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Intro: "You can't fight something with nothing. But as long as Democrats refuse to talk about the almost unprecedented buildup of income, wealth, and power at the top - and the refusal of the super-rich to pay their fair share of the nation's bills - Republicans will convince people it's all about government and unions."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)



The Republican Shakedown

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

24 Febraury 11

 

ou can't fight something with nothing. But as long as Democrats refuse to talk about the almost unprecedented buildup of income, wealth, and power at the top - and the refusal of the super-rich to pay their fair share of the nation's bills - Republicans will convince people it's all about government and unions.

Republicans claim to have a mandate from voters for the showdowns and shutdowns they're launching. Governors say they're not against unions but voters have told them to cut costs, and unions are in the way. House Republicans say they're not seeking a government shutdown but standing on principle. "Republicans' goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government," says House leader John Boehner, "not to shut it down." But if a shutdown is necessary to achieve the goal, so be it.

The Republican message is bloated government is responsible for the lousy economy that most people continue to experience. Cut the bloat and jobs and wages will return.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but for some reason Obama and the Democrats aren't responding with the truth. Their response is: We agree but you're going too far. Government employees should give up some more wages and benefits but don't take away their bargaining rights. Private-sector unionized workers should make more concessions but don't bust the unions. Non-defense discretionary spending should be cut but don't cut so much.

In the face of showdowns and shutdowns, the "you're right but you're going too far" response doesn't hack it. If Republicans are correct on principle, they're more likely to be seen as taking a strong principled stand than as going "too far." If they're basically correct that the problem is too much government spending why not go as far as possible to cut the bloat?

The truth that Obama and Democrats must tell is government spending has absolutely nothing to do with high unemployment, declining wages, falling home prices, and all the other horribles that continue to haunt most Americans.

Indeed, too little spending will prolong the horribles for years more because there's not enough demand in the economy without it.

The truth is that while the proximate cause of America's economic plunge was Wall Street's excesses leading up to the crash of 2008, its underlying cause - and the reason the economy continues to be lousy for most Americans - is so much income and wealth have been going to the very top that the vast majority no longer has the purchasing power to lift the economy out of its doldrums. American's aren't buying cars (they bought 17 million new cars in 2005, just 12 million last year). They're not buying homes (7.5 million in 2005, 4.6 million last year). They're not going to the malls (high-end retailers are booming but Wal-Mart's sales are down).

Only the richest 5 percent of Americans are back in the stores because their stock portfolios have soared. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has doubled from its crisis low. Wall Street pay is up to record levels. Total compensation and benefits at the 25 major Wall St firms had been $130 billion in 2007, before the crash; now it's close to $140 billion.

But a strong recovery can't be built on the purchases of the richest 5 percent.

The truth is if the super-rich paid their fair share of taxes, government wouldn't be broke. If Governor Scott Walker hadn't handed out tax breaks to corporations and the well-off, Wisconsin wouldn't be in a budget crisis. If Washington hadn't extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, eviscerated the estate tax, and created loopholes for private-equity and hedge-fund managers, the federal budget wouldn't look nearly as bad.

And if America had higher marginal tax rates and more tax brackets at the top - for those raking in $1 million, $5 million, $15 million a year - the budget would look even better. We wouldn't be firing teachers or slashing Medicaid or hurting the most vulnerable members of our society. We wouldn't be in a tizzy over Social Security. We'd slow the rise in healthcare costs but we wouldn't cut Medicare. We'd cut defense spending and lop off subsidies to giant agribusinesses but we wouldn't view the government as our national nemesis.

The final truth is as income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political power. The reason all of this is proving so difficult to get across is the super-rich, such as the Koch brothers, have been using their billions to corrupt politics, hoodwink the public, and enlarge and entrench their outsized fortunes. They're bankrolling Republicans who are mounting showdowns and threatening shutdowns, and who want the public to believe government spending is the problem.

They are behind the Republican shakedown.

These are the truths that Democrats must start telling, and soon. Otherwise the Republican shakedown may well succeed.


Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," "Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.

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+71 # JazBing 2011-02-24 22:01
Since you and George Lakoff are my heroes, and try to read everything that's posted by you, whenever confronted by the extreme right arguments, I do my best to re-frame. I make these points, but more so that those who are making these decisions were elected unfairly, in an undemocratic system, by secret corporate and special interest money, and that they are tools of the those who elected them.

Obama is in this category - are we surprised that he doesn't stand up to the Republicans? I have no plans to vote for him or anyone else who fuels their campaigns with corporate money. I am going to be watching what Russ Feingold's new Progressives United PAC does, and who they support. Until we get people in office who are beholden only to their voters and who are not "Koch-head" addicts, we will continue down this path.
 
 
+4 # Barbie 2011-02-25 07:46
But Obama has tried to stop the tax break for the wealthy and he wasn't able to. He's fighting incredible power and money. I'm hoping he's smarter than any of them and has a strategy that we don't understand.
 
 
+27 # propsguy 2011-02-25 10:10
he could have but he chose not to. he caved instead of daring them to end unemployment benefits. he made a bum deal for which we will all pay
 
 
+9 # Robert Griffin 2011-02-25 16:31
That was a game of 'chicken'; however if they were inded to end unemployment benefits (as per their speeches), how would the unemployed pay rent or buy food?
 
 
+3 # asmilingmom 2011-02-25 23:35
When the unemployment payments end, we rely on day labor, scraps of odd work needed in the neighborhood and pray...a lot.
 
 
+8 # DaveW. 2011-02-25 19:13
propsguy, And that capitulation, during dark winter nights, at Xmas time, was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. ANY progressive politician worth a stinking plug nickel would have CHALLENGED the Repiglicans right then and there. That was a political gift. Obama could have exposed the opposition once and for all as being simply mouthpieces of the rich, willing to impose extreme hardship on fellow Americans at what's supposed to be a time of celebration. A few hundred "Grinches" instead won out with our "savior" giving little Cindy Lou Who half a glass of water. Gee thanks...Mr.Pre sident.
 
 
+22 # Dick Huopana 2011-02-25 10:28
Barbie, although I voted for President Obama, I doubt your hope will be fulfilled. He either doesn't understand the presidential power he holds and how to use it or is simply too wimpish to exercise it. Or, he is futilely clinging to his naive belief that he can gain compromises from a GOP whose very top goal is to "destroy his presidency" and regain complete control of the federal government in 2012. Clearly, the problems our country now faces requires an exceptionally strong and politically capable president - especially when Republicans in Congress and the vast propaganda machine that supports them are successfully waging a unified campaign to ensure his presidency will be a one-term utter failure. That we lack such an exceptionally strong and politically capable president is evidenced by how Republicans seem to be controlling the government despite Democrat control of both the White House and Senate.
 
 
+15 # dbroder 2011-02-25 13:53
Bingo! We allowed ourselves to believe we were electing a progressive when in reality Obama is a center-right Democrat who has no progressive principles to articulate. His great achievement, so-called health care reform, leaves the major issues for another day, e.g. controlling costs, truly providing universal health care, removing the profit motive along with insurance companies from the equation, etc. (As a retired doc I know something about these issues.) The same is true regarding economic issues as Reich and Dick Huopana say. Obama looks sappy to repeatedly talk about compromise with Republican ideologues who have zero intention of doing so.
 
 
+39 # John Mitchem 2011-02-24 23:34
The problem is the Democrats feel they need campaign donations from the rich, from Wall Street and from big business. Hence they are afraid to speak the truth.
 
 
+26 # X Dane 2011-02-25 13:33
John, the sad fact is they DO..........
....NO MONEY, NO CAMPAIGN, NO JOB!!!

SHOW ME A POLITICIAN WHO CAN RUN WITHOUT
GETTING BIG MONEY.I challenge you!!

Our country is thoroughly corrupt. It is run by big business, and the super rich and it won't change till we have PUBLICLY FUNDED ELECTIONS.
 
 
+14 # DaveW. 2011-02-25 18:52
X Dane, "Our country is thoroughly corrupt. It is run by big business..." The head of the first official fascist state,(Italy) Benito Mussolini, said that the first tenet of such a state was a "corporate owned government." I'd say we have rule number uno down quite well. Look at it like a math equation. Money=Power. Politicians=Pow er. Money+Politicians=Power
Politicians "make" the rules. Money "makes" the politicians. Voters are either swayed by massive political persuasion, via big money or marginalized by the fraudulent counting of votes, engineered by big money. John Mitchem said the same thing above you in a more concise manner. Progressive Democrats who wished to be viewed as such need to coalesce, leave the party and begin the process of creating a viable third alternative. We're simply "changing tires" on a car with the same engine by electing "blue dog Democrats" or, if there is such a thing, moderate Republicans. And all this will take...of course...money. Where will it come from? Or, conversely perhaps, a lack of money, jobs and opportunities will at last get Americans on the streets, clogging the arteries of debauched Uncle Sam, and demanding the change they must have in order to exist in some semblance of dignity and security. It's happening across the Middle East and it will,at some point happen here, just as it is in Wisconsin right now.
 
 
+2 # A. Zide 2011-02-28 16:06
Quoting DaveW.:
X Dane, "Our country is thoroughly corrupt. It is run by big business..." The head of the first official fascist state, (Italy) Benito Mussolini, said that the first tenet of such a state was a "corporate owned government." I'd say we have rule number uno down quite well. Look at it like a math equation. Money=Power.

Politicians=Power. Money+Politicians=Power
Politicians "make" the rules. Money "makes" the politicians.


"Fascism should rather be called corporatism, as it is the merging of government and corporate power."
--Benito Mussolini
 
 
0 # flippancy 2013-02-26 23:01
Quoting X Dane:
John, the sad fact is they DO..........
....NO MONEY, NO CAMPAIGN, NO JOB!!!

SHOW ME A POLITICIAN WHO CAN RUN WITHOUT
GETTING BIG MONEY.I challenge you!!

Our country is thoroughly corrupt. It is run by big business, and the super rich and it won't change till we have PUBLICLY FUNDED ELECTIONS.



Bernie Sanders! Hardly spent anything and was reelected by a landslide.
 
 
-14 # PhilO 2011-02-24 23:44
Giving to the rich by stealing from the poor... is that really so wrong?! :-/
 
 
0 # flippancy 2013-02-26 23:02
Quoting portiz:
Giving to the rich by stealing from the poor... is that really so wrong?! :-/


I assume that was sarcasm which makes me wonder how many of us are actually paying attention before sending a neg?
 
 
+20 # DPM 2011-02-24 23:49
"Rebublicrats". If they aren't well healed, themselves, they dance to the tune of their puppeteers. They certainly won't pass any law that might hurt their own portfolio's or touch the boots they lick.
Regardless of what the Democrats may say in public, they are just the same as the Republicans at the bank window. "Republicrats" all.
 
 
+47 # balconesfalk 2011-02-25 00:44
The Texas Legislative wrestles with a whopping $29 billion budget shortfall. Yet proposed budget cuts make no sense. Annually Texas spends some $9,000 per public school student and $22,000 per prison inmate and they propose cutting school budgets!
Study after study shows crime rates go down for every year that individuals spend getting educated.
Governor Rick Perry's refuses federal aid for education. He funnels the state "Rainy Day" monies to his buddies to earn interest on while schools across the state must close.
The corporate tool legislature refuses to cut anything from a fund set aside for luring business to Texas. They seem blind to the fact that educational achievement attracts more industries than impoverished schools. Our ACT/SAT rank in Texas is 47th. Wisconsin's ranking is #2.
The Republican strategy to win in 2012 is to destroy the economy, close schools, dismantle reforms, disrupt social welfare programs, strip funding from Planned Parenthood--so as to blame the Democrats. These people won't stop until we return to feudalism. At least plantation slaves were provided food and shelter. Present day overlords live in gated communities to keep the rabble at bay--out of sight out of mind.
Saturday, Feb. 26, go to a state capitol near you, at high noon--demonstra te Solidarity with Wisconsin. Walk Like an Egyptian!
 
 
+10 # DaveW. 2011-02-25 18:59
balconesfalk, Suggest you read "Texas Tough" "The Rise of America"s Prison Empire." Robert Perkinson is the author. Texas and California have made the incarceration of mostly Black and Latino low level offenders a multi-billion dollar "business." Texas, as the title suggests is the state profiled. Helluva disturbing story of corruption and cruelty.
 
 
+40 # Susan W 2011-02-25 00:54
The common wisdom these days seems to be that the people voted for Rs because they were concerned about government spending. I don't believe this to be the case. I also don't believe that they are against raising taxes on the rich. People are just pissed off and scared.

As this column so accurately points out what they want is someone with the political courage to stand up against the money and for once do the right thing! I'm sure that the Rs are just as unpopular as the Ds right now but scared, ignorant people just flail around hoping for something to save them without knowing why things don't get better. Opportunistic corporate shills exploit this fear and will continue to do so until someone stands up and says no. It's all shameful.
 
 
+48 # Peter McKimmin 2011-02-25 01:00
How long does Robert Reich have to state the obvious - and factual - in such a simple, straightforward and irrefutable way for the abused, misinformed and misled American public to "get it"...!!
God knows - but as long as he is doing it and the Democrats and Obama are not - shame to say - more power to him!
Keep on truckin', Robert...some of us are staying right behind you. AND WITH YOU!
 
 
+21 # Roger Schultz 2011-02-25 08:48
It's not about how long as much as it is how many. Would you see this article in your local newspaper or any other money controlled media? I think not. I don't believe I would have seen it if it wasn't for RSN. I send these articles out to everyone on my e-mail list.
 
 
+3 # balconesfalk 2011-02-26 01:22
To compound this Cyclops-media neglect, and confound me, on the Sunday morning talk shows all of the political commentator guests are Republicans--no ne are union leaders! And they dare suggest that the press has a liberal slant. Hogwash.
 
 
+31 # banichiI 2011-02-25 01:03
As usual Robert, you nail it to the wall. I agree with JazBing, as well. But the bottom line of all of it is that if we, the people, who voted for 'change you can believe in' do NOT stand up and join with the people in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in Ohio, everywhere our fellow CITIZENS are taking a stand, then we have thrown away our liberty. Because we have let immoral Republicans, conservatives, corporations and timid bought-off Democrats take the lead and control the conversation with no opposition. None from Obama. None from the Democrats in Congress, to speak of.

And if we, WE, allow that to happen, then Obama with his timid giveaways to the rich will not be the only one to have sold us down the river. We will have done it to ourselves.

As Robert Reich said, "The truth that Obama and Democrats must tell is government spending has absolutely nothing to do with high unemployment, declining wages, falling home prices, and all the other horribles that continue to haunt most Americans."

I don't know how many other people feel the same way as I do, but this is Obama's defining moment in history. If he does not quit his appeasement and 'bipartisan' B.S. and use his office to support the people of this country, he is a lost cause. I'll have no more of him. It is time to organize, brothers and sisters.
 
 
+28 # X Dane 2011-02-25 01:12
JazBing, as you are frustrated, so am I and many more.

Unfortunately WHAT most DONT UNDERSTAND IS, THAT ALL POLITICIANS are bought. THEY CAN NOT GET INTO OFFICE WITHOUT MONEY. We need to get ALL money out of politics, by having publicly funded elections. Untill we do, NOTHING will change.

WE are NOT represented only the corporations and the wealthy are.
Unfortunately politics is a bloodsport, too many are fascinated by it. They can't seem to get enough. The minute one election is won, the next is being handicapped. I think the press is pushing it, and it is BAD for the country, for what we have, is constant CAMPAIGNING.

Congrsspeople have said that they start fundraising the day after their election.
 
 
+20 # James Wilson 2011-02-25 01:34
Of course you are correct Robert. But we have to ask the hard question: why doesn't Obama stand up and tell the truth? I'm afraid the answer is that he and his fellow democrats have also been, to some extent at least, "bought". He must be beholden to the great financial gods in order to win the next election. The real Satin here is our methods of campaign finance. Until we can modify that to some degree of reasonability, we are screwed.
 
 
+32 # ProfT 2011-02-25 01:43
AND, less war would be very helpful.
 
 
+10 # CECILE 2011-02-25 14:33
Quoting ProfT:
AND, less war would be very helpful.

Based on Dept of Defense: $751 BILLIONS in Irak, $336 BILLIONS in Afghanistan, 29 BILLIONS in "enhanced security" (what??)and 6 BILLIONS unallocated??? say what? "unallocated"? Have you ever placed an etc. amount in a budget?
Obama lost my confidence when he did not get out of Afghanistan after Karzai said that he just might side with Al Qaeda if we pressured him to treat us as allies. Drop him like yesterday's pork hot dog is what I say.
The term "entitlement" is one that makes my blood boil: There is no such thing. Repugs qualify as "entitlements"p rograms that the middleclass feels "entitled to", as opposed to the military, for example, and things that the US cannot do without. So under the term "entitlements", they lump all programs they don't want to fund: Education, Social Security, welfare... in short, any program that may help the poor and disadvantaged. We need to get this odious term our of the political vocabulary.
 
 
+21 # H.M.S. 2011-02-25 03:28
The reality is that the Democrats handle the spin and propaganda cranked out by the Republicans by typically sitting with heads bowed, hands in their laps, and perhaps doing a small bit of whimpering. It's the tradition!
 
 
+11 # X Dane 2011-02-25 13:46
H.M.S. I think dems ARE raising their heads, Wisconsin, Ohio and others, are standing up. The damned thing is that the republicans have the majority in the house and senate in Wisconsin. SOMEONE pleeeeeeze tell me how the dems can win in Wisconsin????
 
 
+7 # DRA 2011-02-25 04:47
Reich is absolutely correct in saying that it's not just the unions and government spending. And that us Democrats haven't effectively countered the Republican BS.

However, I have studied the budget numbers, too. The liberal dogma that if we ONLY raised taxes on the rich, the government wouldn't be broke is not true. Although we'd be better off than we are, it's pretty easy to figure out that if the IRS confiscated every penny of annual household income above $500,000 (100% tax rate on the rich) there still wouldn't be enough money to cover our total debt and future entitlements. The 100% tax threshold would have to be much lower. Obama is no fool; his staff must have crunched the numbers for him, too. It is unfortunate he rejected his own bipartisan deficit commission's plan out of hand, contributing to it's political unpopularity on both sides, rather than using it as a starting point toward a more realistic solution to our debt crisis. Give me all the "thumbs down" you want, but neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are talking much sense at the moment, and that means things will only get worse.
 
 
+13 # Greg Whitaker 2011-02-25 11:34
The error in your calculations is that NO budget ever has to cover "all debt and future entitlements". That WOULD be too much to ask. As Sec. Reich could explain far better than I, budgets need only service CURRENT expenses to be in balance, and with the resultant growth in the economy (remember economic growth?) and the growth in tax revenues coming from that expansion, the system is sound.
 
 
+15 # minkdumink 2011-02-25 05:26
democrats cant talk about that as they also have wealth and power at the top,both parties are owned by the billionaires and they stay in power by keeping us arguing over things such as abortion,union rights,tax's etc.Meanwhile the two of them are back in DC robbing the store. The only way change is going to come is by the way the people in the mideast are doing it, not by some meaningless vote that does nothing but put alternate thieves in power. You figure the rest out.
 
 
+13 # rf 2011-02-25 05:55
What do you expect...we have a president that has shown himself to bee as right wing economically as anyone since Raygun, and counts himself among the wealthy you want him to bust. I'm really tired of voting for Democrats and finding out they are Republicans once they are in office.
 
 
+4 # X Dane 2011-02-25 13:49
rf. do you REALLY want MORE R in ??
 
 
+6 # Conrad Squires 2011-02-25 05:58
Truer words are seldom spoken! Con Squires
 
 
+14 # SenorN 2011-02-25 06:03
(for JazBing) Since Citizens United, Obama has made many statements about the corrupting influence of corporate money. However, the sad truth is, if he had refused to take it, he wouldn’t be president.
Many of the disappointing compromises he has struck, like extending the Bush tax cuts, were made to get other things done. Democrats passed an amazing number of liberal/progres sive bills in the lame duck, many of which would have died if Obama had let the Republicans delay for weeks debating taxes as they threatened to do.
He deserves credit for advancing progressive causes, especially in light of the fantastic political and budgetary obstacles he has faced! Please don’t do what Nadar voters did in 2000, when they gave us eight years of the Bush disaster instead of Gore who would have tackled global warming and avoided Iraq.
If we can't get Citizens United reversed, we must work to change the election finance laws and promote transparent campaigns so Americans will know who is sponsoring distorted political messages and pseudo-grassroo ts organizations. And we ALL need to vote for the best viable candidate! (Mr) Laurie Norton
 
 
+11 # balconesfalk 2011-02-25 09:48
If Obama is hell bent on being a one term president he sure could do no worse than than to actively promote his Hope-Change agenda which got him sluringly labeled socialist. Maybe people would re-elect him.
Ha, good luck on Campaign Finance. Ten years of Koch Brothers' backed unraveling of that protection worked. Now they even have the Supreme Court in their back pockets. They tapped their wealth for a monomaniacal crusade to rule from behind the scenes where there is neither oversight nor elections to stall their American jihad.
 
 
+12 # brenda 2011-02-25 06:03
What the Republicans and filthy rich and their corporations have done to the working class and the support technical laborers, is to enforce the biggest conspiracy ever seen in the history of the United States. And it started way back in the years of Nixon's presidency.
 
 
+12 # Doug Rogers 2011-02-25 06:47
We need to start an education program that emphasizes progressive versus regressive taxation. Using Dick Cheney's income as an example. He makes an obscene one million a week. Thanks to Saint Ron the upper rate was dropped from 90% to 40%. This means that this Republican Baron brings home $600,000 a week. No one can spend this much. I'm sure much of this lucre ends up supporting Fox News, Glen Beck, and The Chamber of Commerce.
How can we expect representative Democracy to survive when a one citizen and most corporations (which the Supreme Court considers citizens) have this much clout. When less than one percent of the population owns 25% of the gross national product how can we expect our representative governmen to work.
The Tea Party is greatly concerned about the founding documents. The Declaration of Independance was written by enlightened people who were trying to break the monopoly of feudalism. This monopoly is coming back..
 
 
+1 # X Dane 2011-02-25 13:54
IT IS BACB?? Doug
 
 
+13 # John Pirtle 2011-02-25 07:02
I have been a liberal democrat (with libertarian tendencies) all my life. I feel betrayed by President Obama. We are still in Iraq, still in Afganistan. He sends his solicitor General to the supreme court to argue against civil liberties. President Obama does not stand up to them, he cowers before them. I think I will vote for Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich.
 
 
+13 # balconesfalk 2011-02-25 09:19
I agree with you, John, except for the Ron Paul part. Last night on David Letterman he asked a few simple questions that made Rand Paul look like a Republican tin-man without a brain. It is a politicians duty is to speak to the electorate and Tell It, Not Only Like It Is, But As It Should Be.
Hope(TM), Change(TM)--If not now, when?
BTW, the Koch Brothers consider themselves Libertarians.
 
 
+22 # soularddave 2011-02-25 07:19
The bought and paid for "Koch-heads" (I like that)talk about Democrats looking to government with their hand out. Well, it turns out that we're second in line because the richest among us have already received their "government benefit" by way of the extended Bush tax cuts. By design, there's not enough money left to run America.

We're to believe that's OUR fault ???
 
 
+15 # Bonnie Samuel 2011-02-25 07:36
I agree, Mr. Reich. The Dems have for a long time, lost their voice. Could it be, yes it is, because they too line their pockets and campaign chests with corporate money and now are captive. Obama has accepted millions from big biz.

The capture of Dems in this snare is by design. No doubt, the Right Wing, Corp Controllers have urged donations and buying of Dem politicians over the years exactly to put them in this spot. The question is will they break free, find their voice, do the right thing.....
 
 
+12 # Joan Mongar 2011-02-25 07:43
Ronald Reagan convinced people that business was good and govt. bad and somehow the Dems bought into this nonsense and never let go. Maybe this extreme movement to destroy all the good and productive progams that we've struggled to achieve will finally turn this around.
 
 
+12 # HommeVieux2 2011-02-25 07:47
WIth 80% of the wealth in the hands of the top 20% of Americans, it's as though 8 out of 10 people you see walking about are living in the wealth pool of a third world economy, the remaining 20% of wealth they are left to hold.

The American economy today is like a Monopoly game in which one player owns 80% of the Board and the remaining four players own 20 %. That game won't last very long or be much fun to play !

Still -- in the security of the voting booth and of their own free will -- the people vote for this. They are getting what they choose, good and hard, and until they wake up to it not much can be done.
 
 
+2 # Steve Boga 2011-02-25 08:01
The following sentence is wrong--probably a misprint: "They're not going to the malls (high-end retailers are down but Wal-Mart's sales are booming)." Just the opposite is true (Wal-Mart's sales are down) and Reich obviously meant to make the opposite point.
 
 
+2 # Keith Barrand 2011-02-25 10:09
I think you should re read the article. He did say that Wal Mart sales are down.
 
 
+17 # Ralph Averill 2011-02-25 08:20
Yesterday, 2/24, on Conn. public radio (WNPR), Faith Middleton had some experts on her "Politics, Burgers, and Beer" show, talking about the economy. One of these experts made a wonderful metaphor about America using sports stadiums. All the new stadiums have luxury boxes, where a very few have the best view, behind glass out of the weather, waiters bringing them refreshments, even their own toilets. They never have to rub elbows with the great unwashed. There are no cheap bleacher seats. The old stadiums were much more democratic. Everyone sat together. It was much more a shared experience. Some seats cost a little more, and a kid could sit in the bleachers for a nickel.
Robert Reich is spot on in his argument.
 
 
+7 # BradFromSalem 2011-02-25 09:34
I really mean this.

I love sports metaphors. They are in terms that most people understand, and relate to. They are about rewarding achievement. They are about fairness and playing by the rules.
 
 
+4 # Dick Huopana 2011-02-25 10:56
This week I attended a college basketball game. My ticket cost $40.
Actual game playing time was 40 minutes so it cost $1 per minute to watch. Of course, that is much less a cost per minute than a Superbowl or NY Yankee game.
Why do I mention this? Because every seat for the basketball game I attended was filled just as Superbowl stadiums and Yankee Stadium are jammed full. This makes me wonder why we Americans can afford expensive tickets to sports events (that are also televised) but are unwilling to pay increased taxes to eliminate our federal government's budget deficits.
BTW, check out the parking lots at sporting events. You'll have to look hard to find a clunker. Again, we Americans can afford to drive expensive and fairly new vehicles but needed the Bush tax cuts extended for another two years.
 
 
+2 # BradFromSalem 2011-02-25 12:43
Sports metaphors have nothing to do with sports as entertainment.
 
 
+2 # X Dane 2011-02-25 14:07
Great John We will send the angry letters to you, when the next republican president moves into the Wite House......and stays forever, for we will never be able to get back.... realize that! What we have is far from ideal. What we would get?? ......DISASTER
 
 
+8 # X Dane 2011-02-25 14:22
Dick WOW....You named what very few will.
An awful lot of our citizens are ANESTETIZED. Sports and entertainment keep their brains mushy. They don't understand what is REALLY going on.
They are like the famous frog in the pot OF WATER where the heat is gradually turned so high, tILL the frog IS FINALLY D E A D.............W AKE UP ALL YOU FROGS. the water is BOILING
 
 
+2 # Ralph Averill 2011-02-25 12:50
"I love sports metaphors."
It was a sports arena metaphor. It had nothing at all to do with fairness and playing by the rules. In fact, it was to the contrary.
 
 
+3 # DaveW. 2011-02-26 11:55
Ralph, It cost 277,000 DOLLARS! for the Priciest luxury box at the Stupor Bowl. I wonder where the "Cowboys cheerleaders" were during that game. I think I know. No "luxury" is to be sacrificed for the elite of our great Democratic nation. Of course, if any of the girls needed Title X assistance after the game well....it was nice knowing you dearie. Sports, professional sports, are just one more example of the unraveling of America. Albert Pujols wants 30 MILLION a season to display his eroding skills. For TEN years. At age 31! I've been a Cardinals fan since '64. Albert is already on the way down but wants to be the highest paid player in history. But he says,"if you think I'm greedy, then you don't know me." At some point in the not to distant future, there will be nothing BUT luxury boxes with grown men wearing corporate emblazoned PAJAMAS playing kids games for the "amusement" of many who could care less about the games themselves. Next up: "Liberals being tormented in spacious arenas whilst the swells give the "thumbs up or down sign." History really will repeat itself I'm afraid. Sound crazy? So does the fact that Richard Nixon? signed Title X Family Planning into law. Uncle Sam is Dorian Gray. Now, who can the right find to demonize next?
 
 
+14 # BradFromSalem 2011-02-25 08:32
For too long us lefties have been very confused. We keep thinking that the American people actually can decide for themselves between right and wrong. We honestly believe that Joe six pack (of Coors, of course) understands that government providing an education, supplying health care, and a safe environment, does not cause lay offs.

It is obvious to me that we have to get up and tell everyone, the truth; which is:

We, the left, have a proven track record of being correct, nearly all the time.
That is the truth, and I for one, am sick and tired of being called names for speaking the truth.

The poor don't bankrupt a country. Teachers don't bankrupt a state.
Directing the wealth of a nation to a select few is nothing more than recreating a royal, priviledged class. We fought a revolution to get rid of that concept.

WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK.

from the Republican sychophants that give the rich everything, in hopes of getting a crumb tossed their way.

The T party is right on the slogan, right on the problem, terribbly mis-guided on the solutions.
 
 
+12 # Wolfchen 2011-02-25 08:42
We're in a struggle to preserve democracy and the middle class in our country, and we don't need apologists and will-o-the-wisp s leading the party. Where possible, we should boycott products from the likes of the Koch brothers. The alternative is to turn the country over to corporations and their bought-and-paid -for politicians. As Mussolini, the father of Fascism, said: “Fascism should really be called Corporatism.” It should be understood that corporations, often international in nature, have no allegiance to our nation

Among our objectives should be the public financing of elections, as well as bringing about the defanging of the US Supreme Court holding in United Citizens. Hopefully Obama will be provided the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court justice to replace someone on the court who is unlikely to serve much longer due to age or other infirmity.

Obama’s inclination is to appease Republicans. He is also demonstrating a timid failure to forcefully support the unions. Those are not the characteristics needed to lead our nation. If he continues to be more wind than substance, he should be challenged by someone like Senators or Wiener.
 
 
+13 # Milt Lauenstein 2011-02-25 09:22
The richest 1% get over $3 1/2 trillion. That's almost as much as the entire federal budget! If they got the same 9% of GDP they got in 1976, they would get $2 1/4 trillion less. That's enough to balance the budget with no cuts and with $3/4 trillion left over for education, infrastructure, and state budget problems.
These numbers are shocking! Why don't Prof. Reich and Democratic leaders mention them?
Milt Lauenstein
 
 
+15 # BradFromSalem 2011-02-25 09:40
How about for 1 year, we tax the richest 1% at 99% of all their income.

The next year we tax them at 49% of all their income.

The following year, we reinstate the Clinton tax rates.

In two years, we are back to a surplus.

Then, we address rationally; where and how the goverment overspends and how to create a dynamic, progressive tax system.

I know I could survive on 1% of 10 million. Could you?
 
 
+19 # JRK8Z 2011-02-25 09:36
Mr. Obama continues to appease the Republicans instead of standing for American interests and values. Look at the healthcare issue. He didn’t fight for national healthcare or even the lesser public option plan. Instead, he adopted the flawed “Republican Plan” that keeps private healthcare insurance parasites in place. After Obama capitulated and adopted the awful “Republican Plan” the Republican promptly renamed the doomed plan “Obama care” and will let the Obama and the Democrats take the blame for the awful Republican Plan. Mr. Obama has to grow a spine and realize that “Republicans are not the solution to the problem they ARE the problem.”
 
 
+15 # alfavil 2011-02-25 09:38
The NYT's regular editorialists have done a good job of exposing what lies beneath the Republican attack on Unions (red Krugman in today's edition). If Democrats wanted a battle plan, they should expose what the Republicans are hiding: an ideological agenda for which the masses are asses. If Democrats are unwillig to expose Republicans, we should. On the news: a prominent baseball player buys a six million condo for which he will pay NO PROPERTY TAXES FOR 10 YEARS. On the news: Wisconsin governor gives away surplus to corporation and creates a deficit for which he blames the Unions! it should all be that clear.
 
 
+6 # HowardMH 2011-02-25 09:49
Obama the WIMP!! He should loose in 2012. He is just a WIMP, WIMP, WIMP!
 
 
+12 # kitster 2011-02-25 10:06
yeah, why is there no real talk about ending the awful afghan debacle, reducing the pentagon bloat (why do we need over 150 military bases around the world?)and subsidies to big oil and big agri? both political parties are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the financial-indus trial-military complex. that's why nothing of substance ever gets done. and nothing will happen until the people rise up against the mockocracy in this country and change the system to a government FOR the people. the question should not be..."do you want your children to pay off our debt?" it should be..."do you want your children to be slaves of the wealthy/chinese partnership?" might we learn something from egypt and libya? whose country is the u.s.a., anyway? to paraphrase the first line of an old anthem..."rise up, you victims of omission..."
 
 
+11 # granny 2011-02-25 10:13
The bought-and-paid -for Supreme Court gave us Citizens United, the Koch oligarch, and the Wisconsin criminal Scott Walker. And with no one using the bully pulpit in the White House, we are fast becoming the leader of the banana republics our REpugnican also-boughts used to mock.
 
 
+11 # dadepfan 2011-02-25 10:38
What I do not understand is how such stupid people became wealthy and owners of huge corporations? For every tick down in the discretionary income level you force the masses (middle class), that's one more class of products they cannot afford to buy, and THAT has to reduce profits for the very people who are doing this. What good to ANYONE is an America where 90% of the people cannot afford much beyond bare subsistence? Where will the money for the wealthy come from then? Are they planning on bankrupting America and then sell their products internationally?

The best way to compete with cheap labor in other countries is to make better products. Products that the world will be willing to pay more for. That is how America has become the most successful country in the world. You do not come up with better and higher-quality products with slave labor - dejected and demoralized Americans who have to spend all their time and energy worrying about putting food on the table.
 
 
+2 # X Dane 2011-02-28 03:43
Dadepfan. They are not stupid, they unscrupulous. They don't care who they crush to increase their profits. And they don't give a damn, if we can not buy their products, they already have research and development and production set up mainly in China. which is a H U G E market. We don't count anymore. We are superfluous to them. China and India are where it's at, now.
Recently I saw a program Piers Morgan did from China. It was an eye-opener. Shanghai is a spectacular city, HUGE and beautiful, and so were other cities, and they have bridges that will blow your mind. You can google: China's amazing bridges. Not to mention the Three Gorges Dam. China is growing by leaps and bounds, and we are back sliding. I don't know if we can catch up.
 
 
+15 # wfalco 2011-02-25 10:48
I have always believed it is best to take the high road-to not lower oneself to the depths of the enemy-a.k.a right wing propagandist.
However...the time has come for progressives to bring the heat. If this means the demonization of the corporate class and their owners, like the Kochs, than so be it.
A simplified version of current events is what the middle and lower classes understand-excu se me for my bluntness. This is not a critique of any one's intelligence level,but an evaluation of our society. The working classes are busy with financial problems and would rather lose themselves in sports and entertainment. It is understandable.
A new version of the struggle must be created. We are all the government. We are the teachers, the police, firemen, and civil servants. A thoughtful mobilization must occcur that can cearly define the true casue and effect of what's going on.
 
 
+7 # Craig Jones 2011-02-25 11:31
There are some great suggestions on this page. I guess the corporations will create jobs in American when the wages are suppressed to equate with other "developing" nation. Unfortunately for us, the Republicans only have to read these pages to figure out how to finesse the true majority in this country. There will be no changes in our country until we can absolutely verify election results otherwise all we really have is the illusion of participatory Democracy.
 
 
+5 # Neal 2011-02-25 12:41
"The Republican message is bloated government is responsible for the lousy economy that most people continue to experience. Cut the bloat and jobs and wages will return. Nothing could be further from the truth, but for some reason Obama and the Democrats aren't responding with the truth."

Politically, Obama is willing to let such myths persist without challenge: "death panels", "out of control spending", and all the other emotionally potent but fallacious memes the Republicans coin daily.

Dems follow the polls; they don't change minds and lead the nation.

This is the crux. And it's not a fairness issue. Wealth is static. It's money that's sequestered, hoarded instead of flowing through the economy and generating demand and jobs. Tax wealth - not incomes - and the rich will either spend it, generating jobs, or hand it over to the government to spend, generating jobs.
 
 
+7 # Tom OHara 2011-02-25 13:17
You know, I've been following this blog and others, and seeing talking heads punditing away, but it seems like I never ever hear anyone mention the horrible practice of sending our manufacturing and 'technical support' jobs overseas. It does get mentioned (though not very often) that the huge corporations don't contribute much in taxes, but buying out the regulations has allowed people who were able to do very well for themselves in this country, now turn their backs on this nations welfare and take their manufacturing and support jobs overseas - to get even richer. If you call Bank of America (whom we bailed out) support line you'll be talking to 'Roger' in Pakistan or the Phillipines). Levi Strause came to this country to seek his fortune - found it bigtime, too. Now they don't make Levis in America anymore. And we keep on buying their stuff. I would like to see Americans revolt against companies who have taken Americas opportunities to the bank and now don't want to pay their share. What if Americans stopped buying Levis that weren't made in the USA for a while?
I suppose, though, that the rest of the world likes Levis as much as we do - and they have more money. Ah well....
 
 
+5 # CECILE 2011-02-25 14:42
That is so true, Tom. The NAFTA agreements have made it possible for our tax subsidized corporations to take our money and give jobs to our competition in foreign lands. That is so evil in itself: Sweatshops have erupted in 3rd world countries and pollution is allowed to go unchecked there too, while we have no jobs. Now that the super-rich see a chance to break the back of Unions in my State (WI), I have no doubt they will try. I have shrouded B.o.A. and all banks that have been tarped. I hope you all move whatever assets you have left in your local Credit Unions and do your best to buy American only and local.
 
 
+7 # Tom OHara 2011-02-25 15:59
Changed to credit union last year.
I notice that the solar equipment company that got a big donation from us last year has shut down production here and moved its production to China. Seems like a newsworthy subject - but you won't here of in in the US.
When I went to England to go to school I found out how much important stuff doesn't hit the U.S. media. Back in '81 I was in London when it came out that the U.S. peace corps had built a clinic in Peru - and every woman that came in for a birth had her tubes tied - unknown to the recipient. No more pregnancys. The tribe thought it had a curse or something. It was a major scandal all over the world - but the Americans never found out about it.
You can see very plainly that certain 'issues' are verboten to our public media - left, right or wherever. Like the demonstrations at the Republican convention - hundreds of thousands of Americans in the streets protesting - and it did not get on the mainstream news.
It's really scary how our ignorance is played upon.
 
 
+4 # miltlau 2011-02-25 18:25
The income of the top 1% of Americans is about $3 1/2 trillion, almost as much as the entire federal budget! If they were get only 9% of GDP, as they did in 1976, it would amount to $2 1/4 trillion less than they get now. That is enough to cover the entire deficit with no cutbacks at all, and with $3/4 trillion left over for better education, job training, and infrastructure.
When my friends hear these numbers, they are astonished and outraged. Why don't we hear them from prominent people?
 
 
+4 # Tucker 2011-02-26 02:22
The idea that it is possible for consumers to "spend" our way out of our current situation is a notion that is both erroneous AND irresponsible.
It presumes that the United States can continue on the path it's on without doing irreparable damage to its original core principles, its world standing, and its ability to sustain the health, and prosperity of its population.
Key people in government and industry have, for too long now, naively followed the notion that the United States principle of protecting freedom extends to allowing for unfettered "free-trade" practices.
Since Americas inception, some have worked tirelessly to relax regulations prohibiting the exportation of industry in order to have products made more and more cheaply, without the corporations that manufacture those products and hold those needed jobs having to put any of their immense profits back into pesky things like paying workers, delivering health care, providing safe working conditions, or any of the other things that build, not just a corporations profits, but a real middle class and a nations economy.
As long as this falsehood about American tradition is taught, followed and preached as gospel we will continue to find ourselves as citizens with the wrong end of the ever-shortening stick.
 
 
+7 # njguitarzan 2011-02-26 09:55
The real unspoken truth that both parties are covering up is that our economy has become a Ponzi scheme, a pyramid which collapsed 3 years ago, and which was temporarily propped up by borrowing from the middle and working class.
Wall Street and the stock market, once an apparatus by which companies could raise capital in order to buy raw materials and equipment, has become nothing more than a casino of speculation. more and more of our economy is based on profit taken with NO production. So the dwindling portion of folks who actually produce goods and services are being shouldered with a greater and greater tax burden and getting less and less in return. Our retirement plans have become markers in the betting game, so we've ben forced to accept what is unsustainable because we have to.
Republicans, and most Democrats are beholden to the only people who can help them get elected, those at the top of the Ponzi pyramid. And those near the bottom of the pyramid lend their votes because they fear becoming like those on the tier below, unaware that everyone but the top 1% will eventually suffer the same fate. That 1% will take their money and buy up another economy to plunder, and the rest of us will be left with useless currency in a country that no longer has the means to produce anything.
 
 
+3 # kmh63 2011-02-26 09:58
The "divide and conquer" strategy is still alive and well. Remember when the Far Wrong tried to convince everyone that this country's bogeymen were so-called "welfare queens" and women entering the workforce in droves, "taking all the good jobs away from men!"? Today the Far Wrong's bogeymen are government, gay people, young people, and anyone or entity attempting to get the truth out there.
 
 
+1 # jamjr40 2011-02-27 23:05
Mr. Reich, you are dead right. I wondered throughout the 2010 campaign why the Democrats rolled over and let the Tea Party spread lies and deception throughout the country. If only once we would have stood up to these hate mongers, we wouldn't have lost so much representation. Now we face an up hill battle. Being dollar poor and lacking a fighting spirit we must organize at every level, publish wherever we can, demonstrate everywhere, and basically rake havoc wherever possible against Tea Party demagoguery. Unfortunately, President Obama has caved into these radicals and for what reason I do not understand. He won with tremendous popular appeal and then lost all of it because he chose not to fight. We need a fighter. We need high profile people to go to war. I live in a Montana and the mayhem that has been caused by radical right wing fascists has been ghastly. Before the 2010 elections, this state was somewhat moderate, even among Republicans. We have a Democratic governor and 2 Democratic US Senators. Our one congressman, Denny Rehberg, was a harmless antagonist and possessed no clear threat to Montana's open mindedness. Now, after Tea Party henchmen invaded our borders, spreading lies and deception, Montana is on the verge of becoming a extremely fascist state. That is so sad.
 
 
+1 # A Haywood 2011-03-01 07:09
My dear Mr. Reich, you are 100% correct on your analysis of the entire situation; however, if you have your own Supreme Court courting the rich, big oil, banks, corporations, the rich and Republicans on one side holding all of the power, trying to dig from under this pile of mess is NOT possible as long as people refuse to remember their history, are swayed by ads from the rich and vote those who continue to bring them down back into office, nothing that the Dems or the President does matters. We the people need to think before we go to the polls. Wisconsin is just the beginning. Go back to the streets as did our ancestors. By the way politics corrupts. Even if you form a new party, eventually politics will win and you will be right back into the old boys network of greed and corruption. We have been sold out by the Republicans and now they are finishing us off. I just don't understand why everyone is so surprise at their behavior..they never have denied that they are for the rich! Perhaps the the unrest in the world will persuade our businesses to bring some of our jobs back home as the people in other countries understand that you don't work all day for $2. Years down the road the oil supply will dry up, deregulation in our country is no more, more decent judges selected for the Supreme court, & the banks are split up. Otherwise, America the beautiful will be no more.
 
 
+1 # Duffy 2011-03-01 08:59
I have voted for a Democrat for President all my life with the one exception of when I cast my first vote for Eisenhower. I regret that vote to this day. I have never missed a national election, includinging the last time when I voted fo Obama. But I WILL NOT VOTE FOR HIM A GAIN. hE HAS BETRAYED THE PARTY. If I must I'll vote the Green Party, but I won't vote Republican.
 

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