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Hillary Clinton, Paul Ryan, and the Crisis of American Capitalism

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert B. Reich       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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From Robert Reich Blog


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Hillary Clinton won't be the only winner when Donald Trump and his fellow haters are defeated on Election Day (as looks increasingly likely). Another will be Paul Ryan, who will rule the Republican roost.

Democrats may take back the Senate but they won't take back the House. Gerrymandering has given House Republicans an impregnable fortress of safe seats.

This means that in order for President Hillary Clinton to get anything done, she'll have to make deals with Speaker Paul Ryan.

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While the Clinton-Ryan years won't be marked by the same kind of petulant gridlock we've witnessed over the last eight, the ascendance of Ryan and Clinton will mark a win for big business and Wall Street over the strongest anti-establishment surge America has witnessed since Great Depression.

Clinton might be able to summon Ryan's support on a "Buffet rule" for the highest-income taxpayers -- an effective minimum tax of 30 percent on top incomes. She might also be able to wrangle some additional spending on infrastructure and paid family leave.

But the price Ryan can be expected to exact will be lower corporate tax rates, along with a tax amnesty on corporate profits repatriated to the United States. And to offset the added spending and tax cuts, Ryan will probably want Clinton to trim Social Security (perhaps reviving the terrible idea of a "chained" CPI for determining cost of living increases), and slow the growth of Medicare.

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None of this will do much to remedy the central economic challenge of our era -- reversing the declining incomes and wealth of most Americans.

Although incomes rose in 2015, the typical household is still worse off today than it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation. The assets of the typical family today are worth 14 percent less than the assets of the typical family in 1984. And the typical job is less secure than at any time since the Great Depression.

These trends are not sustainable -- neither economically nor politically. They generated the fury that's under-girded Trump's ugly campaign, and fueled the anger that propelled Bernie Sanders's insurgency.

They've fed a growing sense that the political-economic system is rigged in favor of those at the top.

And it is. Big money has corrupted our democracy, resulting in laws and rules that systematically favor big corporations, Wall Street, and the very rich over everyone else.

Consider, for example, the growing market power of leading pharmaceutical companies, private health insurers, the biggest Wall Street banks, giant cable providers, four major airlines, and five largest high-tech companies. And the decreasing market power of unions.

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The resulting imbalance is transferring money out of the pockets of average Americans directly into the pockets of major shareholders and top executives.

A similar upward distribution is occurring through bankruptcy laws that allow giant corporations and billionaires to avoid paying what they owe, yet don't allow average people overburdened with mortgage or student debt to renegotiate those obligations.

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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.

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