Origins of a Film

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When I’ve discussed this film concept with people that I know, along with some really positive, supportive responses and questions, I’ve often gotten some interesting questions and quizzical stares, including, “why this topic?”  And, “why now?”  I also noted many eyebrows raised over the seriousness and complexity of the topic, along with some possible assumptions of what I could possibly know about it, much less contribute to a high-quality documentary film on it.

Unbeknownst to many of my friends and family, my own personal interest in this important topic really started a few years before the last market/housing/economic crash of ’08-’09.  Around 2005, I started reading some great economic blogs, including The Big Picture, Calculated Risk, Naked Capitalism and any others that I deemed to be trustworthy sources.  For me it was like a self-directed online master class in economics, politics, the market, and how things are connected.

I ultimately became somewhat obsessed with how these “dots” are all connected, and this included the burgeoning wealth inequality problem.  Over time, I began reading anything and everything about this topic, including writings by Nick Hanauer, Thomas Piketty’s widely acclaimed book in 2013 “Capital in the 21st Century”, and others.  It has become obvious to me that the scales are now tilted way too far in favor of big capital over everything else, including labor, the environment, communities, and the country’s overall well-being.  This needs to change now or it will adversely affect us all in some way.

Around this time, Dave and I  also began discussing this issue as it relates to the growing wealth inequality problem in the U.S. and how there was an obvious need for some sort of a serious documentary film that covers the many complex facets of it.  Those ongoing conversations between us on this topic waxed and waned over the years that included daily texts on it, until finally we mobilized in earnest in 2019 with Sean and Jillian and came up with a real plan of action to get it done.

One, admittedly unproven, theory that I have is that the crash, political response to it (e.g. bailing out the elites at everyone else’s expense, while holding nobody of importance responsible), and subsequent increasing disparities in wealth (and importantly, political power) since then is what has in part led us to the further destabilizing forces that we see today in our politics, including a Trump presidency and GOP that is now completely beholden to him.  We need to all connect the damn dots.

Why then, given the weightiness and complexity of this topic, would we try to tackle it by making a documentary film, when it’s been covered in such exhaustive detail by many others?  What will be different about it?  And, if nothing has changed for the better up until this point, ultimately what difference can we make?  My answer is this.  I believe that this issue, along with global climate change, is THE most pressing issue of our time to address and fix.

Although other far more credentialed experts have covered this topic well to date, all of the dots that have led us to this point have not been sufficiently covered and connected so that more Americans will have that “aha moment” in their minds enough to change more those minds that will lead to real positive change.  We intend to also present some possible solutions to move the ball forward on actually fixing these problems.  Also, oftentimes, things needed to be reframed, repeated, and repeated some more before real change occurs.  Therefore, I view this project as our own small personal, patriotic contribution to helping the country survive and thrive over the long term.

It is our intention to present and connect all of those “dots” in a coherent, easy to understand way, but most importantly include several personal stories of real people who’ve been directly and adversely affected by these issues.  So, why should more Americans care about this issue?  It’s pretty simple, actually.  More Americans need to understand that many of their fellow citizens have needlessly suffered, and continue to suffer, under a system that is not only often a cruel one, but also one that is counterproductive to continuing our country in a stable, functioning manner, without some sort of eventual civil upheaval.  This could also be you, your family, or friends someday.  If it hasn’t already, this issue WILL touch us all in some fashion if given enough time and inattention spent on fixing it.

Throughout history, it has been proven each and every time that these kinds of trends are unsustainable for keeping our democratic republic thriving and surviving without some sort of civil upheaval and even ruination.  It’s proven to be a destabilizing force that will not end well if not addressed and fixed soon.  Our country’s survival therefore may well depend on what we do to fix it.  This is why I’m personally motivated to do what I can to get this film out there to people.

I’ll leave you with a link to this very recent Pew Research article highlighting the problem in pretty clear terms.  These are dangerous times for our country.  It’s high time that we do something about it.  This film is our contribution.

 

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“People open their lives and homes to us, for me it becomes not only a privilege but a responsibility to make sure their stories are told. We have to be brutally honest and empathetic when telling their stories. When it comes to filming families, the right thing to do is be their advocate and make sure people don’t look away. “
Jillian Hurley
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Gary Evans

Cornell University

Professor Evans is an environmental and developmental psychologist interested in how the physical environment affects human health and well being among children. His specific areas of expertise include the environment of childhood poverty, children’s environments (housing, schools, playgrounds, toys), cumulative risk and child development, environmental stressors, and the development of children’s environmental attitudes and behaviors.

Nick Hanauer

Pitchfork Economics

Nick Hanauer is one of the most successful entrepreneurs, investors, and managers in the Pacific Northwest with over 30 years of experience across a broad range of industries including manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, digital media and advertising, software, aerospace, health care, and finance. He is a co-founder and partner of Second Avenue Partners, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that provides management, strategy, and capital for early stage companies. 

Barry Ritholtz

Ritholtz Wealth MGMT

Barry Ritholtz has spent his career helping people spot their own investment errors and to learn how to better manage their own financial behaviors. He is the creator of The Big Picture, often ranked as the number one financial blog to follow by The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and others.

Barry is the creator and host of Bloomberg’s “Masters in Business” radio podcast, and a featured columnist at the Washington Post. He is the author of the Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy (Wiley, 2009). In addition to serving as Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, he is also on the advisory boards of Riskalyze, and Peer Street, two leading financial technology startups bringing transparency and analytics to the investment business.

Barry has named one of the “15 Most Important Economic Journalists” in the United States, and has been called one of The 25 Most Dangerous People in Financial Media. When not working, he can be found with his wife and their two dogs on the north shore of Long Island.

Richard Florida

City Lab

Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate and visiting fellow at Florida International University.

Janet Gornick

CUNY-Stone Center

Janet Gornick attended Harvard University, where she was awarded a B.A. (psychology and social relations, 1980), an M.P.A. (Kennedy School, 1987), and a Ph.D. (political economy and government, 1994). She is currently a professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. From September 2006 to August 2016, she served as director of LIS (formerly the Luxembourg Income Study), a cross‐national data archive and research center located in Luxembourg, with a satellite office at The Graduate Center. Since September 2016, she has served as director of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio‐Economic Inequality. The Stone Center includes the LIS satellite office, known as the US Office of LIS.

Ken Jacobs

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Ken Jacobs is the chair of the Labor Center, where he has been a labor specialist since 2002. His areas of specialization include low-wage work, labor standards policies, and health care coverage. He has recently worked on economic impact studies of proposed minimum wage laws for the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Jose, and conducted analyses of the public cost of low-wage work. Jacobs is the co-editor, with Michael Reich and Miranda Dietz, of When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level (University of California Press), an edited volume on the impacts of labor standards policies in San Francisco.

Steven Pitts

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Steven Pitts came to the Labor Center in August of 2001 from Houston, Texas. Steven received his Ph.D. in economics with an emphasis on urban economics from the University of Houston in 1994. His master’s degree is also from the University of Houston and he holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. For the fifteen years prior to his arrival at the Labor Center, Steven taught economics at Houston Community College and, for five years, he was an adjunct lecturer in the African American Studies Program at the University of Houston. At the Labor Center, Steven focuses on issues of job quality and Black workers. In this arena, he has published reports on employment issues in the Black community, initiated a Black union leadership school, and shaped projects designed to build solidarity between Black and Latino immigrant workers. Currently, a major area of his work involves providing technical assistance to efforts in developing Black worker centers around the country.

April Sims

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April Sims was elected Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO by its affiliated unions in December 2018 and she began her four-year term on Jan. 5, 2019. She is the first woman of color to be elected as a WSLC executive officer.

April has served as the WSLC’s Political and Strategic Campaign Director since November 2017, working to develop shared agendas with labor and community partners, to advance strategic organizing campaigns (raising wages, naturalization, revenue reform, etc.), and to recruit, train and elect political champions for working people. She first joined the WSLC in September 2015 as Field Mobilization Director, working with WSLC-affiliated unions and community partners to support and encourage the participation of individual members with many different political, legislative and community programs.

Prior to joining the WSLC staff, Sims served as the Legislative and Political Action Field Coordinator for the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE), where she was responsible for member education, communication, and mobilization around legislative issues and political campaigns. She was a WFSE member, shop steward, elected union officer, and union staffer from 2002-15.

Kathryn Edin

Princeton University

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David Himmelstein

CUNY

Dr. David Himmelstein is a distinguished professor of public health and health policy in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, adjunct clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has served as chief of the division of social and community medicine at Cambridge Hospital.

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Dave Pederson
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Olga Miranda

SEIU 87

Olga is President of SEIU Local 87 in San Francisco. The SEIU was founded in 1921 in Chicago as the Building Services Employees Union (BSEU); its first members were janitors, elevator operators, and window washers.
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Stephanie Porta

Organize Florida

As a community organizer, Stephanie Porta has spent the last 15 years working to support Florida’s low income communities in their fight for equity and dignity. Her work has led to raising Florida’s minimum wage in 2004, passing police accountability reforms, winning foreclosure prevention programs, affordable utility campaigns, electing progressive officials and much more.

In 2010, Stephanie co-founded Organize Florida to work on the needs of Florida’s low and moderate income communities and now acts as Executive Director. The membership organization has grown quickly and has membership in 17 counties across mid-Florida. In 2014, Stephanie championed efforts to pass Earned Sick Time in Orange County, and in 2016 supported outreach efforts to more than two million voters across Florida. Stephanie has been recognized by the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Weekly, Orlando Magazine & Orlando Women’s Magazine for leadership on government transparency and issues facing the working poor.

Beth Babcock

Empathways

Elisabeth Babcock (Beth) is the President and CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), an international charitable organization dedicated to creating new pathways to economic independence for low-income families. EMPath uses its unique “action-tank” business model to design, build, and test new approaches for creating economic mobility and then shares them with other organizations and governments.

Mike Buchman

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Stephanie Kelton

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Lawrence Katz

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Stacy Mitchell

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"Income inequality is the greatest problem facing America today. It effects our other two major inequality issues, racial inequality and gender inequality. Income inequality must be remedied or America will inevitably collapse into a Banana Republic without drastic legislative and societal action."
Dave Pederson
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Jacob Hacker

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Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. A regular media commentator and policy adviser, he is the author or co-author of five books, numerous journal articles, and a wide range of popular writings on American politics and public policy. His most recent book, written with Paul Pierson, is American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper—a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and a best business book of 2016 according to the management magazine Strategy+Business.