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Econ 101 with Robert Reich

Episode 224: Rumble with Michael Moore

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Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Friends,

Today marks the second anniversary of Rumble with Michael Moore. Thank you for participating in and supporting my podcast! We’ve done 224 episodes and have had over 31 million downloads! 

On today’s Rumble, with the end of the year approaching & reports about inflation dominating the nightly news, Americans everywhere are anxious about what this means for them. Former US Secretary of Labor and progressive activist Robert Reich, however, thinks this is a major misdiagnosis: the problem isn’t inflation, but a lack of competition to stop big, monolithic corporations from jacking up prices. Robert joined me on the show today to talk about who is really responsible for your gas and milk prices skyrocketing, and why it’s more important than ever for the government to intervene in a moment when they’re trying to pull back. Plus, we discuss the rising labor movements in America and whether the “labor shortage” the media & big companies keep alleging is actually a general strike of workers across the country. 

I hope you’ll give this a listen and share with friends and family.

-Mike

[Source]

The Greatest Danger to American Democracy

By Robert Reich

democracy-congress-tipping-falling-off-cliff-0528211.jpg (1692×1142) (salon.com)

The greatest danger to American democracy right now is not coming from Russia, China, or North Korea. It is coming from the Republican Party. 

Only 25 percent of voters self-identify as Republican, the GOP’s worst showing against Democrats since 2012 and sharply down since last November. But those who remain in the Party are far angrier, more ideological, more truth-denying, and more racist than Republicans who preceded them. 

And so are the lawmakers who represent them. 

Today’s Republican Party increasingly is defined not by its shared beliefs but by its shared delusions.

Last Friday, 54 U.S. senators voted in favor of proceeding to debate a House-passed bill to establish a commission to investigate the causes and events of the January 6th insurrection. This was 6 votes short of the number of votes needed for “cloture,” or stopping debate – meaning any further consideration of the bill would have been filibustered by Republicans indefinitely. 

So there will be no investigation. 

The 54 Senators who voted yes to cloture – in favor of the commission – represent 189 million Americans, or 58% of the American population. The 35 who voted no represent 104 million Americans, or 32% of the population.

In other words, 32% of American voters got to decide that the nation would not know about what happened to American democracy on January 6. 

Furthermore, the 35 who voted against the commission were all Republicans. They did not want such an inquiry because it might jeopardize their chances of gaining a majority of the House or Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. They also wanted to stay in the good graces of Donald Trump, whose participation in that insurrection might have been more fully revealed. 

Eight of these Republicans voted against certifying Joe Biden as president on January 6. Some of their constituents were responsible for the insurrection in the first place. 

The Republican Party is also pursuing new laws in many states making it harder for likely Democrats to vote and opposing voting reforms in Congress.

It is actively purging any Republican who has temerity to criticize Trump. They have removed from her leadership position Liz Cheney, who called Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and his role in inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot the greatest “betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” 

Local Republicans leaders have either stepped down or been forced out of their party positions for not supporting Trump’s baseless election claims or for criticizing the former president’s role in inciting the deadly Capitol riot.

American democracy is at an inflection point. 

Senate Democrats must get rid of the filibuster and push through major reforms – voting rights, as well as policies that will enable more Americans in the bottom half – most of them without college educations, many of whom cling to the Republican Party – to do better. 

In the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt noted that the survival of American democracy depended on the adoption of policies that comprised the New Deal. In that Depression decade, democracy was under siege around the world, and dictators were on the rise. 

Joe Biden understands that America and the world face a similar challenge. And like FDR, Biden is making a strong case that the adoption of his policies will buttress democracy against the forces of tyranny, not only as an example to the rest of the world but here at home. 

[Source]

How Corporations Crush the Working Class

TRANSCRIPT:

The most dramatic change in the system over the last half-century has been the emergence of corporate giants like Amazon and the shrinkage of labor unions.

The resulting power imbalance has spawned near-record inequalities of income and wealth, corruption of democracy by big money, and the abandonment of the working class.

Fifty years ago, General Motors was the largest employer in America. The typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars and had a major say over working conditions.

Today’s largest employers are Amazon and Walmart, each paying far less per hour and routinely exploiting their workers, who have little recourse.

The typical GM worker wasn’t “worth” so much more than today’s Amazon or Walmart worker and didn’t have more valuable insights about working conditions.

The difference is those GM workers had a strong union. They were backed by the collective bargaining power of more than a third of the entire American workforce. 

Today, most workers are on their own. Only 6.4% of America’s private-sector workers are unionized, providing little collective pressure on Amazon, Walmart, or other major employers to treat their workers any better.

Fifty years ago, the labor movement had enough political clout to ensure labor laws were enforced and that the government pushed giant firms like GM to sustain the middle class.

Today, organized labor’s political clout is minuscule by comparison. 

The biggest political players are giant corporations like Amazon. They’ve used that political muscle to back “right-to-work” laws, whittle down federal labor protections, and keep the National Labor Relations Board understaffed and overburdened, allowing them to get away with egregious union-busting tactics.

They’ve also impelled government to lower their taxesextorted states to provide them tax breaks as a condition for locating facilities there; bullied cities where they’re headquartered; and wangled trade treaties allowing them to outsource so many jobs that blue-collar workers in America have little choice but to take low-paying, high-stress warehouse and delivery gigs. 

Oh, and they’ve neutered antitrust laws, which in an earlier era would have had companies like Amazon in their crosshairs.

This decades-long power shift – the ascent of corporate leviathans and the demise of labor unions – has resulted in a massive upward redistribution of income and wealth. The richest 0.1% of Americans now have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90% put together.

The power shift can be reversed – but only with stronger labor laws resulting in more unions, tougher trade deals, and a renewed commitment to antitrust.

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats appear willing. The House has just passed the toughest labor reforms in more than a generation. Biden’s new trade representative, promises trade deals will protect American workers rather than exporters. And Biden is putting trustbusters in critical positions at the Federal Trade Commission and in the White House.

And across the country, labor activism has surged – from the Amazon union effort, to frontline workers walking out and striking to demand better pay, benefits, and safety protections.

I’d like to think America is at a tipping point similar to where it was some 120 years ago, when the ravages and excesses of the Gilded Age precipitated what became known as the Progressive Era. Then, reformers reined in the unfettered greed and inequalities of the day and made the system work for the many rather than the few.

It’s no exaggeration to say that we’re now living in a Second Gilded Age. And today’s progressive activists may be on the verge of ushering us into a Second Progressive Era. They need all the support we can give them.