I am not a fan of Robert Reich’s politics. He is too far to the left for my tastes; always seems to blame all of capitalism’s ills on Wall Street and CEO’s. The former Labor Secretary in the Clinton years is also quick to take bows for the successful 90’s economy, while failing to acknowledge the Republicans controlled Congress for six of Bill Clinton’s eight years as president. Not to mention, the technology boom fueled the 90’s without much government intervention.
Because I do not embrace Reich’s politics, it does not mean I don’t read him or agree with some of what he writes. In his latest column, which I link to at the end of this piece, Reich, now a professor at Cal-Berkeley, has struck a note. Sadly, what President Obama will say in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night – cut middle class taxes and pass the cost on to the rich – nor what the Republicans will do back in total control of Congress, will be enough to address the problems Reich writes about.
Some of the points Reich makes are spot on:
- The jobs are returning but wage hikes are not
- Employers do not have to pay employees more, despite job growth, a marked difference from previous recoveries
- Employers are outsourcing more jobs, meaning employees in the U.S.A. have to accept the low-wage offers or be out of work
- Smart technologies are now performing jobs once performed by humans, and that includes professional work
- Millions of Americans who left the workforce because of the Great Recession are still unemployed though they no longer factor into the jobless statistics. Such a scenario enables employers to fill jobs at low wages because of what Reich refers to as this “reserve army.”
- Nearly one out of five workers is in a part-time job.
- Because of what Reich labels a workforce more economically insecure since World War II, Americans are not demanding wage hikes for fear of losing their jobs.
- Perhaps the most striking statistic of all, Reich writes that since 1979, the country’s productivity has jumped 65 percent but median compensation for workers has grown just 8 percent.
As Reich writes, two-thirds of all Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck and most do not have savings on which to fall back. That does not paint a pretty, economic picture, despite what Obama says about job growth in 2014 or the lip service Republicans give about improving the lives of the middle class.
A lot of blather will be emitted from both sides on Tuesday night. None of it will address the systemic changes required to turn around a nation whose “economic recovery” is suspect at best. Maybe because both parties are so tied to Wall Street and a capitalistic system out of balance from greed, taxation and to an extent over-regulation. Worse, we may never witness the policy implementation needed to correct the imbalance.