Category Archives: Robert Reich

1000 Words: Just Say No

Robert Reich was the Secretary of Labor Under President Bill Clinton back in the 1990s. Clinton was the grand marshall of the neo-liberal, conservative-leaning Democrat parade that has swept the nation in the last few decades.

Oh sure, you might argue that Jimmy Carter was the first Democratic president to take the Oath wearing an erstwhile Republican tuxedo. But Carter was a piker compared to Clinton. And Clinton turned out to be an elementary schooler compared to the people who steer the Dems these days.

As a reminder of the shift in our country from something resembling centrism to a distinct Rightist nation, here are some of the planks in the Republican national platform, approved at the 1956 GOP national convention:

  • The federal government must continue to provide economic assistance to low-income communities
  • The United States should provide asylum for refugees from other countries
  • The minimum wage should be protected in the future and raised right now
  • Unemployment assistance should cover more people
  • There should be tougher laws ensuring more people can join labor unions
  • Women should receive equal pay for equal work

For pity’s sake, some of these planks are too far to the Left even for certain Democrats these days!

Robert Reich

Back to Reich. He was the most Left-leaning of all the people Clinton brought to the White House with him in 1993. Clinton was the Right’s worst nightmare: a charismatic, Southern, pro-business, free-marketer who’d drain votes from the more reasonable edge of the Republican Party. Which he did. In the 1980s, the possibility that a Democrat like Bill Clinton might one day emerge so terrified the plutocracy that certain high-rollers actually strategized and bankrolled a smear campaign against whomever that bete noir might turn out to be. Lo and behold, Clinton popped up in the very early 1990s. That campaign was swung into immediate action, as elucidated by journalists Joe Conason and Gene Lyons in their 2001 book, The Hunting of the President.

Clinton was my last choice among the nine contenders and pretenders for the Dem nomination in ’92. At the time, I reasoned if I wanted a Republican president, I’d vote for a Republican. The GOP tuxedo fit Clinton extremely well throughout his eight-year run as the Leader of the Free World and America’s chief horn dog.

Reich, though, alone among the Clinton Cabinet and other contemporary Dem standard-bearers, steadfastly kept the liberal, even Leftist, flame alive. As time went by during Clinton’s term, the Prez became less and less patient with the labor sec’y’s Leftness. In 1997, after Clinton was inaugurated for a second term, Reich handed in his resignation saying he wanted to Spend More Time with His Family, traditional code for I was gonna be fired but the boss let me quit first.

After leaving the Clinton Cabinet, Reich found work in academia, first as a professors at Brandeis University, then at the University of California-Berkeley. He’d already served as an instructor, back in the ’80s, at Harvard University, where he gained his national rep. as a super liberal. In fact Reich as a kid had been bullied because he was so short (he’s 4’11”, a symptom of multiple epiphyseal dysplasia). He was protected by an older kid named Michael Schwermer, who’d go on to international fame as one of the three northern civil rights workers murdered by Ku Klux Klan members in Mississippi in 1964. The care Schwermer offered him inspired Reich. He devoted himself to, in his words, “fight the bullies, to protect the powerless, to make sure that the people without a voice have a voice.”

There hasn’t been a white guy with such chops in a presidential administration since Reich handed in his resignation.

Reich wrote a book about his time in the Clinton Administration, entitled Locked in the Cabinet. In it, he characterized the Democratic Party as being “owned” by Big Business. Not much later he even repudiate his own work in pushing for congressional passage of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) that’d been opposed by organized labor. I’ve always liked people who can change their minds and admit they’ve been wrong.

Anyway, Reich puts out an eponymous Substack blog. Today he writes about being invited to appear on a Dr. Phil episode. You may recall Dr. Phil. He was one of the many self-described experts pushed into the national consciousness by Oprah Winfrey. Most of them either turned out to be, or were from the get-go, as tethered to reality as palm readers or faith healers. Think Rhonda Byrne or Dr. Oz.

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One of the producers of Dr. Phil’s show contacted Reich and asked him to guest on an upcoming program dealing with some kind of perceived edge being given, these days, to people of color in the workplace, in schools, and in every corner of America. The producer, naturally, assumed Reich’d be skeptical of such a conceit. Surely there’d be fireworks if Reich appeared on the show.

TV producers and their sisteren and brethren, professional click-baiters, love fireworks. As many researchers into the effects of social media have found of late, strife, disagreement, grievance, and rage not only are great for business, they are actually changing the wiring of our minds.

To Reich’s credit, he has turned the Dr. Phil offer down. He writes:

I’m sending my regrets.

My bigger regret is that the national conversation is in the hands of producers chasing ratings and advertising dollars, with no regard for how they’re distorting the public’s understanding of what’s important or the core choices lying ahead.

Imagine that! Someone is actually refusing to go on national television to explain to millions of people how smart he is, how right he is about some chosen topic, and how people who disagree with him are destroying America.

Robert Reich simply doesn’t want to do those things. The poor man. He might be a decorated university professor, but he doesn’t understand that revenue is far more important than either mental health or civility.


Hot Air

Fixing The Unfixable

As far as I’m concerned, we don’t need any more proof that unfettered capitalism has become our holy land’s Frankenstein monster. It’s now become as perverted as Marx’s Communism was under megalomaniacs like Joseph Stalin or Mao Tse Tung.

We don’t have a single bete noir we can blame for all the ills of free market madness, although Saint Ronald Reagan can play the role in a pinch. No, the greedy, acquisitive, sociopathic reprobates who’ve turned free enterprise into crushing corporatism and fundamentalist profiteering are many. The Wall of Dishonor includes such past and present hooligans as:

Kozloswki Party

Kozlowski Hosts A Birthday Party For His Wife



Success, it has been said, has a thousand mothers. The pantheon of big-time biz winners today, though, boasts as many motherfuckers.

So, what do we do? Overturn capitalism? Hah! Good luck. And, really, do we want to do that? Robert Reich, who served as Bill Clinton’s Labor Sec’y, the other day threw out a more subtle solution. BTW: it’s odd that a Clinton cabinet member should become such a hero of the Left as Reich; the 42nd Prez was about as guilty as Reagan was for creating the economic clime that gave us the various bubbles, the Wealth Gap, and the Great Recession.

Anyway, Reich tells the story of Market Basket‘s ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. Market Basket’s board gave Demoulas the boot because he wanted the share the wealth, which is worse than child molestation in the corporate board world. Reich writes:

What was so special about Arthur T., as he’s known? Mainly, his business model. He kept prices lower than his competitors, paid his employees more, and gave them and his managers more authority.

Late last year he offered customers an additional four percent discount, arguing they could use the money more than the shareholders.

In other words, Arthur T. viewed the company as a joint enterprise from which everyone should benefit, not just shareholders. Which is why the board fired him.

Reich goes on to suggest that there are many more businessfolk-with-a-heart, like Arthur T. “[I]nterestingly,” Reich writes, “we’re beginning to see the Arthur T. business model pop up all over the place.”

Hmm. We’ll see. It’s nice to think that a growing number of modern corporate big shots might be slightly less immoral than a band of grave robbers, but is it realistic? Reich’s idea is that good people will triumph. I dunno: what if it’s not the people but the very system itself that’s crooked. We can pat people on the back and tell them how wonderful they are when they pay their employees a few cents more than starvation wages but pats on the back don’t drive boardroom discussions. Aggressive, ambitious people need to be reined in by laws and regulations, otherwise every leader, in business as well as politics, would be that guy who can kick the crap out of everyone else.

Ghandi was a great guy but he would have been chewed up and spit out by his competitors within ten minutes of accepting a job as a company’s CEO. He wouldn’t fit into the competitive corporate world no matter how much of a Mahatma he was.

I’m all for the good guys in business, only I fear they’ll always be the outliers.

Anyway, check out Reich’s piece.

Rice Is Nice

Nice piece on the Rice family farm in Spencer in today’s Herald Times (paywall). The Loved One and I have stocked up at its country retail outlet any number of times.

The very idea of driving down a gravelly road to get to a market in the middle of rolling farmland is part of what makes living in Bloomington such a source of happiness for me.

Rice Quality Farm Meats

Meat Market

The gist of the H-T story is Rice’s move away from producing so much beef. The farm family, acc’d’g to the piece, has done a lot of trade in the past processing beef cattle for private customers but with the recent rise in beef prices, that business may soon tail off. So Rice is diversifying, moving more into turkey and other fowl.

In fact, the existence of Rice’s retail ops was an early step in the farm’s hedge against a plummet in processing revenues.

If you haven’t been out to Rice of late, do yourself — and the Rice family — a favor.

Who’s Fooling Whom?

The very idea that the intelligence services and the military of this holy land were all caught off-guard by the ISIS advance in Iraq is preposterous. Either somebody’s lying big time or we have the stupidest spy agencies in the world.


Hiding In Plain Sight

Papa’s Got The Same Old Bag

Gary, Indiana’s own Monroe Anderson points out that, with the exception of the actors, there were no blacks involved in the production of that new James Brown biopic playing in theaters now.

Movie Poster

Black On The Outside

Just thought you’d like to know.


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