Posts Tagged ‘Robert Reich’

Are Clinton and Obama to blame for Trump?

February 5, 2020

Secretary of Labor Robert Reich

Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor during the Bill Clinton administration, is an honest man whom I respect.

When he left public service, he went back to his old job as a college professor and author.  He didn’t become a millionaire by joining corporate boards of directors or collecting consultants’ fees.

I also respect Reich, who is 4 feet 11 inches tall, for making his way in a world in which most people unconsciously take tall people more seriously than they take short people.  This is a form of prejudice I seldom think about.

He wrote an interesting article in The Guardian about how working people no longer feel represented by either the Democratic or Republican parties.

In 2015, he interviewed working people for a new book he was working on.  He’d talked to many whom he’d met 20 years before when he was in government, and many of their grown children.

Almost all of them were disillusioned with the “rigged system,” which they thought Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush represented.  The only presidential candidates they were interested in were Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  Reich thinks they had a point.

Democrats had occupied the White House for 16 of the 24 years before Trump’s election, and in that time scored some important victories for working families: the Affordable Care Act, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example.  I take pride in being part of a Democratic administration during that time.

But Democrats did nothing to change the vicious cycle of wealth and power that had rigged the economy for the benefit of those at the top and undermined the working class.

As Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg concluded after the 2016 election, “Democrats don’t have a ‘white working-class’ problem.  They have a ‘working class problem’ which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly.  

“The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate.”

In the first two years of the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.  Yet both Clinton and Obama advocated free trade agreements without providing millions of blue-collar workers who consequently lost their jobs any means of getting new ones that paid at least as well.  

Clinton pushed for NAFTA and for China joining the World Trade Organization, and Obama sought to restore the “confidence” of Wall Street instead of completely overhauling the banking system.

Both stood by as corporations hammered trade unions, the backbone of the white working class. They failed to reform labor laws to allow workers to form unions with a simple up-or-down majority vote, or even to impose meaningful penalties on companies that violated labor protections.

Clinton deregulated Wall Street before the crash; Obama allowed the Street to water down attempts to re-regulate it after the crash. Obama protected Wall Street from the consequences of its gambling addiction through a giant taxpayer-funded bailout, but allowed millions of underwater homeowners to drown.

Both Clinton and Obama turned their backs on campaign finance reform. In 2008, Obama was the first presidential nominee since Richard Nixon to reject public financing in his primary and general election campaigns, and he never followed up on his re-election promise to pursue a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United vs FEC, the 2010 supreme court opinion opening wider the floodgates to big money in politics.

Although Clinton and Obama faced increasingly hostile Republican congresses, they could have rallied the working class and built a coalition to grab back power from the emerging oligarchy. Yet they chose not to. Why?

Source: The Guardian

Before I respond to Reich’s question, I want to take him to task for saying unions are the backbone of the “white working class.”  All workers, regardless of race, ethnicity or, for that matter, gender, need the protection of labor unions.

Black and Hispanic Americans are a larger percentage of union members than they are of the U.S. population as a whole.  When you use the expression “white working class,” you ignore the existence of a huge number of American wage-earners.

I don’t think Reich had bad intent, but one of the Democratic Party’s big problems is the successful Republican effort to drive a wedge between native-born white Anglo working people and black, Hispanic and immigrant working people.  It’s a mistake to use language that plays into that.

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The education of America’s rich and poor

October 11, 2014

 Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, took note on his blog of the education gap between rich and poor.

  • The United States, among the 65 nations participating in the Program for International Student Achievement, has one of the largest gaps in achievement between children of the rich and children of the poor.  This wealth gap in educational achievement has been growing while the gap between white and black Americans has been shrinking.
  • The United States, among the 34 nations that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has one of the largest gaps between spending on schools attended by children of the rich and schools attended by children of the poor.

He quoted Eduardo Porter, who wrote about unequal education in the New York Times.

“The debate about education reform is a lot about process,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center in Newark, an advocacy group for disadvantaged students. “To a large extent it is a huge distraction. We never get to the question of what resources we need to get the students to meet the standards.”

The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”

The inequity of education finance in the United States is a feature of the system, not a bug, stemming from its great degree of decentralization and its reliance on local property taxes.

via NYTimes.com.

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Is college a ticket to a middle-class income?

October 11, 2014

A liberal education is an excellent thing to have, and going to college is one good way to get it.

But college is not necessarily a ticket to a middle-class income, and massive college enrollment is not a rising tide that will lift all boats.

A higher proportion of Americans than ever before are going to college, and yet economic inequality is rising.  The more people who attend college, the less of a competitive advantage a college degree will provide.

I think that everyone who is capable of doing college work should have the opportunity to go to college, but this would not, in and of itself, create jobs nor revive the sluggish U.S. economy.

These thoughts were prompted by a couple of articles I read through links on the New York York 23rd web log.

Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, wrote in an article reprinted in Salon, stating that in these days of crushing student loans, a college education is not necessarily of economic benefit to everyone and that there are other ways to qualify for good jobs.

Dr. Jorge L. Diaz-Herrera, president of Keuka College in upstate New York, responded in the Elmira Star-Gazette that a college degree does indeed give you an economic edge.

I think that’s a weak argument for somebody in his position.   I believe it is possible to get just as good an education at a small and lesser-known college such as Keuka College as at larger and better-known colleges and universities, but the cash value of the diploma as a credential will not be as great.

LINKS

College is a ludicrous waste of money by Robert Reich for Salon.  Reich’s own headline on his blog was Back to College, the Only Gateway to the Middle Class.

College is not a ‘waste of money’ by Dr. Jorge L. Diaz-Herrera for the Elmira Star-Gazette.

Thinking Like Corporations Is Harming American Universities by Noam Chomsky.  The larger picture.

Robert Reich debunks seven big lies

October 28, 2011

Hat tip to The Browser.

Prosperity yesterday, regression today

September 4, 2011
Double click to enlarge

This graphic sums up the past 60 years of the U.S. economy very well.

It accompanied an article in the New York Times by Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Click on The Limping Middle Class to read the article.

Hat tip to The Big Picture.

Robert Reich on Labor Day 2011

August 30, 2011

Double click to enlarge

Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and now is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote the following a couple of days ago.

Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades.  But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Robert Reich

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits.  The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation.  High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century.  According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).

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Robert Reich explains it all in two minutes

June 17, 2011

Actually, two minutes and 15 seconds.

Robert Reich was Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, and is now professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Click on Robert Reich for his web log.

Hat tip to David Damico for the video.