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Robert Reich: The populist left and right are on the same side

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, April 23rd, 2016 - 43 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

The old debate goes something like this:

‘You don’t believe women have reproductive rights.”

“You don’t value human life.”

Or this:

“You think everyone should own a gun.”

“You think we’re safer if only criminals have them.”

Or this:

“You don’t care about poor people.”

You think they’re better off with handouts.”

Or this:

“You want to cut taxes on the rich.”

“You want to tax everyone to death.”

But we’re seeing the emergence of a new debate where the populist left and right are on the same side:

Both are against the rich to spend as much as they want corrupting our democracy.

Both are against crony capitalism.

Both are against corporate welfare.

Both are against another Wall Street bailout.

Both want to stop subsidizing Big Agriculture, Big Oil, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Both want to close the tax loophole for hedge fund partners.

Both want to ban inside trading on Wall Street.

Both want to stop CEOs from pumping up share prices with stock buy-backs … and then cashing in their stock options.

Both want to stop tax deductions of CEO pay over $1 million.

Both want to get big money out of politics, reverse Citizens United, and restore our democracy.

If we join together, we can make these things happen.

43 comments on “Robert Reich: The populist left and right are on the same side ”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Reich is definitely thinking in the correct direction.

    However the establishment Left and Right will not tolerate his ideas because they have predicted their own position and power structures on keeping people apart from each other.

    • save NZ 1.1

      I have more hope in reconciliation and left and right moving together for the common good (or benefit) to get the parasitic elements normally in the 0.1% toppled and hopefully in jail. Yes it will not be easy, especially with voting frauds and practises becoming more accepted in the Western world, the MSM owners being in the 0.1% and our politicians with their own little tax haven stashes keen to keep it all under wraps, but I think most citizens, rich and poor think it has gone too far and democracy is being eroded. TPP which both poor and rich are against which gives corporations ridiculous powers and governments losing powers will be an indicator.

  2. byd0nz 2

    They are the same, they Kow tow to their capitalist master ‘ Uncle Sam’.
    They rob people of their potential by keeping them poor. They give the youth student loans to study for no job at the end. They capitalist ethos is to get as much back for the least outlay = exploitation. Ditch the system.

    • Ian H 2.1

      To get as much back for the least outlay = efficiency

      Both left and right should support our industries being efficient. Our standard of living depends on it.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        efficiency is a bullshit word and a bullshit term.

        Especially when it is the 0.1% who are “getting the most back” while the 99.9% are getting shafted with the “least outlay” = their wages.

        • AB 2.1.1.1

          John Ralston Saul on efficiency:

          “A skill of tertiary importance which can be useful if kept to its proper level and closely controlled.”

          “It would be foolish to waste time and money unnecessarily. On the other hand , what is actually necessary? What unnecessary?”

          “The question that must be asked … is whether it should be treated as a driving force in a civilization or even in a society or even in an economy? Or is it no more than one of those useful little tools which can help us … if it is used appropriately?”

          “… we can see from our own experience that those who become obsessed by efficiency often go bankrupt.”

          “But above all [better products] are the result of creativity and imagination, neither of which is efficient.”

          “If it is allowed to become a form of leadership, efficiency will go straight for the throat of imagination and strangle it… Then the economic problems will begin.”

          • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1.1

            Thanks for this. Saul, as usual, is spot on.

          • Incognito 2.1.1.1.2

            Efficiency and productivity are mostly market constructs and have taken over most of our society. Bastions of creativity, imagination and knowledge generation for the sake of it are now under constant and growing threat to succumb to market forces and doctrine.

        • The lost sheep 2.1.1.2

          efficiency is a bullshit word and a bullshit term

          ‘Waste is the answer’. ‘Time is renewable so don’t sweat the wait’. ‘Who cares what it costs to produce’. ‘bureaucracy should expand to fill the time available to produce the maximum number of forms’. ‘Traffic lights just complicate the commute’. ‘Inefficiency is the future.’…

          Gee. Now there is rich vein of catch phrase’s opening up for that new political force of yours that is going to sweep the voters off their feet CV!

          • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.2.1

            If you really wanted to avoid waste you’d help get rid of crony capitalists and parasitic financiers.

  3. Sabine 3

    let’s all join together and sing kumbaya.

    indeed,

    however i find it very telling that he leaves a few very important things out on which the right will never work together with the left (but i guess very much like it is happening in the US, the right is not supposed to work with the left, it is the left that is supposed to give bi-partisan approval to what ever the right comes up with)

    a. to a womens right to choose how fertile she is going to be
    b. to humans rights
    c. childrens rights
    d. the rights of ill and disabled people
    e. the rights of poor people

    these would be the rights and concern the left would have to give up in order to create bi-partisan workmanship as we see it happening in the States.

    But then i guess for the certain men of the left and the rights the issues of the aforementioned are not that important as they are no women, no children, not ill and disabled, or poor, so they can be very well written of.

    And we only have to look at our friends in the states how that goes. And of course the Champion Donald Trump that some here would have no issue seeing as Presnit of the US, cause clearly he would not remove the rights to choose for women, clearly he would be most excellent to the little children – unless of course he deports them – tough luck, he would upheld human rights – unless you are black or of other colour then white in you are being locked up in a prison for not paying a fine – then you are shit out of luck, or you are an ill and or disabled person – hey your family can always file for bankruptcy if they can’t afford your medical bills, or poor, seriously, poor people just go in a ditch and die without much fuss. And yes this is already happening in the greatest Democracy on Earth and they have been doing bi-partisan ship for a few years now.

    this is from a writer that i quite enjoy, Digby from Hullabaloo
    the post is from 2007

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.co.nz/2007/12/bipartisan-zombies-by-digby-it-was.html

    “It was inevitable. I wrote about it right after the 2006 election — as soon as the Republicans lost power, I knew the gasbags would insist that it’s time to let bygones be bygones and meet the Republicans halfway in the spirit of a new beginning. GOP politicians have driven the debt sky-high and altered the government so as to be nearly unrecognizable, so logically the Democrats need to extend the hand of conciliation and move to meet them in the middle — the middle now being so far right, it isn’t even fully visible anymore.”

    Fuck me, but these geezers really can’t come up with anything new?

    • weka 3.1

      One of my thinking processes in the past week is how many of the “Better Trump than Clinton” lefties either don’t support Roe vs Wade, or don’t care about it.

      I’m all for collaboration across the political spectrum (I vote Green after all). But joining together? I can see why it’s attractive to some lefties. Part of it is the prioritising of economic issues over human rights ones. And part of it is the left’s natural inclination to be inclusive and cooperative. In the US more so than here it’s also tempting because the divide between left and right is huge and pretty disturbing, at least how it is presented publicly, so wouldn’t it be great if we found a way out of that dilemma? I’m doubtful, and just very thankful that I live in NZ and not the US.

      • Sabine 3.1.1

        I point to the US as they have given us the last 17 years to have a good luck what bi-partisan ship has brought them. An erosion of civil rights accross the spectrum, charter schools that teach nothing but funnel money to rich man/woman friends, erosion of the public infrastructure, erosion of civil liberties, and the dismantling of rights that mainly affect women and their children.

        And this is coming here. And in fact, we already have the likes of Hoskins sprout about ‘only having children on can afford’, (never mind he cheated on his wife with a co-worker, and then dumped said wife with her newborns to create a new family with the co-worker – so very christian of him) we have others sprouting about life style choices – and make no Mistake about it, sexuality and having sex in the eyes of these is a lifestyle choice, and if you are not married or rich, you better not have sex, and if you do, and you have a child you can’t afford, you are giving up your rights of dignity, humanity and such. You are then fair game to be shamed, humiliated and thrown under the bus.

        Soon to come to NZ.

      • Sabine 3.1.2

        I point to the US as they have given us the last 17 years to have a good luck what bi-partisan ship has brought them. An erosion of civil rights accross the spectrum, charter schools that teach nothing but funnel money to rich man/woman friends, erosion of the public infrastructure, erosion of civil liberties, and the dismantling of rights that mainly affect women and their children.

        And this is coming here. And in fact, we already have the likes of Hoskins sprout about ‘only having children on can afford’, (never mind he cheated on his wife with a co-worker, and then dumped said wife with her newborns to create a new family with the co-worker – so very christian of him) we have others sprouting about life style choices – and make no Mistake about it, sexuality and having sex in the eyes of these is a lifestyle choice, and if you are not married or rich, you better not have sex, and if you do, and you have a child you can’t afford, you are giving up your rights of dignity, humanity and such. You are then fair game to be shamed, humiliated and thrown under the bus.

        Soon to come to NZ.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      but i guess very much like it is happening in the US, the right is not supposed to work with the left, it is the left that is supposed to give bi-partisan approval to what ever the right comes up with

      QFT

      That’s basically what has been happening in NZ for the last thirty years. The Left stopped being progressive and bringing in good new policy and started agreeing with the RWNJs. The inevitable end of this is the collapse of our society.

      • Sabine 3.2.1

        even if the left comes up with good policies (and they do btw) they will not be brougth in as the right has no issues not working with the left.

        this whole lets be civil is only for the left.

        read the link from digby and change GOP for National and Democrat for Labour and it could be written today for us here in NZ.

        From my quote above :

        National (GOP) politicians have driven the debt sky-high and altered the government so as to be nearly unrecognizable, so logically the Labour Party (Democrats) need to extend the hand of conciliation and move to meet them in the middle — the middle now being so far right, it isn’t even fully visible anymore.

        Magic ey?

        • Colonial Viper 3.2.1.1

          Why still focus on the big two political parties? Labour will bring no deliverance to the people, despite what you think, because they continue to choose to orbit around the ruling establishment and economic status quo.

          And why has the Left become so namby pamby and gutless?

          The Corporate Robber Barons of today have much in common with the Corporate Robber Barons of 100 years ago.

          But the Left of today has gone almost completely soft in the middle. Hardly fit for purpose to meet the civilisation ending challenges which are in progress.

    • Colonial Viper 3.3

      however i find it very telling that he leaves a few very important things out on which the right will never work together with the left

      People will work together with people.

      The partisan activists and the political party hacks will be left behind.

    • miravox 3.4

      Well said.
      Although A to E is just the start.

      The interests of the two groups on:
      – waging war
      – immigrants
      – refugee rights
      – racism
      – the right for equitable pay
      – environment vs economy

      Would be either strain any working relationship to breaking point, or scarier still, if they agree, would mean we’ve ended up with a coalition of self-interested authoritarians. History shows many times over how that goes.

  4. Ad 5

    Reich’s thoughts are a useful semaphore for life after both Sanders and Trump. Which is where both of them need to start thinking, if they had strategic focus.

    Both of their movements have to go somewhere. Both are significant political renewals that speak with some undercurrents clearly in common. No one’s proposing a fruitless collapse of categories.

    But consider: the Tea Party has been far more focussed and successful achieving specific political targets then either Occupy or Black Lives Matter. The left can and should reflect on how other successful grassroots organizations actually get the change that they want. They do that by figuring out the deep motivations of people within society.

    It’s standard to reach for the smelling salts whenever there’s a popular movement that challenges the old order, let alone when aging activists realize there are some common root causes to societal rage.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      The left can and should reflect on how other successful grassroots organizations actually get the change that they want. They do that by figuring out the deep motivations of people within society.

      The Left can’t put together the economic or financial power that is necessary to make a political organisation like the Tea Party work.

      • Ad 5.1.1

        Not sure if you’re speaking of New Zealand or USA.
        The Sanders team looks like a pretty slick joint for a further political renewal.
        I don’t always think they’re right, but they are very good at what they do.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1

          Many of the young Sanders supporters have come from the Occupy movement. This new political wave is going to continue to evolve, even as Sanders is stonewalled by the Democratic establishment.

  5. Whateva Next 6

    It’s deliberate that those with similar values in many areas are now polarised. That’s exactly how current government (swindlers) are bringing this country to it’s knees.

    Don’t blame the police and mental health services for rise in crime, and suicides, what can they do about lack of jobs, zero hour contracts, lack of social housing, inability to get on waiting lists for hip operations/any surgery etc etc.??? Blaming and investigating simply takes up more increasingly demoralised and scarce resources……..nek minute, let’s privatise it!

  6. Tautoko Mangō Mata 7

    And here’s Robert Reich commenting on the
    Uber Win: Settlement Allows Ridesharing Service to Keep Denying it Has ‘Employees’ Workers in Massachusetts and California had challenged their designation as ‘independent contractors’

    Ride sharing service Uber announced Thursday it settled two class action lawsuits, with the company agreeing to pay up to $100 million to workers and being able to continue to classify its drivers as “independent contractors.”

    USA Today described the settlement affecting roughly 385,000 workers in California and Massachusetts as “a big win for a company whose business model depends on keeping costs low by merely serving as a conduit between drivers and riders, rather than being an employer.”
    “They’re outside the labor laws,” wrote Robert Reich, a public-policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former Secretary of Labor. Reich called the designation

    the most significant legal trend in the American workforce – contributing directly to low pay, irregular hours, and job insecurity.

    What makes them “independent contractors” is the mainly that the companies they work for say they are. So those companies don’t have to pick up the costs of having full-time employees.”
    http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/04/22/uber-win-settlement-allows-ridesharing-service-keep-denying-it-has-employees

    • Tautoko Mangō Mata 7.1

      Sorry- getting off topic, but here is the result of Uber coming to NZ.
      Taxi shakeup in response to new kid Uber

      The Government has bowed to pressure from the taxi industry to lower safety standards so they can compete with rivals like Uber.

      In an overhaul announced on Thursday, the Government said it was stripping back some of the rules governing the taxi industry to put it on a level playing field with the international app-based rideshare service.

      Among the proposed changes taxi drivers will no longer have to have a full licence check every five years, will be allowed to ditch panic alarms and won’t need to prove their area knowledge.

      Operators will no longer

      * Need to belong to an approved taxi organisation* Be required to provide small passenger services on a 24/7 basis* Need a certificate of knowledge of law and practice* Need a Passenger Service Licence* Need driver panic alarms, monitored 24/7 from a fixed location

  7. Bill 8

    There’s nothing ‘left’ about the ‘populist left’ …but I guess that’s just a pesky detail that Reich thought fine to overlook.

    From the view of society, the ‘populist left’ (statists) and ‘the right’ (market fundamentalists) have never been far removed from one another. Sure, one camp reckons the state should oversee society while the other reckons society (if they envisage such a thing) should be a mere extension of, or expression arising from, the market.

    That the different focus for their authoritarianism gives rise to opposing views on things like poverty, or the granting/protecting of given ‘rights’ is an entirely facile observation for Reich to have made.

    His observation that both statists and market fundamentalists though by different routes of reasoning – and that being another detail he omits – object to market entities being bailed by the state, is similarly facile.

  8. Pat 9

    a more useful proposition would be …the 90% SHOULD be on the same side

  9. AmaKiwi 10

    Change in NZ will only come from OUTSIDE the existing political parties. Why? Because none of them see that our present political and economic systems are the CAUSE of the problems. Our systems are broken.

    Our systems are opaque, not transparent. We have “no corruption” because it is nearly impossible to expose.

    Our systems are elitist, not issue or policy based. The PM is effectively a dictator. Individual MPs are his/her obedient serfs.

    Trump and Sanders are both implying the USA is a failed system which produces endless failures. They are both correct.

    • Incognito 10.1

      Very good comments but I think your first one is untenable. Rogernomics came from within but Roger Douglas was obviously influenced by (many) external factors and he saw the opportunity (or political vacuum). To distinguish between in- and outside of political parties is IMO not a strong basis for useful progressive discussions and ideas. In this day and age, the political boundaries are getting more fluid and amorphous. I like to think that this is one reason why Key is successful because he takes a very pragmatic non-ideological approach – call it opportunistic populism – and is not embarrassed to ‘steal’ ideas from the so-called Left or keep core policies from the previous Labour governments in place. It is not that Key has got a Teflon layer(s), it is because he’s fluid like water and you cannot get a grip on water; his use of language is also fluid like water and it’s almost impossible to pin him down on things he’s said.

      I don’t want to derail this thread but I think Key is a symptom (i.e. cause as well as product/consequence) of the same changes that Reich is talking about.

      • AmaKiwi 10.1.1

        @ Incognito

        Thank you for your comments. I take your points. In my opinion the changes needed include:

        – doing away with secrecy in government and business;

        – direct democracy;

        – re-organizing our parliamentary system so MPs are freed from the tyranny of their party leaders and responsible to their voters;

        – re-defining the legal requirements of businesses to include social impact and environmental impact.

        It is possible we might have dramatic changes (of the magnitude of Rogernomics) without any of these happening. But I don’t think any of our present parties are capable of any of the above changes because it requires politicians and businesses surrender too much power. Time will tell.

        • whatisis 10.1.1.1

          -direct democracy:

          There is no forum.

        • Incognito 10.1.1.2

          I think you’re more of a realist than I am. Somewhat surprisingly (…), I seem to find myself starting to lean towards a ‘society’ with no or very few (institutionalised) power structures in which all power and decision making rests with the whole collective of individuals. This sounds like a paradox if not an oxymoron. Either way, I’d be very keen to see the end of a system of political parties and 3-yearly elections that have virtually no accountability, transparency, honesty, or any real-time feedback mechanisms. In my view ethical considerations should be primary in politics and policy settings. Currently, it seems to play a very minor role and is almost an ad hoc box-ticking afterthought. New Zealand is quite unique IMO because of the place the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori hold in our society. Unfortunately, those opportunities to elevate cultural, societal, and ethical considerations to carry more weight are always and constantly opposed by market force and associated thinking. It is those kinds of attitudes that need to change if we truly want to move towards a brighter future.

  10. AmaKiwi 11

    @ Incognito

    “Unfortunately, those opportunities to elevate cultural, societal, and ethical considerations to carry more weight are always and constantly opposed by market force and associated thinking.”

    The maths change when society wakes up and measures the big picture. The dollar costs of:

    – wars
    – degraded water, soil, and atmosphere
    – cancers, alcoholism, prescription drug abuse
    – social breakdown, crime, depression, suicide

    The list is endless. ALL of us are being killed off in the name of profits, efficiency, obscene luxury for a few.

    Our task is to put an end to the insanity. Speak truth to power!

    • Incognito 11.1

      I agree that the list seems endless but in a way this is the issue; it is too big, too complex, too frightening for each of us to really contemplate let alone do something about.

      So, what do we do? We disconnect or disengage and get on with our daily lives and every now & then shake our heads in disbelief, do a bit of finger wagging, and make some other appropriate ‘disapproving’ noises & gestures. Then we reach for our self-medication or self-escape tool of our own choice, watch a bit of trash on TV (e.g. The Bachelor), and go to bed for a ‘new’ day to rise in which nothing much has changed. It is where The Matrix and Groundhog Day merge into one reality.

      We believe (!) that on our own we cannot change anything, that we cannot make a difference. But every now & then there’s a coming together of searching souls who combine into a collective uprising such as the Occupy movement. Despite the fact that we are the 99%, after an initial flutter of creative energy that has real transformative power to transcend the current quagmire, we sink back into our individual and collective slumber – back to reality. Or do we?

      I think you’re quite right that over time more will “wake up” or become “more wake” and things will change – change is constant and inevitable.

      I think the list can be tremendously simplified and brought back to the essence of being: I/we, here, now. I think lprent’s post Thoughts about a poppy nailed it.

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