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Robert Reich
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 5 November 2011
“Here, as elsewhere, people are outraged at what feels like a rigged game – an economy that won’t respond, a democracy that won’t listen, and a financial sector that holds all the cards.”

Washington Pre-Occupied

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The biggest question in America these days is how to revive the economy.

The biggest question among activists now occupying Wall Street and dozens of other cities is how to strike back against the nation’s almost unprecedented concentration of income, wealth, and political power in the top 1 percent.

The two questions are related. With so much income and wealth concentrated at the top, the vast middle class no longer has the purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing. (People could pretend otherwise as long as they could treat their homes as ATMs, but those days are now gone.) The result is prolonged stagnation and high unemployment as far as the eye can see.

Until we reverse the trend toward inequality, the economy can’t be revived.

But the biggest question in our nation’s capital right now has nothing to do with any of this. It’s whether Congress’s so-called “Supercommittee” – six Democrats and six Republicans charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in budget savings — will reach agreement in time for the Congressional Budget Office to score its proposal, which must then be approved by Congress before Christmas recess in order to avoid an automatic $1.5 trillion in budget savings requiring major across-the-board cuts starting in 2013.

Have your eyes already glazed over?

Diffident Democrats on the Supercommittee have already signaled a willingness to cut Medicare, Social Security, and much else that Americans depend on. The deal is being held up by Regressive Republicans who won’t raise taxes on the rich – not even a tiny bit.

President Obama, meanwhile, is out on the stump trying to sell his “jobs bill” – which would, by the White House’s own estimate, create fewer than 2 million jobs. Yet 14 million people are out of work, and another 10 million are working part-time who’d rather have full-time jobs.

Republicans have already voted down his jobs bill anyway.

The two worlds are on a collision course: Americans who are losing their jobs or their pay and can’t pay their bills are growing increasingly desperate. Washington insiders, deficit hawks, regressive Republicans, diffident Democrats, well-coiffed lobbyists, and the lobbyists’ wealthy patrons on Wall Street and in corporate suites haven’t a clue or couldn’t care less.

I can’t tell you when the collision will occur but I’d guess 2012.

Look elsewhere around the world and you see a similar collision unfolding. The details differ but the larger forces are similar. You see it in Spain, Greece, and Italy, whose citizens are being squeezed by bankers insisting on austerity. You see it in Chile and Israel, whose young people are in revolt. In the Middle East, whose “Arab spring” is becoming a complex Arab fall and winter. Even in China, whose young and hourly workers are demanding more – and whose surge toward inequality in recent years has been as breathtaking as is its surge toward modern capitalism.

Will 2012 go down in history like other years that shook the foundations of the world’s political economy – 1968 and 1989?

I spent part of yesterday in Oakland, California. The Occupier movement is still in its infancy in the United States, but it cannot be stopped. Here, as elsewhere, people are outraged at what feels like a rigged game – an economy that won’t respond, a democracy that won’t listen, and a financial sector that holds all the cards.

Here, as elsewhere, the people are rising.

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 Robert Reich's new film, "Inequality for All" is available on DVD
and blu-ray, and on Netflix in February.

Hillary has proven herself

Hillary has proven herself just another corporate politician in many ways. I was a supporter and disappointed when Obama won the nomination, but have been very glad it turned out that way. Obama is not perfect, for sure, but he has a much better take on reality for the masses than Ms. Clinton.

I am thinking that instead of

I am thinking that instead of 1968 or 1989 that 2012 will more likely look like a combination of 1929 and 1941.

After constant economic turmoil like unto the Great Depression, we may not be attacked from without like Dec. 7th 1941 (although it is possible) but from within in what could turn out to be our third civil war (yes, we had two already, as there was a civil war at the same time as the Revolutionary War, and then again in 1861-1864 to settle the "slavery question" and States Rights).

I look for a solution of one kind or another shortly after the next election cycle, which, coincidentally, IS in 2012. Hopefully the ballot and not bullets settles the question, but partisanship is so entrenched that I am concerned.

Republicans and democrats

Republicans and democrats have betrayed Americans, both political parties are full of corrupt and incompetent individuals bought and paid for by the 1%. We the rest of America get screwed every day by these sell out and traitors. They won't respond to reason, the only argument they understand is money. We need to boycott the economy, in as much as possible stop shopping, stop banking, stop consuming, bring the corporate economy to its knees and then kick it in the mouth.

I forsee that ifthe

I forsee that ifthe Republicans get in and enforce their agenda we will see a very bloody revolution in this country.

Greed will be the downfall of

Greed will be the downfall of a great country!!!

Robert, you are a intelligent

Robert, you are a intelligent man that must have influence. Please use all of your network to save our great nation from destruction. The corporate state must be stopped & controlled before it destroys our country any more.

Bob, the sad state of affairs

Bob, the sad state of affairs is that there is nonYOU-only US, WE THE PEOPLE!
that means getting off your own ass and DOING something! Not asking others with cinjections and influence to do something for you. That's how we got into this mess in the first place by abrogating our responsibilities as CITIZENS!

Watch for the next Great

Watch for the next Great Giveaway! Don’t miss out: Your neighborhood billionaire standing at the corner handing out one-grand bills to you and all the neighbors. The economic theory of “trickle-down” (if you hand all the nation’s money to the rich, they will shower the poor and middle class with a rain of jobs and gold nuggets) has devastated the nation for the last 11 years. Voted in by Bush in 2000 it has added ten trillion to the Debt and eliminated 8-million jobs. Trickle-down is the mantra of all Republicans and their presidential candidates.

henryccarey, you are a

henryccarey, you are a Repugnican or a Tea Bagger. Go away!

One could easily construe the

One could easily construe the lead water supply pipes leading to the cognitive decay that consumed the Roman culture. But lead has been out of our pipes and paint for some time now, except of course for the chinese imports. Is the insanity in D.C. simply the lingering result of permanent brain and chromozonal damage from the days of lead? Or maybe it's not and was not the lead at all. Maybe even as in bygone Rome, too many people are simply that stupidly self-absorbed.

Is there a Democrat out there

Is there a Democrat out there that a) Can and will stand and fight for "We, the people"? b) Can we get that campaign up and running in time for next year's election?
4 Years ago, I got involved in a political campaign - first time in my life - I was trying to get "Hillary for President", what a shame. Oprah, you were soooo wrong!

Another historical analog of

Another historical analog of global revolutions would be 1848. See my

HEY 99%! Are you angry? Use

HEY 99%! Are you angry? Use it!

We have POWER! “Buying Power.” And, it’s about time we used it. Here’s how.




Companies want our money, but they don’t want to help America get back on its feet?
We are being starved, now let’s starve those greedy corporations who took our money.
We want companies to hire us, politicians to vote for us, and this is how to force it.
We have an incredible mobile army of millions and millions and millions of people!
Let’s combine the power that we all have. VOTE, by NOT spending.

Stop buying as much as you can. Stop buying from ALL of the big corporations, retailers and banks; Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite Aid, Kroger, Costco, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy, Sears, Lowe’s, Supervalu, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Georgia Pacific, RJR, Brown & Williamson, Kraft Global, Sara Lee, Tyson, BP, Shell Oil, Exxon Mobile, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Sprint, Dell, Microsoft, Dow Chemical, Chevron, Kimberly-Clark, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Capital One, Ford, Chrysler, GM, Disney, Macy’s, Kohl’s, The Gap, Penny’s, Colgate, Nike, Staples, Office Depot, Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Avon, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Kellogg’s, Dean Foods, General Mills, etc., etc., etc. All of them!
Add your own companies to our list and pass it on.

Don’t use global banks. Move your money from a big bank to a neighborhood bank.
Don’t use your credit cards or ATM’s…at all.
Don’t shop any retail chain stores. Shop local, or mom and pop shops.
Don’t buy gasoline. Walk, take a bus, car pool, or ride a bike.
Don’t buy any extras like music, movies, electronics, or toys…nothing.


Greedy global companies will be left in shock not knowing what to do.
Wall Street, the oil barons, corporate fat cats, stockholders, executives, marketers, retailers, politicians, and President Obama, will be asking us, the 99%, what we want!


We have already started.


Good idea. Buying

Good idea. Buying necessities from local companies is also a good idea. I've been boycotting WalMart and most of the other big players for a long time. It costs a little more to shop locally, but it's money worth spending.

Quite accurate, Mr. Reich,

Quite accurate, Mr. Reich, but missing the obvious. Some Dems, in the rush to dump Hilary, bought this catastrophe we have as President, and now believe they must defend him because he is "our Democratic President." So we accept Obama's murderous foreign policy, and anti-FDR domestic policy, setting the pathway for the Republicans to win, for after all, who needs a Democratic President to slash Medicare, Social Secuity and Medicaid?

Obama is no Democrat, and it is beyond the time when some Dems with guts, should stand up and say so. Then, maybe, the people will have a reason to come back and support the Deomcratic Party. If we stay on this Obama Titanic, we lose both the nation, and the party.

How about you, becoming one of the first Democrats to make the public break?

Good idea. I've already

Good idea. I've already disavowed the scam artist Obama. I'm sick of all these phonies. We need someone like Reich to run for President. Maybe if enough of us badger him, he might.

Robert, I am humbled by your

Robert, I am humbled by your intelligence and integrity. I mention you on my tumblr blogspot and posted a song called "Rise Up" that a friend wrote and produced. I hope you and your readers like it, forward it, share it! - Please click on the US Flag to see the post. Thanks again for your dedication.

Robert Reich for President!

Robert Reich for President!

Thanks, Robert for "an

Thanks, Robert for "an economy that won’t respond, a democracy that won’t listen, and a financial sector that holds all the cards." Oh, what could be done with these words...makes me tingle all over. Sounds like "a shared and common core platform", a guiding message for the 99%, and a warning to the 1%ers.

The collision between

The collision between Congress and the People will occur on Nov 24th, the day after the Budget Supercommittee's deadline. That day, the stock market will drop sharply and the media will remind us of the consequences of the choice we made during the 2010 legislative election, when we elected the worst Congress in our history.

Robert, you instill

Robert, you instill confidence in activism. Not a day goes by when you do not go outside of your life and work to inform the public of the problems we are facing. The disconnect you so aptly describe is being not only missed by the beltway, but by the news media as well. Even MSNBC and America Left on XM abandoned coverage for most of the past week to speak about Herman Cain who is merely auditioning for a job replacing Huckabee on Fox. The 99% need to develop a shared and common core platform and stick with the message. This year the focus is on awareness, the Washington 12, and the jobs bill. Next year it will be on creating a political party to challenge the RIP party (GOP) and the DUM party (DEM). Your last sentence "an economy that won’t respond, a democracy that won’t listen, and a financial sector that holds all the cards." really sums up our frustrations. And the OWS movement is spot on that the target needs to be the financial sector.

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