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Robert Reich
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 17 September 2011
Neither party’s presidential candidate will propose to tame CEO pay, create more tax brackets at the top and raise the highest marginal rates back to their levels in the 1950s and 1960s (that is, 70 to 90 percent), and match the capital-gains rate with ordinary income.

The Election of 2012: Why The Most Important Issues May Be Off The Table (But Should Be On It)

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We’re on the cusp of the 2012 election. What will it be about? It seems reasonably certain President Obama will be confronted by a putative Republican candidate who:

Believes corporations are people, wants to cut the top corporate rate to 25% (from the current 35%) and no longer require they pay tax on foreign income, who will eliminate capital gains and dividend taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, raise the retirement age for Social Security and turn Medicaid into block grants to states, seek a balanced-budged amendment to the Constitution, require any regulatory agency issuing a new regulation repeal another regulation of equal cost (regardless of the benefits), and seek repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan.

Or one who:

Believes the Federal Reserve is treasonous when it expands the money supply, doubts human beings evolved from more primitive forms of life, seeks to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and shift most public services to the states, thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, while governor took a meat axe to public education and presided over an economy that generated large numbers of near-minimum-wage jobs, and who will shut down most federal regulatory agencies, cut corporate taxes, and seek repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan.

Whether it’s Romney or Perry, he’s sure to attack everything Obama has done or proposed. And Obama, for his part, will have to defend his positions and look for ways to counterpunch.

Hence, the parameters of public debate for the next fourteen months.

Within these narrow confines progressive ideas won’t get an airing. Even though poverty and unemployment will almost surely stay sky-high, wages will stagnate or continue to fall, inequality will widen, and deficit hawks will create an indelible (and false) impression that the nation can’t afford to do much about any of it – proposals to reverse these trends are unlikely to be heard.

Neither party’s presidential candidate will propose to tame CEO pay, create more tax brackets at the top and raise the highest marginal rates back to their levels in the 1950s and 1960s (that is, 70 to 90 percent), and match the capital-gains rate with ordinary income.

You won’t hear a call to strengthen labor unions and increase the bargaining power of ordinary workers.

Don’t expect an argument for resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act, thereby separating commercial from investment banking and stopping Wall Street’s most lucrative and dangerous practices.

You won’t hear there’s no reason to cut Medicare and Medicaid – that a better means of taming health-care costs is to use these programs’ bargaining clout with drug companies and hospitals to obtain better deals and to shift from fee-for-services to fee for healthy outcomes.

Nor will you hear why we must move toward Medicare for all.

Nor why the best approach to assuring Social Security’s long-term solvency is to lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

Don’t expect any reference to the absurdity of spending more on the military than do all other countries put together, and the waste and futility of an unending and undeclared war against Islamic extremism – especially when we have so much to do at home.

Nor are you likely to hear proposals for ending the corruption of our democracy by big money.

Although proposals like these are more important and relevant than ever, they won’t be part of the upcoming presidential election.

But they should be part of the public debate nonetheless.

That’s why I urge you to speak out about them – at town halls, candidate forums, and public events. Continue to mobilize and organize around them. Talk with your local media about them. Use social media to get the truth out.

Don’t be silenced by Democrats who say by doing so we’ll jeopardize the President’s re-election. If anything we’ll be painting him as more of a centrist than Republicans want the public to believe. And we’ll be preserving the possibility (however faint) of a progressive agenda if he’s reelected.

Remember, too, the presidential race isn’t the only one occurring in 2012. More than a third of Senate seats and every House seat will be decided on, as well as numerous governorships and state races. Making a ruckus about these issues could push some candidates in this direction — particularly since, as polls show, much of the public agrees.

Most importantly, by continuing to push and prod we give hope to countless Americans on the verge of giving up. We give back to them the courage of their own convictions, and thereby lay the groundwork for a future progressive agenda — to take back America from the privileged and powerful, and restore broad-based prosperity.

This article was originally posted on Robert Reich's blog.



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ABOUT Robert Reich

 

ROBERT B. REICH, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School 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. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org. Robert Reich's new film, "Inequality for All" is available on DVD
and blu-ray, and on Netflix in February.

"Believes corporations are

"Believes corporations are people"

I don't know anybody who believes corporations are people save maybe Reich.

The way keeps referring to them as such seems to have convinced a good many of the wingnuts that follow him as well.

Friend, he's referring to

Friend, he's referring to Mitt Romney's open statement at a rally last month, and to the Supreme court ruling regarding Citizen's United.

Just clarifying for you.

Isn't everyone getting as

Isn't everyone getting as tired of writing this story as I am of reading it. As far back as the early 1970s I was writing stories quoting judges and law enforcement officials as saying exactly the same things. For the arithmetically challenged, that's more than 35 years ago!

No. If you like most of

No. If you like most of Obama's policies you have the option of voting for the Republican nominee instead.

This is a response to Storyhill's earlier post: Our only option: President Obama.

It's interesting to note that

It's interesting to note that we have had two very brief periods of outstanding progressive advances in this country over the past 100 years. One was in the 1930s when FDR was able to pass New Deal legislation that gave desperate families hope during a depression and continues to improved the lives of many Americans today. The second period was in the early to mid 1960s when John Kennedy ignored the existing power structure, steered us away from endless war, and pointed us in a direction that insured a better life for all citizens in this country and a science driver policy that established high tech industries that put us in front of the global manufacturing pack for many years. It's interesting to note that both men came from a wealthy background and both men were driven by strong women with progressive beliefs. Eleanor Roosevelt was FDR's guiding progressive light and fought tirelessly to remove many inequities. Rose Kennedy, JFK’s mother, was a staunch believer in equality for all citizens regardless of their economic background and insured that all her children adopted these beliefs. When you consider President Obama’s early life with transitional parents and numerous moves to various schools in various international locations, maybe there is something to the claim that most of our problems are related to the demise of the family structure over the past fifty years !

I'm refuse to accept that I

I'm refuse to accept that I have to vote for either tweedledum or tweedledee. I decided long ago that I will only vote for someone who expresses a progressive political philosophy that I can truly support. And that's not Obama or the whacko Republicans.

As you lay out the obstacles

As you lay out the obstacles to the 2012 election, I am reminded about the 1980 election when the fed brought us high inflation, high interest rates and high unemployment, and the GOP managed to make a deal with Iran to hold our hostages until the day Reagan was inaugurated. Oh yeh, Jimmy Carter took the fall and America looked no further at what was in their face, and still refuse to look backward to correct the historical deficiency. Carter is still accomplishing more than Reagan who followed. And again in 2000 and 2004 when the GOP just flat out stole the elections in Florida and Ohio. They will do everything to manipulate the MSM to take the white house. Right now the Banks are sitting on 2.5 trillion in cash and are not lending, and corporations are sitting on 2.5 trillion in cash and aren't producing. Wake up, it's another shill to take the White House.

Reich is giving us the opportunity and the challenge to see that we set the discourse for 2012, not the neanderthals that are telling us that there is no science, no evolution, no global warming, no need for taxes, no need for retirement, no need for education, no need to have the rich pay into social security because the ponzi scheme is failing and you have to pay for it.

They will play the game of confusing the electorate on the discourse of debt and health care and entitlements, and all the while play doubt about Obamas leadership and the economic mess he hasn't fixed. Obama cannot be the only one saying "Do we want tax subsidies for the oil companies, or do we want jobs"? Getting the message out and controlling the dialog is our responsibility. Robert Reich takes that to task. He has multiple platforms he speaks from and multiple audiences to deliver to, and he does it well.

Thanks Mr. Reich!

Robert Reich, why don't you

Robert Reich, why don't you run for public office? I'm serious. Elizabeth Warren couldn't get anyone in the White House or Congress to listen to her, so she's running for the Senate. Run for office. Then YOU can shape the campaign debate. If you don't want to do that, why don't we start lobbying the White House insiders to take you on as an adviser -- on economics, or maybe more important these days, in the campaign. I've been searching for a 21st Century FDR to counter the 21st Century Neville Chamberlain in the White House. Maybe you're it?Reich for President?It may be the only way to turn the public conversation. We do not have to be stuck with a president who doesn't have the temperament or advice necessary to dominate the discussion. Where do I sign up to volunteer for your campaign?

Robert Reich, why don't you

Robert Reich, why don't you run for public office? I'm serious. Elizabeth Warren couldn't get anyone in the White House or Congress to listen to her, so she's running for the Senate. Run for office. Then YOU can shape the campaign debate. If you don't want to do that, why don't we start lobbying the White House insiders to take you on as an advisor -- on economics, or maybe more important these days, in the campaign. I've been searching for a 21st Century FDR to counter the 21st Century Neville Chamberlain in the White House. Maybe you're it?Reich for President?It may be the only way to turn the public conversation. We do not have to be stuck with a president who doesn't have the temperament or advice necessary to dominate the discussion.

Our only option: PRESIDENT

Our only option: PRESIDENT OBAMA

It is up to we the people to

It is up to we the people to make certain that the issues crucial to our lives and blighting our futures sure as hell get discussed, by all means necessary and the capitalist-stooge politicians (and the capitalist-stooge teabaggers) be damned!

Social Security's real

Social Security's real problem is that congress has borrowed over 2.4 trillion dollars from the Social Security trust fund, with no plan in place to pay it back during the retirement of the baby boom generation. Everything that politicians say about the need for reform, is just smoke and mirrors designed to cover up that fact, so that the time to pay the money back can be postponed indefinitely. Lifting the cap on the income subject to social security taxes would just put more money into the trust fund for the rest of the government to borrow, with no plan in place to pay it back when it is needed.

I think that corporations,

I think that corporations, all businesses in fact should not have to pay any taxes. I also think that employers should not have to worry about providing health care for their employees. I think that everyone should have basic health care for free, as should be education at all levels. I think that the government, Federal, state and municipal, should get by on the taxes they collect based on personal incomes, ALL incomes - i.e. including inheritances, interests, bonuses, dividends etc. etc. The taxation should be progressive to commensurate with one's income and so would range from 0% for very low income earners to 90% for the very high income earners. There should not be any sales taxes, transfer taxes, real estate taxes etc Just think how much simpler it all would be, and how much clearer to anyone how much money the government spends.

I think that corporations,

I think that corporations, all businesses in fact should not have to pay any taxes. I also think that employers should not have to worry about providing health care for their employees. I think that everyone should have basic health care for free, as should be education at all levels. I think that the government, Federal, state and municipal, should get by on the taxes they collect based on personal incomes, ALL incomes - i.e. including inheritances, interests, bonuses, dividends etc. etc. The taxation should be progressive to commensurate with one's income and so would range from 0% for very low income earners to 90% for the very high income earners. There should not be any sales taxes, transfer taxes, real estate taxes etc Just think how much simpler it all would be, and how much clearer to anyone how much money the government spends.

Teleri Ferch Nyfain's picture

Exactly. It heartens me to

Exactly. It heartens me to see Obama compared to Clinton - who left office w/a budget SURPLUS! I may be disgusted w/many democrats,

If corporations are now

If corporations are now "people" and tax rates of 25% are being suggested, does that mean real "people" will also have this same tax rate? and will corporate hedge fund operators, now classified as "people", be taxed at 25%? and will millionaires/billionaires now be taxed at the "people's" rate of 25%. Almost sounds fair, doesn't it.

fdr killed off the mid 1930

fdr killed off the mid 1930 recovery by raising taxes you want to do same??????????? j lay yes i am worried about crazies appointing more to scotus like kagan and ginsburg

It is a sorry comment that we

It is a sorry comment that we keep seeing apologies for Barack's complete sellout of his campaign promises. I worked for him in 2008 and won't do so again, because he has chosen the corporate/Wall St. interests (Geithner, Summers, Immelt, Daley) over the middle class. The only reason we got a health care bill was because Pelosi had the guts to push for it when Obama was ready to cave. He is obviously the lesser of evils when compared to Republicans but that's not saying much for his policies. Robert Reich is spot on in bringing up the issues that Obama won't.

YES, and you sir, are giving

YES, and you sir, are giving up on our President and Democrats every time you wake up in the morning, maybe on the wrong side of your own head, and print this kind of diatribe. What's the matter with you Reich? Get over yourself. The best economists in this country are on Obama's side and if you were paying attention, so are the majority of Americans. So, where do you REALLY stand, Mr. Reich? I'm so sick of the hand-wringing side-chair analysis. It's not analysis, though, it's opinion. Your opinion. Your worry or drama for the day to hear your fingers clacking away on your keyboards, to make your buck for the day. I'd love to see any of you petty pundits put up with what this President has put up with, people like you who can't give him his do. All you do day after day is opine about this and that, cherry picking what you can find to do your spin. What are YOU doing to help our country, Mr. Reich, beyond your bitching?You are part of the media, am I right? Part of the Purist Left who cannot stop bumping your gums about what has not been done, when if you study what this President has done under the worst circumstances, you can see he has done amazing things. Perhaps it's time you read Axelrod's piece:

http://thepage.time.com/2011/09/16/axe-base-stands-firm-behind-bam/

What about the crazies

What about the crazies getting a chance at appointing more Supremes to replace more moderate Justices with some more right-wing ones. As if our rights aren't being rolled back enough. That is one of my big nightmares.

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