Posted by: twotrees | March 20, 2011

Aftershock, Robert Reich’s take on things

A rainy weekend is the perfect time to finish books that have long languished on the bedside shelf.  Robert Reich’s Aftershock is one such read.

Reich, who in the past has been an economic advisor to several U.S. presidents, former Secretary of Labor and currently professor of public Policy at Berkeley, is a very smart guy who puts theories into easy to understand terms.  Here are few of the things he says in this book:

The Basic Bargain – Workers are consumers.  When they earn enough money to buy the things they produce, the economy moves forward.  When they don’t (as has been the case for the past few years) the economy drifts.  And until they can again become the consumers of goods produced, things aren’t likely to change.

Concentration of money among the few doesn’t stimulate the economy – Not since the 1920’s has there been such a concentration of income held by the top 1%.  At that time, the one percenters earned nearly 25% of all income.  That number declined through the 1940’s through the 1980’s, a  time Reich calls the age of Great Prosperity.It bottomed out roughly in 1980, when that top one percent had a total share of just nine percent of total income.  Then it started to change.

By 2007, that one percent of all Americans had once again more than 23% of total income.  Then, as you might recall, the economy went to hell in a handbasket.

Healthcare for all (who have the money) – American’s spend more on health care per person than any other nation in the world, yet our infant mortality and life expectancy rates are far down the line compared to other nations.  And over 45 million Americans are without any coverage.

Politics as usual – Anyone who doesn’t think that money corrupts politics is either asleep or one of the many who are contributing to the process in hopes of reaping a benefit from your contribution.  Spending on lobbyists has skyrocketed to over $3.4 billion dollars as of 2009.  that money is being paid a variety of people, politicians and causes, including the more than 30% of retiring members of congress who went on to become Washington lobbyists.

In short, this book points to many of the problems we face and offers some solutions that seem reasonable.  The only thing this book does not have is the anger and outburst that has become our political discourse the past few years.  I’m hoping that wisdom and conversation can again be the method by which we examine our national ills, instead of the spin and shouting that now dominate.

Read more from Reich at his blog:  http://robertreich.org/

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