Daily Archives: January 13, 2016

Q&A: Robert Reich on the ‘Vicious Cycle of Wealth and Power’ He Says Threatens Capitalism – Real Time Economics – WSJ

By Anna Louie Sussman

Robert Reich testifies before lawmakers in 2014 on income inequality. In his latest book, he partly blames “the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs.” WIN MCNAMEE/GETTYIMAGES

Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton and a professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, spent years warning of twin demons.

Technology and globalization haunted dreams of American middle-class prosperity. Machines displaced low-skilled (and increasingly middle-skilled) workers whose routine jobs could be automated, and globalization meant the flight of manufacturing and service jobs to factories and call centers in emerging countries. The result was ever-widening inequality.

In his latest book, “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few,” he’s changed his tune. While those two factors still play a role in growing inequality, he cites a new culprit: “the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs.” He spoke to Real Time Economics about why capitalism is broken, his shift in thinking, and why economists must study raw power.

Here’s the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Q: What or who are we saving capitalism from?

A. Capitalism is based on trust. It’s impossible to have a system that works well and is based on billions of transactions if people don’t trust that others are going to fulfill their obligations, or they fear someone will take advantage of them or exploit them. That’s when a system moves from production to protection, and we spend more on everything from lawyers to security guards. That begins to spell the end of a capitalist system that generates widespread prosperity and growth, and that’s the real threat to our democratic capitalist system.

At the macro level, you have only to look at politics to see the anger that is fueling, for example, Donald Trump’s candidacy. That anger is fueled by a sense that polls show very starkly, that people feel the game is rigged against them.

Q. How did you come to see political power as a key force driving inequality in addition to technology and globalization? What were some turning points in your thinking?

A. When I was secretary of labor in the 1990s, I noticed this third factor. I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to it at the time, but it certainly stuck in my craw. And that was the increasing political power of big corporations, Wall Street, and wealthy individuals.

For example, even the suggestion of an OSHA [Occupational
Safety and Health Administration
] rule would bring out the furies. We were looking at repetitive stress injury, for people who spent days behind computer terminals. There were some very simple things employers could do to reduce these injuries, but the mere suggestion that we were thinking about this caused an avalanche of congressional phone calls and inquiries and threats.

The power of the business community to get the kinds of regulatory and legal results they wanted has continued to escalate at a remarkable rate, and it seemed to me there was some relationship between that political power to get the rules and the laws they wanted, and widening inequality.

For years, I had looked at the individual industries, I had looked at individual studies, and I was aware of pieces of the puzzle. But actually seeing the entire reality, pulling the puzzle pieces together, connecting the dots—I was surprised at the enormity of it.

…(read more).

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Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few: Robert B. Reich

From the author of Aftershock and The Work of Nations, his most important book to date—a myth-shattering breakdown of how the economic system that helped make America so strong is now failing us, and what it will take to fix it.

Perhaps no one is better acquainted with the intersection of economics and politics than Robert B. Reich, and now he reveals how power and influence have created a new American oligarchy, a shrinking middle class, and the greatest income inequality and wealth disparity in eighty years. He makes clear how centrally problematic our veneration of the “free market” is, and how it has masked the power of moneyed interests to tilt the market to their benefit.

Reich exposes the falsehoods that have been bolstered by the corruption of our democracy by huge corporations and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street: that all workers are paid what they’re “worth,” that a higher minimum wage equals fewer jobs, and that corporations must serve shareholders before employees. He shows that the critical choices ahead are not about the size of government but about who government is for: that we must choose not between a free market and “big” government but between a market organized for broadly based prosperity and one designed to deliver the most gains to the top. Ever the pragmatist, ever the optimist, Reich sees hope for reversing our slide toward inequality and diminished opportunity when we shore up the countervailing power of everyone else.

Passionate yet practical, sweeping yet exactingly argued, Saving Capitalism is a revelatory indictment of our economic status quo and an empowering call to civic action.

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Most land still owned by white South Africans


Al Jazeera English

Published on Jan 13, 2016

Most land is still owned by white South Africans, despite a promise by the ruling party to return a third of the land to the black majority. More than 60,000 land claims are awaiting settlement, a fact which is causing frustration and uncertainty for many.Tania Page reports from KwaZulu-Natal province.

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Right Wing Hate Fuels Surge In Gun Sales


The Ring of Fire

Published on Jan 13, 2016

Even with President Obama’s executive action on gun control last week, gun manufacturers aren’t scared one bit. And that’s because their stocks are going through the roof.

Last year, as a result of the constant mass shootings taking place in America, gun sales began to skyrocket. In the wake of last week’s executive order making it slightly more difficult to buy a firearm without a background check, Wall Street speculators have been pumping money into the stocks of gun makers, anticipating a massive spike in sales as a result of President Obama’s executive actions.

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Exxon’s Climate Cover-Up Just Got Bigger: Docs Suggest All Major Oil Giants Have Lied Since 1970s


Democracy Now!

Published on Dec 31, 2015
Democracynow.org – 2015, the hottest on record, was also the year ExxonMobil was caught in a more than three-decade lie. Internal documents revealed Exxon knew that fossil fuels cause global warming in the 1970s, but hid that information from the public. Now it turns out that Exxon isn’t alone. A new exposé from InsideClimate News reveals nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company was likely aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change at the same time as Exxon. We are joined by Neela Banerjee, the InsideClimate News reporter who broke this story.

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Tavis Smiley Calls Out Corporate Media for Uncritical Coverage of “Racial Arsonist” Donald Trump


Democracy Now!

Published on Jan 13, 2016
Democracynow.org – The broadcaster Tavis Smiley made headlines this week for an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” when he called out Donald Trump for being an “unrepentant, irascible, religious and racial arsonist.” Trump responded by calling Smiley a “hater and racist.” Smiley responds to Trump while also criticizing the corporate media for what he calls a lax response to the Republican front-runner’s views.

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“Dear World”


NextGen Climate

Published on Sep 18, 2015

Pope Francis has called on people of all faiths to come together to take action on climate change and protect “our common home.” Will you join him?

www.nextgenclimate.org/stand-with-pope-f­rancis

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Climate Deniers Be Cray! with Jenny Slate


NextGen Climate

Published on Jul 30, 2015

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StateoftheClimate: National Security


NextGen Climate

Published on Jan 12, 2016

Jon Gensler is a West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran. He knows the risks that climate change poses to our national security. Join the conversation at #stateoftheclimate and learn more at nextgenclimate.org.

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The Metaphysics of Ecology: What Makes Our Environment Worthy of Care


Harvard Divinity School

Published on Jan 12, 2016

Caner Dagli, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, delivers a lecture as part of the Junior Fellowship Series “Religion and Nature” at the Center for the Study of World Religions.

Learn more about Harvard Divinity School and its mission to illuminate, engage, and serve at www.hds.harvard.edu.

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