An Insider’s View of the 1%

The 1%

Directed by Jamie Johnson (2006)

Film Review

The 1%, produced and directed by Johnson and Johnson heir Jamie Johnson, offers a rare insider perspective on the dangers of extreme wealth inequality for contemporary society. Johnson favors using major tax reform, ie requiring the wealthy to pay more tax, to reduce inequality.

The film devotes more or less equal emphasis to the psychological insecurities underlying greed and the sordid efforts of the 1% to corrupt democratic institutions.

It includes interviews with late conservative economist Milton Friedman, Ralph Nader, arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi (who brokered the Irangate arms for hostages deal), Robert Reich, sugar barons Alfie and Pepi Fanjul,* Chuck Collins (the Oscar Mayer heir who gave away his wealth), Bill Gates senior (who also supports higher taxes for the rich), and Nicole Buffet (her grandfather Warren Buffet cut her off from the family when she appeared in an earlier version of the 1%.

The film has some great archival footage of Katrina victims during their five day struggle, in the hurricane’s aftermath, to find food and water.

I was also struck at the major role professional financial advisors play in protecting the wealth and power of the 1%.

*Who largely owe their wealth to a quaint US law (and subsidy) that sets the wholesale price of sugar at 23 cents a pound while the rest of the world pays 7 cents.

**See A 1%er Looks at Inequality

Children of the Insanely Rich

Born Rich: Children of the Insanely Rich

Directed by Jamie Johnson (2003)

Film Review

Born Rich is the first documentary of Johnson and Johnson heir Jamie Johnson, who also directed The 1%.

The film mainly consists of interviews with Johnson’s fellow heirs and heiresses about their feelings about being rich, their lifelong dependency on their parents, their struggle finding something meaningful to do with their lives and their sense of loneliness and isolation from wider society.

Despite Johnson’s effort portray his interviewees in an objective light, most  appear to live incredibly superficial and shallow lives. Nevertheless a few, like Johnson, are openly critical of a lifestyle based on accumulating fabulous luxuries and ostentatiously spending money.