Heist- Who Stole the American Dream?
Next week, a new documentary will debut called Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? This film features our Executive Director, Jakada Imani and our co-founder Van Jones. Ella's Voice had the opportunity to interview Donald Goldmacher, the film's director about this project.
Ella's Voice (EV) Why did you make this film?
Donald Goldmacher (DG)L We began working on this film in the summer of 2006, and quickly realized that there was an economic tidal wave about to drown America. We recognized that there were several bubbles that were going to burst, namely the housing bubble, the stockmarket bubble and the credit bubble. Our research also indicated that the majority of American people were just getting by on credit, as their incomes had stagnated since 1973. So our goal in making the film was to put out a warning to the American people. In the last few weeks, we have seen the beginnings of a movement, namely Occupy Wall Street, which is something we indicated had to happen in order to get this country out of the hands of a small handful of very rich people.
EV: How did our country get into this situation?
DG: Our democracy has been eroding for the past 30 years as a result of the corruption of the Congress and the presidency by the corporate elite who have gained increasing power as a result of deregulation and tax cuts for the very wealthy. Unfortunately, both political parties have embraced the ideology of free market fundamentalism, which says that the market knows best, and that we individuals are at the mercy of the market. At the same time, wealthy right wing forces began to fund think tanks that generated propaganda that supported the libertarian ideology which says that free markets are good, government is bad, and individual responsibility is what is needed to cure the ills of the country.
EV: What do you think the future holds for the American middle class?
DG: The middle class is in serious difficulty at the present time as a result of 40 years of increasing corporate power. But the struggle between working people and their corporate overlords has been an ongoing battle throughout the history of the United States. As one of our experts states in the film, there are two kinds of power in the United States; there is organized money and there is organized people. Though the corporate media has generally ignored the pushback by organized people, it has been taking place in various forms, most visibly in Wisconsin earlier this year, and now on the streets of New York. Unless working people, young people, communities of color, and those who are currently employed begin to mobilize and unify against these very powerful corporate forces, the future will become even grimmer.
EV: What is your take on the Occupy Wall Streets and 99% protests emerging all over the country?
DG: We are very encouraged by these movements, and believe this is exactly what needs to start happening across the country. They are demonstrating that people are ready to challenge the current state of political and economic chaos that the country is experiencing. However, they will soon need to articulate a set of demands as well as a strategy to counter the power of corporations and the oligarchy that is currently running this country.
While these occupations are encouraging in and of themselves, there are also other movements that exist beneath the corporate media radar. Increasingly more and more people are beginning to wake up and recognize that the economic system that we currently have in place is not working for them. Young people are starting to drop off the grid and develop a more simple, sustainable lifestyle that does not depend on their working for multinational corporations, and remaining ever in debt. Still others are recognizing that this system does not work from an environmental perspective, and are pushing back against the corporations that are destroying our planet. This is true not only in the United States but across the world as well.
If one reads history, or looks at recent events in the Middle East, ordinary people have always risen up to fight against tyranny. The current situation we find ourselves in is not really very different than other times in history. What is different is that we currently do not have a political party that represents the interest of ordinary people, or a unified mass social movement that has a coherent strategy for reclaiming democracy and instituting a fair, green economy. Whether a political party or mass social movement will emerge soon remains to be determined. What is important to understand is that people are organizing outside the framework of electoral politics, which I think is a positive development.
EV: How else would you recommend that people who want to save our economy can take action?
DG: We believe that the "Take Action" section of our movie will be of invaluable help to ordinary Americans who are baffled by what is happening to the world that they knew. The film provides a framework for how people can begin to organize and create a new, green sustainable economy, and how they can take themselves off the corporate grid by growing their own local economies.
I personally believe it will take a combination of a national mass movement for social and economic justice, combined with possibly a new political party that is no longer willing to accept the current economic philosophy of free markets and unrestrained corporate power. This will obviously take time, strategic thinking, and a great deal of organization.
Most immediately, we believe that people should take their money out of the big banks that caused the crisis that we are in, and move that money into local credit unions who provide the same services without charging fees. It is important to keep the pressure on elected politicians to fight for real reform of the way our economy is currently organized to protect the rich and powerful at the expense of the overwhelming numbers of Americans who are not making it in this country.
Citizens should demand that elections be publicly financed so that politicians can no longer be bribed into voting on behalf of corporations. As we emphasize in the film, it is crucial that we create a green new deal, based on energy derived from the Sun, wind and other non-polluting sources. This will not only help to save the planet, it can also create millions of new green jobs, an idea put forward by Van Jones several years ago in his book The Green Collar Economy. Finally, people should identify those organizations who represent their own hopes and get active in changing the current political and economic picture.
Donald Goldmacher, Director/Producer, is the President of PsychComp Associates and is both a psychiatrist and a filmmaker. He has served as director of Planning for the California Department of Health, and was the director of Mental Health, Alcohol, and Drug Abuse Services of Contra Costa County, CA. His first film, “Do No Harm,” revealed the controversial marketing and research practices of the pharmaceutical industry. His most recent film, "Ruthie and Connie; Every Room in the House," won over 20 festival awards around the world, aired on HBO and television stations around the world. You can also see his co-production of "Helping Your Baby Sleep Through the Night" at http://helpingyourbabysleep.com.