“Inside Job” is a documentary film about the economic meltdown of 2008. Its main point is that the resulting Great Recession was avoidable. In fact, no one listened to the few people who predicted the problems well in advance or acted on the implications of their predictions. At least one of the prophetic voices, that of a woman, was denounced by detractors. Her name was given in the film, but it flew by before I could get it down on paper. By rights, her name ought to be written on a plaque in some economists' hall of fame.
Charles Ferguson wrote, directed and produced this outstanding film, narrated by Matt Damon. His work has been recognized by the academy. An earlier documentary “No End in Sight,” about the lead up to the Iraq War, was nominated for an Oscar in 2008.
“Inside Job” is faster paced, more cinematic and less a game of entrapment than are Michael Moore’s "gotcha" documentaries. And Ferguson delivers as close-ups the telling shots of the men who indict themselves by their evasions, refusals and unrepentant pomposity when a straight answer to Ferguson, an always unseen questioner, might save their credibility instead.
Viewers will see, among others: Frederic Mishkin, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, who is asked why he resigned from the board a month before the crash; Richard Fuld former C.E.O. of Lehman Brothers; Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs; Frank Raines, former C.E.O. of Fannie Mae; and Glenn Hubbard, who was President Bush’s chief economic advisor, and is currently dean of Colombia School of Business. Hubbard becomes indignant, then curt, during the questioning, ready to evict the interviewer from the room. I couldn't forget this scene when I read Hubbard's recent op ed piece in the New York Times.
What becomes overwhelmingly clear in this film is that government (both the Bush administration and the Obama administration) has deep ties to the very people who held positions of power in businesses that led to the crisis, and some of those people have made enormous sums playing both sides of the meltdown. Henry Paulson is a prime example. Paulson ran Goldman Sachs before President Bush appointed him Secretary of the Treasury. Paulson was allowed to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of his Goldman stock tax-free, and according to the film, he later funneled billions to Goldman during the bailout. None of this is said to be illegal. But it is unseemly, and unfair, given the millions of Americans who lost their jobs and their homes as a result of the misdeeds of Wall Street and have received no comparable government assistance.
The roles of Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, before and after the fall of Lehman, are also held up for inspection. Those cast in the roles of analyst and sage include Charles Morris, George Soros, Elliot Spitzer (no kidding) and Christine Lagarde the French finance minister.
The film is powerful, though not inspiring of hope. Still, anyone who wishes to understand more about what caused the current economic crisis would do well to see it. I highly recommend it.