Thursday, August 30, 2012

Young filmmaker Jamie Johnson shines in pre-2008 documentary "The One Percent"; they are very concerned about "losing it"

Jamie Johnson, a young adult (b. 1979) in the family behind “Johnson and Johnson” company, certainly “intrudes” into his own documentary, “The One Percent”, starting out as he adjusts a mike on his upper chest as he gets ready to be filmed.  (That’s all OK; he is slender, youthful, and “desirable” or even "cute", unlike most of the stuffy, even decaying old me whom he interviews.)  He ends by winning the support of his mother, who was not born into wealth.  For most of the rest of his 76-minute film, he fights off resistance from his father and other male family members, and documents the resistance of many of the wealthy in “talking about it” with the media.  And the kids of wealth grow up with the idea that you don’t speak out, as Nicole Buffet finds out, after her grandfather cuts her out of the family (and I guess, the will) for appearing in the film.

In fact, the film was made in 2005-2006, well before the Financial Crisis of 2008, during the middle of the Subprime real estate bubble, before many people could admit what would go wrong.

An early scene of the film shows a seminar at “Lido Wealth” in Florida, giving a seminar about “Family wealth: keeping it in the family”.  It’s as if “blood loyalty” and sexual self-discipline could provide a moral justification for massive income inequality.

Jamie has a lot of conversations with Milton Friedman, who gets tired of him, but at least makes his claim that “trickle down” really does trickle. He talks to Roy Martin, a lumber industry captain in Louisiana, about the idea of being endowed with wealthy by God, to do something with it.  He also interviews Coday Franchetti, and Chuck Collims, som of Oscar Meyer.

One of the most interesting episodes occurs when Jamie tours Belle Glade, FL, a town on Lake Okeechobee in south Florida, heavy into the sugar cane business, which really exploits cheap labor.
I visited the town on vacation, in an Alamo rental car, back in August1986, curious because Belle Glade had been reported as a center of an unexplained AIDS outbreak.  The center of town looked like a scene from a third world country, with crude signs around for hand laundry.  I remember being followed by a car until I got out of town.  Was AIDS the dirty secret, or was it economic practices?  Not so far from Belle Glade  (50 miles) is one of America’s richest communities, Palm Beach. On the other hand, West Palm Beach (which I remember from a childhood trip) is quite ordinary and middle class. 

The official site for HBO is here
The DVD (ion Netflix) comes from Virgil Films, and the film starts playing with no menu. The film can be rented “legally” on YouTube for $1.99.

Here is a supplementary short film (9 Min), “Who Are the One Percent?” by Thom Harmann and Robert Greenwald, from Nov. 2011 (post 2008-crash).  Does the One Percent “keep down” the other 99%?.  FDR had said that no one should become “rich and fat” because of war in 1941.

Greenwald’s site is “Who are the 1 Percent?”, basic site here

Wikipedia attribution link for Belle Glade scene 

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