It's part of a project spearheaded by Morgan Spurlock — remember him? The guy who got famous for (barely) surviving on nothing but McDonald's for a month? Then, he was taking on the American obesity epidemic. Now, he's tackling a new challenge: making economics interesting to young people.
To do so, Spurlock recruited some of the directors and stars most appealing to Generation Y and divvied up some heavy topics — think budget deficits, national debt, bank deposits and option swaps — and tasked the stars with making videos explaining the tough stuff to a tough crowd.
One of the products of the challenge came from former SNL writer, Adam McKay, known for his work on Anchorman and Talladega Nights. McKay cast comediennes, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman and Maya Rudolph as Happy, Giggles and Sunshine, a trio of alpacas fresh out of Sweetness School. They represent the top 1 percent, top 20 percent and bottom 80 percent of earners, respectively, and the jobs they secure at the local lollipop factory reflect their economic standing.
We learn alongside Happy, Giggles and Sunshine the very real effect income inequality has on wage workers in America, which has the fifth-highest degree of inequality among the world's developed countries, according to the video.
Happy, who comes from a wealthy family, rides her successful, Ayn Rand-loving father's coattails right into a cushy, six-figure gig as "junior VP of synergy." No one is quite sure what her job duties are, but she gets to hang out in a cocktail-filled lounge with a view while she monitors her stock options. Yay!
Giggles, who went to law school and studied lollipop manufacturing, scores a middle management job at an offshore lollipop plant. Her choices for locations include places like Bangladesh, Honduras and Gary, Indiana, "where we pay low wages because the countries are poor," says the lollipop factory's human resources director.
And then there's Sunshine. She attended P.S. 152, where the doors were guarded by metal detectors and the textbooks were 30 years old — you know, just about any inner-city public school in the U.S. There's no job for Sunshine, because factory workers were recently replaced by the new "Lolli-matic."
Sunshine, voiced by Poehler, rightly points out the glaring problem with her situation: "So, because Happy had rich parents and went to a fancy school and I didn't, I'm screwed?"
The video illustrates many of the problems with the American economy that got Sunshine into this mess: tax breaks for the rich, high inflation and stagnation in the minimum wage. It also gives us a little history lesson, explaining how economic growth in the last 40 years has favored the rich and hollowed out the middle class.
"Most economists believe that rising inequality is the result of both market forces and government policy, and finding a way for the economy to grow and see its benefits shared broadly is the crucial political and economic challenge of our age!" exclaims the talking lollipop who narrates the video.
Make sure you've got your learning cap on and check out "The Unbelievably Sweet Alpacas!" below.
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