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Reich writes: "President Obama's electoral strategy can best be summed up as: 'We're on the right track, my economic policies are working, we still have a long way to go but stick with me and you'll be fine.' That's not good enough."

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

Why "We're on the Right Track" Isn't Enough

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

21 April 12


resident Obama's electoral strategy can best be summed up as: "We're on the right track, my economic policies are working, we still have a long way to go but stick with me and you'll be fine."

That's not good enough. This recovery is too anemic, and the chance of an economic stall between now and Election Day far too high.

Even now, Mitt Romney's empty "I'll to it better" refrain is attracting as many voters as Obama's "we're on the right track." Each man is gathering 46 percent of voter support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS poll. Only 33 percent of the public thinks the economy is improving while 40 percent say they're still falling behind financially - an 11 point increase from 2008. Nearly two-thirds are concerned about paying for housing, and one in five with mortgages say they're underwater.

If the economy stalls, Romney's empty promise will look even better. And I'd put the odds of a stall at 50-50. That puts the odds of a Romney presidency far too high for comfort. Need I remind you that Romney enthusiastically supports Paul Ryan's wildly regressive budget, and as president would be able to make at least one or possibly two Supreme Court appointments, and control the EPA and every other federal agency and department?

The Obama White House should face it: "We're on the right track" isn't sufficient. The President has to offer the nation a clear, bold strategy for boosting the economy. It should be the economic mandate for his second term.

It should consist of four points:

First, Obama should demand that the nation's banks modify mortgages of homeowners still struggling in the wake of Wall Street's housing bubble - threatening that if the banks fail to do so he'll fight to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act and break up Wall Street's biggest banks (as the Dallas Fed recently recommended).

Second, he should condemn oil speculators for keeping gas prices high - demanding that the oil companies allow the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation to set limits on such speculation and instructing the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute oil price manipulation.

Third, he should stand ready to make further job-creating investments in the nation's crumbling infrastructure, and renew his call for an infastructure bank. And while he understands the need to reduce the nation's long-term budget deficit, he won't allow austerity economics to take precedence over job creation. He'll veto budget cuts until unemployment is down to 5 percent.

vFinally, he should make clear the underlying problem is widening inequality. With so much of the nation's disposable income and wealth going to the top, the vast middle class doesn't have the purchasing power it needs to fire up the economy. That's why the Buffett rule, setting a minimum tax rate for millionaires, is just a first step for ensuring that the gains from growth are widely shared.

The President can still say we're on the right track. But he should also say he's not content with the pace of the recovery and will do everything in his power to quicken it. And he should ask the American people for a mandate in his second term to make the economy work for everyone, not just those at the top.

Such a mandate can be put into effect only with a Congress that's committed to better jobs and wages for all Americans. He should remind voters that congressional Republicans prevented him from doing all that was needed in the first term, and they must not be allowed to do so again.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's 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 thirteen books, including "Locked in the Cabinet," "Reason," "Supercapitalism," "Aftershock," and his latest e-book, "Beyond Outrage." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes. your social media marketing partner


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-36 # MidwestTom 2012-04-21 13:06
As a Democrat I definitely feel that he is on the wrong path I am n not sure that trying to divide the electorate is the way to win. Forming AFRICAN AMERICANS FOR OBAMA is a bad move in my opinion, unless he wants to form WHITE AMERICANS FOR OBAMA and HISPANIC AMERICANS FOR OBAMA. Must white Democrats in this part of Illinois feel that this country does not need a President trying to push additional divisions.
+8 # wantrealdemocracy 2012-04-21 14:01
As a Democrat who thinks Obama is on the wrong path, will you be able to not vote for the lesser evil? Do you think that to vote any other way is to throw your vote away and spoil the election? I hope not. Please go on the internet and look up Rockie Anderson. This man was a long time Democrat who left that party when they did not even allow Single Payer to come up for a vote when polls showed a large majority of Americans wanted health care free of the control of the for profit insurance companies.
Please consider Rockie Anderson for our next President.
+22 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-21 14:26
Nothing against Rocky Anderson but his candidacy is so badly organized that he failed to get on the ballot in many states, including California. That's no way to run a campaign for President. I personally think Romney's a cretin and Obama's a fraud, but I don't see anyone else who has a remote chance of even being included in the national debate. The system is rigged and we're left with increasingly ugly choices.
+3 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:24
Obama a fraud? Come on now, that's a little harsh for a man who's doing the best he can while faced with a completly hostile Congress and a liar as a Rethuglican foe. Consider the alternative if Mutt is elected. VOTE OBAMA!
+4 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-22 11:49
I'm afraid you've bought the Democratic narrative about how Obama would have done some fine things were it not for the 'hostile' Congress. The fact remains: Obama had a strong, working majority for two years and did nothing beyond accommodate the right wing. The 'super majority' argument is on fact a fraudulent argument. A minority cannot prevent a bill from becoming law without the complicity of the majority in adopting the rules of the Senate.
The fact remains also that Obama's policies on virtually every major issue, from civil liberties to the bankers and taxation,l to war, has been either identical with or worse than Bush. That's not being harsh; it's being accurate. Close your eyes on the man's race and party (and pretense of being liberal) and look at what he's actually done.
And by the way, it's not analysis or argument to name-call. 'Rethuglican' or 'Mutt' is on the level of Limbaugh's nonsense. It doesn't substitute for thought.
I'm not voting for Obama. His policies have been horrid.
0 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2012-04-26 08:43
You blame Obama for not controlling the Senate's procedural rules. Your blanket statements about Obama's position "on virtually every issue" is tantamount to saying we would have been better off with Bush, and that's a lie on the level of Limbaugh's nonsense.
+3 # warkovision 2012-04-22 12:08
I know what you're saying and I have given some support to Rockie. I know what the others are saying as well. The last time I voted for an Anderson we ended up with Reagan.
+39 # fredboy 2012-04-21 13:38
We need unity of purpose and direction. I hope the President realizes that those of us in our 60s do not have the time or patience to wait for an economic recovery beset by a crippled Federal Reserve and constant setbacks fueled by slovenly greed.
+59 # BobboMax 2012-04-21 14:01
As my judo sensei used to say, "Even if you're on the right track, if you're going too slowly, you'll get run over by a train."

As far as threatening the banks with Glass-Steagall reinstatement unless they write down mortgages for homeowners- No, we need both.

There are those who ask, "Why should we give a write-down to foolish, greedy homeowners who took on mortgages they should have known they couldn't afford?" but an equally valid question is, "Why should we give a profit to foolish, greedy banks who gave mortgages to people they should have known couldn't afford them." The foolish, greedy (and often unsophisticated ) homeowners are certainly feeling some pain and will do so far into the future. The foolish, greedy (and supposedly sophisticated) bankers should certainly be sharing that pain, now and far into the future.
+18 # CL38 2012-04-21 21:08
the banks knew exactly what they were doing.....and did it anyway. I hope we see real investigations that jail the bank and mortgage perpetrators.
+6 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-22 11:52
I also 'hope' we'll see real investigations. .. But ask yourself the question: why haven't we? More than three years, plenty of evidence of massive felonious behavior, no indictments, no prison. Why not? Because Obama's biggest campaign contributor was Goldman Sachs. Because Obama's appointments at Treasury and the Fed have been the same crooks who robbed the country. We elected someone who promised a program diametrically different from what he's delivered. We got fooled, and it was a very clever job.
+1 # AMLLLLL 2012-04-23 14:57
The party with the power of making a loan is the lender. From appraisal to underwriting, they were all complicit in the game. Lenders were told to push the adjusted rate loans, appraisers were told what value to put on the properties, underwriters did not ask for documentation or proof of qualification.
+11 # cwashbur 2012-04-21 14:08
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, this is a tactic that has worked in the past. "We're on the right track, so re-elect me or the other guys will screw it up" has worked in some variation for Nixon in 72, Reagan in 84, Clinton in 96 and Bush in 04. It's not surprising that Obama would go with the pitch that has a successful track record historically.
+9 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-21 14:39
"If the banks fail to modify mortgages" –– this is a joke, right? God bless Robert Reich for retaining such crazy optimism but, you know, let's face it. This President is in the pocket of the banks. The reason the enormous bailout, at least hundreds of billions of dollars, didn't help the economy is that Obama and his friends, along with the Republicans, gave it to the crooks and not the people who needed it. No requirements on mortgage help or tendering low-interest loans to small business, or any other logical assistance which would have fed the money into the system. Instead, they handed it to the worst criminals in America with no strings attached.
Obama extended the Bush billionaires tax break and is willing to cut Social Security and Medicare. He's a fraud. Take te blinders off, okay? Stop expecting him to act like someone he's not.
-35 # Robt Eagle 2012-04-21 15:48
So the answer is to vote Obama out of the White House, praise to you Richard!
+9 # CTPatriot 2012-04-21 16:17
Of course, your answer is to put in Romney, or whoever the conservative is, showing that your comment is based purely on being an ideologue rather than any understanding of the fact that both political parties are controlled by and for the 1%, and neither belongs in office.
-17 # lobdillj 2012-04-21 17:05
Quoting CTPatriot:
Of course, your answer is to put in Romney, or whoever the conservative is, showing that your comment is based purely on being an ideologue rather than any understanding of the fact that both political parties are controlled by and for the 1%, and neither belongs in office.

There is no answer. This election has no power to stop the disintegration of this nation. It doesn't matter whether you vote Obama, Romney, Anderson, write in Elizabeth Warren, or just stay away from the polls--it's too late now.

Stop acting as if it matters. It doesn't.
+4 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:28
So what's your answer? Leave the U.S.? Committ suicide? Suck it up and quit whining?
+7 # ABen 2012-04-21 21:23
Eagle you truly are clueless!!
+11 # fobsub 2012-04-21 21:55
Obama's hands were pretty much tied during his first 4, lets see how he performs in his second 4 while his hands aren't so tied.
+3 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-22 11:54
Hands tied? You mean with a 60-40 majority in the Senate and possession of the House?
+5 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:26
Sorry to inform you about a little known historical fact: it was Bush who bailed out the banks, not Obama.
+6 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-22 11:56
I'm afraid you are incorrect. The banks were bailed out at first under Bush with a majority backing of BOTH parties, AND Obama. Obama then continued the bailout with hundreds of billions more AND renewing the Bush billionaires tax scam when he had promised to let it expire. He then reappointed Bernanke. And his Treasury Secretary was the same man who presided over the wholesale robbery as head of the New York Fed.
+4 # tahoevalleylines 2012-04-21 14:53
Dr. Reich certainly notes correctly the problem posed by fuel costs, a tax only the rich can afford to pay, regardless how high... However, Reich is on the wrong track if he ignores warnings from strategic think tanks and world energy agencies pointing to Chinese and India influence on steady upward oil price trajectory.

Of course all countries are part of the oil demand curve, but old formulas fail to account for the explosive growth seen in the "Asian Tigers'. In context of 5% annual oilfield depletion rate, speculators are a footnote, so eliminating speculators will not help our motor fuel cost/supply problem very much. American economic vulnerability increases incrementally as fuel costs go up; middle class pain turns to national collapse when almost certain Middle East meltdown knocks out several millions of barrels per day.

Robert Reich does not pay attention to warnings from oil supply analysts like Jan Lundberg, Robert Klare, Richard Heinberg or Anthony Cordesman. Mike Ruppert and others have written about oil problems impacting food supply. Even with seemingly massive oil extraction projects underway in Canada and the US, the sum total of all these domestic energy prospects is but a small fraction of what we still must import.

While Congress diddles, we move closer to transport emergency. Is there ANYONE in the private sector, anyone left in banking savvy about Peak Oil and railway's part in the solution set?
-24 # Robt Eagle 2012-04-21 15:49
tahoe, no they are too focused on the evil Republicans and never look at the problems rationally.
+23 # lcarrier 2012-04-21 17:34
The Republicans are evil. A rational look at our problems would devote all our resources to green energy before it's too late.
+8 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:32
Yes, you're right as rain. The Rethugs fiddle while Rome burns. We need a giant govt.-private sector push for alternative energy including fuels RIGHT NOW! You think $4 a gallon is bad? How'll people cope at $8 a gallon like Europe? We need more public transit, not less. The Rethugs are totally against public transit proposals of any kind.
+28 # lcarrier 2012-04-21 17:38
The real problems are not simply what Reich mentions. The root cause of our malaise is the concentration on "economic growth" at the expense of our humanity. The economic growth model can be replicated far better in authoritarian countries, such as China, and we can't compete with slave labor. Better for us to get off that track and stress what makes for a better society. We had a better society when we cared for one another, but rampant capitalism and its dog-eat-dog mentality has made us all the worse. Time to get off that merry-go-round. Vote for progressives and turn Obama around.
+11 # lcarrier 2012-04-21 17:33
Wrong. We are now a leader in the EXPORT of petroleum products. The oil companies get richer by selling to China.
-2 # jazzara 2012-04-21 15:06
Even with a decisive electoral mandate for progressive change, Obama veered sharply rightward as soon as he took office in 2009.

Among his worst betrayals: he instantly appointed a pack of insider elitists to keep Wall Street DE-regulated --plus, he scuttled the then-growing public demand for a Single Payer health care system.

IMO, Obama is a Quisling for the USA's entrenched oligarchy -- and a pathological liar to boot.

Better to vote Green than support any more Duopoly candidates.
+25 # jwb110 2012-04-21 16:05
Why hasn't Obama called into question the Patriotism of Big Business in America? Corporations in the US have gone out of their way to do ruinous things to citizens and the economy in general and at a time when we are dogged by both war and recession. What they are doing is just War Time Profiteering. The President can be clear that he can't do anything about but that the citizenry should understand that the Financial Sector may be more terrorist than the Al-Qaeda.
+40 # JCM 2012-04-21 16:18
For those who think Obama is the wrong choice.
If Romney wins and the Republicans take over Congress they will: pass the Ryan budget destroying Medicare as we know it and probably will crash Social Security as well, will decrease regulation on the petroleum and financial industries, leading to more catastrophe, add another two conservative judges on the Supreme Court and then repeal Roe v Wade and countless other beneficial rulings for the working class, will repeal health care so that people could still be denied insurance when they get sick and the people with pre existing conditions will be out of luck, will continue to lower taxes for the rich and create larger deficits, will reduce funding for food stamps, for clean energy, for science, for global warming, for Pell Grants, will try to destroy unions, and will probably come up with some excuse to go to war. The list of destructive Republican policies goes on a long time but I can guarantee that they favor the very wealthiest. Their platform is now,” Donate to my campaign and I will make you wealthier.”
Some of you hate Obama but anything he has done will pale in comparison to what the Republicans will do.
+11 # kbarrand 2012-04-21 17:00
Sadly, that may be what it takes to make people realize what's going on. Of course no lobbyist will be in DC for the interest of the disenfranchised and the Republicans will find some clever way to trick their base in to believing it's all the Democrats fault. If people didn't learn from 6 years of Bush and a Republican congress, God only knows what it will take.
+12 # JCM 2012-04-21 18:26
Our only chance to heal our country is to have a true Democratic super majority, until the Republicans regain their sanity.
-4 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-21 21:51
Stop this. The 'super majority' is a charade. The Democrats could have passed anything they wanted, including universal care. The Republicans could have delayed things only so long before they had to stop; that's how it works. This 'super majority' is 'required' only under rules agreed to by a simple majority.
+7 # JCM 2012-04-21 22:21
Can you back this up with any facts and/or references?
+2 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:39
Of course he can't. That's what Rethugs do, throw out fake facts and then call you misinformed (i.e. stupid).
+4 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-22 12:03
Speaking only for myself, Mr. Williams, I am a lifelong Democrat. I have held office, worked for both Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, and voted for Democratic presidential candidates since 1968. I worked for and contributed to Obama's campaign. I also taught political science for many years.

It is a FACT that the minority cannot prevent laws from being enacted; it can only delay the process. The 'modern' version of the filibuster depends on Senate rules, which are subject to majority vote.

It is the connivance of BOTH parties which enable minorities to stifle legislation. BOTH are corrupt to the teeth. These are not 'fake facts'. Learn something before you name-call.
0 # JCM 2012-04-22 16:59
One part of what you are saying is true, if they change the Senate rules it only takes a regular majority but they can only change them the first day or two when a new Congress is convened. We can argue whether Reid should have done that when he had a chance but it is complicated and not a simple decision. Otherwise, the Senate can not stop a filibuster according to Senate rules as stated in the link above. So I would like to repeat, the only chance our country has to restore some sanity back into politics and rebuild the 99%, is for the Democrats to have a super majority, at least till the Republicans regain their sanity.
+4 # JCM 2012-04-21 22:39
Did some checking, try
This explains why you can't force a filibuster.
0 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:37
Not true at all. You're making statements that have no basis in reality. And I'm calling you on it.
+13 # Regina 2012-04-21 21:07
Obama's biggest mistake was to treat Republicans like sane, principled, honorable opponents, instead of the obstructionist hell-no brats they turned into. He tried to reason with them, when they were dedicated to their sabotage of everything he proposed. So much for "support" of America, and other principles of patriotism. Get those monsters out of Congress, reelect Obama with a SANE Congress, elect sane governors in the states now abetting the destruction derby, and we just might make it out of the Republican ditch and swamp.
-5 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-21 21:49
You forgot one: the Republicans will also kill the easter bunny.

What will it take for Americans to wake up? Obama has been solidly on the side of the worst elements in the country. Period. That's not hyperbole. He appointed to his cabinet the bankers who caused the collapse, lobbyists for Monsanto and other environmental criminals, and stooges for the oil industry.

The Republicans will pass all of this terrible legislation? Not without Democratic complicity. If the Democrats simply do what the GOP has done, tie up the Congress, then the Ryan budget and the rest of that junk has no chance... right? Unless it turns out that Obama's excuse so far, GOP obstructionism, is really not true.

We're being screwed by both parties, folks. Look at who's paying the campaign funds for Obama and Romney –– they're the same corporations.
+1 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:40
So what's your answer for the dilema which you've dreamed up?
0 # JCM 2012-04-22 17:23
Try to put it in this respect. If the Republicans were in complete control, a super majority, we can easily guess what they would do and I have spelled it out in a comment above. Now compare this with what you might guess the Dems would do. Not so easy here but we can look to the 111th Congress when they had a majority in the House and passed, if not perfect, legislation that, far and away compared to the Republicans, try to protect the lives of the 99% and all Americans. This legislation was passed still dealing with the pressure coming from the extreme right in the Senate. So I think it is fair, at least, to guess that if the Democrats had a super majority, and didn’t have to deal with the Republican opposition, they would legislate for the continued protection of the 99%. The Democrats have made their worst mistakes in the last 30 years by succumbing to the pressure the Republicans affront them with. So I will again repeat myself, we must vote for Obama and every Democrat we can, a super majority is our only hope.
+1 # JCM 2012-04-22 17:25
Addition thoughts:
The overriding factor for this election is not completely about Romney or Obama, it is whether or not the Republicans will be able to maintain their influence and power over the Government, the Democrats and so many American people. Their ideology of less regulation and less taxes on the rich has been going on for at least thirty years. It is crippling our economy, our country and our greatness. It is the most profound scam that so many people, against their own good, have fallen for: making wealthy people even wealthier so they will make jobs and shower us all with their wealth. Of course if that were true our economy would be soaring because the wealthy have never been so rich. We must stop the Republicans war against the 99% and the only realistic way, just months before the election, is to vote for Obama and every Democrat we can. Unfortunately, if we don’t get a real super majority, it will be business as usual.
Some people say the Democrats are just like the Republicans, and in some ways that’s true, but when it comes to making legislation, over all, they try to protect the interests and lives of the 99% and all Americans. The Republicans platform is now, “Donate to our campaign and we’ll make you wealthier.”
Our only chance to heal our country is to have a true Democratic super majority, until the Republicans regain their sanity.
+3 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:36
Yes, yes, JCM. I totally agree. If the Rethugs control Congress and the WH, the floodgates of regressive legislation will open and the country will be screwed beyond anything we've seen in a long, long time. You fencesitters out there, beware. Your vote will be vital in moving our country ahead or turning it back to the 19th century. This is serious.
+13 # fobsub 2012-04-21 17:22
Wile I usually agree with Mr. Reich's way of seeing things, on this one I have to say he's talking a little narrowly bold. Iiits easy to boldly state the obvious and our sometimes not-so-well-tho ught-out opinions from the reletive safety and comfort of our armchair.
The President is well aware that he has to juggle very carefully in the next 6 months if he wants to make it to, or even win the election. It would be very foolish of him to advertise just what he plans to do to his enemies, now, or after the election. His enemies have proven to be scandalous criminals, hell bent on fascilitating his demise, will fabricate and stop at nothing to accomplish their goal. I think that keeping a low profile before the election, even at some political cost can be his only strategy right now. He's a good man; what he lacks in experience is surpassed by his integrety. Once reelected the ball will be in his court and I think he'll be ready, able and willing to unleash some holy kick-butt on the real problems.
Give the guy the benefit of the doubt, stick with him, believe in him,, what better choice do we have?
-7 # Richard Raznikov 2012-04-21 21:55
Ah, yes, the 'benefit of the doubt.' For example, on attacking countries without a declaration of war? On suspending and overriding civil liberties? On GMO foods, nuclear power, bank bailouts, jailing whistleblowers? Yup, once he's re-elected he can become the President he promised he'd be four years ago. My God, you'd believe anything.
+5 # Willman 2012-04-21 20:31
Yeah lets put romoney and company in the house and senate and then see how that will turn out.If any think Obama is bad they will have to rethink what bad actually is.
Just what I want, a mega multi millionaire that wears secret sacred underthings calling the shots of this country.
-2 # Todd Williams 2012-04-22 09:42
I believe they're called "magic underwear." And if we trust a Mormon cultist to run our country then we desearve whatever happens.
+8 # hutlee 2012-04-21 22:35
The so called global economy is now and always will be of, by, and for the global investor class. Only when the masses rise up and kill the beast of greed will sanity and equality return to it's rightful place in this world.

Laissez faire capitalism is a short term bubble that stands to reap untold wealth for the few at the expense of the many. But, the benefactors of this system are well aware of the shaky ground on which they stand, so it becomes a game of get as much as you can, as fast as you can, while you can, because it is not going to last.

The revolution is already forming on a global scale, and the time allotted for the greedsters is indeed limited. What occurred during and after the French Revolution will pale compared to what is to come. Doom and gloom? Depends upon where you stand, isn't it?
+2 # tclose 2012-04-22 10:21
Obama has a difficult row to hoe here. Most of us would like to see Obama come forward with bold initiatives that would generate enthusiasm. But it also would fire up the other side by giving ammo to the "socialist Obama" crowd. I assume that Obama's team is carefully calculating who to appeal to, as the Repubs have effectively done for the past 30 years.

But I do agree that Obama needs to use his oratorical skills to build his base and some of Dr. Reich's ideas make a lot of sense.

Whatever is decided on has to work: the U.S. cannot go through another regressive Republican regime without permanent harm to its institutions.

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