Administration, pointing out, among other things, that it has done virtually nothing to address the problems that led to the crisis. (This is a refreshing change from the fatuous celebration of Obama’s election victory in Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. Years from now, people will watch that film and wonder what the hell Moore was talking about.) Another thing that I liked is that the film goes after academia, exposing the cozy relationship between university economics departments and private corporations.

One thing there could have been more of in the film is a discussion of the impact the crisis had lives of ordinary people. There is a brief segment on a couple who were conned into getting a mortgage they couldn’t afford, but no more than that. Then again, since audiences have lived through the economy of the last few years, perhaps they don’t need to be told this.

The film talked about my former employer, Countrywide Home Loans. I worked for them briefly at the time when the company was raking in money. (I didn’t last long there, I’m proud to say.) I worked in an office they had at the foot of the beautiful Santa Suzannah mountains in northwest Los Angeles. I was with a group of about thirty new hires who were being trained. A top executive from the company came to speak to us. She told us that the company’s entire income came from charging late fees on mortgage payments. (I will never forget the expression of glee on this woman’s face as she told us this.) Perhaps I was in a state of denial, but it wasn’t until I left the company that I began to put two and two together. If all their income came from late fees, they had to be luring people into getting mortgages that they couldn’t afford. At that time, Countrywide was being celebrated as one of the great success stories of American capitalism. I remember they had offices all over the Los Angeles area. A few years later they were bankrupt.

The way things are going, it looks as though there will be more Countrywides, another boom and another bust, unless people fight back against this insane system.

I strongly urge you to see Inside Job.

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