Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, has never been shy about voicing his opinions. Yet the former Labor Secretary might have set a record for transparency today when he decided to answer questions on the popular internet site Reddit, apparently without any filter for the sorts of questions that come through. You can follow the conversation (and participate) here.
Here are some highlights of Reich’s conversation with Redditors thus far:
Q: Mr. Reich, is the United States is a functioning republic? also – what would you do, now, if you were secretary of labor? would you encourage and protect small businesses? what about healthcare?
A: We’re drifting toward becoming a plutocracy, run by a relatively small number of extremely wealthy individuals, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls. That’s why we need to get serious about campaign finance reform, why tax reform is vital, and why the entire economy needs to be reorganized to widen the circle of prosperity — so that far more of us benefit from the gains of productivity growth. If I were back in the administration, I’d strengthen labor unions, try to create a single-payer system for healthcare, use antitrust laws to break up big concentrations of power (such as the biggest banks on Wall Street), resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (that used to separate investment from commercial banking), and enlarge the Earned Income Tax Credit (a wage subsidy for lower-income workers).[…]
Q: In the sense that the United States political system will no longer look like it used to, yes. Obviously the country is not going to fall into anarchy. But without institutional changes, all branches of government will have to be controlled by the same party if they’re going to be at all effective. We will have to enter into a pseudo one-party state.
A: I’m not quite as pessimistic, but I do think there have to be major institutional changes. The most important, in my view, is limiting campaign contributions. That will be hard to do in the wake of the Supreme Court’s grotesque “Citizen’s United” decision, but I still think public financing of general elections can work, if the extent of the potential financing is raised. Remember, both presidential candidates used public financing in 1976, and didn’t rely on any outside financing. Seems hard to believe from where we are now.[…]
Q: I know that you are trying to debate Bill O’ Reilly. I don’t get why he calls you a communist but then is not man enough to debate you.
A: As to Bill O’Reilly — what can I say? He called me a “communist who secretly adores Karl Marx” because I said on the Daily Show last week that global corporatoins can’t be relied on to make the kinds of investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D in America that the nation requires. I challenged him to debate all this, but I haven’t heard squat from him. I left a message on his office phone a few days ago, but still nothing. Maybe you should write him: @oreillyfactor
And in perhaps the most blunt exchange of the entire thread:
Q: In your opinion, are we in the Endgame of the Republic?