The 2008 global financial crisis led to millions of people losing their savings, jobs and homes, but not a lot of us understand what happened. In his methodical, ire-raising film, documentarian Charles Ferguson ( No End in Sight) argues that the meltdown was "not an accident" but an "inside job," in which Wall Street-connected government economic appointees put the interests of the few ahead of the many.
Told in chronological chapters, Inside Job, narrated by Matt Damon, outlines how progressive deregulation and Wall Street infiltration of the White House have gone hand-in-hand with financial crisis since Ronald Reagan's presidency.
During the Clinton and Bush administrations, toxic risk worked its way up the financial food chain from subprime housing to mortgage-backed securities and unregulated credit derivatives. When banks' leveraging limits were lifted in the George W. Bush years, an even bigger house of cards was built on the flimsy foundation.
A trained economist might challenge his analysis, but there's no question that Ferguson, who holds a PhD in political science and is a former business consultant, is a formidable interviewer. He can be heard off-camera, calm but incredulous, as he skewers the squirming lobbyists, government apologists and academic flacks who stand on the wrong side of the public good.
Supporting evidence of the financial community's pathology is provided by "Wall Street madam" Kristin Davis and therapist Jonathan Alpert, who testify to the investment community's use of drugs and prostitution "on an industrial scale."
The sobering summation? No one responsible for the recent fiasco has been prosecuted, and President Barack Obama, after campaigning to clean house, has put many of the same Wall Street insiders on his payroll. Could it really be that the only people who can solve this crisis are the ones who created it?
THE INSIDE JOB TIMELINE
The Reagan Years: The government deregulates savings and loan companies, leading to the S&L crisis and a $124-billion (U.S.) bailout. Financial scandals result in the jailing of Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky.
The Clinton Years: The 1999 repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act removes the separation between investment banks and depository banks, allowing banks to make enormous profits by trading. The 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act bans the regulation of financial derivatives, which are exempt from anti-gambling laws.
The Bush Years: Mortgage lending quadruples and housing prices double. The Securities Exchange Commission lifts the leverage limits on banks. The collapse of the U.S. housing and mortgage market leads to a chain reaction of financial failures. The government responds with a $700-billion bailout.
- Directed by Charles Ferguson
- Written by Charles Ferguson, Chad Beck and Adam Bolt
- Classification: NA