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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: 1 hour 22 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.
It’s crucial that America’s most powerful and privileged understand what’s happening, and why they must support fundamental reform.
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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.
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Voting in Mississippi, 2014 and 1964
Mississippi used its new voter-identification law for the first time Tuesday — requiring voters to show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID at the polls.
The official reason given for the new law is alleged voter fraud, although the state hasn’t been able to provide any evidence that voter fraud is a problem.
The real reason for the law is to suppress the votes of the poor, especially African-Americans, some of whom won’t be able to afford the cost of a photo ID.
It’s a tragic irony that this law became effective almost exactly fifty years after three young civil rights workers — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman – were tortured and murdered in Mississippi for trying to register African-Americans to vote.
They were killed outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, by a band of thugs that included the sheriff of Neshoba County. The state was deeply implicated: The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission had kept track of the three after they entered the state, and had passed on detailed information about them to the sheriff.
A year after the murders, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was a direct response to the intransigence of Mississippi and other states with histories of racial discrimination, requiring them to get federal approval for any changes in their voting requirements — such as Mississippi’s new voter ID law.
But last June the Supreme Court’s five Republican appointees decided federal oversight was outmoded and unconstitutional, and that Congress had to set a new formula for deciding which states required federal review of voting law changes — thereby clearing the way for Mississippi’s new voter ID law.
Obviously, Congress hasn’t come up with a new formula because it’s gridlocked, and Republicans don’t want any federal review of state voting laws.
I knew Michael Schwerner. He was a kind and generous young man. And he meant a lot to me when I was growing up.
Now, fifty years after his brutal death and the deaths of his co-workers James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – fifty years after Freedom Summer — the state of Mississippi and the United States Supreme Court have turned back the clock.
Please urge your senators and representatives to pass a federal law that restores the Voting Rights Act, so Mississippi and other states with histories of repeated violations of voting rights cannot undo what Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner, and thousands of other brave Americans fought to achieve – equal voting rights.
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