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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 The Rise of the Non-Working Rich (1 comments)
The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing. In fact, we're on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history. The wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge amounts on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, or as high-tech entrepreneurs.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 Freedom, Power, and the Conservative Mind (2 comments)
The owners of Hobby Lobby, the plaintiffs in the case, were always free to practice their religion. The Court bestowed religious freedom on their corporation as well -- a leap of logic as absurd as giving corporations freedom of speech. Corporations aren't people. But the conservative mind has never incorporated economic power into its understanding of freedom.
Monday, June 30, 2014 Hillary's Hardest Choice (and the Democrat's Dilemma) (7 comments)
As the middle class shrinks and distrust of the establishment grows, a new Democratic strategy for the downwardly mobile may be both necessary and inevitable. If she runs, Hillary may have to take the gamble. And if America is to have half a chance of saving the middle class and preserving equal opportunity, it's a gamble worth taking.
Friday, June 27, 2014 Break The Koch Machine (6 comments)
The Koch political machine would be troubling in any circumstance. But it's especially dangerous in present-day America, where wealth is more concentrated than it's been in over a century and the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to big money.
Thursday, June 19, 2014 Real Business Leaders Want to Save Capitalism (5 comments)
Business leaders know the U.S. economy can't get out of first gear as long as wages are declining. And their own businesses can't succeed over the long term without a buoyant and growing middle class. Business leaders are arguing for changes in the rules of the game that would make the game fairer for everyone. They acknowledge it's now dangerously rigged in the favor of people like them.
Friday, June 13, 2014 The Three Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Poverty (8 comments)
The share of Americans in poverty remains around 15 percent. That's even higher than it was in the early 1970s.
How can the economy have grown so much while most people's wages go nowhere and the poor remain poor? Because almost all the gains have gone to the top.
Saturday, June 7, 2014 Voting in Mississippi, 2014 and 1964 (6 comments)
Mississippi used its new voter-identification law for the first time Tuesday -- requiring voters to show a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID at the polls. The official reason given for the new law is alleged voter fraud, although the state hasn't been able to provide any evidence that voter fraud is a problem. The real reason for the law is to suppress the votes of the poor, especially African-Americans.
Thursday, June 5, 2014 Seattle is Right (5 comments)
The gains from a higher minimum wage extend beyond those who receive it. More money in the pockets of low-wage workers means more sales, especially in the locales they live in -- which in turn creates faster growth and more jobs. A major reason the current economic recovery is anemic is that so many Americans lack the purchasing power to get the economy moving again.
Sunday, June 1, 2014 Freedom Summer II (3 comments)
The firm says it can't afford to give its workers a raise or better hours and working conditions. Baloney. Walmart is America's biggest retailer. Its policies are pulling every other major retailer into the same race to the bottom. If Walmart halted the race, the race would stop. This week, Walmart employees will go on strike in dozens of cities.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 Tim Geithner and the Wall Street Bailout Redux (1 comments)
The bailout helped the banks but did little or nothing for the tens of millions of Americans who lost billions of dollars in home equity and savings, and the millions more who lost their jobs. The toll was greatest on the poor and the middle class, who still haven't recovered their losses, even though Wall Street has fully recovered (and then some).
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 How the Right Wing is Killing Women (8 comments)
Some American women are dying during pregnancy and childbirth from health problems they had before they became pregnant but worsened because of the pregnancies -- such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. Researchers aren't sure what's happening but they're almost unanimous in pointing to a lack of access to health care, coupled with rising levels of poverty.
Monday, May 12, 2014 How to Shrink Inequality (4 comments)
The pertinent question is not whether income and wealth inequality is good or bad. It is at what point do these inequalities become so great as to pose a serious threat to our economy, our ideal of equal opportunity and our democracy. We are near or have already reached that tipping point.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 The Six Principles of the New Populism (and the Establishment's Nightmare) (6 comments)
Left and right-wing populists remain deeply divided over the role of government. Even so, the major fault line in American politics seems to be shifting, from Democrat versus Republican, to populist versus establishment -- those who think the game is rigged versus those who do the rigging.
Monday, May 5, 2014 The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality (3 comments)
At the least, the rich must pay higher taxes in order to pay for better-quality education for kids from poor and middle-class families. Labor unions must be strengthened, especially in lower-wage occupations, in order to give workers the bargaining power they need to get better pay. And the minimum wage must be raised. Don't listen to the right-wing lies about inequality. Know the truth, and act on it.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs (2 comments)
The growing divergence between CEO pay and that of the typical American worker isn't just wildly unfair. It's also bad for the economy. It means most workers these days lack the purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing -- contributing to the slowest recovery on record. Meanwhile, CEOs and other top executives use their fortunes to fuel speculative booms followed by busts.
Thursday, April 17, 2014 Antitrust in the New Gilded Age
When two such media giants merge, the threat is extreme. If film-makers, television producers, directors, and news organizations have to rely on Comcast to get their content to the public, Comcast is able to exercise a stranglehold on what Americans see and hear. Is this good for consumers -- for democracy?
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 Happy Tax Day, and Why The Top 1% Pay a Much Lower Tax Rate Than You (2 comments)
The richest 1 percent of Americans are now getting the largest percent of total national income in almost a century. So you might think they'd pay a much higher tax rate than everyone else. But you'd be wrong. Many millionaires pay a lower federal tax rate than many middle-class Americans. Some don't pay any federal taxes at all.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 Why The Minimum Wage Should Really Be Raised To $15 An Hour (3 comments)
A $15/hour minimum won't result in major job losses because it would put money in the pockets of millions of low-wage workers who will spend it -- thereby giving working families and the overall economy a boost, and creating jobs. Since Republicans will push Democrats to go even lower than $10.10, it's doubly important to be clear about what's right in the first place.
Saturday, April 5, 2014 Today’s Jobs Report and the Supreme Court’s "McCutcheon" Debacle (1 comments)
Most companies continue to shed workers, cut wages, and horde their cash because they don't have enough customers to warrant expansion. Why? The vast middle class and poor don't have enough purchasing power, as 95 percent of the economy's gains go to the top 1 percent.
Thursday, April 3, 2014 McCutcheon, and the Vicious Cycle of Concentrated Wealth and Political Power (1 comments)
In America of the late nineteenth century, the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators, prompting the great jurist Louis Brandeis to note that the nation had a choice: "We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few," he said. "But we cannot have both."
Monday, March 31, 2014 The Distributional Games
Improving our schools is critically important. Making work pay by raising the minimum wage and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit would also be helpful. But these are only a start. In order to ensure that future productivity gains don't go overwhelmingly to a small sliver at the top, we'll need a mechanism to give the middle class and the poor a share in future growth.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 The New Billionaire Political Bosses (3 comments)
In using their vast wealth to change those rules and laws in order to fit their political views, the Koch brothers are undermining our democracy. That's a betrayal of the most precious thing Americans share. The only way to stop this is through concerted political action. Yet the only large-scale political action we're witnessing is that of Charles and David Koch, and their billionaire imitators.
Monday, March 24, 2014 The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State (14 comments)
The world's "melting pot" is changing color. Between the 2000 and 2010 census, the share of the U.S. population calling itself white dropped from 69 to 64 percent, and more than half of the nation's population growth came from Hispanics. It's also becoming more divided by economic class. Increasingly, the rich seem to inhabit a different country than the rest.
Saturday, March 22, 2014 The Real Truth About ObamaCare (3 comments)
Remedies could evolve. States might use their state-run exchanges to funnel so many applicants to a single, low-cost insurer that the insurer becomes, in effect, a single payer. Vermont is already moving in this direction. In this way, the Affordable Care Act could become a back door to a single-payer system -- every conservative's worst nightmare.
Friday, March 14, 2014 The 'Paid-What-You're-Worth' Myth (4 comments)
It's often assumed that people are paid what they're worth. According to this logic, minimum wage workers aren't worth more than the $7.25 an hour they now receive.
According to this same logic, CEOs of big companies are worth their giant compensation packages, now averaging 300 times pay of the typical American worker.
"Paid-what-you're-worth" is a dangerous myth.
Friday, March 7, 2014 The Great U-Turn (1 comments)
In seeking to repair what is broken, we don't have to emulate another nation. We have only to emulate what we once had. That we once achieved broad-based prosperity means we can achieve it again -- not exactly the same way, of course, but in a new way fit for the twenty-first century and for future generations of Americans. America's great U-turn can be reversed. It is worth the fight.
Friday, February 28, 2014 The Real Job Killers (2 comments)
Progress requires creating more jobs that pay well, are safe, sustain the environment, and provide a modicum of security. If seeking to achieve a minimum level of decency ends up "killing" some jobs, then maybe those aren't the kind of jobs we ought to try to preserve in the first place. The real job killers in America are lousy jobs at lousy wages.
Friday, February 21, 2014 Inequality, Productivity, and WhatsApp
Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line -- or spread the gains more widely -- our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.
Saturday, February 15, 2014 America's "We" Problem (3 comments)
Being rich in today's America means not having to come across anyone who isn't. Exclusive prep schools, elite colleges, private jets, gated communities, tony resorts, symphony halls and opera houses, and vacation homes in the Hamptons and other exclusive vacation sites all insulate them from the rabble.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 Why The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten (2 comments)
Wall Street was deregulated -- creating a casino capitalism that caused a near meltdown of the economy six years ago and continues to burden millions of homeowners. As the gap between America's wealthy and the middle has widened, those at the top have felt even richer by comparison. Although a rising tide would lift all boats, many of America's richest prefer a lower tide and bigger yachts.
Sunday, February 9, 2014 Why the Lousy Jobs Report Boosted Wall Street (1 comments)
What's bad for Main Street and good for Wall Street in the short term is bad for both in the long term. The American economy is at a crawl. Median household incomes are dropping. The American middle class doesn't have the purchasing power to keep the economy going. And as companies focus ever more on short-term share prices at the expense of long-term growth, we're in for years of sluggish performance.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014 Why Widening Inequality is Hobbling Equal Opportunity
America's savage inequality is the main reason equal opportunity is fading and poverty is growing. Since the "recovery" began, 95% of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, and median incomes have dropped. This is a continuation of the trend we've seen for decades.
Saturday, January 25, 2014 Why There’s No Outcry (4 comments)
Change is coming anyway. We cannot abide an ever-greater share of the nation's income and wealth going to the top while median household incomes continue too drop, one out of five of our children living in dire poverty, and big money taking over our democracy. Reform is less risky than revolution, but the longer we wait the more likely it will be the latter.
Saturday, January 18, 2014 David Brooks' Utter Ignorance About Inequality (4 comments)
Not only is there less money for good schools, job training, and social services, but the poor face a difficult challenge moving upward because the income ladder is longer than it used to be and its middle rungs have disappeared. That David Brooks, one of the most thoughtful of conservative pundits, doesn't see or acknowledge this is a sign of how far the right has moved away from the reality most Americans live in every day.
Thursday, January 16, 2014 Fear is Why Workers in Red States Vote Against Their Economic Self-Interest (2 comments)
The best bulwark against corporate irresponsibility is a strong and growing middle class. But in order to summon the political will to achieve it, we have to overcome the timidity that flows from economic desperation. It's a diabolical chicken-and-egg conundrum at the core of American politics today.
Sunday, January 5, 2014 The Year of the Great Redistribution (2 comments)
The stock market ended 2013 at an all-time high -- giving stockholders their biggest annual gain in almost two decades. Most Americans didn't share in those gains, however, because most people haven't been able to save enough to invest in the stock market. More than two-thirds of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck.
Monday, December 30, 2013 A New Year's Message
Despite do-nothing congressional Republicans, we ARE making progress around the country because Americans are organizing and mobilizing. Together we can make 2014 the year we turn the tide on economic inequality.
Saturday, December 28, 2013 Why You Shouldn't Succumb to Defeatism About the Affordable Care Act (1 comments)
Of course there will be problems implementing the Affordable Care Act. But if we're determined to create a system that's cheaper and more effective at keeping Americans healthy than the one we have now -- and, in truth, we have no choice -- we have every chance of succeeding. We invent, experiment, and fix what has to be fixed.
Thursday, December 19, 2013 The Meaning of a Decent Society (3 comments)
The supply-side, trickle-down, market-fundamentalist views that took root in America in the early 1980s got us fundamentally off track. To get back to the kind of shared prosperity and upward mobility we once considered normal will require another era of fundamental reform, of both our economy and our democracy.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 Raw Deal
About the only good thing that can be said about the budget deal just patched together by House Republican budget chair Paul Ryan and Senate Democratic budget chair Patty Murray is that the right-wing Heritage Foundation and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity oppose it.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 When Charity Begins at Home (Particularly the Homes of the Wealthy) (2 comments)
A while ago, New York's Lincoln Center held a fund-raising gala supported by the charitable contributions of hedge fund industry leaders, some of whom take home $1 billion a year. I may be missing something but this doesn't strike me as charity, either. Poor New Yorkers rarely attend concerts at Lincoln Center. Congress might consider limiting the charitable deduction to real charities.
Monday, December 9, 2013 JP Morgan Chase, the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act, and the Corruption of America (1 comments)
Never before has so much U.S. corporate and Wall-Street money poured into our nation's capital, as well as into our state capitals. Never before have so many Washington officials taken jobs in corporations, lobbying firms, trade associations, and on the Street immediately after leaving office. Our democracy is drowning in big money. Corruption is corruption, bribery is bribery, in whatever country or language it's transacted.
Friday, December 6, 2013 One Answer to Low-Wage Work: Redistributing the Gains (3 comments)
without some redistribution, America's growing army of low-wage workers may fall prey to demagogues on the right or left who offer convenient scapegoats for their frustrations. In other words, we can finance much of this redistribution to the working poor by ending unnecessary redistributions to the wealthy.
Monday, December 2, 2013 The True Price of Great Holiday Deals
Online retailing is the future. Technology and globalization are taking over more and more American jobs. There's no easy fix for this, and it's hardly the President's fault. But the sobering reality is the United States has no national strategy for creating more good jobs in America. Until we do, more and more Americans will be chasing great deals that come largely at their own expense.
Sunday, November 17, 2013 What Walmart Could Learn from Henry Ford
Walmart isn't your average mom-and-pop operation. It's the largest employer in America. As such, it's the trendsetter for millions of other employers of low-wage workers. As long as Walmart keeps its wages at or near the bottom, other low-wage employers keep wages there, too. All they need do is offer $8.85 an hour to have their pick.
Thursday, November 14, 2013 Having the Backbone to Set Minimum Standards for Health Insurance (1 comments)
Spineless Democrats (including my old boss Bill Clinton) are caving in to the Republican-fueled outrage that the President "misled" Americans into thinking they could keep their old lousy policies -- and are now urging the White House to forget the new standards and let people keep what they had before.
Saturday, November 9, 2013 Pragmatists, Ideologues, and Inequality in America
he real ideologue is Christie, who vetoed an increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey. The current minimum of $7.25 is far lower than it was three decades ago in terms of purchasing power, and the typical minimum-wage worker is no longer a teenager but a major breadwinner for his or her family.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 What Tuesday's Election Results Really Mean (4 comments)
A few decades ago McAuliffe would be viewed as a right-wing Democrat and Christie as a right-wing Republican. Both garnered their major support from corporate America, and both will reliably govern as fiscal conservatives who won't raise taxes on the wealthy. Both look moderate only by contrast with the Tea Partiers to their extreme right.
Friday, November 1, 2013 Why Washington Is Cutting Safety Nets When Most Americans Are Still in the Great Recession (4 comments)
It's easy to blame Republicans and the right-wing billionaires that bankroll them, and their unceasing demonization of "big government" as well as deficits. But Democrats in Washington bear some of the responsibility. In last year's fiscal cliff debate neither party pushed to extend the payroll tax holiday or find other ways to help the working middle class and poor.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 The Triumph of the Right (2 comments)
The central issue of our time is the reality of widening inequality of income and wealth. Everything else -- the government shutdown, the fight over the debt ceiling, the continuing negotiations over the budget deficit -- is a dangerous distraction. The Right's success in generating this distraction is its greatest, and most insidious, triumph.
Friday, October 18, 2013 What to Expect During the Cease-Fire
Our real economic problem continues to be a dearth of good jobs along with widening inequality. Cutting the budget deficit may make both worse, by reducing total demand for goods and services and eliminating programs that lower-income Americans depend on. The President has now scored a significant victory over extremist Republicans. But the fight will continue. He mustn't relinquish ground during the upcoming cease-fire.
Sunday, October 13, 2013 Why Giving Republican Bullies a Bloody Nose Isn't Enough (3 comments)
Now is the time to lance the boil of Republican extremism once and for all.
Since Barack Obama became president, the extremists who have taken over the Republican Party have escalated their demands every time he's caved, using the entire government of the United States as their bargaining chit.
Friday, October 11, 2013 The Tea Party Republicans' Biggest Mistake: Confusing Government with Our System of Government (6 comments)
Americans distrust big government, and always will. There's ample reason -- especially given the huge sums now bankrolling politicians, coming from a relative handful of billionaires, big corporations, and Wall Street. But we love our system of government. That's what must be strengthened. The Tea Partiers have overplayed their hand. If they don't stop their recklessness, they'll be out of the game.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 Republican Crazy Talk About the Debt Ceiling
why are Republicans talking like this? Because they want to sound as if they're willing to blow up the economy if they don't get their way. A crazy person with a bomb is much scarier than someone holding a bomb who looks and acts reasonable. Sounding crazy is part of the Republican bargaining strategy.
Monday, September 30, 2013 Why Obama and the Democrats Shouldn't Negotiate with Extortionists (5 comments)
We don't repeal laws by holding hostage the entire US government. The bullies are a faction inside the Republican Party--extremists who are threatening more reasonable Republicans with primary challenges if they don't go along. And where are the Tea Party extremists getting their dough? From even bigger bullies--a handful of hugely wealthy Americans who are sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into this extortion racket.