The Observer’s Debbie Elias Sits Down for an Exclusive Interview with Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich
Robert Reich is considered to be one of the foremost experts on economic policy. Former Secretary of Labor to President Clinton, cabinet member for Presidents Carter and Ford, author of 14 books and currently Professor of Public Policy/Wealth & Economics Berkeley, in 2008, Time Magazine named Reich one of the “Ten Best Cabinet Members in US History” while The Wall Street Journal declared him #6 on their list of the “Most Influential Business Thinkers.” Robert Reich is a teacher, guide and hero for us all. With his latest endeavor, the Jacob Kornbluth directed documentary INEQUALITY FOR ALL, Reich leads us through the twists and turns of history that lead up to the financial crisis of 2008/2009, which Reich succinctly describes as “The Great Recession”, connecting the dots, asking the right questions and while, he “knew this was going to be an anemic recovery”, giving hope to each American about their economic future.
On meeting Robert Reich, I was immediately taken with him. He has an energy that fills the room, equaled only by the sincerity and warmth in his vocal timbre and smile. His firm “Clinton-esque” handshake instills one with confidence in him. Even had I not read any of his books nor was aware of his 40 years of economic works and service, his expertise and his easy-going demeanor are sensorially palpable.
Initially discussing the documentary, it is Reich’s hope that it “changes the national conversation and gives people more of a sense of their own power and efficacy and ultimately leads to political change and reverses these trends because they’re dangerous.” And just how dangerous? “You’ve got to understand the dynamic itself - How we got into the position? Why is it that globalization and technological change have not had nearly the same affects of pulling societies apart of creating massive inequality and economic insecurity elsewhere? It’s a failure of understanding that we can change the rules of the game and have a much more prosperous society overall.” Key in the overall dynamic is that “This is not a zero sum game in which the only way the middle class and the poor gain is if the rich lose. The rich will be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy and a less vitriolic society than they are now.” To not understand and correct our failures will only insure that they happen again.
But since the making of the film, America once again finds herself embroiled with more conflict in the Middle East, notably Syria. At the time of my interview with Reich, President Obama had just laid his cards on the table in those final days of the congressional recess, advising the American public that he would “drop everything” to focus on Syria. With domestic crises imminent by way of, among others, the debt ceiling, budget, Affordable Care Act, the long-established tactic of “divert and deflect” was coming into play yet again. As Reich opined, “We’re going to be in the middle of huge fights.”
From Reich’s perspective, we need to steel ourselves for the coming tide. “Washington is rarely a leading indicator in terms of social change; occasionally it is, but most of the time change starts happening outside Washington. So over the next couple of months Washington is going to be immersed. If it’s not Syria, it’s going to be the debt ceiling or the continuing resolution of fights between Congressional Republicans and Democrats, between inside the Republican party, and the Affordable Care Act. It’s going to be just agony for the next month or two in Washington. I hope that even though it’s the usual maelstrom, the movie enables people to see the big picture and not be cynical, not be pulled down by the partisan bickering and maybe, eventually, that it could have an effect on the actors in Washington.”
For more of debbie’s interview with Robert Reich go to www.moviesharkdeblore.com.