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ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, “Inequality for All,” is now available on Netflix, iTunes, DVD, and On Demand.
Updated: 3 hours 34 min ago
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THE POLITICS AND ECONOMICS OF INEQUALITY: A LECTURE TO THE TOP ONE-TENTH OF 1 PERCENT
Here’s the Aspen Lecture I gave recently at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival. The irony of talking about inequality with an audience composed almost entirely of the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans was not lost on me. When I suggested that we return to the 70 percent income-tax rate on top incomes that prevailed before 1981, many looked as if I had punched them in the gut.
But I stressed it’s not a zero-sum game, and they’d do better with a smaller share of a rapidly-growing economy — growing because the vast middle class and the poor had the purchasing power to get the economy back on track — than they’re doing with a large share of an economy that’s barely growing at all.
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BREAK THE KOCH MACHINE
A number of billionaires are flooding our democracy with their money, drowning out the voices of the rest of us. But Charles and David Koch are in a class by themselves. They’re using their fortune – they’re the fifth and sixth richest people in the world — to create their own political machine designed to protect and advance their financial interests. The Koch machine includes:
1. Political front groups pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into elections at every level of our democracy, while disguising the sources of the money.
2. Giant advertising campaigns to convince Americans climate change is a myth, the Affordable Care Act will harm them, unions are bad, and wealthy people deserve tax cuts.
3. A network of think tanks designed to come up with findings the Kochs want. For example, over $23 million for studies arguing we should abolish the minimum wage or keep it where it is forever.
4. A campaign to suppress the votes of minorities. In the last presidential election, funding white “poll-watchers” where minorities vote, leading to complaints of voter intimidation. And peddling a Voter ID bill to state legislators across the country, designed to make it harder for many to vote.
5. A nationwide effort to bust unions. Funding anti-union campaigns in states like Wisconsin, and pushing an anti-union law that’s been used in dozens of states to undermine workers’ collective bargaining rights.
And 6. A long-term strategy to unravel America’s campaign finance laws, even organizing secret meetings with sympathetic Supreme Court justices.
The Koch political machine would be troubling in any circumstance. But it’s especially dangerous in present-day America, where wealth is more concentrated than it’s been in over a century and the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to big money.
The problem isn’t that the Kochs are so rich, or their political views are so regressive. The problem is they’re using their exorbitant wealth to impose those views on the rest of us, undermining our democracy.
More than 200,000 of you have already signed my MoveOn petition denouncing the Koch brothers for undermining our democracy.
The Kochs won’t care what we say, but when a half a million of us stand up to them, politicians will have to think twice before taking their money. When a million of us stand up to them, their money will be a political liability.
Standing up to bullies is the hallmark of a civilized society. Please join our petition — and stand up for our democracy. The link to the petition is at the end of the video.
Our democracy is not for sale.