Robert Reich's Blog

How corporations crush the working class

The most dramatic change in the system over the last half-century has been the emergence of corporate giants like Amazon and the shrinkage of labor unions.

The resulting power imbalance has spawned near-record inequalities of income and wealth, corruption of democracy by big money, and the abandonment of the working class.

Fifty years ago, General Motors was the largest employer in America. The typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today's dollars and had a major say over working conditions.

Today's largest employers are Amazon and Walmart, each paying far less per hour and routinely exploiting their workers, who have little recourse.

The typical GM worker wasn't "worth" so much more than today's Amazon or Walmart worker and didn't have more valuable insights about working conditions.

The difference is those GM workers had a strong union. They were backed by the collective bargaining power of more than a third of the entire American workforce.

Today, most workers are on their own. Only 6.4% of America's private-sector workers are unionized, providing little collective pressure on Amazon, Walmart, or other major employers to treat their workers any better.

Fifty years ago, the labor movement had enough political clout to ensure labor laws were enforced and that the government pushed giant firms like GM to sustain the middle class.

Today, organized labor's political clout is minuscule by comparison.

The biggest political players are giant corporations like Amazon. They've used that political muscle to back "right-to-work" laws, whittle down federal labor protections, and keep the National Labor Relations Board understaffed and overburdened, allowing them to get away with egregious union-busting tactics.

They've also impelled government to lower their taxes; extorted states to provide them tax breaks as a condition for locating facilities there; bullied cities where they're headquartered; and wangled trade treaties allowing them to outsource so many jobs that blue-collar workers in America have little choice but to take low-paying, high-stress warehouse and delivery gigs.

Oh, and they've neutered antitrust laws, which in an earlier era would have had companies like Amazon in their crosshairs.

This decades-long power shift – the ascent of corporate leviathans and the demise of labor unions – has resulted in a massive upward redistribution of income and wealth. The richest 0.1% of Americans now have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90% put together.

The power shift can be reversed – but only with stronger labor laws resulting in more unions, tougher trade deals, and a renewed commitment to antitrust.

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats appear willing. The House has just passed the toughest labor reforms in more than a generation. Biden's new trade representative, promises trade deals will protect American workers rather than exporters. And Biden is putting trustbusters in critical positions at the Federal Trade Commission and in the White House.

And across the country, labor activism has surged – from the Amazon union effort, to frontline workers walking out and striking to demand better pay, benefits, and safety protections.

I'd like to think America is at a tipping point similar to where it was some 120 years ago, when the ravages and excesses of the Gilded Age precipitated what became known as the Progressive Era. Then, reformers reined in the unfettered greed and inequalities of the day and made the system work for the many rather than the few.

It's no exaggeration to say that we're now living in a Second Gilded Age. And today's progressive activists may be on the verge of ushering us into a Second Progressive Era. They need all the support we can give them.


How Corporations Crush the Working Class | Robert Reich www.youtube.com

The basic deal between corporate America and the GOP is alive and well

For four decades, the basic deal between big American corporations and politicians has been simple. Corporations provide campaign funds. Politicians reciprocate by lowering corporate taxes and doing whatever else corporations need to boost profits.

The deal has proven beneficial to both sides, although not to the American public. Campaign spending has soared while corporate taxes have shriveled.

In the 1950s, corporations accounted for about 40 percent of federal revenue. Today, they contribute a meager 7 percent. Last year, more than 50 of the largest U.S. companies paid no federal income taxes at all. Many haven't paid taxes for years.

Both parties have been in on this deal although the GOP has been the bigger player. Yet since Donald Trump issued his big lie about the fraudulence of the 2020 election, corporate America has had a few qualms about its deal with the GOP.

After the storming of the Capitol, dozens of giant corporations said they would no longer donate to the 147 Republican members of Congress who objected to the certification of Biden electors on the basis of the big lie.

Then came the GOP's recent wave of restrictive state voting laws, premised on the same big lie. Georgia's are among the most egregious. The chief executive of Coca Cola, headquartered in the peach tree state, calls those laws "wrong" and "a step backward." The CEO of Delta Airlines, Georgia's largest employer, says they're "unacceptable." Major League Baseball decided to relocate its annual All-Star Game away from the home of the Atlanta Braves.

These criticisms have unleashed a rare firestorm of anti-corporate Republican indignation. The senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, warns corporations of unspecified "serious consequences" for speaking out. Republicans are moving to revoke Major League Baseball's antitrust status. Georgia Republicans threaten to punish Delta Airlines by repealing a state tax credit for jet fuel.

"Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & antitrust?" asks Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Why? For the same reason Willy Sutton gave when asked why he robbed banks: That's where the money is.

McConnell told reporters that corporations should "stay out of politics" but then qualified his remark: "I'm not talking about political contributions." Of course not. Republicans have long championed "corporate speech" when it comes in the form of campaign cash – just not as criticism.

Talk about hypocrisy. McConnell was the top recipient of corporate money in the 2020 election cycle and has a long history of battling attempts to limit it. In 2010, he hailed the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" ruling, which struck down limits on corporate political donations, on the dubious grounds that corporations are "people" under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

"For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process," McConnell said at the time. Hint: He wasn't referring to poor Black people.

It's hypocrisy squared. The growing tsunami of corporate campaign money suppresses votes indirectly by drowning out all other voices. Republicans are in the grotesque position of calling on corporations to continue bribing politicians as long as they don't criticize Republicans for suppressing votes directly.

The hypocrisy flows in the other direction as well. The Delta's CEO criticized GOP voter suppression but the company continues to bankroll Republicans. Its PAC contributed $1,725,956 in the 2020 election, more than $1 million of which went to federal candidates, mostly to Republicans. Oh, and Delta hasn't paid federal taxes for years.

Don't let the spat fool you. The basic deal between the GOP and corporate America is still very much alive.

Which is why, despite record-low corporate taxes, congressional Republicans are feigning outrage at Joe Biden's plan to have corporations pay for his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Biden isn't even seeking to raise the corporate tax rate as high as it was before the Trump tax cut, yet not a single Republicans will support it.

A few Democrats, such as West Virginia's Joe Manchin, don't want to raise corporate taxes as high as Biden does, either. Yet almost two-thirds of Americans support the idea.

The basic deal between American corporations and American politicians has been a terrible deal for America. Which is why a piece of legislation entitled the "For the People Act," passed by the House and co-sponsored in the Senate by every Democratic senator except Manchin, is so important. It would both stop states from suppressing votes and also move the country toward public financing of elections, thereby reducing politicians' dependence on corporate cash.

Corporations can and should bankroll much of what America needs. But they won't as long as corporations keep bankrolling American politicians.

How America has come to a tipping point in our Second Gilded Age

The most dramatic change in the system over the last half-century has been the emergence of corporate giants like Amazon and the shrinkage of labor unions.

The resulting power imbalance has spawned near-record inequalities of income and wealth, corruption of democracy by big money, and the abandonment of the working class.

Fifty years ago, General Motors was the largest employer in America. The typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today's dollars and had a major say over working conditions.

Today's largest employers are Amazon and Walmart, each paying far less per hour and routinely exploiting their workers, who have little recourse.

The typical GM worker wasn't "worth" so much more than today's Amazon or Walmart worker and didn't have more valuable insights about working conditions.

The difference is those GM workers had a strong union. They were backed by the collective bargaining power of more than a third of the entire American workforce.

Today, most workers are on their own. Only 6.4% of America's private-sector workers are unionized, providing little collective pressure on Amazon, Walmart, or other major employers to treat their workers any better.

Fifty years ago, the labor movement had enough political clout to ensure labor laws were enforced and that the government pushed giant firms like GM to sustain the middle class.

Today, organized labor's political clout is minuscule by comparison.

The biggest political players are giant corporations like Amazon. They've used that political muscle to back "right-to-work" laws, whittle down federal labor protections, and keep the National Labor Relations Board understaffed and overburdened, allowing them to get away with egregious union-busting tactics.

They've also impelled government to lower their taxes; extorted states to provide them tax breaks as a condition for locating facilities there; bullied cities where they're headquartered; and wangled trade treaties allowing them to outsource so many jobs that blue-collar workers in America have little choice but to take low-paying, high-stress warehouse and delivery gigs.

Oh, and they've neutered antitrust laws, which in an earlier era would have had companies like Amazon in their crosshairs.

This decades-long power shift – the ascent of corporate leviathans and the demise of labor unions – has resulted in a massive upward redistribution of income and wealth. The richest 0.1% of Americans now have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90% put together.

The power shift can be reversed – but only with stronger labor laws resulting in more unions, tougher trade deals, and a renewed commitment to antitrust.

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats appear willing. The House has just passed the toughest labor reforms in more than a generation. Biden's new trade representative, promises trade deals will protect American workers rather than exporters. And Biden is putting trustbusters in critical positions at the Federal Trade Commission and in the White House.

And across the country, labor activism has surged – from the Amazon union effort, to frontline workers walking out and striking to demand better pay, benefits, and safety protections.

I'd like to think America is at a tipping point similar to where it was some 120 years ago, when the ravages and excesses of the Gilded Age precipitated what became known as the Progressive Era. Then, reformers reined in the unfettered greed and inequalities of the day and made the system work for the many rather than the few.

It's no exaggeration to say that we're now living in a Second Gilded Age. And today's progressive activists may be on the verge of ushering us into a Second Progressive Era. They need all the support we can give them.

Here's why Biden doesn't want to sound like Trump

Joe Biden is embarking on the biggest government initiative in more than a half century, "unlike anything we have seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades go," he says.

But when it comes to details, it sounds as boring as fixing the plumbing.

"Under the American Jobs Plan, 100% of our nation's lead pipes and service lines will be replaced—so every child in America can turn on the faucet or fountain and drink clean water," the president tweeted.

Can you imagine Donald Trump tweeting about repairing lead pipes?

Biden is excited about rebuilding America's "infrastructure," a word he uses constantly although it could be the dullest term in all of public policy. "Infrastructure Week" became a punchline under Trump.

The old unwritten rule was that if a president wants to do something really big, he has to justify it as critical to national defense or else summon the nation's conscience.

Dwight Eisenhower's National Interstate and Defense Highway Act was designed to "permit quick evacuation of target areas" in case of nuclear attack and get munitions rapidly from city to city. Of course, in subsequent years it proved indispensable to America's economic growth.

America's huge investment in higher education in the late 1950s was spurred by the Soviets' Sputnik satellite. The official purpose of the National Defense Education Act, as it was named, was to "insure trained manpower of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the national defense needs of the United States."

John F. Kennedy launched the race to the moon in 1962 so that space wouldn't be "governed by a hostile flag of conquest."

Two years later, Lyndon Johnson's "unconditional war on poverty" drew on the conscience of America reeling from Kennedy's assassination.

But Joe Biden is not arousing the nation against a foreign power – not even China figures prominently as a foil – nor is he basing his plans on lofty appeals to national greatness or public morality.

"I got elected to solve problems," he says, simply. He's Mr. Fix-it.

The first of these problems was a pandemic that's killed hundreds of thousands of Americans – Biden carries a card in his pocket updating the exact number – and its ensuing economic hardship.

In response, Congress passed Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – the most important parts of which aren't $1,400 checks now being mailed to millions of Americans but $3,600 checks a child paid to low-income families, which will cut child poverty by half.

Now comes his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which doesn't just fund roads and bridges but a vast number of things the nation has neglected for years: schools, affordable housing, in-home care, access to broadband, basic research, renewable energy, and the transition to a non-fossil economy.

Why isn't Biden trumpeting these initiatives for what they are – huge public investments in the environment, the working-class and poor – instead of rescue checks and road repairs? Why not stir America with a vision of what the nation can be if it exchanges fraudulent trickle-down economics for genuine bottom-up innovation and growth?

Even the official titles of his initiatives – Rescue Plan, Jobs Plan, and soon-to-be-unveiled Family Plan – are anodyne, like plumbing blueprints.

The reason is Biden wants Americans to feel confident he's taking care of the biggest problems but doesn't want to create much of a stir. The country is so bitterly and angrily divided that any stir is likely to stir up vitriol.

Talk too much about combatting climate change and lose everyone whose livelihood depends on fossil fuels or who doesn't regard climate change as an existential threat. Focus on cutting child poverty and lose everyone who thinks welfare causes dependency. Talk too much about critical technologies and lose those who don't believe government should be picking winners.

Rescue checks and road repairs may be boring but they're hugely popular. 61 percent of Americans support the American Rescue Plan, including 59 percent of Republicans. More than 80 percent support increased funding for highway construction, bridge repair and expanded access to broadband.

Biden has made it all so bland that congressional Republicans and their big business backers have nothing to criticize except his proposal to pay for the repairs by raising taxes on corporations, which most Americans support.

This is smart politics. Biden is embarking on a huge and long-overdue repair job on the physical and human underpinnings of the nation while managing to keep most of a bitterly divided country with him. It may not be seen as glamorous work, but when you're knee-deep in muck it's hard to argue with a plumber.

Here's the real deficit problem that America is facing

America has a deficit problem. But the country's biggest deficit isn't the federal budget deficit. It's the deficit in public investment.

The public investment deficit is the gap between what we should be investing in our future — on infrastructure, education, and basic research — and the relatively little we are investing.

Increasing public investment needs to be a major goal of the Biden administration.

Public investment is similar to private investment in that we invest today because of the payoff in the future. The difference is public investment pays off for all of us, for America.

In the 1960s, we used to make a lot of public investments. But they've been steadily declining ever since.

That decline has been largely driven by so-called "deficit hawks" who argue against more federal spending. But as I've been saying for years, reducing the federal deficit just for the sake of reducing it makes no sense.

Any business person knows that you borrow money for the sake of investing in the future of your business. Those are wise borrowings. Because then you can pay those debts off when they get bigger.

A national economy works exactly the same way. It doesn't matter that we're borrowing money, if we're investing those monies that we borrowed from abroad — in education, training, infrastructure, factories — but we're not.

The public return on infrastructure investment, based on 2020 report taking into account the pandemic, averages $2.70 for every single public dollar invested — yet we haven't made those investments. Our infrastructure today is crumbling.

The return on early childhood education is between 10 and 16 percent — but only a handful of our children have access to early childhood education.

Public investment on clean energy has an annual return of over 27 percent. But federal tax breaks favor fossil fuels over renewables by about 7 to 1.

The public return on investments in basic research and development are huge. America's competitiveness depends on them, because no individual company has an incentive to make them. The lithium-ion battery that powers iPhones and electric cars was developed by federally sponsored materials science research, while the Internet itself was borne out of the Advanced Research Projects Administration.

And yet in recent years, public investment in basic research has declined as well.

Are you seeing a pattern yet? Federal investments in all these areas have shrunk — even though the payoffs from these investments are gigantic, and the costs of not making them are astronomical. American productivity is already suffering.

Now, some say we don't need to worry about this public investment deficit because private investments fill the gap. Baloney.

Corporations are focused on getting the best return for themselves, not for America. For most of the last four decades, they've made money by lowering their costs, at the expense of working people: capping wages, reducing taxes, and deregulating.

A common assumption is that when American corporations are profitable, Americans are better off. But that's false. Trickle-down economics is a sham. Tax cuts and subsidies to big corporations and the wealthy don't build the economy. Economies don't grow from the top down — they grow from the bottom up, through public investment.

So if private investment won't fill the gap, how do we fill it? Two ways: tax the wealthy and large corporations, and borrow.

Tax rates on the wealthy and on corporations have continued to drop over the past 40 years, just as the deficit in public investment has grown. In the 1950s, the highest tax rate on individuals was over 90 percent. Even after tax deductions and credits, it was still over 40 percent. But since then, tax rates have dropped dramatically. For the first time on record, the 400 richest Americans now pay a lower effective tax rate than people in the bottom half.
Revenue from corporate taxes has also plummeted.

If wealthy individuals and corporations want all the advantages that come with being American, they have to pay taxes so America can afford the public investments necessary for a high-wage, high-productivity society.

The other way to pay for public investment is through public borrowing. This kind of borrowing doesn't burden future generations, because it's used to build a better future for those future generations.

Remember: There's a difference between borrowing for the future and borrowing for today. You might not want to borrow to pay for a vacation, but it's perfectly rational to borrow to purchase a house, because a vacation doesn't have any future return, while a home does. Right now, the federal budget irrationally treats all government borrowing the same.

The government needs a public investment budget separate from the current spending budget to clarify what we're investing in and allow us to keep borrowing for investments as long as the returns justify it.

Public investment is the biggest and most important deficit you've never heard of.

Don't listen to people who claim we can't afford to invest in the American people. We can afford it. We can't afford not to. Joe Biden needs to recognize this, and make public investment a central part of his economic strategy.

Trump left his party in tatters — and Biden is poised to change America

While most of official Washington has been consumed with the Senate impeachment trial, another part of Washington is preparing the most far-ranging changes in American social policy in a generation.

Congress is moving ahead with Biden's American Rescue Plan, which expands health care and unemployment benefits, and contains one of the most ambitious efforts to reduce child poverty since the New Deal. Right behind it is Biden's plan for infrastructure and jobs.

The juxtaposition of Trump's impeachment trial and Biden's ambitious plans is no coincidence.

Trump left Republicans badly fractured and on the defensive. The Republican Party is imploding. Since January 6th, growing numbers of Republicans have deserted it. State and county committees are becoming wackier by the day. Big business no longer has a home in the crackpot GOP.

Republican infighting has created a political void into which Democrats are stepping with far-reaching reforms. Biden and the Democrats, who now control the White House and both houses of Congress, are responding boldly to the largest social and economic crisis since Great Depression.

Importantly, they are now free to disregard conservative canards that have hobbled America's ability to respond to public needs ever since Ronald Reagan convinced the nation that big government was the problem.

The first is the supposed omnipresent danger of inflation and the accompanying worry that public spending can easily overheat the economy.

Rubbish. Inflation hasn't reared its head in years, not even during the roaring job market of 2018 and 2019. "Overheating" may no longer even be a problem for globalized, high-tech economies whose goods and services are so easily replaceable.

Biden's ambitious plans are worth the small risk, in any event. If you hadn't noticed, the American economy is becoming more unequal by the day. Bringing it to a boil may be the only way to lift the wages of the bottom half. The hope is that record low interest rates and vast public spending generate enough demand that employers will need to raise wages to find the workers they need.

A few Democratic economists who should know better are sounding the false alarm about inflation, but Biden is wisely ignoring them. So should Democrats in Congress.

Another conservative bromide is that a larger national debt crowds out private investment and slows growth. This view hamstrung the Clinton and Obama administrations as deficit hawks warned against public spending unaccompanied by tax increases to pay for it. (I still have some old injuries from those hawks.)

Fortunately, Biden isn't buying this, either.

Four decades of chronic underemployment and stagnant wages have shown how important public spending is for sustained growth. Not incidentally, growth reduces the debt as a share of the overall economy. The real danger is the opposite: fiscal austerity shrinks economies and causes national debts to grow in proportion.

The third canard is that generous safety nets discourage work.

Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson sought to alleviate poverty and economic insecurity with broad-based relief. But after Reagan tied public assistance to racism – deriding single-mother "welfare queens" – conservatives began demanding stringent work requirements so that only the "truly deserving" received help. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama acquiesced to this nonsense.

Not Biden. His proposal would not only expand jobless benefits but also provide assistance to parents who are not working – thereby extending relief to 27 million children, including about half of all Black and Latino children. Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah has put forward a similar plan.

This is just common sense. Tens of millions are hurting. A record number of American children are impoverished, according to the most recent Census data.

The pandemic has also caused a large number of women to drop out of the labor force in order to care for children. With financial help, some of them will be able to pay for childcare and move back into paid work. After Canada enacted a national child allowance in 2006, employment rates for mothers increased. A decade later, when Canada increased its annual child allowance, its economy added jobs.

It's still unclear exactly what form Biden's final plans will take as they work their way through Congress. He has razor-thin majorities in both chambers. In addition, most of his proposals are designed for the current emergency; they would need to be made permanent.

But the stars are now better aligned for fundamental reform than they've been since Reagan.

It's no small irony that a half century after Reagan persuaded Americans that big government was the problem, Trump's demise is finally liberating America from Reaganism – and letting the richest nation on earth give its people the social supports they desperately need.

How to dismantle the GOP cult

I keep hearing that Joe Biden has to govern from the "center." He has no choice, they say, because he has razor-thin majorities in Congress and the Republican Party has moved to the right.

Rubbish. First, there is no "center" between the reality-based world and the conspiracy-fueled, hate-filled world of today's Republican Party. Second, the problems the country is facing cannot be solved with milquetoast, centrist solutions – they demand immediate, bold action.

I've been in or around politics for 50 years. I've served several Democratic presidents who have needed Republican votes. But the Republicans now in Congress are nothing like those I've dealt with.

Today's Republican Party is a cult.

93 percent of House Republicans voted against impeaching Trump for inciting an insurrection, and Senate Republicans refuse to convict him. This is after Trump's insurrection threatened even their own lives.

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are facing backlash from their colleagues, with some even calling to remove Liz Cheney from her leadership position.

But hardly any have condemned the vile conspiracy theories spouted by Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has claimed that the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings were "false flags" and that the deadly California wildfires were sparked by a Jewish space laser, among other wild lies.

All of this marks the culmination of the GOP's growing lunacy over the last four years. With Trump at its head, the Republican Party has embraced blatant white supremacy, and now inhabits a counterfactual wonderland of lies and conspiracies.

Even by mid-January, polls show three out of four Republicans don't think Biden won legitimately. 45 percent support the storming of the Capitol; 57 percent say Trump should be the Republican candidate in 2024.

And a growing fringe – including some Republicans in Congress – openly talk of redressing grievances through violence.

With this Republican Party, Biden cannot be a "centrist."

Instead, he must deliver bold change for the American people, refusing to compromise with violent Trumpism. Barring Trump from ever holding public office again. Expelling Trump's co-conspirators from Congress.

Don't listen to people claiming this would be a "distraction" from Biden's agenda. There is no healing without accountability. If we let those who incited this insurrection off the hook, we're inviting it to happen again. And next time they might succeed.

It should all be part of Biden's agenda. Biden must fight for democracy and against authoritarianism – including strengthening voting rights, getting big money out of politics, and taking on the Republican Party's anti-democratic agenda of gerrymandering and voter suppression.

There is no longer a "center" in American politics. No middle ground between lies and facts. No halfway point between civil discourse and violence. No midrange between democracy and fascism.

We either have a future based on lies, violence, and authoritarianism – or on unyielding truth, unshakeable civility, and democracy. Biden and the Democrats must fight for the latter. And we must make them.

Here are 10 ways Biden can immediately be a transformational president — even without Congress

We did it. We took control of the Senate from Mitch McConnell. Even so, Republicans may still be able to block key parts of Joe Biden's agenda. But there are plenty of critical policies he can and must enact without them.

Biden's first task is to undo Trump's litany of cruel and disastrous executive orders. He has already announced he'll rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, re-enter the World Health Organization, and repeal Trump's discriminatory Muslim travel ban. And there are at least 48 other Trump policies that he can reverse on day one.

In addition, here are 10 critical policies Biden can implement without Congress:

FIRST: He can lower drug prices through Section 1498 of the federal code, which gives the government the power to revoke a company's exclusive right to a drug and license the patent to a generic manufacturer instead.

SECOND: He can forgive federal student loans – thereby helping to close the racial wealth gap, giving a financial boost to millions, and delivering a major stimulus to the economy.

THIRD: He can use existing antitrust laws to break up monopolies and prevent mergers -- especially in Big Tech and the largest Wall Street banks.

FOURTH: He can institute pro-worker policies for federal contractors – who are responsible for a fifth of the economy – such as requiring a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, and refusing to contract with non-union companies.

FIFTH: He can empower the Labor Department to aggressively monitor and penalize companies that engage in wage theft and unpaid overtime, and who misclassify employees as independent contractors – as Uber and Lyft do.

SIXTH: He can make it easier for people to get health care by eliminating Medicaid work requirements, reinstating federal funding to Planned Parenthood, and expanding access to Affordable Care Act plans. Then it'll be up to us to push him to enact Medicare for All.

SEVENTH: He can ban the sale of public lands and waters for oil and gas drilling. He can further tackle the climate crisis by reinstating the 125 environmental regulations rolled back by Trump and directing federal agencies to deny permits for new fossil fuel projects, and halting all fossil fuel lease sales and permits.

EIGHTH: His Securities and Exchange Commission can reinstate its ban on stock buybacks – so that corporations are more likely to use their cash to invest in workers instead of enrich their shareholders. And he can rein in Wall Street by strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other financial regulators, while his Treasury Department can close many tax loopholes.

NINTH: He can address the cruelty of capital punishment by granting clemency to everyone on federal death row, effectively ending the death penalty with the stroke of a pen. He can address other injustices by having the Department of Justice implement mass commutations for low-level drug offenders, strengthening the department's Civil Rights Division, and reining in rampant police misconduct through consent decrees. And he can undo some of the damage wrought by the racist war on drugs by directing his Attorney General to reclassify marijuana as a non-dangerous drug.

TENTH: He can reverse Trump's cruel immigration agenda by restoring and expanding DACA and raising the yearly number of refugees who can be admitted.

Even with control of the Senate, Democrats' slim majority means that Republicans can still obstruct Biden's policy agenda at every turn. Biden can and must wield his presidential powers through Executive Orders and regulations. The problems America is facing demand it.

Robert Reich: Here's why Biden must drive a stake through the heart of dead-end 'centrism'

I keep hearing that Joe Biden will govern from the "center." He has no choice, they say, because he'll have razor-thin majorities in Congress and the Republican party has moved to the right.

Rubbish. I've served several Democratic presidents who have needed Republican votes. But the Republicans now in Congress are nothing like those I've dealt with. Most of today's GOP live in a parallel universe. There's no "center" between the reality-based world and theirs.

Last Wednesday, fully 95% of House Republicans voted against impeaching Trump for inciting insurrection, even after his attempted coup threatened their very lives.

The week before, immediately following the raid on the Capitol, more than 100 House Republicans and several Republican senators objected to the certification of Biden electors in two states on the basis of Trump's lies about widespread fraud.

Prior to the raid, several Republican members of Congress repeated those lies on television and Twitter and at "Stop the Steal" events.

Trump has remade the Republican party into a white supremacist cult living within a counter-factual wonderland of lies and conspiracies.

According to various surveys, more than half of Republican voters—almost 40 million people—believe Trump won the 2020 race or aren't sure who won; 45% support the storming of the Capitol; 57% say he should be the Republican candidate in 2024.

In this hermetically sealed cosmos, most Republicans believe Black Lives Matter protesters are violent, immigrants are dangerous and climate change doesn't pose a threat. A growing fringe openly talks of redressing grievances through violence, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, of whom two are newly elected to Congress, who think Democrats are running a global child sex-trafficking operation.

How can Biden possibly be a "centrist" in this new political world?

There is no middle ground between lies and facts. There is no halfway point between civil discourse and violence. There is no midrange between democracy and fascism.

Biden must boldly and unreservedly speak truth, refuse to compromise with violent Trumpism and ceaselessly fight for democracy and inclusion.

Speaking truth means responding to the world as it is and denouncing the poisonous deceptions engulfing the right. It means repudiating false equivalences and "both sidesism" that gives equal weight to trumpery and truth. It means protecting and advancing science, standing on the side of logic, calling out deceit and impugning baseless conspiracy theories and those who abet them.

Refusing to compromise with violent Trumpism means renouncing the lawlessness of Trump and his enablers and punishing all who looted the public trust. It means convicting Trump of impeachable offenses and ensuring he can never again hold public office—not as a "distraction" from Biden's agenda but as a central means of reestablishing civility, which must be a cornerstone of that agenda.

Strengthening democracy means getting big money out of politics, strengthening voting rights and fighting voter suppression in all its forms.

It means boldly advancing the needs of average people over the plutocrats and oligarchs, of the white working class as well as Black and Latino people. It means embracing the ongoing struggle for racial justice and the struggle of blue-collar workers whose fortunes have been declining for decades.

The moment calls for public investment on a scale far greater than necessary for Covid relief or "stimulus" – large enough to begin the restructuring of the economy. America needs to create a vast number of new jobs leading to higher wages, reversing racial exclusion as well as the downward trajectory of Americans whose anger and resentment Trump cynically exploited.

This would include universal early childhood education, universal access to the internet, world-class schools and public universities accessible to all. Converting to solar and wind energy and making America's entire stock of housing and commercial buildings carbon neutral. Investing in basic research—the gateway to the technologies of the future as well as national security—along with public health and universal healthcare.

It is not a question of affordability. Such an agenda won't burden future generations. It will reduce the burden on future generations.

It is a question of political will. It requires a recognition that there is no longer a "center" but a future based either on lies, violence and authoritarianism or on unyielding truth, unshakeable civility and radical inclusion. And it requires a passionate, uncompromising commitment to the latter.

The appalling reality is what Trump may get away with

Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to reelect Donald Trump – 46.8 percent of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election – don't hold Trump accountable for what he's done to America.

Their acceptance of Trump's behavior will be his vilest legacy.

Nearly forty years ago, political scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist George Kelling observed that a broken window left unattended in a community signals that no one cares if windows are broken there. The broken window is thereby an invitation to throw more stones and break more windows. The message: Do whatever you want here because others have done it and got away with it.

The broken window theory has led to picayune and arbitrary law enforcement in poor communities. But America's most privileged and powerful have been breaking big windows with impunity.

In 2008, Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy. The Street got bailed out while millions of Americans lost their jobs, savings, and homes. Yet no major Wall Street executive ever went to jail.

In more recent years, top executives of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, along with the members of the Sackler family who own it, knew the dangers of OxyContin but did nothing. Executives at Wells Fargo Bank pushed bank employees to defraud customers. Executives at Boeing hid the results of tests showing its 737 Max Jetliner was unsafe. Police chiefs across America looked the other way as police under their command repeatedly killed innocent Black Americans.

Here, too, they've got away with it. These windows remain broken.

Trump has brought impunity to the highest office in the land, wielding a wrecking ball to the most precious windowpane of all – American democracy.

The message? A president can obstruct special counsels' investigations of his wrongdoing, push foreign officials to dig up dirt on political rivals, fire inspectors general who find corruption, order the entire executive branch to refuse congressional subpoenas, flood the Internet with fake information about his opponents, refuse to release his tax returns, accuse the press of being "fake media" and "enemies of the people," and make money off his presidency.

And he can get away with it. Almost half of the electorate will even vote for his reelection.

A president can also lie about the results of an election without a shred of evidence – and yet, according to polls, be believed by the vast majority of those who voted for him.

Trump's recent pardons have broken double-paned windows.

Not only has he shattered the norm for presidential pardons – usually granted because of a petitioner's good conduct after conviction and service of sentence – but he's pardoned people who themselves shattered windows. By pardoning them, he has rendered them unaccountable for their acts.

They include aides convicted of lying to the FBI and threatening potential witnesses in order to protect him; his son-in-law's father, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions, and lying to the Federal Election Commission; Blackwater security guards convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians, including women and children; Border Patrol agents convicted of assaulting or shooting unarmed suspects; and Republican lawmakers and their aides found guilty of fraud, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations.

It's not simply the size of the broken window that undermines standards, according to Wilson and Kelling. It's the willingness of society to look the other way. If no one is held accountable, norms collapse.

Trump may face a barrage of lawsuits when he leaves office, possibly including criminal charges. But it's unlikely he'll go to jail. Presidential immunity or a self-pardon will protect him. Prosecutorial discretion would almost certainly argue against indictment, in any event. No former president has ever been convicted of a crime. The mere possibility of a criminal trial for Trump would ignite a partisan brawl across the nation.

Congress may try to limit the power of future presidents – strengthening congressional oversight, fortifying the independence of inspectors general, demanding more financial disclosure, increasing penalties on presidential aides who break laws, restricting the pardon process, and so on.

But Congress – a co-equal branch of government under the Constitution – cannot rein in rogue presidents. And the courts don't want to weigh in on political questions.

The appalling reality is that Trump may get away with it. And in getting away with it he will have changed and degraded the norms governing American presidents. The giant windows he's broken are invitations to a future president to break even more.

Nothing will correct this unless or until an overwhelming majority of Americans recognize and condemn what has occurred.

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