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Doug Clark: Local CEO heads ‘Inequality’ showing at Bing

Ron Reed, of PacifiCAD in downtown Spokane, is bringing a film and fundraiser for Second Harvest Food Bank to the Bing Crosby Theater on Jan. 20. The film is an award-winning documentary by former labor secretary Robert Reich on economic inequality. (Dan Pelle)
Ron Reed, of PacifiCAD in downtown Spokane, is bringing a film and fundraiser for Second Harvest Food Bank to the Bing Crosby Theater on Jan. 20. The film is an award-winning documentary by former labor secretary Robert Reich on economic inequality. (Dan Pelle)

It’s only natural to think about racial inequity on Martin Luther King Day.

This year’s holiday in Spokane, however, will also give people a chance to think about unfairness of the economic kind.

The opportunity comes thanks to an ex-rocker and downtown businessman who has a heart for the underdog and a desire to help feed the area’s hungry.

Ron Reed, 61, is CEO of PacifiCAD Inc. The company sells computer-aided engineering and design software from its offices on the third floor of the Steam Plant Square building.

Reed and his wife, Debbie, have arranged for a special showing at the Bing Crosby Theater of “Inequality for All.” The critically acclaimed and award-winning documentary stars President Bill Clinton’s labor secretary, Robert Reich.

The evening will also include inspirational music, a tribute to Dr. King and a panel discussion on the evening’s topic.

While economics might sound somewhat dry, this film is reputedly anything but.

“Rather than through a harangue or a lament,” wrote a New York Times reviewer last fall, “Mr. Reich ties together his talking points with a reasonable-sounding analysis and an unassuming warmth sometimes absent from documentaries charting America’s economic woes.”

The Bing’s doors will open at 5 p.m. on Jan. 20. Admission, said Reed, is whatever you want to give to the Second Harvest food bank.

Let’s hope the big money rolls in. Every penny raised, he said, will be matched by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund.

So why does a busy guy with a thriving company want us to watch this film about our troubled economy?

The human side of the story always tells the tale.

“I have three granddaughters and I’m worried sick about the world that they’re growing up into,” confessed Reed.

“The middle class is being decimated and it’s a bad thing.”

Many have found Reich’s sound for alarm to be legitimate and compelling.

Partisan politics aside, there’s no denying that an enormous disparity exists between the super-rich and the poor or that the middle class is being bled more and more with each passing day.

You don’t have to be an economist to fear a catastrophic tipping point.

The film, said Reed, who has seen it twice and booked it as soon as it was available, notes the eerie historical similarities between today’s world and the buildup to the Great Depression.

But rather than affect an attitude of hopelessness, Reed believes that solutions can be reached through honest debate and understanding the issues.

If that attitude seems a bit pie-in-the-sky, Reed has every right to own it.

Jan. 23, 2013.

That’s the day Reed’s life was saved by a liver transplant. The operation, he said, took place at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Prior to that, Reed said, his diseased liver had put him on the very edge of existence. In and out of comas, Reed said he would often find himself waking up in another strange hospital bed.

Last Sept. 12, Reed said his caregivers advised Debbie to “make the funeral plans.”

It was her birthday, by the way.

But Reed kept pulling through, just long enough to get a second chance.

The liver he received was considered “pristine” and from the Seattle area, which meant that it didn’t have to travel far to get to where it needed to go.

Recovering from a liver transplant is a rough, rough road.

But today?

“I think I feel better now than I ever have,” he said.

With his new lease on life, Reed added he wants to use what he has to help causes that are dear to him.

Like poverty, for example.

Playing in rock bands back in the early 1970s, Reed said he discovered what being broke was all about.

“We did have a lot of fun, but it never went anywhere,” he said of his band days.

But being poor sort of goes with the territory when you’re young and wild.

Reed said he did some checking and was shocked to learn that “76,000 people live at or below the poverty level in Spokane County.”

“It’s important that people do something,” he said, adding that his two oldest granddaughters, Bayley, 11, and Peyton, 9, pooled their resources and have donated 75 bucks to the event at The Bing.

“I’d like to see this happen every year, whether it’s a concert or another film,” he said. “This is something that is really centered on my love for my grandkids and what kind of world they are going to live in.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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