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What I Learned on My Red State Book Tour

By       Message Robert B. Reich     Permalink
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Reprinted from Robert Reich Blog


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I've just returned from three weeks in "red" America.

It was ostensibly a book tour but I wanted to talk with conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers.

I intended to put into practice what I tell my students -- that the best way to learn is to talk with people who disagree [with] you. I wanted to learn from red America, and hoped they'd also learn a bit from me (and perhaps also buy my book).

But something odd happened. It turned out that many of the conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers I met agreed with much of what I had to say, and I agreed with them.

For example, most condemned what they called "crony capitalism," by which they mean big corporations getting sweetheart deals from the government because of lobbying and campaign contributions.

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I met with group of small farmers in Missouri who were livid about growth of "factory farms" owned and run by big corporations, that abused land and cattle, damaged the environment, and ultimately harmed consumers.

They claimed giant food processors were using their monopoly power to squeeze the farmers dry, and the government was doing squat about it because of Big Agriculture's money.

I met in Cincinnati with Republican small-business owners who are still hurting from the bursting of the housing bubble and the bailout of Wall Street.

"Why didn't underwater homeowners get any help?" one of them asked rhetorically. "Because Wall Street has all the power." Others nodded in agreement.

Whenever I suggested that big Wall Street banks be busted up -- "any bank that's too big to fail is too big, period" -- I got loud applause.

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In Kansas City I met with Tea Partiers who were angry that hedge-fund managers had wangled their own special "carried interest" tax deal.

"No reason for it," said one. "They're not investing a dime of their own money. But they've paid off the politicians."

In Raleigh, I heard from local bankers who thought Bill Clinton should never have repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. "Clinton was in the pockets of Wall Street just like George W. Bush was," said one.

Most of the people I met in America's heartland want big money out of politics, and think the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision was shameful.

Most are also dead-set against the Trans Pacific Partnership. In fact, they're opposed to trade agreements, including NAFTA, that they believe have made it easier for corporations to outsource American jobs abroad.

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http://robertreich.org/

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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