225 Comments
Dec 16, 2022·edited Dec 16, 2022

The rot in America began four decades ago, when the mildly demented Ronald Reagan became president. Tax breaks for the wealthy! Bust the unions! Government is always the problem!

But twenty decades of well-supported economic theory (i.e., not Friedmanomics) teaches that progressive taxation is a GOOD thing because a) it redistributes wealth in a way that improves the welfare of society (cf Denmark), and b) prevents anyone from getting too rich and therefore too powerful, for they will collude against society (i.e., those wealthy enough to pay for government lobbyists).

So, the experiment with trickledown is over. Friedman was a fraud.

There is only one way to reverse the rot: a sweeping Democratic victory in 2024 and a return to progressive taxation. Hopefully, the Trump-Desantis battle will help.

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Hear, hear! Reagan was indeed the beginning if the end. He seduced all those pension-earning blue collar workers into believing that they should stop investing in our society and simply withhold more of their own money from Uncle Sam. He didn't tell them that privatization would destroy their country in the long run. He sold them the lie about welfare queens. So their grandchildren now live in a pensionless gig labor world, paying huge costs of education and healthcare, while the infrastructure is neglected and a desperation plague of addiction and overdose has overtaken the country.

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Kerry, you are so right about Reagan. I do not understand how politicians even Democrats put Reagan in the same company as Lincoln and T. Roosevelt. Reagan did enormous damage to our nation in the ways described here but also in the cheating and cover-up related to Iran-Contra which told the military-industrial complex they can do whatever they want and get as many administration and military folks involved as you want and nothing will be done about it, even if it is illegal. Reagan was a Teflon guy too. None of the stuff he did ever stuck to him and his acting training let people think he was a decent guy. He wasn't. I want to shout that from the heights! Reagan was an awful president and at least as bad a human being. Just because most of the other Republicans in power are worse does not make Reagan good.

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We tend to be so charitable in our sentiments about the personally charming presidents who have brought immense disaster and suffering not just to Americans but around the world. Bush 43 is another example. But a guy who stood for peace and human rights as much as possible...Jimmy the peanut farmer? Despised, defamed, forgotten. Another American character flaw in the Hollywoodization of our political life. You think a bald Trump would have gotten elected?

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Jimmy Carter gave us Habitat for Humanity and it's global now.What an incredible gift to society!

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"Hollywoodization of our political life." What a perfect description. I remember reading that Abraham Lincoln would never have been elected President if TV had been around in those days.

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Well said, Kerry. Celebrity wins every time in America over intelligence and honesty.

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Hair. I think hair is really important in selecting our leadership. 😂😂😂

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Funny -- but do you know the story behind donald's "hair"? He asked Ivanka (while still married) whether her plastic surgeon did hair implants. Apparently the guy did. So off goes the orange sadist for his implants. He comes home, ENRAGED, finds Ivanka, and begins to beat her screaming, "YOU DIDN'T TELL ME IT WOULD HURT!!!" Terrified, she ran upstairs, cowering in a closet. She stayed there all night. This is from one of the incidents reported by her in their -- very sealed -- divorce papers. This one got leaked. Who knows what's in the rest of those papers. he is, indeed, a SADIST.

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Kerry, I believe the media have a lot to do with how we perceive and remember our presidents. I am always surprised to hear Carter so badly defamed when he actually did try to make things better, to broker peace, to include more diversity in his administration, and help the country recover from Nixon's and Ford's bad behavior (Ford let Nixon get away with cheating and lying and more claiming it was to "heal" the nation. It was really to get people to forget what Nixon had done). Biden has been working hard to clean up after Trump's disastrous administration, but as time passes, since Trump didn't bring our whole government down as he and his crew intended, Trump is going to be seen as less and less of a problem as time goes by. That is nuts, but the media will work that around unless we constantly call them out on it.

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I couldn't agree with you more. Carter was THE greatest President in my lifetime (and the first President for whom I was allowed to vote :-) He was not appreciated during his tenure -- was made fun of, in fact. It was downright nasty -- evil, even.

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It baffles (and angers) me, too. All I can figure is that they don't know their history and/or the fell for the B-rated actor's schmaltzy role as "President". He gave me the willies.

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Can we also point out the fact that Reagan, so-called conservatives and every heir to The Gipper's economic philosophies, enact policy decisions diametrically opposed to their stated platforms? They preach fiscal conservatism, while reducing tax revenues to explode deficits with runaway corporate giveaways and spending. They want individuals to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, denied social spending they call "government handouts", but lavishly dole out government money to help profitable corporations and industries, many of which outsource employment abroad. They love the troops but don't want to raise taxes to pay for them after injuries from the wars Republicans can't wait to deploy our troops to. Individuals, after many years of stagnant wages, have few interest expenses they can deduct but Professor Reich has alerted us to willingness to allow corporate interest deductions to increase, while keeping their lowered tax rates. They supposedly love families and children but are against policies that help young families exist. They want affordable pharmaceuticals for everyone but don't want any laws enacted that actually lower the cost because it's "hostile to businesses." For a party that claims to be for the middle-class, none of the things they champion are beneficial to me or my middle-class friends and neighbors.

As for the topic the good professor started off with, he's right. I often say that America used to manufacture quality goods for export that created a thriving middle-class that could save and acquire goods made here and abroad. Now we only have stores selling items made abroad, which most can only afford to purchase on credit, while this country creates little, if anything, with added value to export overseas. Hopefully the IRA that passed will rejuvenate new industries that make and export value added products that rebuild the middle class. The only things we export in great amounts now are suspect financial products. (CDOs, CDSs, NFTs, BTC etc.)

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C. Jacobs, you have nailed it. I call the Republican party the Hypocricans because of the behaviors you described. Whatever they claim to stand for, they completely ignore and alas, their followers either don't notice or are so bubbled up they can't see it while they blame Democrats for their middle-class, working-class woes. Republicans are really good at conning a whole lot of people who seem to be on board with it.

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All good points. And seemingly, we are in a country where half the people can't understand or accept the truth of them.

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The only time I ever argued with my dad, a Great Depression era guy was when riding in his pickup truck in MS and he was yammering on about how great Ron Reagan was. Actually it wasn't an argument, I only yelled (I don't even know if it was a word) and we both continued in silence.

He was a blue collar, union electrician all his work life. WTF I never understood why he would support the union busting president?

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Rob, I agree. In my case it was my grandfather who said how great Reagan was. That same grandfather, who raised his family during the depression, worshiped FDR and told me repeatedly how the New Deal and FDR had saved the country and later the world.

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Arthur and Rob, I know exactly how you feel. I grew up in a FDR worshipping family, too. But my grandfather and father were very very left of center. I simply could never understand the selfishness that descended upon that generation, the self-satisfied sense that drive them to continually vote down school taxes or to swallow the nonsense about welfare cheats stealing their money. They empowered the real crooks who proceeded to offshore all the jobs, destroy the unions, and shelter all their income from taxation. They were the same people who bought the domino theory and sent their kin off to a slaughterhouse in Southeast Asia, for nothing.

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Yeah, Kerry, what was that about? They were supposed to be "the Greatest Generation." I was very lucky because my parents stayed pro-union all their lives and were easily persuaded that the Vietnam War was just plain wrong. My parents were for the Civil Rights Movement too. They had their "faults" but they were pretty amazing.

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Wow! Did you ever hit the nail on the head! I started out as a young college grad and had almost joined the John Birch society back in the early sixties. Was infatuated with their philosophy at the time. I did vote for Kennedy but after that a string of Republicans ending after Reagans first run for office. At that time, the early 80's, we were in a tough economic trench with interest rates around 20%. IO had just joined the carpenters union and saw my wages and benefits stagnate over the next several years. And that is when I started to see all the lies coming down from the top of the economic pyramid.....from Reagan's acting right up to Trumps outright lies. The rest is history!As a member of a union I eventually became a business rep and had to deal with union members who probably make up members of the Proud boys and Oath Keepers. The union is what caused them to get great wages and benefits and protection from harassement from owners.

Today I deal with friends who worked for GM and they are devout Republicans. My own personal observation is they are homophobes, racists and antiabortion. They really haven't grown beyond those issues. Sad!

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Jim, how union folks can stand so squarely against so many people while not even beginning to recognize that the reason their wages stagnated was due to the very rich who wanted them kept down as low as possible to keep the money and power flowing to the top is beyond comprehension. I guess some people would rather cling to their hate rather than learn the truth.

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Don't blame your dad too much, Mr. Boyte. A proper education was nearly impossible and unnecessary for your father's generation! He, and the overwhelming majority of his genration, was never taught critical thinking, so he hitched on with a conman with a smooth sales pitch! Hell! My dad DID get more critical thinking training and STILL doesn't realize that Regean killed America!

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Good point about education! But how does that explain all the college educated people who still buy into the Republican lies? Money?

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Jim, I do believe it is money and the promise of power that keeps people supporting issues and people who care nothing for this nation. They probably want to be one of those doing the robbing, cheating, and more. How very sad to know that college is not necessarily a cure for ignorance and close-mindedness as well as greed.

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Good point Jim. MONEY and greed.

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Daniel, that's not the whole problem though. I was born in 1933. I dropped out of high school in Canada after the 11th grade. But I always questioned everything and read everything from the philosophers of antiquity to the daily newspapers. When I emigrated to the United States and eventually to California I was able to finally go to college. I received an AA (pre-Law) BA (biology and chemistry) MA (physiology). The opportunities in most of the liberal/progressive States were fantastic. I'm writing all this because it is our general environment that seems to have more influence, than the opportunities that existed. I was fortunate to have a father who thought I could do and be whatever I wanted, so I did. My mother on the other hand couldn't understand how I could prefer Jimmy Carter over (sigh) Ronnie baby Reagan. Carter wore blue jeans in the White House (this in her opinion was inexcusable) and Mr Reagan was sooo handsome. My response that Reagan didn't have a brain in his head didn't phase her a bit. Thank goodness my mother never became a citizen and couldn't vote. Believe me I never encouraged her (:-)

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Fay, you're a decade older than me. Hope your health is still good. As Lily Tomlin bragged as Ernestine the operator "You can't fool me, I am a high school graduate." That was my education, a 1963 diploma in a St. Louis public school. Working with collegiate co-workers I estimate it is equivalent to a Bachelor degree in some parts. (When my wife was going for an AA degree to get her RN certification, I did her humanities for her and got good grades)

BTW, to tell how bad the schools are in the South, my mom completed the 8th grade in St. Louis, married my dad & went to MS. My uncles were still in HS and she was helping them with their school work.

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It is very sad that the "better off" white people see it as their job to oppress the working class in order to keep both them and persons of color and 'others' (meaning anyone who isn't White, preferably AngloSaxon, and Protestant) in their subjugated place. Hence the low quality of the public schools. The only area in which they allow the slightest upward mobility is entertainment and football - ok also basketball. PS, I am white (not proudly) and I love football - just not the insane money connected with it.

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founding
Dec 16, 2022·edited Dec 16, 2022

Some of it had to do with racism and the zero-sum perspective that has been used to divide the electorate for too long. Your father/family benefited from a lot of post Depression and Post WWII, government support (now called welfare) that very few black ppl got access to (unemployment insurance, assistance for home ownership, education, and business creation. Greater access to the jobs created by the resulting booms and good wages created by unions (the power-of-the-people). Creation of the suburbs, where covenants prevented black ppl from owning homes there. Redlining that determined that areas with black populations were of the lowest value and did not warrant investment for homes, or businesses- these locations are still considered low value and unworthy of investment- causing low tax bases that create limited funding for the schools in those areas; causing food deserts because businesses won't invest there; and limiting the wealth (hm equity) of the few blacks that actually own homes there, while other black ppl rent from slumlords who won't invest in the homes they rent in those areas). However, following the Civil Rights movement and legislation to help limit discrimination against black ppl. Republicans were able to utilize the Southern Strategy- by convincing white American's, who's families had benefited from government programs, that they should now be against government programs that could help undeserving ppl (black ppl). Reagan also used the "Southern Strategy" (see link below). I often wondered why these ppl voted against their own self interest. Turns out, they think they are voting against the interest of others, but don't realize that they are hurting themselves, future generations and ALL Americans in the process. [Lee Atwater, while working for Reagan's White House, explains how the "Southern Strategy (to attract racist voters, without sounding racist) had changed over the years. Black ppl say this is how racism changed over the years, from overt to covert- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_8E3ENrKrQ] [also consider Heather McGhee's book- The Sum of Us, which demonstrates how voting against others (black ppl) getting government support has had consequences for us all- https://www.c-span.org/video/?516936-3/washington-journal-heather-mcghee-discusses-book-the-sum-us

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Yes, this. All of this! People would only willingly vote against themselves if they believed they were actually voting much more against those they believe are unworthy and undeserving. Many of the policies you succinctly listed continue to perpetuate downward pressure on POC, preventing many from realizing their own American Dream. Those who doubt this is a major cause, point out that lots of these policies aren't in place anymore. The fact is that they don't need to be. The length of time that policies like redlining did exist was enough to set the framework for the results to continue long after the policies ended. For the majority of the descendants of POC, iced out of the generational wealth that real estate provides, it leaves them at the starting block. Many of those whose families weren't restricted, are at the 200 meter mark, or farther, in the race to build wealth.

An Africana Studies professor of mine said something once about apartheid ending in SA. He was born and raised there under apartheid, before coming to America and eventually becoming a professor. As we celebrated in class about apartheid's fall, he said that apartheid was no longer needed. It was essentially the scaffolding to build the system of oppression. Those in power then could comfortably tear it down because the system is complete. As all of us are part of a country with unparalleled prosperity, we shouldn't allow ourselves to be pit against one another, attempting to hold people of different backgrounds than ours down, in order to allow ourselves to get ahead. This lie is told by those vacuuming up wealth for themselves, keeping the rest of us distracted and deployed by their lies to do their bidding. If the majority of us realize and convey to the robber barons that they can survive on a few billion dollars less, many more of our fellow citizens will wake up from their fog and vote for policies that help the most of us. There is enough to go around for most of us to be comfortable while some of us get rich.

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Thank you C. Jacobs for you well thought response. I am in total agreement and empathy with your entire post.

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You're welcome and thank you for giving my lengthy text wall(s) your consideration. I'm grateful to you, fyiurban, Ruth, Kerry, Rob Boyte and so many others on this platform providing and considering the contributions of others. I'm not on social media generally and much of what I saw there seemed toxic and ugly. I was introduced to Substack by thoughtful friends sharing Heather Cox Richardson's Substack with me. This platform, her posts, those of Professor Reich and Popular Information have opened up a whole new world for me.

I have shared my points of view in conversations before. Almost always, I would be looked at like a disheveled man screaming that the end was nigh in front of your local bodega. It's nice to find a community of thoughtful people, providing reasoned arguments and respectful discourse. May our practices here filter out into the world at large, and bring more of this respectful exchange of ideas back to in person conversations.

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founding
Dec 17, 2022·edited Dec 17, 2022

Absolutely, racial division is just one of the many divisions that keep us fighting over 'tricle down' instead of having more for all. The division is a distraction and does exactly what you point out... it has some voting for policy that further empowers and enriches the wealthy few, at the top, who endeavor to keep us divided and thus powerless to prevent them from gaining more wealth/power, at the majority's expense. A house divided can not stand. Exactly right, the effects of those discrimative policies continues today, and the powers that be don't want white ppl to have this knowledge because they wouldn't be able to use the disparities as a wedge issue and because if they knew this history it would be harder for the power that be to repeat their tactics which now hinder and harm us all.

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Thank you and Amen.

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Great Post, fyiurban, Persons of color, other language, ethnicities, have never been given a level playing field. That some people (Colin Powell, Andrew Yang, for example) pulled themselves up it was against the odds.

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Rob, you are lucky to have had only one argument with your dad. I know quite a few union folks who loved Ronnie. When I asked them why, they said something like that he was "good for America." When I mentioned his union-busting before and after he got into office, they told me I got it wrong that he was a union man. Reagan had a way of lying believably. I know that is a result of his acting even though he was not a very good screen actor. I guess he had the look which covered for a mediocre talent and a pretty poor president.

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Ronald Reagan, the Acting President.

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We should all remember that Reagan was little more than another Republican puppet. A face and voice to the power and money brokers who controlled him. The sad and funny thing is that they definitely bit off more than they could chew with the ex-Pres, though, lol.

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So true. Imagine what went through Rex Tillerson’s corporate brain when he finally realized he was working for a lunatic.

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Ironically, USELESS BILLIONAIRES are the "wellfare queens." The average destitute red-stater still pays more taxes than any of them. (Remember: Bunkerboy, the "bigly wealthiest man ever believe me" only paid $750 in taxes one year.)

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Thank you, Daniel, thank you. I have been saying this for years. We spend way more on Corporate handouts each and every year than all the "welfare" programs put together. Also Social Security is not welfare, it has been paid for since 1935 with wage deductions from working people. If it weren't for the damned legislature dipping into it it would still be solvent. (SSI for example should have come form the Health Department - not Social Security, widows and children was another big dip.)

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The thing that hurts the most is that we pay our fair share of taxes while these thieves don't.

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It's a program of government welfare for the uber rich, so the wealthy are now Welfare Queens. Or look at it another way, it's the new Socialism.

"Steal a little, they put you in jail. Steal a lot they make you a king."

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Michael, how is it we can't get the message out there that the ultra-rich are the actual welfare queens. We need a big campaign with that as the theme. Ask people "why are you OK with the corporate welfare queens taking your money to pay for their yachts, mansions, and taking over your business so you will lose your job?" "You need to stand up and demand your senators and representative stop the steal of your tax money for the ultra-rich welfare queens?"

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Agree, but we remain unable to get folks to understand the welfare to even the gas and oil industry. Even the high prices for gasoline recently blamed Biden, not Russia or excess profits.

I wish there was way for the 99 percent to understand that we are all in this together.

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Ruth, the main reason we can't get this out there is Corporate Media. Most people in the United States watch TV for their news. Very few read newspapers any more. The last thing Corporate Media wants is to kill their goose laying the golden eggs by telling ordinary people that their sponsors and themselves are really the gluttonous greedy sucking up their tax dollars. I know younger people get their news from internet and smart phones but with the exception of Inequality Media most of the "news" I see is about some stupid celebrity so I don't read it.

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Most folks are really surprised when I tell them we don't have TV. My wife has never been a TV fan and when we moved to the mountains in retirement we just never got it. We installed internet, slow at first and now at a fair speed with a microwave point of sight system from a mountain across the way. Still would like fiber but have to fight with the local utility to get that because they bypassed us. When we travel we will turn on the TV for about 10 minutes but that about all both us can stand. We get movies on DVD from Netflix, (which may close DVD by mail next year). One of my frustrations is the pushing of everything video - I can read at least 5 times faster than I can watch.

Best news coverage is the BBC even for US news and it just fine in print on line.

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Agree. I do have TV, but right now it is covered with reindeer, I use it so little that it's turned on maybe once or twice a month, mostly to watch my DVDs. Now my computer is another matter, I'm on it 5 to 10 hours a day, which is not good for me either, but what can I say, I'm addicted,

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Ruth, I like it!

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They win through "gamesmanship." This is the kind of stuff taught in graduate tax programs and business schools. The key pioneers of game theory were mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern in the 1940s.

Mathematician John Nash is regarded by many as providing the first significant extension of the von Neumann and Morgenstern work.

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/nash-game/

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Daniel, I particularly appreciated your reply, because, for layperson’s like myself, Ron Howard’s film A Beautiful Mind introduced us to Nash’s Equilibrium, whose tenets, over 20 years later, remain at the heart of how we approach conflict resolution.

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Great quote Michael

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Daniel, I agree. It seems a lot of Americans do want those ultras to pay their fair share of taxes, even more than that, but the message never seems to get through to their elected representatives who just keep on voting for more and more benefits for those guys, constantly telling us it is to protect jobs. Rubbish! as Dr. Reich would say. It is to get those donations that pay for their campaigns.

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Actually, it goes back even further to the Lewis Powell memo (1971--see Reich's article about it: https://www.reflector.com/opinion/editorial_columnists/robert-reich-lewis-powell-wrote-worst-memo-ever/article_3c3f2bac-5717-558d-8ef6-dd137fea3246.html).

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You are so right! The Powell conspiracy produced Citizens United, and all the corruption that preceded it. The history of the US is a story of one country with shining ideals and a regressive elite constantly seeking to renounce them.

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Kerry, you pointed out something I had not considered in that way, a nation with ideals and a rich elite with none and a desire to undermine those ideas so they can benefit at everyone else's expense. It works well when the electorate is kept ignorant of what is happening until it is too late. I am thinking that's where we are now if we the people don't use our ideals to stop the runaway elite money/power-grab.

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I fear that 40 years of systematic and careful organizing by the ruling class has created a monolith that can't be toppled. We wallow in greedy, narcissistic materialism while bemoaning the zero sum game that Dr. Reich describes, while secretly wishing that we were at the top with the rich. It is evil incarnate. Evil has won. I wish I believed otherwise. Also, it's a worldwide game; the rich only have allegiance to their money, certainly not to each other. No ideology except what will distract the masses. oh well.

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It'll be difficult, I know, to reverse this, and America may be at the same point as Rome in the 5th century, when two Roman senators owned Africa and there was massive corruption.

On the other hand, I'm an optimist. I still see value in the fact that 70% of Americans have quite liberal views, such as universal healthcare, abortion rights for women, higher taxes on the wealthy, LGTBQ rights, etc.

The problem we face is that Trump and Desantis are vying for the dumbest 30% of the electorate. They simply adore Trump, so DeSantis will have his hands full. You only need another 15% of the electorate to become a Republican president. This 15% comes from the so-called independents, who basically have just about enough money to vote for their 401Ks.

If the stock market is rising in 2024, and if Desantis and Trump are eat each other's throats, then I think there is a real possibility of liberal reform.

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DeSantis/Trump will have been resolved long before the elections. I'm sure a lot of blood will have been spilled before then, and I am betting that DeSantis will sally forth with the blessing of the orange Sauron. I'm also betting on a VP nominee who is either Noem, Hailey, Stefanik, or even possibly Stinkeye Sarah from Arkansas. There will be a unified GOP on the field.

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1. IMHO Republicans will unite. Birds of a feather.....

2 ."It's a worldwide game;" Many shareholders of US companies are foreigners. Do not live here. Many do business, earn from the US market. Most avoid paying taxes.

3. Too many pikers. A Treasury Department watchdog report found that the IRS failed to collect over $2.4 billion in back taxes from those making more than $1 million a year. https://thehill.com/policy/finance/543679-irs-failed-to-collect-more-than-24-billion-in-taxes-from-millionaires-watchdog/

IMHO this is the tip of the iceberg. Millions of US residents work "under the table."

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True, and noticed the 87000 auditors Biden added to the IRS had the Republicans gnashing their teeth. The best they could come up in response was the lie that the IRS, obviously, would attack lower and middle income people and add to their tax burden. Thankfully the news papers corrected this to state NO, it's for people earning in excess of $400,000 per year

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I agree, Paul. But right now I see a glimmer of a silver lining; Elon Musk was booed off the stage in San Fransisco and crypto currency is tanking. The end may be in sight - far sight, but still there.

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Well said.

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Michael, I agree that a huge Democratic win in 2024 could cause this nation to change direction. I am not sure how to get that going. We do have the good people to do it but how do we convince enough people in "middle and southern" America to stop looking for the "R" and start looking for the person who actually cares about their situation and will help them do better, that they don't need a Trump or any of his kind to help them because those guys won't. We need to get started now!

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Ruth, see my comments below.

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Boy oh boy, I couldn't agree more.

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founding
Dec 16, 2022·edited Dec 16, 2022

Crisis after crisis...the trillions found for wars while our schools and communities crumbled, the trillions found to bailout corporations responsible for the real estate crash, the trillions found for shareholders during COVID while the people worried about heat, food and rent, and of course, the trillions going to a small section of the population for decades while worker productivity skyrocketed and their purchasing power stagnated or dropped....it has all pointed to the same lesson...

From the very start of our nation right through today, the story of America is one of exploitation dressed up as innovation. We steal, suppress, enslave, siphon...and then a compliant media and purchased elected officials and carefully crafted textbooks and executives who already made it or dream of doing so paint a completely farcical picture of a country filled with brilliant ideas dreamed up by god-like titans who must be praised and followed and heard on every single topic. In truth, we are a country with some decent ideas and creators and millions of overworked, fearful, brainwashed, paycheck-to-paycheck wage slaves unable to speak up, change jobs, or sufficiently mobilize for the rights and pay and treatment they deserve thanks to regulatory capture and the destruction of every meaningful effort to provide healthcare, affordable housing, economic mobility, a fair tax system, childcare and support for worker organizing.

This will very likely end in the streets. The only real question is how much of the US will still be standing by the time that happens.

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Ian, I know America is more than just exploitation. If that were the case, people would not have flocked here. You are right though that a few men got ideas that made serious changes in our society and that there were always men there to take advantage, but as bad as things are now, poverty is less than in the past. Women are not worked to death trying to care for bunches of kids and a child-husband. Women have more options and if the ERA were certified, we would have even more. There are schools to provide education for all of our kids, not just the children of the rich. The schools are not necessarily great, but that is primarily due to those elites trying to undermine them because they do produce educated people who, if permitted, can think and make decisions for themselves. If we can get just a few more people in Congress and a bunch in state legislatures who decide they are going to stop bowing and scraping to the rich, some serious changes will happen. Then, there's global warming which is going to turn everything on its head if not properly addressed and the fossil fuelers are not silenced. We can do that if we have the will.

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founding

Those and other improvements are absolutely real, but the larger questions are, at what cost and do the circumstances that allowed them to be created still exist? Often these things occurred by massive, sustained movements that forced such relative breadcrumbs of societal benefits away from the wealthy. More importantly, the policy changes and rampant corruption of the last four decades has specifically targeted the government institutions, the schools, the communication systems, the electoral processes, the freedom to organize, and the belief systems that made those things you cite possible. Doing so had the dual benefit of limiting popular movements and political power while simultaneously exploiting the population to work more and give up more of their time, energy, attention, disposable income, and their hope. This is what we must acknowledge and address if we would like to not only maintain the things you mention, but to keep them from completely reversing course (see the current direction of women's rights, quality of education, ability of people to afford food and a home, etc.).

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Ian, you have presented a lot of food for thought here. These issues will have to be addressed by the people as well as by our agencies, education entities, and the rest. I am hopeful we can do it without excessive violence because it won't be the guys at the top who will be hurt. It is rare even in revolutions that they are harmed.

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So what to do? How and when will we be able to vote-in politicians sufficient in numbers who care enough for the country as a whole so laws, regulations, social values and safety nets, voting rights (get rid of electoral college ), across-the-board fair taxation, infrastructure, national industry, education, sensible economic policies à la R. Reich, etc. can be agreed and legislated upon? Who, what, how can explain it better than in tonight’s blog, but how long will it take for enough people to get it and elect majorities great enough to make the difference and effect the commensurate changes? Will Mr. Reich, will WE still be here to see this happen? Who, how, when will teach the public en masse what the few are reading here? How slow, how slow the progress..... what dreadful situations will we have to experience as a country, as a world, before it is too late? Ok, chin up! Thank you again Mr. Reich. Would that there were such a position as Educator in Chief with regular national addresses.

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Oh Sonia, I like the idea of an "educator in chief" who would have weekly talks explaining current issues. Networks could be shamed into covering those talks. Dr. Reich would be really good at it. He could also appoint other educators to present issues they are experts in and know how to get information to people who are not experts in that area. As a retired teacher, I like it!

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Dec 16, 2022·edited Dec 16, 2022

THIS corruption is the core of our problem. It's what drives the political culture wars. If it's how the game is played, we need to identify whose influence was bought to attach that tax break for the ultra-rich to the omnibus bill. Those corrupt politicians need to be voted out. But we can't blame the others who pass the omnibus bill because it must be passed while they hold their noses. To blame the entire political class would be like calling every good apple in a basket a bad apple because one is starting to contaminate the bunch.

The New York Times has a series of articles about how legal but awful money business is costing lives by destroying hospitals. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/15/business/hospital-staffing-ascension.html

My friend and colleague, Alan Unell, has worked as a healthcare system analyst. He advocates universal healthcare in the U.S. and just started a Substack blog where he is detailing our dysfunctional healthcare "industry." This link leads to his post where he sums up how much we are getting short-changed and underserved. https://substack.com/inbox/post/90946759

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Gary, and in addition to the corruption in the medical industry, there is the problem of private insurance corporations trying to take over Medicare so they can provide the same crappy care to retired people as they do to younger people. That needs to be stopped before it goes any further, then universal healthcare needs to be put into place. I know the rich CEOs of the insurance industry will scream and work to find other ways to steal money and healthcare from the people, but we could force them out so they can live on the money they have already accumulated. We could treat them for their addiction to money and power too.

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I can identify them. The electorate electric is complacent. And not paying attention, they keep voting in corrupt people. 

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COPORATE WELFARE !

Why does a lawyer get to deduct the cost of leasing a giant suv and it gasoline cost . While a working poor can’t deduct the cost of a car mostly used for work.?

The poor are carrying the rich on there backs. If a corporation makes money it’s barely taxed, if a corporation looses money it’s tax deductible . Then we get to carry the debt. Corporate Welfare.

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Citizen, you have asked some good questions that should have good answers but don't. Corporations are supposed to be persons, according to the Supreme Court conservatives. If that is true, they should have to follow the same laws as individual persons. All the perks corporations have been given by our tax code need to be dropped or individual persons should participate in them too. The SC made their ridiculous ruling but they only wanted it to relate to campaign donations. Well, it's time it is expanded as it should be to include looking at corporate person loopholes that other persons don't get.

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I like the way you think!!!

For example how do you put a Corporation in Jail.

Steal a car go to Jail; steal a couple million you get a slap on the Wrist.

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Hey, Citizen, I am not sure how one could put a corporation in jail, but I sure would like to see some entity try it. Maybe it would involve breaking the corporation up into manageable size companies and putting the CEOs and the other C-suite guys in jail for a time then forbid them from being in charge of anything larger than a small business. Something should be done to punish those corporate "persons" for their crimes and general bad behavior.

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BS. Lawyers can't get company cars. Can get mileage to and from court or to another work site.

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founding

He means the deduction for purchasing your own "small business" equipment (e.g. as a sole proprietor)...

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Not for law firms. Have to actually use equipment/cars for work to get a deduction. Only one "Lincoln lawyer."

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founding

Not saying the argument is perfectly well-formed - just that the point is the same if one refers instead to office buildings, etc. (and probably temporally salient in light of the rise in interest rates & the skepticism due to private equity vis-à-vis its use of asset values which are not "mark-to-market", i.e. due to its orientation towards tax code arbitrage)...

PS. The point is the same even given the suggestion of "asset-lite" business primacy - which is what the 'Lincoln Lawyer' addresses, to a certain extent (though I don't recall if we ever hear about his taxes)...

= )

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Lawyer bashing bullshit -- not a scintilla (less than a gnat's eyelash} worth of relevance.

There are plenty of injustices but you and he are full of it.

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founding

That's twice (you'd now be absent a paralegal too); please note for yourself that 'csh' was the default shell.

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"What's The Matter With Kansas" by Thomas Frank, 2004. How ..."the culture wars allowed the GOP to capture the populist language of social class and present themselves as the embodiment of working-class anti-elitism." And thus we have a large segment of the electorate that will continually vote against its own self-interest resulting in the outcomes discussed in Reich's piece.

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Another zero-sum "industry" with which I am professionally aware is the health insurance industry.

Companies vie to offer plans which they tout to big corporations and little people as meeting their needs and giving them "health" for their workers or themselves, respectively.

The last time I checked, insurance has done NOTHING to improve the health status of actual people. They just hoover up an increasing percentage of our inflated health care costs to fund more PR, more executive salaries and perquisites while finding ever-increasing ways to deny or delay claims such as prior authorization, limited providers, out-of-network charges and the like.

We have just ended the annual cycle of Medicare enrollment and the tsunami of Medicare "Advantage" plans has thankfully ebbed. They specialize in claiming how well their patients would become while simultaneously telling the gubmint how very sick their subscribers are (to get higher reimbursements).

Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.

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Medicare Advantage is not Medicare and the advantage goes to the insurance industry.

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founding

What would we propose as an alternative...?

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Yes. Doug the facts you've laid out are well presented in great detail in Wendell Potter's book DEADLY SPIN.

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I knew of Wendell Potter but had not known of his book. Thank you for the citation.

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Doug, lying clearly works well for the insurance business and our government seems to do as little as it can to actually investigate the things they are doing to harm the American people.

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Manufacturing is not glamorous. It requires sustained effort and real investment of time and money. But it adds value. The games Robert Reich refers to are glamorous and sexy. But they add no value. The money goes round and round while the manipulators siphon off their cut. So less money makes it around. And so on until many have nothing and the few siphoning off their cuts have everything. Manufacturing causes money to create more every spin.

Think of sand, cheap sand. Reduce it to silicon and add controlled impurities in a very controlled manner and you get a chip that may be more valuable than gold, ounce for ounce. Or rusty rock. Reduce it and add carbon. You get steel. Add copper, rubber, polymers, and other things and you get automobiles from rust and latex sap. We are evolving from supplying valuable manufactured goods to supplying raw materials.

We value glamor. We value wealth. We value manipulation over production. We value talkers over doers.

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Gordon, you stated this so well. The average person inn Kansas has no idea of what is being done to them. It is not that they can't understand, but they have been "programmed" to go about their busy lives, doing what they have to do to get by. They become angry about it, but find that Fox Not Really News is a great conduit for their anger and will tell them just what and whom to be angry toward. Fox Not Really News is run by some of those 0 Sum guys who want the viewers to be distracted from what is being done to them. If there were some way to get them to turn off that pathetic programming, they might look elsewhere and see how they are being screwed by the people they have chosen to represent them and the corporations who benefit from hurting the "ordinary Americans." How can we get through to them while we work to stop corporate corruption?

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Actually, it's the nitrogen life cycle.

2 basic theories of investment. Growth and value.

In manufacturing the relationship between sales and cost of goods sold should yield profit.

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founding

The reply is too curt: the commenter has been subtly rebuked for agreeing with the original idea expressed by Professor Reich - but without pointing out the flaw in the reasoning which makes the original sentiment more like blowing off steam than a criticism which holds its own water.

In short Daniel: trading is not investing - and the fact of something being abstract doesn't mean that value was not created/destroyed in its processing (note the calls for software - now that it is far from a passing phenomena - to be counted towards GDP).

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You're right to add art to the list of more "pragmatic" material objects that add value to our lives and our society. The great Irish labor leader, James Larkin, once said, "If you have but two pennies, spend one on a loaf of bread and the other on a lily. You need food for you spirit as well as food for your body."

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Maureen ; Ah, the Irish! It's not really all luck, is it?

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For much of history, if it weren't for bad luck, the Irish wouldn't have had any luck at all.

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Maureen ; The Irish know a few things about survival; and pretty much how to tell friends from foes.

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Much better than relying on luck

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Sometimes one can get lucky, though...

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Maureen, we do need bread and roses as the feminists have said too. Unfortunately, when poor people, you know, the ones who need public assistance of some kind try to buy the lily, they are called all sorts of ridiculous things like "welfare queen, welfare cheater, thief," and more. In our country, perhaps beyond, poor people are considered worse than thieves and blamed for everything. They are told they deserve nothing but the very lowest level of support in food as well as health care and housing. A whole lot of mostly men, but some women too like to point out that they started out poor, but made it because of their hard work. They forget the 4-letter word that actually helped them, LUCK.

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All the more reason they need food for their spirits.

For all the claims of the "self-made" men and women's claims, no-one makes it on heir own; besides luck, someone, somewhere along the line, believed in them, supported them, even if only emotionally, helped them to believe in themselves. Then institutions such as the state, the school system, their church, and, in many cases, their families, friends, and neighbors, provided the physical infrastructure--and, often, some form of economic support--that allowed them to realize their dreams.

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Maureen, isn't it interesting just how much help "self-made" people get from all of those folks who are not the "self?" Those others were helping to "make" them when they were thinking they had done it by themselves.

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Totally agree.

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Let's connect the dots from the earth we're destroying to the marketocracy to cryptocurrency to social injustice to mass migrations to why aren't the entire GOP in prison.

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founding

Well... already done: cryptocurrencies which utilize so-called "proof-of-work" algorithms allow for "mining" of cryptocurrency - which, in practice, amounts to arbitrage of electricity prices using computer hardware that (although partially recyclable) is largely toxic & consumes a limited supply of rare-earth minerals; much of the "mining" (no differently that real-world mining) takes place in regions with poor governance and a lack of capacity for environmental preservation... so the effort winds up distracting (or even detracting) with respect to long-standing (long-suffering) efforts at social justice in such places. If there is a factor of migration it is that of a moth to a flame - which, in the case of a democracy which works best when the people are not divided or otherwise distracted, works just fine for a party made of criminals & election deniers.

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Martha, Yes, I want to know why the GOP members are not in prison too.

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Thank you! Every word is truth! Our best and brightest stopped going into science and instead went into careers in FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT! Instead of producing something of value, the real money is is made by inventing some algorithm for information and then figuring out a way to charge everyone in the world a tiny amount. It's like licking your finger and sticking your hand up into the wind to get whatever will stick to it. And then you accumulate so much money you can buy all the Manchins and Sinemas you need to lower your taxes.

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Kerry, the problem is that we assume those guys are our brightest and best. They are not and never were. They did have every advantage that white boys and a very few girls could have and were coddled until they could not imagine themselves doing anything that would not make them rich and have even more power than their privilege and whiteness didn't already give them. Because they were presented as "brightest and best," no one questioned their prowess or paid enough attention to what they were actually doing with their coddled brains. We are now paying for that neglect. We could stop this with some really strong tax laws and some prison time and serious supervised community service for their bad behavior. I want to see if anyone in Congress has the courage to do this.

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It's cheaper to teach students that don't need laboratories.

See what I said about game theory.

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founding

You mean to say computer science is just as useless as political science - or more so...?

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Thanks for another eye-opening wake up with my coffee. Heck I barely needed my coffee after reading this piece! Well… very barely…

Recommended reading: THE SCHEME: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

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Thanks for this, Anne!

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Absolutely, Laurie! Keep warm and safe… ⛄️💙🌞

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Anne ; you too! Enjoy your holidays!

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How about we work at changing the definition of profit? Instead of thing that profit only accrues to the owners of capital, shareholders and the like, it includes wages. A better paid worker is counted as value, not an expense. It means that a dollar going to productive labor is counted the same, in terms of a companies worth, as a dollar going into the hands of an investor. Paying labor would not detract from the observed worth of a company, it would add to it. This is a tough sell because our mindset rests on the false notion that money determines worth. But money is a medium of exchange, its value is given to it by a societies granting it trade value status. Its value is gone if the grower of a head of broccoli trades it directly for a half dozen eggs. No money is exchanged, but both parties in the barter obtained value. So why should the value of money given to labor be less than the value of the money given to capital? Here I am talking about social value, status if you will, not simply exchange. With the perspective, which is a total fantasy I admit, the market "value" of a company would go up when they paid better wages (and treated workers well) and go down when it did otherwise. Ponzi schemes would never go anywhere because money would not have any value in itself.

Fantasy aside, when money becomes the end itself, it becomes "a root of all evil", and this has been recognized for millennia. Whether it be Bankman-Freid, Musk or the grifters in the Pentagon's accounting office, we have a significant problem with the honor money accrues to its holders, and they only understand the ethics of Scrooge McDuck.

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The tax code of 1952 has all of this covered.

"In kind" income.

John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham covered utilitarianism. How many utils does it cost to do your tax return?

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I just don't understand how we the people allowed the nearly complete corruption of our economy that Dr. Reich describes. I suspect it was because it happened a little at a time, first ignoring anti-trust laws, then union-busting, but each of these happening around the edges and with excuses that worked to mostly silence protests. Then jobs just disappeared overseas and tax breaks were given for the transfers. Then private corporations began taking over our prison system, abusing and neglecting prisoners for profit. This was a good group to move in on because most people care nothing for prisoners as long as they are prisoners. I have even heard people say "well, prisoners deserve what they get." Then hedge funds crept in, scooping up billions they could use to take over, dismantle, and steal from smaller companies. That was hardly covered by media until people who had lost their jobs from such takeovers started complaining and challenging the actions of the hedgers. Nothing changed, but at least some of us began hearing about it. Then, there was the tech industry, run by a bunch of wunderkind who had some good ideas, but got huge businesses started "in the garage" so missed a lot of the necessary regulation that could have helped stop the 0 sum gains we now face. Now they are so big and diverse they, like banks are considered "too big to fail." Those wunderkind left college before they actually learned about people and being positive managers, so often treat and treated their employees like dirt or tools to be used and discarded. After the 2008 crash, our government should have bailed out the mortgage-holders who could have paid the banks and ended up owning their homes at the same time, a win-win. Because banks were/are allowed to pass mortgages on to investors who have no connection with the homeowners, it would have been really hard to rescue the homeowners and no one wanted to take that on. That practice continues. I can't help but wonder whose idea that was. Now, private insurance corporations who are doing a rather crappy job taking care of regular folks being insured through their companies, are moving in to take over Medicare and the American people don't even know it is happening until a treatment is refused and they find out it is refused by a huge insurance corporation. It is a 0 some gain here, but in reality, the ultra rich individuals and corporations are doing all the gaining and we the people are doing nothing to stop them. We keep electing people who are in bed with those corporations and are totally willing to give them whatever they want no matter who it hurts. Not smart!

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Ruth, alas, it began with Reagan, was promulgated by Clinton, accelerated by W and by Trump. Obama is a very charming and thoughtful man, but alas not a great president - he too yielded to the corporations.

Uncle Joe is a step in the correct direction, for the first time in 40 years. Who knows what a Democratic sweep, on a liberal platform, would make possible?

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Is it possible to get those who know how the game is played (that would include you, right?) to turn the tables? This seems far beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. Your anecdote about the staffer for the Ways and Means Committee indicates that the system is thoroughly corrupt. Yes, I see what you're pointing out. Do you see any way to correct this?

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Easy. Make sure both Trump and Desantis run in 2024, then elect a Democratic president, Senate and House with sweeping majorities, then enact progressive taxation, closing of loopholes, campaign finance reform, and the repeal of Citizens United.

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Michael Hutchinson ; And while at it, end the Electoral College and all gerrymandering along with the filibuster.

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Judy Bertelsen ; Wouldn't that be having to be a whistleblower? It's a great idea to get the word out, but where would such a staffer get another job? Corruption everywhere!

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Dec 16, 2022·edited Dec 16, 2022

Seems like a dead end no win situation unless democrats get a set. This is not a way to defeat a mortal enemy. Aggression begets aggression. Overturn Citizens United, arrest and imprisonment for traitors, protect voters rights and most importantly expand the Supreme Court. We are always on our heels. It’s all about freedom. Fight like hell. Biden is a very effective wonderful president for getting things done in a democracy. It’s too bad that’s not the priority.

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Good Morning Linda. Just a quick quip from the past : From the ferengi Rules of aquisition , If enough is good, more MUST be better!? Their are several hundreds others to which capitalism as currently practiced has become their gospel .

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