"The only way real change happens in America is if large numbers of people outside of Washington are mobilized and organized and energized to make it happen. To demand it happen! And to keep on demanding it long after election day."
Robert Reich is on a roll, and he knows how to amplify the message of the 99% and build on the momentum of last fall's Occupy encampments and demonstrations. His latest call to arms is an e-book called Beyond Outrage: What has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix IT. In addition to the e-book, he has a series of youtube videos delivering his message, he was on KQED (my local NPR station) this morning, he had a recent piece about his book at HuffPo, had an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, a guest column at the Christian Science Monitor... like I said, he's on a roll.
Follow me below the Itzl to hear one, and read more about his crusade to get people out from behind keyboards and into collective action.
Essentially, Reich is calling for us to rediscover responsible citizenship, which goes well beyond voting for red or blue. We need to demand change in campaign finance, in the tax code, in the two-party system, and hold candidates and officeholders accountable for making change happen. We need to get beyond cynicism, dig in for the long-term battle that will be required to fix our democracy, and engage in effective collective action.
The introduction to the ebook pulls together seven major trends and shows how they are connected.
- For three decades almost all the gains from economic growth have gone to the top.
- The Great Recession was followed by an anemic recovery.
- Political power flows to the top.
- Corporations and the very rich get to pay lower taxes, receive more corporate welfare, and are bound by fewer regulations.
- Government budgets are squeezed.
- Average Americans are competing with one another for slices of a shrinking pie.
- A meaner and more cynical politics prevails.
In part 1 of the book, Reich explains how our economic and political systems have become rigged against average people, to benefit the extremely wealthy and the largest corporations. As he puts it, "score one for the Occupiers" because now we are talking about economic inequality and the concentration of political power in the hands of a few. We now know that wealth does not trickle down and that the super-rich are not investing in American jobs or economic growth. Those at the top have mastered the dark art of maximizing personal gains and minimizing personal risks. The medical insurance industry and the military industrial complex take up more and more of government's budget, and most people see no direct benefit from those expenses. Investment in the public good -- schools, libraries, public transportation, parks, universities, etc -- is being squeezed out. And the jobs that are being created during our anemic recovery are not paying enough to allow workers to consume the goods and services that a productive economy is intended to provide.
"Even if President Obama is reelected, and even if by some miracle he gets congressional support for another big stimulus while Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve keeps interest rates near zero, these policies can't work without a middle class capable of spending. Pump priming only works when a well contains enough water."
In part 2 of the book, Reich frames our public dialogue in terms of the rise of the Regressive Right, and the falsehoods of the social Darwinism that they perpetuate. As he puts it, Regressives have been trying to convince Americans that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. He takes apart their propaganda and provides good pointers on how to counter their lies.
In part 3, Reich calls for our action -- not just for this spring, not just for next fall, but for the long haul, because the changes needed in our political system, in the way we regulate our economy, and in how we engage with our representatives are huge. As he puts it in his video introduction to the book:
"The fight will take a long time to win. The most important thing is to understand what it's all about, why it's so important, and that you get involved in making it happen."
Robert Reich's April 18 visit to the Daily Show is both smart and funny -- don't miss it. (I really wish I could embed it, but the code that I'm clipping from the Daily Show is not working.)
Both smart and funny -- definitely worth watching.
Now, I am not a flack for Mr. Reich or his publisher, and I am sure that there is plenty in his book that we can disagree about, but I still think it is worth a read, and worthy of an in-depth discussion here at Daily Kos. So I invite you to buy the book, Beyond Outrage, at Powell's, or from Amazon, or the iBook store, or the Google e-Bookstore, or however you want to get it.... read it, and comment here.
Let's act together to FIX our democracy.