Robert Reich

Why did CNN do it?

Why in hell did CNN give Donald Trump a full hour of prime-time television before an audience of ardent supporters who applauded every lie and laughed at every sexist insult?

The germ of an answer could be found last August, when Chris Licht, CNN’s new chairman and CEO, canceled Brian Stelter’s Sunday show, “Reliable Sources,” which had been a reliable source of intelligent criticism of Fox News, right-wing media in general, Trumpism, and the increasingly authoritarian lurch of the Republican party.

Licht also fired Stelter and his staff.

The show had been commercially successful. It was doing better than several of CNN’s prime-time shows.

Around the same time, Licht told CNN staff they should stop referring to Donald Trump’s “big lie” because the phrase sounded like a Democratic party talking point. Licht also told the staff he wanted more “straight news reporting,” along with more conservative guests.


Follow the money. CNN’s new corporate overseer is Warner Bros. Discovery Inc, whose CEO is David Zaslav.

Zaslav has been pushing Licht to reposition CNN to be a network preferred by “everybody … Republicans, Democrats.”

But CNN was never going to be the network preferred by Republicans. Fox News has that sewn up.

Besides, facts, data, and logic are no longer relevant to the Republican base.

The anti-democracy movement in America is among the biggest issues confronting America today. Is reporting on it considered “straight news” or “opinion?” Wouldn’t failing to report on it in a way that sounded alarms be a gross dereliction of duty?

How is it possible to report on Trump and not speak of the big lie, or say they’ve broken norms if not laws?

So, what’s motivating Zaslav? Keep following the money.

The leading shareholder in Warner Bros. Discovery is John Malone, a multibillionaire cable magnate. (Malone was a chief architect in the merger of Discovery and CNN.)

Malone describes himself as a “libertarian” although he travels in right-wing Republican circles. In 2005, he held 32% of the shares of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. He is on the board of directors of the Cato Institute. In 2017, he donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration.

Malone has said he wants CNN to be more like Fox News because, in his view, Fox News has “actual journalism.” Malone also wants the “news” portion of CNN to be “more centrist.”

It’s unlikely that Malone instructed Zaslav to tell Licht to fire Stelter. Power isn’t exercised that clumsily in large corporate media bureaucracies.

It’s more likely that Licht knew what Zaslav wanted, and Zaslav knew what Malone wanted. A source told Deadline’s Dominic Patten and Ted Johnson that even if Malone didn’t order Stelter’s ouster, “it sure represents his thinking.”

When you follow the money behind deeply irresponsible decisions at the power centers of America today, the road often leads to right-wing billionaires.

Last year, Stelter wrote in his newsletter that Malone’s comments about CNN “stoked fears that Discovery might stifle CNN journalists and steer away from calling out indecency and injustice.”

Last August, on his last show, Stelter said:

“It’s not partisan to stand up for decency and democracy and dialogue. It’s not partisan to stand up to demagogues. It’s required. It’s patriotic. We must make sure we don’t give platforms to those who are lying to our faces.”


Sadly, there are still many in America — and not just billionaires like Malone — who believe that holding Trump accountable for what he has done (and continues to do) to this country is a form of partisanship, and that such partisanship has no place in so-called “balanced journalism.”

This belief is itself dangerous.

After I first criticized Licht for the direction he was pushing CNN, he phoned me. He was angry that I doubted his motives, and said he took the top job at CNN because he “believes in journalism.”

When I mentioned the particularly challenging time American journalism now finds itself in — with Trump, most of the Republican Party, and most Republican candidates for office denying that the 2020 election was won by Joe Biden, thereby on the way to undermining America democracy — Licht agreed that it’s challenging. He said, emphatically, that this was why he is so deeply committed to restoring CNN’s credibility as an “unbiased” source of news that “people can feel they can trust.”

Well, Chris, after what you did last week, you can forget the public’s trust in CNN.

'Treason': Robert Reich explains why Trump shouldn't be allowed to run in 2024


The most obvious question in American politics today should be: Why is the guy who committed treason just over two years ago being allowed to run for president?

Answer: He shouldn't be.

Remember? Donald Trump lost reelection but refused to concede and instead claimed without basis that the election was stolen from him, then pushed state officials to change their tallies, hatched a plot to name fake electors, tried to persuade the vice president to refuse to certify Electoral College votes, sought access to voting machine data and software, got his allies in Congress to agree to question the electoral votes and thereby shift the decision to the House of Representatives, and summoned his supporters to Washington on the day electoral votes were to be counted and urged them to march on the U.S. Capitol, where they rioted.

This, my friends, is treason.

But he is running for reelection—despite the explicit language of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits anyone who has held public office and who has engaged in insurrection against the United States from ever again serving in public office.

The reason for the Constitution's disqualification clause is that someone who has engaged in an insurrection against the United States cannot be trusted to use constitutional methods to regain office.

Can any of us who saw (or have learned through the painstaking work of Congress's January 6 committee) what Trump tried to do to overturn the results of the 2020 election have any doubt he'll once again try to do whatever necessary to regain power in 2024, even if illegal and unconstitutional?

Sure, the newly enacted Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022 (amending the Electoral Count Act of 1887) filled some of the legal holes—creating a new threshold for members to object to a slate of electors (one-fifth of the members of both the House and the Senate), clarifying that the role of the vice president is "solely ministerial," and requiring that Congress defer to slates of electors as determined by the states.

But what if Trump gets secretaries of state and governors who are loyal to him to alter the election machinery to ensure he wins? What if he gets them to prevent people likely to vote for Biden from voting at all?

What if he gets them to appoint electors who will vote for him regardless of the outcome of the popular vote?

What if, despite all of this, Biden still wins the election—but Trump gets more than 20% of Republican senators and House members to object to slates of electors pledged to Biden, and pushes the election into the House, where Trump has a majority of votes?

Does anyone doubt the possibility—no, the probability—of any or all of this happening?

Trump tried these tactics once. The likelihood of his trying again is greater now because his loyalists are in much stronger positions throughout state and federal government.

Yes, they were held back in the 2022 midterms. But in state after state, and in Congress, Republicans who stood up to Trump have now been purged from the party. And lawmakers in what remains of the Republican Party have made it clear that they will bend or disregard any rule that gets in their way.

In many cases, the groundwork has been laid. As recently reported in The New York Times, for example, the Trump allies who traveled to Coffee County, Georgia, on January 7, 2021, gained access to sensitive election data. They copied elections software used across Georgia and uploaded it on the internet—an open invitation to election manipulation by Trump allies in 2024.

If anything, Trump is less constrained than he was in 2020. "In 2016, I declared I am your voice," Trump said in a speech last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference and repeated at his first 2024 campaign rally in Waco, Texas, a few weeks later. "Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution."

Filing deadlines for 2024 presidential candidates will come in the next six months, in most states.

Secretaries of state—who in most cases are in charge of deciding who gets on the ballot—must refuse to place Donald Trump's name on the 2024 ballot, based on the clear meaning of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

What do you think?

Robert Reich: The perfect punishment for Fox News

The trial of Fox News is expected to begin tomorrow. If Dominion Voting Systems wins, I have a suggestion for what the court should demand of Fox News, in addition to paying damages for the harm to Dominion.

The judge has already ruled that on-air statements by Fox News hosts, asserting that Dominion’s voting machines played a role in causing Donald Trump to lose the 2020 election, were false. The task for the jury is to decide whether Fox made those false statements with actual malice.

If Dominion wins, it will be because Fox’s own internal emails, text messages, and depositions revealed that its hosts (and owner, Rupert Murdoch) knew that the allegations of election fraud by Trump and his allies were baseless but kept airing them anyway, in part because they feared that another right-wing network, Newsmax, would otherwise steal their audience. When Fox News reporters shot down the allegations publicly, the network’s big personalities complained internally that telling their viewers the truth was hurting the network’s brand.

To this day, Fox News viewers still don’t know the truth — neither about Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, nor about Fox News’s role in promoting Trump’s big lie. This is the real damage of the Fox News propaganda feedback loop: After inflaming right-wing conspiracy theories, Fox has a financial incentive to continue to push them in order to retain its inflamed audience, which further inflames them.

The case raises a fundamental question: Will there be a penalty for profiting from the spread of dangerous disinformation?

Think of the poison Fox has knowingly been pumping into America as analogous to the poison cigarette manufacturers pumped into Americans’ lungs. Part of the remedy for the cigarette poison has been warning disclosures on every pack. Why not an analogous remedy for Fox News’s poison?

If Dominion wins, the court should order Fox News hosts — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and all other hosts similarly implicated — to tell their viewers every half hour, at least until the end of 2024:

“When we told you the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, we lied. Trump lied, too. He continues to lie. The 2020 election wasn’t stolen. Biden won fair and square.”

As on cigarette packs that must vary their warnings, the court should require alternative disclosures, perhaps every other week:

“We apologize for lying to you about the 2020 election. There was no fraud. Biden won. We lied because we were afraid of losing ad revenue if we told the truth. Shame on us.”

And every third week:

“The 2020 election wasn’t stolen from Trump. Trump made that up, and we repeated his lie because we’re greedy and unscrupulous. And that’s the truth.”

What do you think? Should Fox News be required to issue any other disclosure messages?

Robert Reich: Will Fox News be detoxed?

The $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News — which starts Monday, with jury selection tomorrow — has uncovered a trove of damning text messages and emails showing that Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham knowingly lied to their viewers about false claims of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election. A few weeks ago, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis ruled that the evidence made it “CRYSTAL clear that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” and that the statements from Fox News that are challenged by Dominion constitute defamation “per se.” Yesterday, Judge Davis said he was imposing a sanction on Fox News and would very likely start an investigation into whether Fox’s legal team had deliberately withheld evidence, scolding the lawyers for not being “straightforward” with him. The rebuke came after lawyers for Dominion revealed a number of instances in which Fox’s lawyers had not turned over evidence in a timely manner. The judge also said he would likely appoint a special master to investigate Fox’s handling of discovery of documents and the question of whether Fox had inappropriately withheld details about Rupert Murdoch’s role as a corporate officer of Fox News.

Doesn’t look good for Fox.

But one key group of people haven’t heard the revelations about Fox News: Fox News viewers. There’s been a near-total blackout of the story on Fox News, and Fox host Howard Kurtz has confirmed that Fox higher-ups have issued orders to ignore the story. Fox has even rejected paid ads that would have alerted viewers about the lawsuit. Other Rupert Murdoch-owned properties, like the New York Post, are also keeping their readers in the dark. Fox News has even filed a motion arguing that the court should maintain the confidentiality of discovery material already redacted by the network, shielding it from the public.

So today’s Office Hours question: If the court finds that Fox News defamed Dominion, will Fox viewers ever know the network knowingly lied to them about the 2020 presidential election? And will the judgment force Fox News (and other news media) to change the way they cover the news in the future?

What do you think?


My two cents:

IMHO, most of you nailed it. As long as there’s big money to be made by selling lies, weaponizing Trump viciousness, and peddling conspiracy theories, Fox News will continue to do it. The network will appeal any verdict that goes against it, and even if it ultimately loses on the law it will negotiate damages lower than $1.6 billion — and quickly make it up in future revenue. Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give a fig about the public interest or even the opinion of most of the public as long as he can continue to inject profitable toxins into the brains of his viewers (and readers). And he has rounded up sufficiently venal and unprincipled hosts — Tucker Carlson et al — who will also sell dangerous lies as long as they make big bucks doing so.

Advertisers don’t care, either, as long as Fox News viewers continue to watch the network’s appalling content.

I very much like Marilyn Anderson’s idea that, if Dominion wins the lawsuit, part of any settlement should specify that Fox News makes a statement of transparency about the litigation they lost and why.

But the basic question here is whether lawmakers are willing — and courts are willing to let them — impose any special responsibilities on cable networks, as they did with the old “fairness doctrine” as once applied to broadcasters who utilized the public spectrum. I doubt it.

Wish I could be more optimistic about this, but profiting off of dangerous lies has become a big business in America. This is one of the core challenges to the future of democracy.

Robert Reich rebuts 3 GOP talking points on Trump’s indictment

Donald Trump has been indicted.

You’re going to hear three basic criticisms of this indictment. Let me rebut each in turn.

1. It sets a dangerous precedent.

Rubbish. In order for the justice system to work, there must be trust that the system will not play favorites or ignore the wrongdoing of the powerful.

Donald Trump has done everything possible over the last seven years to destroy that trust for his own political gain.

Since the basic issue here is one of accountability, this case could actually open the way for the other, more serious ones.

It is true that no former president has ever been indicted, but no former president has done what Donald Trump has done — repeatedly defied laws and disregarded the U.S. Constitution. America never quite recovered from Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon for all crimes he might have committed.

The Framers of the Constitution explicitly provided that presidents could be charged after leaving office. Article I Section 3 states that a president impeached by the House and convicted and removed from office by the Senate “shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.”

The fundamental idea that no one is above the law is only true if we make it so. Holding our leaders accountable is vital to maintaining trust in our legal system, and the survival of our democracy itself.

2. The indictment plays into Trump’s claims that he’s the victim of a witch hunt and will further rile his core supporters

Irrelevant. Undoubtedly some Trump supporters will be upset by this. The indictment will confirm for them that Trump is not only being prosecuted but also being persecuted.

But Trump has used every move against him so far — whether by the FBI, the Justice Department, Congress, or even opponents in the Republican Party — to claim he’s the victim of a witch hunt. This indictment is not fundamentally different from all the other charges and allegations. His entire campaign is founded on variations of this same grievance.

But in this case, a grand jury has found that he broke the law. It will be harder to cast an independent grand jury composed of ordinary people as part of a “deep state” witch hunt.

3. This is the weakest of the cases now being prepared against Trump

So what? To be sure, paying hush money to cover up something embarrassing during a presidential campaign is not nearly on the same level as asking Georgia’s secretary of state to “come up” with the exact number of votes needed to reverse the outcome of Georgia’s presidential election, or fomenting an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

And it may be true that an allegation like this is usually treated as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

None of this alters the fact that a grand jury had enough evidence in this case to decide that Trump broke the law. That’s the critical point. A federal judge can decide whether the case rises to a felony or is more appropriately treated as a misdemeanor. The overriding issue is that no person is above the law, not even a former president.

Indeed, since the basic issue here is one of accountability, this case could actually open the way for the other, more serious ones. Prosecutors in Georgia and Washington won’t have to bear the burden of justifying an action that had never been taken before. Their more serious charges would come to a public that had already adjusted to the phenomenon of a Trump indictment.

DC insider: There’s a connection between Trump’s likely arrest and the bank bailouts

What connects the two biggest stories now dominating the news — Donald Trump’s likely arrest and the Fed’s bailouts of shaky banks?

Start with multi-billionaire Peter Thiel, and follow the money.

You may recall that in 2016, Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention to make the case for why Trump should be the next president of the United States.

In the midterm elections of 2022, Thiel donated $15 million to the Republican Ohio senatorial primary campaign of JD Vance, who alleged that the 2020 election was stolen and that Biden’s immigration policy meant “more Democrat voters pouring into this country.”

Thiel also donated at least $10 million to the Arizona Republican Senate primary race of Blake Masters, who also claimed Trump won the 2020 election and who admires Lee Kuan Yew, the authoritarian founder of modern Singapore.

Masters lost. But thanks to Thiel’s munificence, Vance is now in the U.S. Senate.

Thiel and other wealthy self-described “libertarians” want Trump to be re-elected president in 2024. I’ll get to the reason in a moment.

What connects Thiel to the bank bailouts?

Days before Silicon Valley Bank failed, Thiel’s venture firm, Founders Fund, advised clients to pull their deposits out. This contributed to the run on the bank.

Some $50 million of Thiel’s own money was still stuck in the bank. Then, guess what? Thiel and other rich depositors got bailed out by the Fed.

Charges of hypocrisy have been leveled at Thiel and other wealthy depositors who claim to be libertarians but were rescued by the government.

There was nothing hypocritical about it. Thiel and others like him aren’t really opposed to government, per se. They’re opposed to democracy. They prefer an oligarchy — a government controlled by super-wealthy people like themselves.


Thiel is part of the anti-democracy movement, of which Trump is the informal leader.

Their antipathy to democracy comes from the same fear that the extremely wealthy have always harbored about democracy — that a majority could vote to take away their money. That fear has been heightened by the fact that more and more of the nation’s wealth is going to the top, combined with demographic trends showing the majority of voters becoming less economically secure, more non-white, and politically left.

Thiel and his ilk see in Trump an authoritarian strongman who won’t allow a majority to take away their wealth. In December 2017, Trump and his Republican allies in Congress engineered a giant tax cut for the super-rich and the companies in which they invest. Many believe that a second Trump administration, backed by a Republican Congress, will cut their taxes even further.

They also support the Fed. Like most of the world’s central banks, the Fed is removed from democratic accountability, out of fear that financial markets otherwise won’t trust them to do unpopular things like bailing out banks or controlling inflation by slowing economies and causing millions to lose their jobs. The Fed is run largely by bankers. You might say it’s part of America’s oligarchy.

A few years ago, Thiel wrote that “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” Presumably he was referring to the freedom of oligarchs like himself to be unconstrained by taxes and regulations. In this narrow sense, he’s correct: Oligarchy is incompatible with democracy. Nor is oligarchy compatible with the freedom of the rest of us.

Thiel and others like him want to return to an era when American oligarchs had freer reign. In that same essay, Thiel wrote:

The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.

But if “capitalist democracy” has become an oxymoron, it’s not due to excessive public assistance or because women got the right to vote. It’s because billionaire capitalists like Thiel are undermining democracy with giant campaign donations to authoritarian candidates.

I’m old enough to remember a former generation of wealthy Republicans who backed candidates like Barry Goldwater. They called themselves “conservatives” because they wanted to conserve American institutions. But Thiel and his fellow billionaires in the anti-democracy movement don’t want to conserve anything — at least anything that came after the 1920s, including Social Security, civil rights, and even women’s right to vote (except for the Federal Reserve’s bailouts for the rich and its ability to draft average workers into fighting inflation).

The 1920s marked the last gasp of the Gilded Age, when the richest Americans siphoned off so much of the nation’s wealth that the rest of America had to go deep into debt to maintain their standard of living and sustain overall demand for the goods and services the nation produced. When that debt bubble burst in 1929, we got the Great Depression.

It was also the decade when Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler emerged to create the worst threats to freedom and democracy the modern world had ever witnessed.

Why Donald Trump's 2024 presidential campaign is worse than his first two

On Saturday morning, the former guy posted in all caps on his Truth Social platform that he expected to be "ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK" and called for his supporters to "PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!" He also described the United States as a "DYING" and "THIRD-WORLD" nation, where "THE AMERICAN DREAM IS DEAD!" He added that the 2020 election was "STOLEN," our borders are "OPEN," and "PATRIOTS" are being "HELD IN CAPTIVITY LIKE ANIMALS."

A few hours later, he posted another message, which began, "IT'S TIME!!!" and asserted that White House officials are "EVIL" people who "HATE" the United States, and "WE JUST CAN'T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY'RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!"

It is easy to dismiss all of this as just more Trump bombast, but I urge you not to. These messages mark the real start of Trump's presidential campaign. They hold the key to his campaign strategy. And they provide an ominous echo of his tweets urging protests in the lead-up to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Michael Cohen, the former Trump attorney and fixer who was sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations, noted that Trump could have used the adjective "peaceful" when urging his supporters to protest, "but he doesn't want a peaceful protest."

On Saturday afternoon, Trump supporters gathered at his Mar-a-Lago home and country club in Florida to show their support. Trump later boarded a private jet to fly from Palm Beach to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to attend a college wrestling tournament, where he held up a defiant fist and received a standing ovation.

I am not going to get into the merits of any of the three pending criminal cases against Trump, because the merits aren't relevant to Trump's strategy. He will use them, as he will use everything else, to help whip his supporters into a frenzy.

Most Americans believe that no one should be above the law, not even former presidents. But most Americans also believe that former presidents should not be prosecuted for their political beliefs.

So the underlying issue here is the same as it’s been since Trump lurched into American politics with his lies about Obama's birth, and then continued to lie his way through the four scorching years of his presidency, culminating in his Big Lie and the attack on the Capitol: How much trust is left in the system? And how far can Trump get in exploiting the distrust?

Republican leaders are aware that the party's base is fueled by distrust, so the GOP is already pouring oil on the fire. Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in a tweet, called the potential indictment "an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance," and ordered the House to "immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions."

Trump's campaign will be little more than vicious, conspiratorial paranoia. A campaign that sees everyone, including judges, as out to get him and all those who support him. A campaign that divides America according to adoration or detestation of Trump.

Trump wants white working-class Americans (plus just enough of other groups to give him an Electoral College majority) to see him as being persecuted by the same forces that he wants the white working class to believe are persecuting them — Democrats, Biden, "Marxists," "coastal elites," the "deep state," Muslims, immigrants, the FBI, and people of color. He presents no policies, no ideas, no goals other than to triumph over his (and therefore the white working class’s) enemies.

The genius of the American system of government has always been that citizens don't have to agree on issues. We only have to agree to be bound by decisions that emerge from our system of government. But to accept such decisions, we must regard the views and interests of those with whom we disagree as equally worthy of consideration as our own and believe that the system is basically trustworthy.

In other words, for the system to work, there must be an adequate storehouse of social trust.

Trump's third campaign for president is exploiting the same void that empowered his first two — America's dwindling social trust. He has done everything possible to further deplete that storehouse. He will now do whatever he can to reduce social trust still further — to the point where he wins (or takes) the presidency of a nation literally coming apart.

We must not let him.

'Bank bailout': Robert Reich busts 3 myths the 'undeserving right' use to justify their wealth

Last week’s bailout of small banks (and it was a bank bailout) needs to be seen in the larger context of America’s soaring inequality.

The standard conservative explanation for why inequality has widened is that individuals are paid what they’re “worth” — and that a few Americans at the top are now worth extraordinary sums while most Americans are not.

Their argument is easily confused with a moral claim that people deserve what they are paid in the market. Yet the amounts people are paid are morally justifiable only if the legal and political institutions defining the market are morally justifiable, which they are not.

Markets depend on who has the power to design and enforce them — deciding what can be owned and sold and under what terms, who can join together to gain additional market power, what happens if someone cannot pay up, how to pay for what is held in common, and who gets bailed out.

These are fundamentally moral judgments. Different societies at different times have decided these questions differently. It was once thought acceptable to own and trade human beings, to take the land of indigenous people by force, to put debtors in prison, and to exercise vast monopoly power.

So we need to ask: Is it morally acceptable that the typical worker’s wage has stagnated for the last 40 years while most of the economy’s gains have gone to the top? Do we believe that people who are rich are succeeding because of their own inherent worthiness or because the game is rigged in their favor? Have people who are poor failed, or has the system failed them? Is it morally acceptable that the pay of American CEOs has gone from an average of 20 times that of the typical worker 40 years ago to over 300 times today? Are the denizens of Wall Street — who in the 1950s and 1960s earned modest sums but are now paid tens or hundreds of millions annually — really “worth” that much more now than they were worth then?

Inequality in America began widening in the late 1970s and then took off. Inequality hasn’t widened nearly as much in other advanced economies. Why not?

Corporate and financial executives in America have done everything possible to prevent the wages of most American workers from rising in tandem with productivity, in order that more of the gains go instead into corporate profits and stock prices. Their major strategy has been to make workers less secure so they accept lower real wages (adjusted for inflation).

Some of this insecurity has been the result of trade agreements that have encouraged companies to outsource jobs abroad — protecting the firms’ intellectual property and financial assets but not the labor value of the people who work for them.

Some insecurity has resulted from shredded safety nets. Public policies that emerged during the New Deal and World War II placed most economic risks on large corporations through wage contracts and employer-provided health benefits along with Social Security, workers’ compensation, and 40-hour workweeks with time-and-a-half for overtime.

Now, those safety nets are mostly gone. Full-time workers who had put in decades with a company can find themselves without a job overnight — with no severance pay, no help finding another job, and no health insurance. Today, nearly one out of every five working Americans is in a part-time job. Two-thirds live paycheck to paycheck. Employment benefits have shriveled: The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from just over half in 1979 to under 35 percent.

Some insecurity has resulted from the government’s policy of fighting inflation by raising interest rates to slow the economy — putting most of the inflation-fighting burden on average workers who thereby lose their jobs or don’t get real wage gains, rather than on corporations through tough antitrust enforcement, laws against price gouging, and price controls.

Most basically, the prevailing insecurity is due to the demise of labor unions. Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars. America’s largest employer is now Walmart, and the typical entry-level Walmart worker earns about $9 an hour. The GM worker was not better educated or motivated than the Walmart worker.


The people who now hold a record share of the nation’s wealth justify their wealth (and their low tax rates) by utilizing three myths.

The first is trickle-down economics. They claim that their wealth trickles down to everyone else as they invest it and create jobs. Yet for over 40 years, as wealth at the top has soared, almost nothing has trickled down. (Trump provided a giant tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, promising it would generate $4,000 in increased income for everyone else. Did you receive it?)

The super-wealthy do not create jobs or increase wages. Jobs are created when average working people earn enough money to buy all the goods and services they produce, forcing companies to hire more people and pay them higher wages.

The second myth is the “free market.” As I noted above, the ultra-rich claim they’re being rewarded by the impersonal market for creating and doing what people are willing to pay them for. The wages of other Americans have stagnated, they say, because most Americans are worth less in the market now that new technologies and globalization have made their jobs redundant.

Rubbish. There’s no reason why the “free market” would reward vast multiples of what the rich were rewarded decades ago. Besides, the market can induce great feats of invention and entrepreneurialism with lures of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars — not billions.

The ultra-wealthy have rigged the so-called “free market” in America for their own benefit. Billionaires’ campaign contributions have soared from a relatively modest $31 million in the 2010 elections to $1.2 billion in the most recent presidential cycle — a nearly 40-fold increase. What have they got for their money? Tax cuts, freedom to bash unions and monopolize markets, and government bailouts. Their pockets have been further lined by privatization and deregulation.

The third myth is that they’re superior human beings — rugged individuals who “did it on their own” and therefore deserve their billions.

Baloney. Sixty percent of America’s billionaires are heirs to fortunes passed on to them by wealthy ancestors. Others had the advantages that come with wealthy parents.

Don’t fall for these myths. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. The so-called “free market” has been distorted by huge campaign contributions from the ultra-rich. The ultra-rich were lucky and had connections.

There is no moral justification for today’s extraordinary concentration of wealth at the very top. It is distorting our politics, rigging our markets, and granting unprecedented power to a handful of people.


The last time America faced any comparable degree of inequality was at the start of the 20th century. In 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt warned that “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power” could destroy American democracy.

Roosevelt’s answer was to tax wealth. The estate tax was enacted in 1916, and the capital gains tax in 1922. Since that time, both have eroded. As the rich have accumulated greater wealth, they have also amassed more political power — and have used that political power to reduce their taxes.

Years later, Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the 1929 crash not only as a financial crisis but as an occasion to renegotiate the relationship between capitalism and democracy. Accepting renomination in 1936, he spoke of the need to redeem American democracy from the despotism of concentrated economic power.

“Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities,” he said, an “industrial dictatorship” now “reached out for control over Government itself … [T]he political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor — other people’s lives … Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people’s mandate to end it.”

FDR gave workers the power to organize into labor unions, the 40-hour workweek (with time-and-a-half for overtime), Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation for injuries. He raised taxes on the top. And he regulated finance — making banking boring.

Since then, these reforms have also eroded.

The two Roosevelts understood something about the American economy and the ultra-rich that has now reemerged, even more extreme and more dangerous. Wealth creates power; power creates more wealth. Unattended, this can become a vicious cycle.

DC insider predicts what will happen in the biggest battle between House GOP and White House

A few days ago, I got a call from a reporter who wanted to know why President Biden has suddenly become a budget hawk: Hes proposing to trim the federal budget deficits by over $2 trillion over the next 10 years! He was an FDR-like spender in the first two years of his presidency, but now he’s turned into a Calvin Coolidge skinflint! What’s up?

What’s up is that Biden is neither a big spender nor a skinflint. He’s a cunning political operator.

Biden knows that he — along with his three immediate predecessors — have spent gobs of money. In addition, Bush and Trump cut taxes on the rich and on corporations.

Not surprisingly, the national debt has soared.

An economic problem? Not really. But that’s a different story.

The real problem is political. The huge debt is giving Republicans a big, fat target.

House Republicans are planning to stage theater-of-the-absurd pyrotechnics —refusing to raise the debt ceiling. Which means that at some point this summer, Biden’s Treasury Department will say America is within days (or hours) of defaulting on its bills. A default would be catastrophic.

To counter this, Biden is planning his own pyrotechnics.

In the budget released today, he’s proposing a “Billionaire Minimum Tax” that would require wealthy American households worth more than $100 million to pay at least 20 percent of their incomes in taxes (most middle-class Americans pay around 30 percent). Plus, they’d have to pay 20 percent a year on unrealized gains in the value of their liquid assets, such as stocks, which can accumulate value for years but are taxed only when they are sold (and not even then if left to their heirs).

Here’s the important thing: These taxes would apply only to the top one-hundredth of 1 percent of American households. Over half of the revenue would come from those worth more than $1 billion.

Biden is proposing additional tax hikes on the wealthy: reversing the Trump tax cut by raising the top tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, increasing the corporate tax to 28 percent from 21 percent (a partial rollback of Trump’s corporate tax cut), raising the tax on stock buybacks from 1 percent to 4 percent, and increasing the Medicare tax rate on income above $400,000 from its current rate of 3.8 percent to 5 percent.

All told, Biden’s new tax proposals would amount to a $2.5 trillion tax increase over a decade, on the richest of the rich.

Oh, and did I say? Taxing the rich is enormously popular.

Biden also wants to let Medicare officials negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices and cap the costs of drugs for seniors.

Also hugely popular.

But here’s the dirty little secret. Neither of these two theatrical productions — neither the Republicans’ refusal to raise the debt ceiling nor Biden’s big tax hike on the super-rich — will ever happen. They’re both fantasies.

A default on the nation’s obligations would bring on an economic calamity for which Republicans don’t want to be responsible.

A giant tax increase on the super-rich would be a miracle, given their political clout.

These two theatrical productions are being staged for the public — two competing performances, each intended to score political points against the other. Biden’s is rational and the Republicans’ is nuts, but that doesn’t really matter. They will both end in a dramatic flurry of last-minute negotiations, seemingly death-defying moves and counter-moves, and breathtaking cliffhangers.

Exciting? Of course. Important? Meh.

The denouement: The debt ceiling will be raised. The national debt will be lowered a bit. Social Security and Medicare will be left alone. And Biden and the Democrats will have leeway to do one or two more things before the gravitational pull of the 2024 election sets in — perhaps expand childcare or pre-K or enable more students to attend community college.

Yesterday I was in Columbus, Ohio, debating Arthur Laffer about the economy. We appeared before hundreds of students who had never heard of Arthur Laffer (or me, for that matter). If you’ve heard of him but don’t quite recall what he did, let me refresh your recollection: Art was the founder in the 1980s of so-called “supply-side economics,” the bonkers idea that the benefits of lower taxes on the wealthy trickle down to everyone else.

Trickle-down economics provided the theatrical scripts for Ronald Reagan’s, George W. Bush’s, and Donald Trump’s tax productions. The tax cuts were real, but the idea they were based on was always a fantasy. Nothing ever trickled down.

Robert Reich: Jimmy Carter and the end of democratic capitalism


I’m honoring Presidents’ Day by sharing with you some thoughts about Jimmy Carter, who is now in hospice care.

Carter’s administration marked the end of 45 years of democratic capitalism, whose goal had been to harness the private sector for the common good.

It’s important to understand what happened and why.

For years, the rap on President Carter has been that his presidency failed yet his post-presidency was the best in modern history.

This is way too simplistic.

Carter’s life after his presidency was exemplary for the same reason he was elected president after the disasters of Richard Nixon and Nixon’s vice president, Gerald Ford (who unconditionally pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed): Carter’s modesty, decency, and humanity.

Not only were these traits the opposite of Nixon’s, but they would shine even brighter 40 years later in contrast to the loathsome Donald Trump.

One-term presidents are always presumed failures because voters didn’t reelect them. But Carter lost his reelection bid (as would George H.W. Bush 12 years later) not because his presidency failed but because the Federal Reserve Board hiked interest rates so high as to bring on a recession. Recessions do not just choke off inflation; they also choke off presidencies.

During Carter’s term of office, the OPEC oil cartel raised oil prices from $13 a barrel to over $34, resulting in double-digit price increases across the economy. Paul Volcker, Carter’s appointee as Fed chair, was determined to “break the back of inflation” by hiking interest rates to nearly 20 percent by 1981, bringing on a deep recession and causing millions of people to lose their jobs — including Carter.

It was not Carter’s fault that democratic capitalism ended with him. To the contrary, he appointed many consumer, labor, and environmental advocates to his administration.

Full disclosure: I was a Carter appointee, but met him only twice, once at a Rose Garden ceremony and years later at a dinner party at the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. (He was uncharacteristically late for dinner but made a surprise entry, coming down the stairs from a bedroom where he had taken a nap. He apologized profusely, making two un-Trump-like concessions in a single sentence: “I’m getting old and need my nap,” he said with a self-effacing grin, “but I should have told someone I was heading upstairs.”)

Many of his initiatives — ending funding for the B-1 bomber, seeking a comprehensive consumer-protection bill, proposing broad-based tax reform, opposing traditional “pork barrel” spending, establishing a “superfund” to clean up toxic waste sites, and deregulating the airline, trucking, and railroad industries (resulting in lower transportation costs for industry and consumers) — were commendable.

But much of what he did seemed to justify Lewis Powell’s warning to corporate America in a 1971 memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that corporations must bulk up their lobbying muscle in Washington or suffer political defeat.

The untold story of the Carter years is the vast increase in corporate political firepower during this time. Trade associations, law firms, lobbying firms, political operatives, and public-relations specialists swarmed Washington, offering executives so much money that most retiring members of Congress also became lobbyists.

The city went from being a sleepy if not seedy backwater to the hub of America’s political wealth — replete with tony restaurants, upscale hotels, expensive bistros, and 25-bedroom mansions (one of them now owned by Jeff Bezos), and bordered by two of the richest counties in the nation.

With the defeat of Carter’s consumer protection legislation in 1978 at the hands of corporate lobbyists, Richard Lesher, then president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, presciently boasted that: “30 to 40 years from now people will look back and say ‘These were the years when the transition took place.’ … We're waking up. And big business is going to be in the forefront of this drive.”

Perhaps Carter could have staved this off had he been more politically cunning, but I doubt it. After 45 years playing defense, corporate America was eager to grab back the reins of power. Despite his best efforts, Carter paved the way for Ronald Reagan — and America’s return to the corporate capitalism that had dominated the nation before the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

How corporations usurped American political power

The corporate takeover of American politics started with a man and a memo you’ve probably never heard of.

In 1971, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked Lewis Powell, a corporate attorney who would go on to become a Supreme Court justice, to draft a memo on the state of the country.

Powell’s memo argued that the American economic system was “under broad attack” from consumer, labor, and environmental groups.

In reality, these groups were doing nothing more than enforcing the implicit social contract that had emerged at the end of the Second World War. They wanted to ensure corporations were responsive to all their stakeholders — workers, consumers, and the environment — not just their shareholders.

But Powell and the Chamber saw it differently. In his memo, Powell urged businesses to mobilize for political combat, and stressed that the critical ingredients for success were joint organizing and funding.

The Chamber distributed the memo to leading CEOs, large businesses, and trade associations — hoping to persuade them that Big Business could dominate American politics in ways not seen since the Gilded Age.

It worked.

The Chamber’s call for a business crusade birthed a new corporate-political industry practically overnight. Tens of thousands of corporate lobbyists and political operatives descended on Washington and state capitals across the country.

I should know — I saw it happen with my own eyes.

In 1976, I worked at the Federal Trade Commission. Jimmy Carter had appointed consumer advocates to battle big corporations that for years had been deluding or injuring consumers.

Yet almost everything we initiated at the FTC was met by unexpectedly fierce political resistance from Congress. At one point, when we began examining advertising directed at children, Congress stopped funding the agency altogether, shutting it down for weeks.

I was dumbfounded. What had happened?

In three words, The Powell Memo.

Lobbyists and their allies in Congress, and eventually the Reagan administration, worked to defang agencies like the FTC — and to staff them with officials who would overlook corporate misbehavior.

Their influence led the FTC to stop seriously enforcing antitrust laws — among other things — allowing massive corporations to merge and concentrate their power even further.

Washington was transformed from a sleepy government town into a glittering center of corporate America — replete with elegant office buildings, fancy restaurants, and five-star hotels.

Meanwhile, Justice Lewis Powell used the Court to chip away at restrictions on corporate power in politics. His opinions in the 1970s and 80s laid the foundation for corporations to claim free speech rights in the form of financial contributions to political campaigns.

Put another way — without Lewis Powell, there would probably be no Citizens United — the case that threw out limits on corporate campaign spending as a violation of the “free speech” of corporations.

These actions have transformed our political system. Corporate money supports platoons of lawyers, often outgunning any state or federal attorneys who dare to stand in their way. Lobbying has become a $3.7 billion dollar industry.

Corporations regularly outspend labor unions and public interest groups during election years. And too many politicians in Washington represent the interests of corporations — not their constituents. As a result, corporate taxes have been cut, loopholes widened, and regulations gutted.

Corporate consolidation has also given companies unprecedented market power, allowing them to raise prices on everything from baby formula to gasoline. Their profits have jumped into the stratosphere — the highest in 70 years.

But despite the success of the Powell Memo, Big Business has not yet won. The people are beginning to fight back.

First, antitrust is making a comeback. Both at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, we're seeing a new willingness to take on corporate power.

Second, working people are standing up. Across the country workers are unionizing at a faster rate than we’ve seen in decades — including at some of the biggest corporations in the world — and they’re winning.

Third, campaign finance reform is within reach. Millions of Americans are intent on limiting corporate money in politics – and politicians are starting to listen.

All of these tell me that now is our best opportunity in decades to take on corporate power — at the ballot box, in the workplace, and in Washington.

Let’s get it done.

Monsters of American capitalism

If this past week presents any single lesson, it’s the social costs of greed. Capitalism is premised on greed but also on guardrails—laws and norms—that prevent greed from becoming so excessive that it threatens the system as a whole.

Yet the guardrails can’t hold when avarice becomes the defining trait of an era, as it is now. Laws and norms are no match for the possibility of raking in billions if you’re sufficiently ruthless and unprincipled.

Donald Trump’s tax returns, just made public, reveal that he took bogus deductions to reduce his tax liability all the way to zero in 2020. All told, he reported $60 million in losses during his presidency while continuing to pull in big money.

Every other president since Nixon has released his tax returns. Trump told America he couldn’t because he was in the middle of an IRS audit. But we now learn that the IRS never got around to auditing Trump during his first two years in office, despite being required to do so by a law dating back to Watergate, stating that “individual tax returns for the president and the vice president are subject to mandatory review.”

Of course, Trump is already synonymous with greed and the aggressive violation of laws and norms in pursuit of money and power. Worse yet, when a president of the United States exemplifies—even celebrates—these traits, they leach out into society like underground poison.

Meanwhile, this past week the S.E.C. accused Sam Bankman-Fried of illicitly using customer money from FTX from the beginning to fund his crypto empire.

From the start, contrary to what FTX investors and trading customers were told, Bankman-Fried, actively supported by Defendants, continually diverted FTX customer funds … and then used those funds to continue to grow his empire, using billions of dollars to make undisclosed private venture investments, political contributions, and real estate purchases.

If the charge sticks, it represents one of the largest frauds in American history. Until recently, Bankman-Fried was considered a capitalist hero whose philanthropy was a model for aspiring billionaires (he and his business partner also donated generously to politicians).

But like the IRS and Trump, the S.E.C. can’t possibly remedy the social costs that Bankman-Fried has unleashed — not just losses to customers and investors but a deepening distrust and cynicism about the system as a whole, the implicit assumption that this is just what billionaires do, that the way to make a fortune is to blatantly disregard norms and laws, and that only chumps are mindful of the common good.

Which brings us to Elon Musk, whose slash-and-burn maneuvers at Twitter might cause even the most rabid capitalist to wince. They also raise questions about Musk’s other endeavor, Tesla. Shares in the electric vehicle maker dropped by almost 9 percent on Thursday as analysts grew increasingly concerned about its fate. Not only is Musk neglecting the carmaker but he’s appropriating executive talent from Tesla to help him at Twitter. (Tesla stock is down over 64% year-to-date.)

Musk has never been overly concerned about laws and norms (you’ll recall that he kept Tesla’s factory in Freemont, California, going during the pandemic even when public health authorities refused him permission to do so, resulting in a surge of COVID infections among workers). For him, it’s all about imposing his gargantuan will on others.

Trump, Bankman-Fried, and Musk are the monsters of American capitalism—as much products of this public-be-damned era as they are contributors to it. For them, and for everyone who still regards them as heroes, there is no morality in business or economics. The winnings go to the most ruthless. Principles are for sissies.

But absent any moral code, greed is a public danger. Its poison cannot be contained by laws or accepted norms. Everyone is forced to guard against the next con (or else pull an even bigger con). Laws are broken whenever the gains from breaking them exceed the penalties (multiplied by the odds of getting caught). Social trust erodes.

Adam Smith, the so-called father of modern capitalism, never called himself an economist. He called himself a “moral philosopher,” engaged in discovering the characteristics of a good society. He thought his best book was not The Wealth of Nations, the bible of modern capitalist apologists, but the Theory of Moral Sentiments, where he argued that the ethical basis of society lies in compassion for other human beings.

Presumably Adam Smith would have bemoaned the growing inequalities, corruption, and cynicism spawned by modern capitalism and three of its prime exemplars—Trump, Bankman-Fried, and Musk.

Does Elon Musk have the right to destroy Twitter?

You break it, you own it. That’s what I was told as a child. But for today’s billionaires, it seems like the opposite is true.

“You own it, you can break it” — at least if you’re rich enough.

Just look at Elon Musk.

He paid a fortune for Twitter and is now busily destroying it — firing half its employees and driving out even more, causing chaos on the platform, making advertisers flee, and threatening bankruptcy.

Or consider Sam Bankman-Fried, who became a billionaire after founding the popular cryptocurrency exchange FTX — until he drove the company into bankruptcy.

Seems FTX was a Ponzi scheme that got out of hand. At least $1 billion in customer funds is reportedly missing.

These billionaires are presumed to be free from responsibility because they own what they’ve had a hand in destroying. So under the rules of capitalism, they have a right to do whatever they want with their money. Right?

Wrong. Millions have come to rely on Twitter as a vital source of information and connection. Investors put their money — and trust — in FTX. These people aren’t mere collateral damage. They’re bearing a big part of the cost.

“You own it, you can break it” is a careless norm for a complex society.

Do we really think that the super-wealthy should be allowed to control so much wealth and wield so much influence?

Absolutely not. We need stronger laws protecting the rest of us from the recklessness of these so-called “disruptors.”

Does Elon Musk Have a Right to Destroy Twitter? | Robert

Is Biden too old?

At 79, Joe Biden is the oldest president in American history. Concerns about his age top the list for why Democratic voters want the party to find an alternative for 2024.

I don’t think this reflects an “ageist” prejudice against those who have reached such withering heights so much as an understanding that people in their late 70s and 80s wither.I speak with some authority. I’m now a spritely 76 — lightyears younger than our president. I feel fit, I swing dance and salsa, and can do 20 pushups in a row. Yet I confess to a certain loss of, shall we say, fizz.

Joe Biden could easily make it until 86, when he’d conclude his second term. After all, it’s now thought a bit disappointing if a person dies before 85. My mother passed at 86, my father two weeks before his 102nd birthday (so I’m hoping for the best, genetically speaking). Three score and ten is the number of years of life set out in the Bible. Modern technology and Big Pharma should add at least a decade and a half. Beyond this is an extra helping. “After 80, it’s gravy,” my father used to say.

Joe will be on the cusp of the gravy train.

Where will it end? There’s only one possibility, and that reality occurs to me with increasing frequency. I find myself reading the obituary pages with ever greater interest, curious about how long they lasted and what brought them down. I remember a New Yorker cartoon in which an older reader of the obituaries sees headlines that read only “Older Than Me” or “Younger Than Me.”

Yet most of the time I forget my age. The other day, after lunch with some of my graduate students, I caught our reflection in a store window and for an instant wondered about the identity of the short old man in our midst.

It’s not death that’s the worrying thing about a second Biden term. It’s the dwindling capacities that go with aging. "Bodily decrepitude," said Yeats, "is wisdom." I have accumulated somewhat more of the former than the latter, but our president seems fairly spry (why do I feel I have to add “for someone his age?”). I still have my teeth, in contrast to my grandfather whom I vividly recall storing his choppers in a glass next to his bed, and have so far steered clear of heart attack or stroke (I pray I’m not tempting fate by my stating this fact). But I’ve lived through several kidney stones and a few unexplained fits of epilepsy in my late thirties. I’ve had both hips replaced. And my hearing is crap. Even with hearing aids, I have a hard time understanding someone talking to me in a noisy restaurant. You’d think that the sheer market power of 60 million boomers losing their hearing would be enough to generate at least one chain of quiet restaurants.

When I get together with old friends, our first ritual is an “organ recital” — how’s your back? knee? heart? hip? shoulder? eyesight? hearing? prostate? hemorrhoids? digestion? The recital can run (and ruin) an entire lunch.

The question my friends and I jokingly (and brutishly) asked one other in college—"getting much?"—now refers not to sex but to sleep. I don’t know anyone over 75 who sleeps through the night. When he was president, Bill Clinton prided himself on getting only about four hours. But he was in his forties then. (I also recall cabinet meetings where he dozed off.) How does Biden manage?

My memory for names is horrible. (I once asked Ted Kennedy how he recalled names and he advised that if a man is over 50, just ask “how’s the back?” and he'll think you know him.) I often can’t remember where I put my wallet and keys or why I’ve entered a room. And certain proper nouns have disappeared altogether. Even when rediscovered, they have a diabolical way of disappearing again. Biden’s secret service detail can worry about his wallet and he’s got a teleprompter for wayward nouns, but I’m sure he’s experiencing some diminution in the memory department.

I have lost much of my enthusiasm for travel and feel, as did Philip Larkin, that I would like to visit China, but only on the condition that I could return home that night. Air Force One makes this possible under most circumstances. If not, it has a first-class bedroom and personal bathroom, so I don’t expect Biden’s trips are overly taxing.

I’m told that after the age of 60, one loses half an inch of height every five years. This doesn’t appear to be a problem for Biden but it presents a challenge for me, considering that at my zenith I didn’t quite make it to five feet. If I live as long as my father did, I may vanish.

Another diminution I’ve noticed is tact. A few days ago, I gave the finger to a driver who passed me recklessly. These days, giving the finger to a stranger is itself a reckless act. I’m also noticing I have less patience, perhaps because of an unconscious “use by” timer that’s now clicking away. Increasingly I wonder why I’m wasting time with this or that buffoon. I’m less tolerant of long waiting lines, automated phone menus, and Republicans. Cicero claimed "older people who are reasonable, good-tempered, and gracious bear aging well. Those who are mean-spirited and irritable will be unhappy at every stage of their lives." Easy for Cicero to say. He was forced into exile and murdered at the age of 63, his decapitated head and right hand hung up in the Forum by order of the notoriously mean-spirited and irritable Marcus Antonius.

How the hell does Biden maintain tact or patience when he has to deal with Mitch McConnell? Or Joe Manchin, for crying out loud?

The style sections of the papers tell us that the 70s are the new 50s. Septuagenarians are supposed to be fit and alert, exercise like mad, have rip-roaring sex, and party until dawn. Rubbish. Inevitably, things begin falling apart. My aunt, who lived far into her nineties, told me “getting old isn’t for sissies.” Toward the end she repeated that phrase every two to three minutes.

Philosopher George Santayana claimed to prefer old age to all others. "Old age is, or may be as in my case, far happier than youth," he wrote. "I was never more entertained or less troubled than I am now." True for me too, in a way. Despite Trump, notwithstanding the seditiousness of the Republican Party, the ravages of climate change, near record inequality, a potential nuclear war, and a stubborn pandemic, I remain upbeat -- largely because I still spend most days with people in their twenties, whose fizz buoys my spirits. Maybe Biden does, too.

But I’m feeling more and more out of it. I’m doing videos on TikTok and Snapchat, but when my students talk about Ariana Grande or Selena Gomez or Jared Leto, I don’t have clue who they’re talking about (and frankly don’t care). And I find myself using words –- “hence,” “utmost,” “therefore,” “tony,” “brilliant” — that my younger colleagues find charmingly old-fashioned. If I refer to “Rose Marie Woods” or “Jackie Robinson” or “Ed Sullivan” or “Mary Jo Kopechne,” they’re bewildered. The culture has flipped in so many ways. When I was seventeen, I could go into a drugstore and confidently ask for a package of Luckies and nervously whisper a request for condoms. Now it’s precisely the reverse. (I stopped smoking long ago.)

Santayana said the reason that old people have nothing but foreboding about the future is that they cannot imagine a world that’s good without themselves in it. I don’t share that view. To the contrary, I think my generation — including Bill and Hillary, George W., Trump, Newt Gingrich, Clarence Thomas, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Biden – have fucked it up royally. The world will probably be better without us.

Joe, please don’t run.

The Supreme Court case that could solidify its 'retrograde and anti-democracy ideology'

On June 30, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case called Moore v. Harper. With all the controversial decisions handed down by the Court this term, its decision to take up this case slid under most radar detectors. But it could be the most dangerous case on the Court's upcoming docket. You need to know about it.

As this Supreme Court shows, the future of our democracy is not guaranteed.

Here's the background: Last February, the North Carolina Supreme Court blocked the state's Republican-controlled general assembly from instituting a newly drawn congressional district map, holding that the map violated the state constitutional ban on partisan gerrymandering. The Republican Speaker of the North Carolina Houseappealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, advancing what's called the "independent state legislature" theory. It's a theory that's been circulating for years in right-wing circles. It holds that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures alone the power to regulate federal elections in their states.

We've already had a preview of what this theory could mean. It underpins a major legal strategy in Trump's attempted coup: the argument that state legislatures can substitute their own judgment of who should be president in place of the person chosen by a majority of voters. This was the core of the so-called "Eastman memo" that Trump relied on (and continues to rely on) in seeking to decertify Biden's election.

The U.S. Constitution does grant state legislatures the authority to prescribe "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections." But it does not give state legislatures total power over our democracy. In fact, for the last century, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the independent state legislature theory.

Yet if we know anything about the conservative majority now controlling the Supreme Court, it's that they will rule on just about anything that suits the far-right's agenda.

Conservatives on the Court have already paved the way for this bonkers idea. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist was an early proponent. In his concurring opinion in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 case that halted the recount in Florida in the presidential election, Rehnquist (in an opinion joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) asserted that because the state court's recount conflicted with deadlines set by the state legislature for the election, the court's recount could not stand.

The issue returned to the Supreme Court in 2020, when the justices turned down a request by Pennsylvania Republicans to fast-track their challenge to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that required state election officials to count mail-in ballots received within three days of Election Day. In an opinion that accompanied the court's order, Justice Alito (joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch) suggested that the state supreme court's decision to extend the deadline for counting ballots likely violated the U.S. Constitution because it intruded on the state legislature's decision making.

Make no mistake. The independent state legislature theory would make it easier for state legislatures to pull all sorts of additional election chicanery, without any oversight from state courts: ever more voter suppression laws, gerrymandered maps, and laws eliminating the power of election commissions and secretaries of state to protect elections.

If the Supreme Court adopts the independent state legislature theory, it wouldn't just be throwing out a century of its own precedent. It would be rejecting the lessons that inspired the Framers to write the Constitution in the first place: that it's dangerous to give state legislatures unchecked power, as they had under the Articles of Confederation.

The Republican Party and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court call themselves "originalists" who find the meaning of the Constitution in the intent of the Farmers. But they really don't give a damn what the Framers thought. They care only about imposing their own retrograde and anti-democracy ideology on the United States.

But we can fight back.

First, Congress must expand the Supreme Court to add balance to a branch of government that has been stolen by radicalized Republicans. This is not a far-fetched idea. The Constitution doesn't specify how many justices there should be – and we've already changed the size of the Court seven times in American history.

Second, Congress must impose term limits on Supreme Court justices, and have them rotate with judges on the U.S. courts of appeals.

Third, Congress must restore federal voting rights protections and expand access to the ballot box. We need national minimum standards for voting in our democracy.

Obviously, these reforms can happen only if Democrats retain control of the House in the midterm elections and add at least two more Democratic senators—willing to reform or abolish the filibuster.

So your vote is critical, and not just in federal elections. Make sure you also vote for state legislators who understand what's at stake to preserve our democracy. Because, as this Supreme Court shows, the future of our democracy is not guaranteed.

Supreme Court's attack on regulatory state means Senate filibuster must go

Today the Supreme Court—again, with the 6 Republican appointees on one side and the 3 Democratic appointees on the other—limited the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. This ruling deals a major blow to America's (and the world's) efforts to address climate change. Also—as with its decision reversing Roe v. Wade—today's ruling has far larger implications than the EPA and the environment.

West Virginia v. EPA is the latest battle pitting America's big businesses (in this case Big Oil) against the needs of average Americans. In this Supreme Court—containing three Trump appointees, two George W. Bush appointees, and one George H.W. Bush appointee—big business is winning big time. The financial backers of the Republican Party are getting exactly what they paid for.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts admitted that "capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible 'solution to the crisis of the day.'" But then came the kicker: "But it is not plausible," he wrote, "that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme."

Not plausible? Congress enacted the Clean Air Act in 1970. As with all laws, Congress left it to an administrative agency—in this case, the EPA—to decide how that Act was to be implemented and applied. That's what regulations do: They implement laws.

For the Supreme Court to give itself the authority to say whether Congress intended to delegate this much regulatory authority to the EPA is a truly radical act—more radical than any Supreme Court in modern history. If Congress has been unhappy with decades of EPA regulation, Congress surely has had the power to pull that authority back. But it has not.

As Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the dissenters, countered: "The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decision maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening."

The implications of the ruling extend to all administrative agencies in the federal government—to the Securities and Exchange Commission implementing the Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934, to the Federal Trade Commission applying the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, to the Department of Labor implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and so on, across the entire range of government—and the entire range of regulations designed to protect consumers, investors, workers, and the environment. (This same Supreme Court has ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not authorized to impose a moratorium on evictions and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was powerless to tell large employers to have their workers be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing.)

In passing laws to protect the public, Congress cannot possibly foresee all ways in which those laws might be implemented and all circumstances in which the public might need the protections such laws accord. Starting today, though, all federal regulations will be under a cloud of uncertainty—and potential litigation.

A final implication of today's ruling is that the filibuster has to go. If the Supreme Court is going to require that Congress be more active and specific in protecting the environment or anything else, such a goal is implausible when 60 senators are necessary to enact it. Senate Democrats now have it in their power to abolish the filibuster. Today's case should convince them they must.

The Democrats have a secret sauce to win the midterm elections

The beginning of May before midterm elections signals the official start of primary season and the kickoff of fall campaigns. Because midterms are usually referendums on a president’s performance, the conventional view now is that Democrats are in deep trouble because Biden’s approval ratings are in the cellar.

But the conventional view doesn’t account for the Trump factor, which gives Democrats a fighting chance of keeping one or both chambers.

According to recent polls, Trump’s popularity continues to sink. He is liked by only 38 percent of Americans and disliked by 46 percent. (12 percent are neutral.) And Trump continues to slide: Among voters 45-64 years old – a group exit polls show Trump won 50% to 49% in 2020 – just 39 percent now view him favorably and 57 percent unfavorably. Among voters older than 65 – 52 percent of whom voted for him in 2000 to Biden’s 47 percent – only 44 percent now see him favorably and more than half (54%) view him unfavorably. Importantly, independents hold him in even lower regard. Just 26 percent view him favorably and 68 percent unfavorably.

Republican lawmakers had hoped and assumed that Trump would fade from the scene by the 2022 midterms, allowing them to engage in full-throttled attacks on Democrats.

But Trump hasn’t faded. In fact, his visibility is growing daily.


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The media is framing the May Republican primaries as all about Trump. The Ohio primary was a giant proxy battle over him, in which Republican candidates outdid each other trying to sound just like Trump – railing against undocumented immigrants, coastal elites, “socialism,” and “wokeness,” and regurgitating the Big Lie.

Trump’s April 15 endorsement of JD Vance made the difference – as could his backing of Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Mary 17 primary and Hershel Walker in Georgia’s May 24 primary. But whether Trump’s bets pay off in wins for these candidates is beside the point. Trump is making these races all about himself —and in so doing, casting the midterms as a referendum on his continuing power and influence.

June’s televised hearings of the House January 6 committee will likely show how Trump and his White House orchestrated the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and rekindle memories of Trump’s threat to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian president Zelensky came up with dirt on Biden.

Here again, the real significance of these hearings won’t be seen in Trump’s approval ratings but in Trump’s heightened visibility in the months before the midterms – and its almost certain shift in voters’ preferences toward the Democrats.

Also likely in June (according to leaked documents) is a decision by the Supreme Court to uphold Oklahoma’s near ban on abortion and reverse Roe v. Wade – courtesy of Trump’s three Court nominees whom Trump explicitly nominated in order to reverse Roe.

The high court’s decision will green-light other Republican states to enact similar bans, and spur Republicans in Congress to push for national legislation to virtually bar abortions across the country. Republicans believe this would ignite their base, but it’s more likely to ignite a firestorm among the vast majority of Americans who believe abortion should be legal. Score another one for Trump.

There is also the distinct possibility of criminal trials over Trump’s business and electoral frauds (such as his brazen attempt to change the Georgia vote tally). Again, their significance for the midterms is less about whether Trump is found guilty than about their continuing reminders of his lawlessness.

Meanwhile, America will be treated to more Trump rallies, interviews, and barnstorming to convince voters the 2020 election was stolen from him, along with his incessant demands that Republican candidates reiterate his Big Lie.

Somewhere along the line, also before the midterms, Elon Musk will allow Trump back on Twitter. The move would be bad for America, but it would remind voters of how whacky, racist, and dangerously incendiary Trump continues to be.

Oh, and don’t forget the antics of Trump’s many surrogates – Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Steven Bannon, Madison Cawthorn, and others – who mimic Trump’s bravado, bigotry, divisiveness, and disdain for the law. All are walking billboards for Trumpism’s heinous impact on American life.

All will push wavering voters toward Democrats in November.

I’m not suggesting Democrats seeking election or reelection should center their campaigns around Trump. To the contrary, Democrats need to show their continuing commitment to average working people. Between now and November, they should provide help with childcare, cut the costs of prescription drugs, and stop oil companies for price gouging, to take but three examples.

If they do this, they can count on Trump to remind Americans of the hatefulness and chaos he unleashed. The combination – Democrats scoring some additional victories for working people, and Trump being Trump – could well reverse conventional wisdom about midterms and keep Dems in control of Congress.

DC insider explains how the Supreme Court could make your life more dangerous

Your life could get a lot more dangerous. Republican appointees on the Supreme Court seem poised to strip away basic safety standards for our workplaces, our food, our air and water.

Congress gives federal agencies the authority to enact regulations that protect us in our daily lives. Congress defines the goals, but leaves it up to the health and safety experts in those agencies to craft and enforce regulations.

I know regulations don’t sound very exciting, but they’re how our government keeps us safe.


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Remember when lots of romaine lettuce was recalled because it was causing E.coli outbreaks? That was the Food and Drug Administration protecting us from getting sick.

Working in a warehouse? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets standards to ensure you don’t breathe in dangerous chemicals like asbestos.

Enjoying the fresh air on a clear, sunny day? Thank the Environmental Protection Agency for limiting the amount of pollution that can go into our air.

These agencies save lives. Since OSHA was established a half-century ago, its workplace safety regulations have saved more than 618,000 workers’ lives.

Republicans have been trying to gut these agencies for decades. Now, with the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority solidly in place, they have their best chance yet.

In January 2022, the Supreme Court blocked OSHA’s vaccine-or-testing mandate from going into effect, which was estimated to prevent a quarter-million hospitalizations.

The Court claimed that Covid isn’t an “occupational hazard” because people can become infected outside of work, and that allowing OSHA to regulate in this manner “would significantly expand” its authority without clear Congressional authorization.

This is absurd on its face. Section 2 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 clearly spells out OSHA’s authority to enact and enforce regulations that protect workers from illness, injury, and death in the workplace. Congress doesn’t need to list every specific workplace hazard before OSHA can protect workers.

What this ruling tells us is that the Republican appointees on the Supreme Court are intent on gutting the power of agencies to issue regulations.

This term, the Court will also hear a case regarding the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Water Act. If the Court undermines the EPA’s authority, it will put our environment – and our health – at risk. Remember when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire because it was brimming with oil, acid, and factory chemicals? That’s what we may be returning to.

And what’s next? Will they gut the Federal Trade Commission and put us all at risk of being defrauded? Target the Securities and Exchange Commission and deregulate the financial sector, sparking another financial crisis?

Beware. If Republican appointees on the Supreme Court succeed in gutting regulatory agencies, we all lose. This agenda is anti-worker, anti-consumer, and anti-environment. The only thing it’s good for is corporate profits.

How Corporations Could Make Your Life More Dangerous | Robert

DC insider explains the real reason why congress gets nothing done

Why doesn’t Congress get anything done? Well, one chamber actually does. Hundreds of bills have been passed by the House of Representatives, but have been blocked from even getting a vote in the Senate. Bills like –

The Freedom to Vote Act,

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,

The Equality Act,

Background checks for gun sales,

Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act,

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

The Build Back Better Act.

The list goes on…

So why aren’t these crucial bills getting a vote in the Senate? Because the filibuster makes it impossible.


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All told, the House passed over 200 bills since the start of 2021 that have not been taken up in the Senate. Everything from investing in rural education to preventing discrimination against pregnant workers to protecting seniors from scams – bills that have real, tangible benefits for the public; bills that have widespread public support.

So don’t believe the media narrative that Congress is trapped in hopeless gridlock and both sides are to blame. One chamber of Congress, led by Democrats, is passing important legislation and delivering for the people. But Republicans in the Senate, and a handful of corporate Democrats, are hell-bent on grinding the gears of government to a halt.Why are Senate Republicans doing this? Because their midterm strategy depends on it. Republicans are blocking crucial legislation so they can point to Democrats’ supposed inability to get anything done, and claim they’ll be able to deliver if you give them majorities. Don’t fall for it.

Our Government Is Broken, But Not How You Think | Robert

Robert Reich explains why $100 billion is an unfathomable amount of money

Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich released a new video on Tuesday in which he broke down the mind-bending reality of just how much $100,000,000,000 dollars actually is.

"The word 'billionaire' didn’t even exist until 1844. Fifty years later, we got 'multibillionaire.' And for the next 127 years, that was enough. But in 2020, while the working class faced near-record unemployment during the pandemic, the wealthiest Americans faced a different problem. Some of them had gotten so rich, there was no longer a word to describe just how rich they were," Reich began. "That’s why today I want to bring you one of the newest additions to the English language: 'centibillionaires,' people with $100 billion or more."

For scale, Reich compared the ultra-exclusive 12-digit-wealth club to that of their less-fortunate 10 and 11-digit counterparts. The math is truly staggering:

What’s it like being one of history’s first centibillionaires? It’s hard to even imagine, but let’s try it by comparing them to the less fortunate. By which I mean just … regular … billionaires.

If you’re a regular billionaire, you can afford a private jet. If you’re a centibillionaire, you can afford a brand-new Gulfstream jet every single day for more than ten years.

Not sure what you'd do with a new Gulfstream every day — maybe give one to each of your closest 4,000 friends?

A regular billionaire would struggle to buy their own professional baseball team. Sad, I know. But a centibillionaire could easily buy every team in the entire major league.

If you’re a regular billionaire, you can donate to your alma mater and get your name on a building. If you’re a centibillionaire, you could single-handedly give every teacher in America an $8,000 raise for 5 straight years.

Of course, that’s not all you could do. $100 billion is enough to wipe out all the medical debt in the United States. Or provide permanent shelter for every homeless person in America. Or buy Covid-19 vaccines for the entire world.

Basically what I’m saying is, $100 billion is a lot of money. More than two and a half million times what the average American worker makes in a year.

Reich then picked apart why – and how – so much money can accumulate in the coffers of such a minuscule fraction of people. And the answer is not that those few have "two and a half million times" the work ethic than basically everyone else:

As it turns out, the system that the super-rich themselves carefully crafted and lobbied for, benefits... the rich! And while you may not own more private jets than your average centibillionaire, you probably do pay a higher tax rate. And thanks to legal loopholes and the Trump tax cuts, when the wealthiest Americans die, they get to pass on most of their centibillions to their kids tax-free.

Reich said that Americans must come together to choose the kind of country they want to have:

We’ve got two choices as a country. We can tax the richest Americans fairly, and invest that money in ways that benefit all of us.
Or we can keep doing what we’re doing, and watch as centibillionaires get even richer while the rest of us get left behind. If you think wealth and power are too concentrated in the hands of a privileged few now, just imagine what a few more years of trickle-down nonsense will bring.

Reich warned that what comes next is even more unsettling:

Of course, it won’t be all bad. At least 'trillionaire' is easy to say.

Watch below:

Here’s What It’s Like Having $100 Billion vs. $1 Billion | Robert

How members of Congress use insider information to trade stocks

Members of Congress use privileged information to make money on the stock market, while they’re supposed to be working for you. Make no mistake, it’s legalized corruption.


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There’s no good reason for elected officials to trade individual stocks at all. Unless you have special insider knowledge, buying and selling individual stocks is a terrible way to get rich. It’s gambling, plain and simple. That’s why many Americans with retirement accounts prefer to invest in index funds — which are tied to the performance of the entire stock market

But many members of Congress continue to invest in individual stocks, and some do quite well. How do they do it?

Can Congress Really Use Insider Information to Trade Stocks? | Robert

Consider this: just before the economy crashed in 2008, several lawmakers frantically shifted their holdings to “safer” investments. This frenzy came just after private meetings with Treasury officials who had warned that an economic disaster was imminent.

I imagine most of you weren’t invited to these meetings — I certainly wasn’t. But those lawmakers were — and likely chose to act on that information.

When this story came to light, people were naturally outraged. After immense public pressure Congress passed the STOCK Act in 2012. The act required lawmakers to disclose their stock sales, and those of their spouses, within 45 days. By forcing these transactions to be public, the hope was that lawmakers would stop making questionable trades.

And it worked. Well… partially.

In January 2020, a handful of senators — including Richard Burr, Dianne Feinstein, and Kelly Loeffler — all made significant trades after receiving a classified briefing on COVID-19, well before the public knew the full extent of the threat.

Few, if any, lawmakers have faced serious consequences for violating the spirit or the letter of the law, as insider trading is notoriously difficult to prove.

In 2021 alone, news outlets identified 43 lawmakers who failed to properly disclose their trades. Their punishment? Nothing. Lawmakers are supposed to face a paltry $200 fine for failing to report on time — but congressional ethics officials usually waive it.

There is an obvious solution to all this: bar members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

The proposed Ban Conflicted Trading Act does just this. Lawmakers would have six months after being elected to sell their individual holdings, transfer them to a blind trust over which they have no control, or hold onto them until they leave office without trading them.

But Congress has yet to hold a vote on this bill, even though 67 percent of Americans agree it’s a good idea to prevent members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

As usual, follow the money: a majority of lawmakers are millionaires, who likely get a sizable chunk of their wealth from investments and trades. So they won’t support this bill unless there’s enough public outcry to make them.

That’s where you come in.

With distrust in government near an all-time high, even the appearance of a conflict of interest hurts our democracy. Members of Congress are elected to represent the interests of the people, not the money in their brokerage accounts.

Banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks is a no-brainer. Let’s get it done.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.


DC insider: Corporate seditionists are no better than the seditionists who attacked the Capitol

Capitalism and democracy are compatible only if democracy is in the driver’s seat.

That’s why I took some comfort just after the attack on the Capitol when many big corporations solemnly pledged they’d no longer finance the campaigns of the 147 lawmakers who voted to overturn election results.


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Well, those days are over. Turns out they were over the moment the public stopped paying attention.

A report published last week by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington shows that over the past year, 717 companies and industry groups have donated more than $18m to 143 of those seditious lawmakers. Businesses that pledged to stop or pause their donations have given nearly $2.4m directly to their campaigns or political action committees.

But there’s a deeper issue here. The whole question of whether corporations do or don’t bankroll the seditionist caucus is a distraction from a more basic problem.

The tsunami of money now flowing from corporations into the swamp of American politics is larger than ever. And this money – bankrolling almost all politicians and financing attacks on their opponents – is undermining American democracy as much as did the 147 seditionist members of Congress. Maybe more.

The Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema – whose vocal opposition to any change in the filibuster is on the verge of dooming voting rights – received almost $2m in campaign donations in 2021 even though she is not up for re-election until 2024. Most of it came from corporate donors outside Arizona, some of which have a history of donating largely to Republicans.

Has the money influenced Sinema? You decide. Besides sandbagging voting rights, she voted down the $15 minimum wage increase, opposed tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and stalled on drug price reform – policies supported by a majority of Democratic senators as well as a majority of Arizonans.

Over the last four decades, corporate PAC spending on congressional elections has more than quadrupled, even adjusting for inflation.

Labor unions no longer provide a counterweight. Forty years ago, union PACs contributed about as much as corporate PACs. Now, corporations are outspending labor by more than three to one.

According to a landmark study published in 2014 by the Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern professor Benjamin Page, the preferences of the typical American have no influence at all on legislation emerging from Congress.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups and average citizens. Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Lawmakers mainly listen to the policy demands of big business and wealthy individuals – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns and promote their views.

It’s probably far worse now. Gilens and Page’s data came from the period 1981 to 2002: before the supreme court opened the floodgates to big money in the Citizens United case, before Super Pacs, before “dark money” and before the Wall Street bailout.

The corporate return on this mountain of money has been significant. Over the last 40 years, corporate tax rates have plunged. Regulatory protections for consumers, workers and the environment have been defanged. Antitrust has become so ineffectual that many big corporations face little or no competition.

Corporations have fought off safety nets and public investments that are common in other advanced nations (most recently, Build Back Better). They’ve attacked labor laws, reducing the portion of private-sector workers belonging to a union from a third 40 years ago to just over 6% now.

They’ve collected hundreds of billions in federal subsidies, bailouts, loan guarantees and sole-source contracts. Corporate welfare for big pharma, big oil, big tech, big ag, the largest military contractors and biggest banks now dwarfs the amount of welfare for people.

The profits of big corporations just reached a 70-year high, even during a pandemic. The ratio of CEO pay in large companies to average workers has ballooned from 20-to-1 in the 1960s, to 320-to-1 now.

Meanwhile, most Americans are going nowhere. The typical worker’s wage is only a bit higher today than it was 40 years ago, when adjusted for inflation.

But the biggest casualty is public trust in democracy.

In 1964, just 29% of voters believed government was “run by a few big interests looking out for themselves”. By 2013, 79% of Americans believed it.

Corporate donations to seditious lawmakers are nothing compared with this 40-year record of corporate sedition.

A large portion of the American public has become so frustrated and cynical about democracy they are willing to believe blatant lies of a self-described strongman, and willing to support a political party that no longer believes in democracy.

As I said at the outset, capitalism is compatible with democracy only if democracy is in the driver’s seat. But the absence of democracy doesn’t strengthen capitalism. It fuels despotism.

Despotism is bad for capitalism. Despots don’t respect property rights. They don’t honor the rule of law. They are arbitrary and unpredictable. All of this harms the owners of capital. Despotism also invites civil strife and conflict, which destabilize a society and an economy.

My message to every CEO in America: you need democracy, but you’re actively undermining it.

It’s time for you to join the pro-democracy movement. Get solidly behind voting rights. Actively lobby for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Use your lopsidedly large power in American democracy to protect American democracy – and do it soon. Otherwise, we may lose what’s left of it.


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Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

As job gains slow, the Fed and Congress apply the wrong medicine

Friday’s jobs report from the Department of Labor was a warning sign about the US economy. It should cause widespread concern about the Fed’s plans to raise interest rates to control inflation. And it should cause policymakers to rethink ending government supports such as extended unemployment insurance and the child tax credit. These will soon be needed to keep millions of families afloat.

Employers added only 199,000 jobs in December. That’s the fewest new jobs added in any month last year. In November, employers added 249,000. The average for 2021 was 537,000 jobs per month. Note also that the December survey was done in mid-December, before the latest surge in the Omicron variant of Covid caused millions of people to stay home.

But the Fed is focused on the fact that average hourly wages climbed 4.7% over the year. Central bankers believe those wage increases have been pushing up prices. They also believe the US is nearing “full employment” – the maximum rate of employment possible without igniting even more inflation.

As a result, the Fed is about to prescribe the wrong medicine. It’s going to raise interest rates to slow the economy – even though millions of former workers have yet to return to the job market and even though job growth is slowing sharply. Higher interest rates will cause more job losses. Slowing the economy will make it harder for workers to get real wage increases. And it will put millions of Americans at risk.

The Fed has it backwards. Wage increases have not caused prices to rise. Price increases have caused real wages (what wages can actually purchase) to fall. Prices are increasing at the rate of 6.8% annually but wages are growing only between 3-4%.

The most important cause of inflation is corporate power to raise prices.

Yes, supply bottlenecks have caused the costs of some components and materials to rise. But large corporations have been using these rising costs to justify increasing their own prices when there’s no reason for them to do so.

Corporate profits are at a record high. If corporations faced tough competition, they would not pass those wage increases on to customers in the form of higher prices. They’d absorb them and cut their profits.

But they don’t have to do this because most industries are now oligopolies composed of a handful of major producers that coordinate price increases.

Yes, employers have felt compelled to raise nominal wages to keep and attract workers. But that’s only because employers cannot find and keep workers at the lower nominal wages they’d been offering. They would have no problem finding and retaining workers if they raised wages in real terms – that is, over the rate of inflation they themselves are creating.

Astonishingly, some lawmakers and economists continue to worry that the government is contributing to inflation by providing too much help to working people. A few, including some Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are unwilling to support Biden’s Build Back Better package because they fear additional government spending will fuel inflation.

Here again, the reality is exactly the opposite. The economy is in imminent danger of slowing, as the December job numbers (collected before the Omicron surge) reveal.

Many Americans will soon need additional help since they can no longer count on extra unemployment benefits, stimulus payments or additional child tax credits. This is hardly the time to put on the fiscal brakes.

Policymakers at the Fed and in Congress continue to disregard the elephant in the room: the power of large corporations to raise prices. As a result, they’re on the way to hurting the people who have been taking it on the chin for decades – average working people.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

Robert Reich has the perfect answer to Trumpism

As I’ve considered the real lesson of January 6, I’ve been prompted to rewatch a movie that provides a hint of an answer — Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which was released 75 years ago this month.

When I first saw the movie in the late 1960s, I thought it pure hokum. America was coming apart over Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and I remember thinking the movie could have been produced by some propaganda bureau of the government that had been told to create a white-washed (and white) version of the United States.

But in more recent years I’ve come around. As America has moved closer to being an oligarchy — with staggering inequalities of income, wealth, and power not seen in over a century — and closer to Trumpian neofascism (the two moves are connected), “It’s a Wonderful Life” speaks to what’s gone wrong and what must be done to make it right.

As you probably know (and if you don’t, this weekend would be a good time to watch it), the movie’s central conflict is between Mr. Potter (played by Lionel Barrymore) and George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). Potter is a greedy and cruel banker. George is the generous and honorable head of Bedford Fall’s building-and-loan — the one entity standing in the way of Potter’s total domination of the town. When George accidentally loses some deposits that fall into the hands of Potter, Potter sees an opportunity to ruin George. This brings George to the bridge where he contemplates suicide, thinking his life has been worthless — before a guardian angel’s counsel turns him homeward.

READ: 'Its roots are deep': Noam Chomsky breaks down just how dangerous Trumpism is after ex-president's 'attempted putsch'

It’s two radically opposed versions of America. In Potter’s social-Darwinist view, people compete with one another for resources. Those who succeed deserve to win because they’ve outrun everyone else in that competitive race. After the death of George’s father, who founded the building-and-loan, Potter moves to dissolve it — claiming George’s father “was not a businessman. He was a man of high ideals, so-called, but ideals without common sense can ruin a town.” For Potter, common sense is not coddling the “discontented rabble.”

In George’s view, Bedford Falls is a community whose members help each other. He tells Potter that the so-called “rabble … do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.” His father helped them build homes on credit so they could afford a decent life. “People were human beings to him,” George tells Potter, “but to you, they’re cattle.”

When George contemplates ending it all, his guardian angel shows him how bleak Bedford Falls would be had George never lived — poor, fearful, and dependent on Potter. The movie ends when everyone George has helped (virtually the entire town) pitch in to bail out George and his building-and-loan.

It’s a cartoon, of course — but a cartoon that’s fast becoming a reality in America. Do we join together or let the Potters of America own and run everything?

Soon after “It’s a Wonderful Life” was released, the FBI considered it evidence of Communist Party infiltration of the film industry. The FBI’s Los Angeles field office — using a report by an ad-hoc group that included Fountainhead writer and future Trump pin-up girl Ayn Rand — warned that the movie represented “rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture.” The movie “deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. This … is a common trick used by Communists.”

The FBI report compared “It’s a Wonderful Life” to a Soviet film, and alleged that Frank Capra was “associated with left-wing groups” and that screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett were “very close to known Communists.”

This was all rubbish, of course — and a prelude to the Red Scare led by Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, who launched a series of highly publicized probes into alleged Communist penetration of Hollywood, the State Department, and even the US Army.

The movie was also prelude to modern Republican ideology. Since Ronald Reagan, Republicans have used Potter-like social Darwinism to justify everything tax cuts for the wealthy, union-busting, and cutbacks in social safety nets. Rand herself became a hero to many in the Trump administration.

Above all, Reagan Republicans, CEOs, and Trumpers have used the strategy of “divide-and-conquer” to generate division among Americans (a kind of political social-Darwinism). That way, Americans stay angry and suspicious of one another, and don’t look upward to see where all the money and power have gone. And won’t join together to claim it back.

What would Republicans say about “It’s a Wonderful Life” if it were released today? They’d probably call it socialist rather than communist, but it would make them squirm all the same — especially given the eery similarity between Lionel Barrymore’s Mr. Potter and you know who.

The oligarchy’s ultimate political weapon

If you’re discouraged by what’s happening in the country, that is by design.

The forces undermining our democracy, polluting our planet, and stoking hatred are counting on you to give up. But we must not let them.

They use their allies in political office to grind the gears of government to a halt, so people see government as the problem, not the solution. But if there’s one thing we learned from this wretched pandemic, it’s that government intervention can reduce poverty and suffering, and we can afford to pay for it.

They want us to become so discouraged that we stop showing up to vote. Another victory for them. Those who want you to believe that change is not possible are counting on you to forget that history and give up. Don’t.

PS: If you’d like to join me on a (nearly) daily basis, please subscribe at

We're still missing the truth about what the Jan. 6 attack really meant

January 6 will be remembered as one of the most shameful days in American history. On that date in 2021, the United States Capitol was attacked by thousands of armed loyalists to Donald Trump, some intent on killing members of Congress. Roughly 140 officers were injured in the attack. Five people died that day.

But even now, almost a year later, Americans remain confused and divided about the significance of what occurred.

Let me offer four basic truths:

1. Trump incited the attack on the Capitol.

For weeks before the attack, Trump had been urging his supporters to come to Washington for a “Save America March” on January 6, when Congress was to ceremonially count the electoral votes of Joe Biden’s win. Without any basis in fact or law (60 federal courts as well as the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security concluded that there was no evidence of substantial fraud), Trump repeatedly asserted he had won the 2020 election and Biden had lost it.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted on December 19. Then on December 26: “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it. Information to follow.” On December 30: “JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!” On January 1: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C. will take place at 11:00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”

At a rally just before the violence, Trump repeated his falsehoods about how the election was stolen. “We will never give up,” he said. “We will never concede. It will never happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.”

He told the crowd that Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back, respectful of everyone — “including bad people.”

But, he said, “we’re going to have to fight much harder…. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong…. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.“

He then told the crowd that “different rules” applied to them. “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules. So I hope Mike [Pence] has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs [Republicans in Name Only] and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”

Then he dispatched the crowd to the Capitol as the electoral count was about to start. The attack on the Capitol came immediately after.

2. The events of January 6 capped two months during which Trump sought to reverse the outcome of the election.

Shortly after the election, Trump summoned to the White House Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania and Michigan, to inquire about how they might alter the election results. He even called two local canvassing board officials in Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county and one that overwhelmingly favored Biden.

He phoned Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes,” according to a recording of that conversation, adding “the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.”

He suggested that Georgia’s secretary of state would be criminally prosecuted if he did not do as Trump told him. “You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. You know, that’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk.”

He pressed the acting US attorney general and deputy attorney general to declare the election fraudulent. When the deputy said the department had found no evidence of widespread fraud and warned that it had no power to change the outcome of the election, Trump replied “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and to Trump’s congressional allies.

Trump and his allies continued to harangue the attorney general and top Justice Department officials nearly every day until January 6. Trump plotted with an assistant attorney general to oust the acting attorney general and pressure lawmakers in Georgia to overturn the state’s election results. But Trump ultimately decided against it after top department leaders pledged to resign en masse.

Presumably, more details of Trump’s attempted coup will emerge after the House Select Committee on January 6 gathers more evidence and deposes more witnesses.

3. Trump’s attempted coup continues to this day.

Trump still refuses to concede the election and continues to assert it was stolen. He presides over a network of loyalists and allies who have sought to overturn the election (and erode public confidence in it) by mounting partisan state “audits” and escalating attacks on state election officials. When asked recently about the fraudulent claims and increasingly incendiary rhetoric, a Trump spokeswoman said that the former president “supports any patriotic American who dedicates their time and effort to exposing the rigged 2020 Presidential Election.”

Trump recently announced he would be hosting a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on January 6.

“Remember,” he said in the announcement “the insurrection took place on November 3rd. It was the completely unarmed protest of the rigged election that took place on January 6th.” (Reminder: they were armed.) Trump then referred to the House investigation: “Why isn’t the Unselect Committee of highly partisan political hacks investigating the CAUSE of the January 6th protest, which was the rigged Presidential Election of 2020?”

He went on to castigate “Rinos,” presumably referring to his opponents within the party, such as Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who sit on the January 6 committee. “In many ways a Rino is worse than a Radical Left Democrat,” Trump said, “because you don’t know where they are coming from and you have no idea how bad they really are for our Country.” He added, “the good news is there are fewer and fewer RINOs left as we elect strong Patriots who love America.”

Trump has endorsed a primary challenger to Cheney, while Kinzinger will leave Congress at the next election. Trump and other Republicans have also moved to punish 13 House Republicans who bucked party leadership and voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill in November.

4. All of this reveals a deep problem in America that must be addressed

Trump and his co-conspirators must be held accountable, of course. Hopefully, the Select Committee’s report will be used by the Justice Department in criminal prosecutions of Trump and his accomplices.

But this in itself will not solve the underlying problem. A belligerent and narcissistic authoritarian has gained a powerful hold over a large portion of America. As many as 60 percent of Republican voters continue to believe his lies. Many remain intensely loyal. The Republican party is close to becoming a cult whose central animating idea is that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Trump has had help, of course. Fox News hosts and Facebook groups have promoted and amplified his ravings for their own purposes. Republicans in Congress and in the states have played along.

But even with this help, Trump’s attempted coup could not have gotten this far without something more basic: A substantial portion of the American population feels an anger and despair that has made them susceptible to Trump’s swagger and lies.

It is too simplistic to attribute this solely to racism or xenophobia. America has harbored white supremacist and anti-immigrant sentiments since its founding. The despair Trump has channeled is more closely connected to a profound loss of identity, dignity and purpose, especially among Americans who have been left behind – without college degrees, without good jobs, in places that have been economically abandoned and disdained by much of the rest of the country.

The wages of these Americans have not risen in forty years, adjusted for inflation, even though the economy is now three times larger than it was four decades ago. The norm of upward mobility has been shattered for these Americans. Through their eyes, the entire American system is now rigged against them.

This part of America yearns for a strongman to deliver it from despair. Trump has filled that void. To be sure, he’s filled it with bombast, lies, paranoia, and neofascism. But he has filled it nonetheless.

The challenge ahead is to fill it with a democracy and economy that work for everyone. Unless we understand and respond to this fundamental truth, we will miss the true meaning of January 6.

Robert Reich: It’s no secret — Joe Manchin represents the monied interests and nobody else

The next ten days may well offer the last opportunity to enact Biden's agenda, because once Congress returns from Christmas break it's the new year—which is a danger zone for new legislation. Even when Democrats control all three branches—as they do now and did during first two years of Obama and Clinton—the second year is perilous because of the overwhelming gravitational pull of the midterm elections (I have a searing memory of Bill Clinton unable to summon a Democratic majority in 1994 for his healthcare bill).

Joe Manchin illustrates that the real division in American politics is no longer left versus right, conservative versus liberal, even Democrat versus Republican. The real division is democracy versus the moneyed interests.

But Senator Joe Manchin, the putative Democrat from West Virginia, refuses to vote on Biden's sweeping "Build Back Better" climate and social spending package before Christmas—which puts BBB into the 2022 danger zone. (Arizona's Senator Kyrsten Sinema will go along with whatever Manchin decides.) Biden is meeting with Manchin today to try to get his and support for a vote before the holidays, but no one believes the meeting will change Manchin's position.

Why is Manchin so obstinate? I once thought he was trying to protect West Virginia's coal mining industry and he worried that Build Back Better's climate provisions would hasten its demise. But West Virginia's coal industry employs only around 13,000 workers—less than 2 percent of the state's work force. Not even Manchin's personal financial interests in coal would be much diminished if BBB's climate measures were enacted.

Manchin's resistance becomes even more puzzling when you realize that West Virginia's biggest industry by far is health care, which employs more than 100,000 people (including many middle-class jobs). Build Back Better would make it easier for many West Virginians to get health care.

West Virginians do not have particularly good health. Of all the data I've come across about West Virginia, what strikes me most is that a quarter of West Virginians 65 and older have no natural teeth. That's the highest rate of tooth loss of any state in America. Why is this? Because West Virginians can't afford dental care. So they skip regular cleanings and exams, which are crucial for preventing infections and tooth loss.

Medicare does not cover dental care. Biden and progressives, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, tried to add dental benefits to the Build Back Better Act. But guess who opposes adding dental and other benefits for Medicare beneficiaries? West Virginia's own senior senator, Joe Manchin. He says adding a dental benefit will cost the federal governmenttoo much. Too much? Even when it comes to the health of his own constituents? By the way, this is the same Joe Manchin who has had no qualms about spending tens of billions more on the military.

In recent weeks Manchin has added another twist to his opposition to Build Back Better, raising concerns that it will worsen inflation. I'm not convinced we need to worry about inflation at all (even though a government report out Friday showed that prices have grown nearly 7 percent in the past year, the biggest one-year surge since the early 1980s). But even if you think inflation is a problem, Build Back Better won't worsen it. Study after study confirm that it's unlikely to have any effect on inflation. If anything, it will cut American's out-of-pocket costs for childcare, healthcare, housing, eldercare, and energy. And because BBB would be paid for with tax increases on large corporations, its inflationary impact would be zero at worst.

Manchin is riding a wave of negativity about the economy (and is contributing to it with all his worrying statements about inflation). Roughly 70 percent of Americans now rate the economy as bad (with nearly half of Americans and political independents blaming Biden for inflation, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll). The negativity is also making it difficult for Biden to get his agenda enacted before the holidays.

Yet apart from inflation, the U.S. economy hasn't performed this well in years. It's created more than 6 million jobs since Biden took office, a rate higher than any in history. New claims for unemployment insurance dropped to 184,000 last week, the lowest level in more than 52 years. Economic growth is surging far faster than most analysts predicted before this year. And a record 13 million Americans quit their jobs between August and October, a signaling unprecedented confidence in their ability to get better ones.

Even as Americans rate the overall economy poorly, they rate their personal finances as good. In an Associated Press poll, 64 percent describe their personal finances as good while only 35 percent describe the national economy as good. Why the split view? Probably because most people don't separate their assessment of the "economy" from their view of the state of America as a whole, which—given that 60 percent of Republican voters continue to believe the 2020 election was stolen, Americans continue to be stressed about Covid (average blood pressure has risen), and fatal drug overdoses have soared—is sour. (A report last week from the surgeon general found that depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and attempted suicides had all risen among children and adolescents.)

Working-class and poor Americans have had an especially hard time of it. They also will be hardest hit when the Supreme Court, as expected, reverses Roe vs. Wade and allows states to ban abortions. That's because the working class and poor typically don't have the resources to travel to other states where abortions are legal. Since Sept. 1, when Texas's law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect, hundreds of Texans have traveled out of state to obtain an abortion—but those who can't afford to do so have remained pregnant against their will. (On Friday, the Supreme Court's Republican majority decided not to block the law, which gives private citizens the right to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone terminate a pregnancy after six weeks.)

At some point soon, Americans will need a federal law that codifies the right to an abortion. Democrats appear ready to enact it. Who's likely to stand in the way? Joe Manchin.

Which takes us back to the Manchin paradox. If nothing else explains Manchin's delaying tactics on Build Back Better, what's the real explanation? I think it's Manchin's campaign donors. According to campaign-finance tracking by Accountable.US, as of September Manchin had received more than $1.5 million from corporations that are opposed to the Build Back Better bill (Sinema got nearly $1 million). That's a big chunk of change for a senator from West Virginia, and it's only likely to get larger over coming weeks as Manchin delays a vote.

Joe Manchin illustrates that the real division in American politics is no longer left versus right, conservative versus liberal, even Democrat versus Republican. The real division is democracy versus the moneyed interests.

What do you think?

From Your Site Articles

DC insider explains how unaccountable institutions are shaping your life

Three centers of power increasingly dominate our lives, but are less and less accountable: The Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, and Big Tech.

The Supreme Court

Start with the high court. These nine unelected individuals – all appointed for life – are about to revolutionize America in ways the majority of Americans don’t want. This court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 reproductive rights ruling; declare a century-old New York law against carrying firearms unconstitutional; and strip federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate private businesses. And much more.

Let me remind you that five of the current justices were put there by presidents who lost the popular vote in their first election. Only 40 percent of the public now approves of the Supreme Court’s performance, a new low. Yet because justices are appointed for life, its members are immune to checks and balances, no matter how unpopular their rulings may be.

READ: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brilliantly breaks down what’s really going on with inflation

The Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve is almost as unaccountable as the high court.

Presidents appoint Fed chairs for 4-year terms, but tend to stick with them longer for fear of rattling Wall Street, which wants stability and fat profits. (Alan Greenspan, a Reagan appointee, lasted almost 20 years, surviving two Bushes and Bill Clinton). President Biden has just reappointed Jerome Powell, the current Fed chair, for example.

Because it sets interest rates and regulates finance, the Fed can either keep the economy going near full employment or put millions of people out of work. Powell has kept interest rates near zero —appropriate for an economy still suffering the ravages of the pandemic.

But he has also bailed out America’s biggest corporations by taking on their junk debt, which they then used to buy back their own stock to the benefit of their CEOs and major investors. And he’s allowed Wall Street to go back to risky betting—prompting Senator Elizabeth Warren to say this:

Warren: “Your record gives me grave concern. Over and over you have acted to make our banking system less safe, and that makes you a dangerous man to head up the fed.

How Unaccountable Institutions Are Shaping Your Life | Robert

Big Tech

Lastly, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook all wield enormous power over our lives, and they too are unaccountable to the public good. They’re taking on roles that once belonged to the government, whether it’s blasting into space or running cybersecurity.

And their decisions about which demagogues are allowed to communicate with the public and what lies they’re allowed to spew have profound consequences for whether democracy or authoritarianism prevails.

Worst of all, they’re sowing hate and division. As Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, revealed, Facebook’s algorithm is designed to choose content that will make users angry. Why? Anger generates the most engagement — and user engagement turns into ad dollars. (The same is likely true of the algorithms used by Google, Amazon, and Apple.)

And yet, decisions at these companies are accountable only to their shareholders, not the public.

Beware. Democracy depends on accountability. If abuses of power go unchallenged, those who wield power will continue to consolidate it. It’s a vicious cycle that erodes faith in democracy and breeds cynicism.

So how do we break the cycle and hold these power centers accountable?

  1. Rotate Supreme Court justices with appellate judges and add more justices to the Court.
  2. Demand transparency from the Fed, and have an open debate on who should run it instead of letting Wall Street effectively decide.
  3. And finally, treat Big Tech companies as public utilities and regulate them, or break them up.

I’ll be honest. It will take vast amounts of public pressure and intentional organizing to get these solutions enacted.

Our only option is to turn up the pressure and keep fighting for our democracy.

DC insider explains the shocking truth about who really benefits from America coming apart

Official Washington will be quiet this week, but the fallout from the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict will continue to divide America along the Trumpian fault lines of fear, violence, and racism.

Closing arguments are scheduled today in the trial of three men charged with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Though they chased him, they are claiming self-defense because, they say, Arbery tried to get control of a shotgun one of them was carrying. As with the Rittenhouse case, the trial raises questions of how self-defense laws will hold up as guns proliferate. Regardless of how it come out, the case also illustrates America's deepening split.

Congress's continuing investigation into the January 6 insurrection reveals the same rift, as will the Supreme Court's expected decision on executive privilege in that investigation, and its likely move to strike down New York State's law requiring people seeking licenses to carry handguns in public to show a "proper cause," as violating the Second Amendment.

The fault line has now extended into almost every facet of American lawmaking. When the "Build Back Better" bill passed the House late Friday night, 220 out of 221 Democrats voted for it. But all of the House's 213 Republicans voted against it. Why? The measures in the bill are hugely popular, according to polls. The bill includes the largest expansion of federal child-care assistance in history; free, universal prekindergarten for all American children ages 3 and 4; Medicare benefits covering hearing services; government for the first time being allowed to negotiate some prescription drug prices, aiming to lower the costs that seniors pay for lifesaving medicines such as insulin; and more than $550 billion to combat climate change — promoting greener energy and providing new perks for Americans who buy electric vehicles.

But policy popularity may be no match for fear, violence, and racism — which Republicans and the moneyed interests are now diligently exploiting to kill the bill in the Senate. So-called "moderate" Democrats (Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) have expressed skepticism about its cost and scope. It would be one thing if Manchin's and Sinema's reservations were in good faith, but how can they be? Manchin frets about the bill's effects on inflation even though the bill lowers prices for most Americans of major expenses like childcare, drugs, and healthcare. Sinema says she prefers "legislation that is crafted in a bipartisan way," but who is she kidding?Mitch McConnell has made clear he won't allow a single Republican senator to vote for the bill.

The votes of every Senate Democrat are needed if the bill is to pass, but Manchin and Sinema are allowing rightwing tropes — and the big money behind them — to divide Democrats. As the New York Times reported yesterday, cash has poured into Manchin's and Sinema's political coffers from political action committees and donors linked to Wall Street, Big Pharma, and Big Energy, which have opposed proposals in the bill that Manchin and Sinema helped scale back.

The question that keeps haunting me is this: Is an America so deeply divided, and awash in political money that exploits that divide, any longer capable of doing bold things that are broadly popular? The only big thing we continue to do is feed the ravenous military-industrial complex — itself founded on fear, violence, and racism. (Efforts to whip up a new cold war with China conjure up old fears of a "yellow peril.") Congress is on the verge of giving the Pentagon even more money than the Pentagon and the Biden administration are seeking. The nation's military tab over the next ten years will be upwards of $8 trillion and is not paid for with expected revenue, in sharp contrast with the $2 trillion cost of the House's "Build Back America" plan, which would be paid for with tax increases on the wealthy and big corporations.

That America is becoming two separate nations is threatening everything we value. The most obvious beneficiaries (besides top executives of big corporations and Wall Street) are Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Rupert Murdoch, who appear to be doing whatever they can to divide us even further.

How corporate power is the real driving force behind inflation

The biggest culprit for rising prices that's not being talked about is the increasing economic concentration of the American economy in the hands of a relative few giant big corporations with the power to raise prices.

If markets were competitive, companies would seek to keep their prices down in order to maintain customer loyalty and demand. When the prices of their supplies rose, they'd cut their profits before they raised prices to their customers, for fear that otherwise a competitor would grab those customers away.

But strange enough, this isn't happening. In fact, even in the face of supply constraints, corporations are raking in record profits. More than 80 percent of big (S&P 500) companies that have reported results this season have topped analysts' earnings forecasts, according to Refinitiv.

Obviously, supply constraints have not eroded these profits. Corporations are simply passing the added costs on to their customers. Many are raising their prices even further, and pocketing even more.

How can this be? For a simple and obvious reason: Most don't have to worry about competitors grabbing their customers away. They have so much market power they can relax and continue to rake in big money.

The underlying structural problem isn't that government is over-stimulating the economy. It's that big corporations are under competitive.

Corporations are using the excuse of inflation to raise prices and make fatter profits. The result is a transfer of wealth from consumers to corporate executives and major investors.

This has nothing to do with inflation, folks. It has everything to do with the concentration of market power in a relatively few hands.

It's called "oligopoly," where two or three companies roughly coordinate their prices and output.

Judd Legum provides some good examples in his newsletter. He points to two firms that are giants in household staples: Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark. In April, Procter & Gamble announced it would start charging more for everything from diapers to toilet paper, citing "rising costs for raw materials, such as resin and pulp, and higher expenses to transport goods."

Baloney. P&G is raking in huge profits. In the quarter ending September 30, after some of its price increases went into effect, it reported a whopping 24.7% profit margin. Oh, and it spent $3 billion in the quarter buying its own stock.

How can this be? Because P&G faces very little competition. According to a report released this month from the Roosevelt Institute, "The lion's share of the market for diapers," for example, "is controlled by just two companies (P&G and Kimberly-Clark), limiting competition for cheaper options."

So it wasn't exactly a coincidence that Kimberly-Clark announced similar price increases at the same time as P&G. Both corporations are doing wonderfully well. But American consumers are paying more.

Or consider another major consumer product oligopoly: PepsiCo (the parent company of Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Quaker, Tropicana, and other brands), and Coca Cola. In April, PepsiCo announced it was increasing prices, blaming "higher costs for some ingredients, freight and labor."

Rubbish. The company recorded $3 billion in operating profits and increased its projections for the rest of the year, and expects to send $5.8 billion in dividends to shareholders in 2021.

If PepsiCo faced tough competition it could never have gotten away with this. But it doesn't. In fact, it appears to have colluded with its chief competitor, Coca-Cola – which, oddly, announced price increases at about the same time as PepsiCo, and has increased its profit margins to 28.9%.

And on it goes around the entire consumer sector of the American economy.

You can see a similar pattern in energy prices. Once it became clear that demand was growing, energy producers could have quickly ramped up production to create more supply. But they didn't.

Why not? Industry experts say oil and gas companies (and their CEOs and major investors) saw bigger money in letting prices run higher before producing more supply.

They can get away with this because big oil and gas producers don't face much competition. They're powerful oligopolies.

Again, inflation isn't driving most of these price increases. Corporate power is driving them.

Since the 1980s, when the federal government all but abandoned antitrust enforcement, two-thirds of all American industries have become more concentrated.

Monsanto now sets the prices for most of the nation's seed corn.

The government green-lighted Wall Street's consolidation into five giant banks, of which JPMorgan is the largest.

It okayed airline mergers, bringing the total number of American carriers down from twelve in 1980 to four today, which now control 80 percent of domestic seating capacity.

It let Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merge, leaving America with just one major producer of civilian aircraft, Boeing.

Three giant cable companies dominate broadband [Comcast, AT&T, Verizon].

A handful of drug companies control the pharmaceutical industry [Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck].

So what's the appropriate response to the latest round of inflation? The Federal Reserve has signaled it won't raise interest rates for the time being, believing that the inflation is being driven by temporary supply bottlenecks.

Meanwhile, Biden Administration officials have been consulting with the oil industry in an effort to stem rising gas prices, trying to make it simpler to issue commercial driver's licenses (to help reduce the shortage of truck drivers), and seeking to unclog over-crowded container ports.

But none of this responds to the deeper structural issue – of which price inflation is symptom: the increasing consolidation of the economy in a relative handful of big corporations with enough power to raise prices and increase profits.

This structural problem is amenable to only one thing: the aggressive use of antitrust law.

Former labor secretary breaks down 'the cruelest form of capitalism in the world'

Elon Musk's wealth has surpassed $200 billion. It would take the median U.S. worker over 4 million years to make that much.

Wealth inequality is eating this country alive. We're now in America's second Gilded Age, just like the late 19th century when a handful of robber barons monopolized the economy, kept wages down, and bribed lawmakers.

While today's robber barons take joy rides into space, the distance between their gargantuan wealth and the financial struggles of working Americans has never been clearer. During the first 19 months of the pandemic, U.S. billionaires added $2.1 trillion dollars to their collective wealth and that number continues to rise.

And the rich have enough political power to cut their taxes to almost nothing—sometimes literally nothing. In fact, Jeff Bezos paid no federal income taxes in 2007 or in 2011. By 2018, the 400 richest Americans paid a lower overall tax rate than almost anyone else.


But we can not solve this problem unless we know how it was created in the first place.

Let's start with the basics.

I. The Basics

Wealth inequality in America is far larger than income inequality.

Income is what you earn each week or month or year. Wealth refers to the sum total of your assets—your car, your stocks and bonds, your home, art—anything else you own that's valuable.Valuable not only because there's a market for it—a price other people are willing to pay to buy it—but because wealth itself grows.

As the population expands and the nation becomes more productive, the overall economy continues to expand. This expansion pushes up the values of stocks, bonds, rental property, homes, and most other assets. Of course recessions and occasional depressions can reduce the value of such assets. But over the long haul, the value of almost all wealth increases.

Lesson: Wealth compounds over time.

Next: personal wealth comes from two sources.The first source is the income you earn but don't spend. That's your savings. When you invest those savings in stocks, bonds, or real property or other assets, you create your personal wealth— which, as we've seen, grows over time.

The second source of personal wealth is whatever is handed down to you from your parents, grandparents, and maybe even generations before them—in other words, what you inherit.

Lesson: Personal wealth comes from your savings and/or your inheritance.

II. Why the wealth gap is exploding

The wealth gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is staggering.
In the 1970s, the wealthiest 1 percent owned about 20 percent of the nation's total household wealth.Now, they own over 35 percent.

Much of their gains over the last 40 years have come from a dramatic increase in the value of shares of stock.

For example, if someone invested $1,000 in 1978 in a broad index of stocks—say, the S&P 500 they would have $31,823 today, adjusted for inflation.

Who has benefited from this surge? The richest 1 percent, who now own half of the entire stock market. But the typical worker's wages have barely grown.

Most Americans haven't earned enough to save anything. Before the pandemic, when the economy appeared to be doing well, almost 80 percent were living paycheck to paycheck.

Lesson: Most Americans don't make enough to save money and build wealth.

So as income inequality has widened, the amount that the few high-earning households save—their wealth—has continued to grow. Their growing wealth has allowed them to pass on more and more wealth to their heirs.

Take, for example, the Waltons—the family behind the Walmart empire—which has seven heirs on the Forbes billionaires list. Their children, and other rich millennials, will soon consolidate even more of the nation's wealth. America is now on the cusp of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers pass on, somewhere between $30 to $70 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.

These children will be able to live off of this wealth, and then leave the bulk of it—which will continue growing—to their own children … tax-free. After a few generations of this, almost all of America's wealth could be in the hands of a few thousand families.

Lesson: Dynastic wealth continues to grow.

III. Why wealth concentration is a problem

Concentrated wealth is already endangering our democracy. Wealth doesn't just beget more wealth—it begets more power.

Dynastic wealth concentrates power into the hands of fewer and fewer people, who can choose what nonprofits and charities to support and which politicians to bankroll. This gives an unelected elite enormous sway over both our economy and our democracy.

If this keeps up, we'll come to resemble the kind of dynasties common to European aristocracies in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

Dynastic wealth makes a mockery of the idea that America is a meritocracy, where anyone can make it on the basis of their own efforts. It also runs counter to the basic economic ideas that people earn what they're worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them.

Finally, wealth concentration magnifies gender and race disparities because women and people of color tend to make less, save less, and inherit less.
The typical single woman owns only 32 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by a man. The pandemic likely increased this gap.

The racial wealth gap is even starker. The typical Black household owns just 13 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by the typical white household. The pandemic likely increased this gap, too.

In all these ways, dynastic wealth creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy that runs counter to the ideals we claim to live by.

Lesson: Dynastic wealth creates a self-perpetuating aristocracy.

IV. How America dealt with wealth inequality during the First Gilded Age

The last time America faced anything comparable to the concentration of wealth we face today was at the turn of the 20th century. That was when President Teddy Roosevelt warned that "a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power" could destroy American democracy.

Roosevelt's answer was to tax wealth. Congress enacted two kinds of wealth taxes. The first, in 1916, was the estate tax—a tax on the wealth someone has accumulated during their lifetime, paid by the heirs who inherit that wealth.

The second tax on wealth, enacted in 1922, was a capital gains tax—a tax on the increased value of assets, paid when those assets are sold.

Lesson: The estate tax and the capital gains tax were created to curb wealth concentration.

But both of these wealth taxes have shrunk since then, or become so riddled with loopholes that they haven't been able to prevent a new American aristocracy from emerging.

The Trump Republican tax cut enabled individuals to exclude $11.18 million from their estate taxes. That means one couple can pass on more than $22 million to their kids tax-free. Not to mention the very rich often find ways around this tax entirely. As Trump's former White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn put it, "only morons pay the estate tax."

What about capital gains on the soaring values of wealthy people's stocks, bonds, mansions, and works of art? Here, the biggest loophole is something called the "stepped-up basis." If the wealthy hold on to these assets until they die, their heirs inherit them without paying any capital gains taxes whatsoever. All the increased value of those assets is simply erased, for tax purposes. This loophole saves heirs an estimated $40 billion a year.

This means that huge accumulations of wealth in the hands of a relatively few households can be passed from generation to generation untaxed—growing along the way—generating comfortable incomes for rich descendants who will never have to work a day of their lives. That's the dynastic class we're creating right now.

Lesson: The estate tax and the capital gains tax have been gutted.

Why have these two wealth taxes eroded? Because, as America's wealth has concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the wealthy have more capacity to donate to political campaigns and public relations—and they've used that political power to reduce their taxes. It's exactly what Teddy Roosevelt feared so many years ago.

V. How to reduce the wealth gap

So what do we do? Follow the wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt and tax great accumulations of wealth.

The ultra-rich have benefited from the American system—from laws that protect their wealth, and our economy that enabled them to build their fortunes in the first place. They should pay their fair share.

The majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, believe the ultra rich should pay higher taxes. There are many ways to make them do so: closing the stepped up basis loophole, raising the capital gains tax, and fully funding the Internal Revenue Service so it can properly audit the wealthiest taxpayers, for starters.

Beyond those fixes, we need a new wealth tax: a tax of just 2 percent a year on wealth in excess of $1 million. That's hardly a drop in the bucket for centi-billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, but would generate plenty of revenue to invest in healthcare and education so that millions of Americans have a fair shot at making it.

One of the most important things you as an individual can do is take the time to understand the realities of wealth inequality in America and how the system has become rigged in favor of those at the top—and demand your political representatives take action to unrig it.

Wealth inequality is worse than it has been in a century—and it has contributed to a vicious political-economic cycle in which taxes are cut on the top, resulting in even more concentration of wealth there—while everyone else lives under the cruelest form of capitalism in the world.

We must stop this vicious cycle—and demand an economy that works for the many, not one that concentrates more and more wealth in the hands of a privileged few.

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