kottke.org posts about Robert Reich

Five Crises Republicans Made Up to Distract & Harm Americans

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2023

In a June piece for The Guardian and the video above from just a few days ago, Robert Reich outlines five crises โ€” including wokeness, the trans panic, and critical race theory โ€” that Republicans have manufactured in order to deflect from their true agenda.

Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin’s “day one” executive order banned the teaching of critical race theory. DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, have also banned it from schools.

Here again, though, there’s no evidence of a public threat. CRT simply teaches America’s history of racism, which students need to understand to be informed citizens.

Banning it is a scare tactic to appeal to a largely white, culturally conservative voter base.

However, I would argue that Reich needed to go a bit further. While the crises are inventions, their consequences go beyond mere distraction and into the territory of active harm, particularly of queer and trans people, Black people, and people of color. That’s why I modified the title from his original.

Robert Reich’s UC Berkeley Class on Wealth & Poverty

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2023

For the past 13 years, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has taught a class called Wealth & Poverty at UC Berkeley. He retired from teaching this year and has uploaded his lectures from the course to YouTube.

Welcome to my final UC Berkeley course on Wealth and Poverty. Drawing on my 40+ years in politics, including my time as secretary of labor, I offer a deeper look at why inequalities of income and wealth have widened significantly since the late 1970s in the United States, and why this poses dangerous risks to our society.

This course also offers insights into the political and public-policy debates that have arisen in light of this inequality, as well as possible means of reversing it.

Here’s the first lecture, What’s Happened to Income & Wealth:

Reich has also published an abbreviated syllabus for each of the classes; links can be found in his course introduction (here’s class #1).

50 Years of Trickle-Down Economics Didn’t Work

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2020

Trickle-down economics is the economic theory that lowering taxes on the wealthy and on businesses will stimulate business investment to the long-term benefit of society. The idea is that by sprinkling a huge amount of money into the bank accounts and stock portfolios of the wealthy, a portion of that money will “trickle down” to everyone else. Despite ample evidence that it hasn’t worked, trickle-down has been an economic driver for discussions about taxes in the US since at least the Reagan administration. The newest research that argues that tax cuts for the rich don’t work for anyone other than the rich comes in the form of working paper by David Hope of the London School of Economics and Julian Limberg of King’s College London called The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich. From the press release:

Our results show that…major tax cuts for the rich increase the top 1% share of pre-tax national income in the years following the reform. The magnitude of the effect is sizeable; on average, each major reform leads to a rise in top 1% share of pre-tax national income of 0.8 percentage points. The results also show that economic performance, as measured by real GDP per capita and the unemployment rate, is not significantly affected by major tax cuts for the rich. The estimated effects for these variables are statistically indistinguishable from zero.

And the authors’ conclusion:

Our results have important implications for current debates around the economic consequences of taxing the rich, as they provide causal evidence that supports the growing pool of evidence from correlational studies that cutting taxes on the rich increases top income shares, but has little effect on economic performance.

Limberg connected the results of the research to post-pandemic economic recovery:

Our results might be welcome news for governments as they seek to repair the public finances after the COVID-19 crisis, as they imply that they should not be unduly concerned about the economic consequences of higher taxes on the rich.

Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich agrees that the US should tax the rich to invest in public infrastructure.

The practical alternative to trickle-down economics might be called build-up economics. Not only should the rich pay for today’s devastating crisis but they should also invest in the public’s long-term wellbeing. The rich themselves would benefit from doing so, as would everyone else.

At one time, America’s major political parties were on the way to embodying these two theories. Speaking to the Democratic national convention in 1896, populist William Jennings Bryan noted: “There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

Build-up economics reached its zenith in the decades after the second world war, when the richest Americans paid a marginal income tax rate of between 70% and 90%. That revenue helped fund massive investment in infrastructure, education, health and basic research โ€” creating the largest and most productive middle class the world had ever seen.