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Inside Job: Film Brings Us Face to Face with the People Who Nearly Destroyed Our Economy

Director Ferguson makes the case that the meltdown wasn't just an unfortunate accident, it was totally avoidable.

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CF: The obvious, conventional one that everybody sort of knows about is between government and industry, people going back and forth between the industry that they're supposed to be regulating and the industry itself. For example, Robert Rubin, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, became Treasury Secretary of the Clinton administration. While he was Treasury Secretary, he had a major role in the further deregulation of the financial services industry and very specifically, repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which had forced a separation between investment banking and commercial banking. The first and biggest beneficiary of the repeal of that law was Citigroup. Citicorp and Travelers wanted to merge and that merger was illegal under the Glass-Steagall Act. Then Mr. Rubin and others got that law passed, and Mr. Rubin left the Clinton administration and became vice-chair of Citigroup, which then paid him over $100 million.

The less obvious one is that this is actually a triangular relationship, and the third part of the triangle is academia. People going between having positions in universities as economists and being in industry and being in government, and often being paid by industry while they are in academia and while they are writing papers and making speeches about what policy should be toward the industry they're being paid by.

EW: Why do you think people didn't get more outraged? Did that surprise you?

CF: It does surprise me. I think it's more difficult to do something about this because it's a fully bipartisan problem. You can't switch from one political party to the other. So the kind of effort people have to engage to try and become activist about this is much more complicated and much more difficult. You have to think about and know about the records of individual candidates, individual members of Congress. You have to think about who to donate money to and who not to. Or conceivably start a new organization or a new political party.

Someone said to me yesterday the American people are now weary and tired. Those people who have jobs are working harder to keep them and those people who don't have jobs don't have money and their primary concern is trying to get a job and keep their house, keep their car. And because things are so difficult for so many people, people don't have the kind of psychological energy to do the kind of things they might otherwise.

Emily Wilson is a freelance writer and teaches basic skills at City College of San Francisco.

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