Margin Call (2011) & Inside Job (2010)

The story of the ‘Greenspan Crash’ of 2008 seems complicated and there are a lot of details, but after watching this double-bill you will see that it is really quite simple: deregulation -> greed -> bailout -> massive Government corruption leading to a total failure to bring the culprits to justice -> all resulted in an astonishingly clear transfer of an unprecedented amount of wealth from the US taxpayer directly into the pockets of wealthy Wall Street, well, criminals. It was fraud on a gigantic scale. For example in 2008 AIG received $85 Billion dollars from the Federal Government, after which one of its CFOs Joseph Cassano received a new payment of $7m. So US taxpayers literally paid this guy $7 million for the privilege of stealing money from them.

Inside Job is the admirable, Oscar-winning study from Charles Ferguson that consists of him explaining the above and grilling a whole raft of the guilty men on camera in some colorful interviews where many simply don’t have answers to explain the despicable corruption they have been involved in. Margin Call is the underrated fictionalised movie about ‘that night’ at Lehmann Brothers, one of New York’s ‘big five’ investment banks, when they realised they were going to run out of money and their entire company and probably the whole world’s economy was going to go bust.

It’s a fantastic movie and if you want to understand the decline and fall of the USA the scene at the end of Margin Call with one of the characters digging in his back yard is as perfect a picture of it as you could wish to see. Interestingly it was not primarily private individuals but successive, bipartisan US Government corruption that was the chief cause of this disaster. Republican or Democrat, it didn’t make any difference to the loathsome slide into national insolvency. Nobody has ever gotten out of $27 Tr worth of debt.

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