Title: Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?
Directors: Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher
An unflinching, diamond-sharp salvo about the roots of the American economic crisis and its impact on particularly the middle class, “Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?” offers up a fusillade of facts that convincingly paint the United States as an oligarchy with fairly corruptible political leadership. Co-directors Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher largely eschew traditional partisan truncheons and dig past more familiar villains and boogeymen to shine a light on the damaging impact of three-plus decades of rampant deregulation, job outsourcing and tax policies aimed almost solely at further empowering large business owners and the individually wealthy. The finished product is almost impossible not to raise ire and heart rates.
Narrated by Thom Hartmann, the well-researched “Heist” slots in comfortably alongside documentaries like Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job.” However, it also takes a long view of our current situation, revealing the roots of planning that led to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which limited affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms, and other consumer financial system protections. Given particular scrutiny is an important memorandum penned by future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell — the deciding vote in 1978’s First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a forerunner for the Citizens United case in which corporations were granted new rights to spend money in order to influence political processes — in which he extolled the free market system and deemed that the end of business regulation would somehow benefit all.
Specifically, Powell (and later his acolytes) advocated business control of raw political power, and mechanisms of punishment for those who opposed their policies and ideas. In foreseeing saw how corporate money could talk louder than organized labor and consumer protection groups — and advancing that cause — the Powell Memorandum provided a veritable blueprint for the creation of ideological marketing organizations masquerading as think tanks, and laid groundwork for news organizations as bloviating big business opinion peddlers. Through these mouthpieces, massive rollbacks on capital gains and dividend taxes were achieved, along with the stripping back of other important measures of federal oversight. In this environment, rapaciousness and excess were then allowed to run amok.
“Heist” is a cinematic gut punch, to be sure, but not one entirely devoid of hope. It sounds an alarm, and makes a compelling case for greater political involvement and education by those with less means than the moneyed elite of this country. Whether that call is answered en masse may say a lot about the future trajectory of the United States of America.
NOTE: For more information on “Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?,” visit www.heist-themovie.com.
Written by: Brent Simon