Economist Robert Reich is best known for his writing, which highlights the income gap between America’s highest-earning “one percenters” and the rest of the country. Now he’s taking that issue to the big screen, starring in a documentary called “Inequality for All,” directed by Jacob Kornbluth. He joins us in the studio to discuss the award-winning film, and inequality in the U.S.

Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley; former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton; and star in the film "Inequality for All"

  • Albert

    The truth is there is no reason whatsoever for the USA to have any debt because our Constitution gives the US the right to print paper money.

    Lincoln did this when he had the Greenbacks printed, but today the USA does not create its own money. The Greenbacks were the last national paper currency in the US. Yes that’s right, the US dollar is not a national currency, it’s a debt to the big banks who print them. How is this possible? Because, the Federal Reserve is not federal at all, nor even a reserve, but is a cartel of private banks that makes loans to the US government. The banksters took control of America in 1913 when they tricked Congress into creating the Federal Reserve. This is how the Europeans reversed the American Revolution.

    More information:

  • I have a great idea. People earning above the median should donate all of their income to those with income below the median. Robert Reich I am sure will be the first to volunteer. From each according to ability and all that.

    • Noelle

      No, stop the bribery of politicians by the rich.

    • geraldfnord

      Yes, everyone to your left is a die-hard Marxist.

  • Noelle

    When are you going to have him for a full hour? His film is really helpful in explaining how we got to where we are now.
    Did you see the results of the International Assessment of Adult Competencies? American adults are now behind Canada,Japan,Australia,Finland and more in reading,math and problem solving skills.
    Also, Spain and Italy’s scores are lower,likely due to education cutbacks from Austerity.

  • William – SF

    While I agree with Mr. Reich’s observations, arguments, and conclusions, I don’t see how to change the minds and opinions of the titans of capitalism that they earned and deserve their over sized share of society’s wealth and commensurate influence on our political system — how to get back to 70’s income near equality?

    • Skip Conrad

      Try lowering our immigration rates.

  • Elizabeth

    Please ask Michael to say that the film is also playing at the Camera 7 theater in Campbell. The South Bay deserves some props, too! Thanks.

  • Libby

    To one of Mr. Reich’s first points about how the wealthy will naturally be running the politics of the land, now, since this influence has permeated the Supreme Court with decisions like on Citizens United, we’ve lost our balance of power and the protection of the Court and therefore, the Constitution. What can be done for the citizenry now?

  • Steve

    I am very much in agreement with Robert’s argument about inequality.
    However, I would like to suggest that high marginal tax rates may
    not be necessary to achieve more equality. It tends to put people off,
    and it encourages the creation of lots of loophole deductions and
    shelters which make taxes unfair. Better, I think, to keep the marginal
    rates lower and get rid of the deductions and tax shelters that the
    wealthy take advantage of, allowing for a bigger pool of income to be
    taxed at a lower rate, yet still generating significant revenue.

    • geraldfnord

      I back J.F.K.’s tax cut to a top marginal rate of 70%.

      (Unfortunately, that Overton Window was painted-shut years ago.)

  • JackFry

    Not being an economist, I’ve always wondered this: Is there possibly among the wealthy elite a strategy whereby MORE money can be made by investing in markets abroad rather than investing here in the U.S.? Is it less profitable helping the middle class and poor gain economically, thereby not being able to generate an American economy, than concentrating on populations abroad to generate revenue? Although frustration and angst may be felt in this country, certainly a society that’s too poor to be educated and too busy to do anything but spend time barely keeping one’s family fed and sheltered is easier to keep in line. That way those among the wealthy class are more apt to retain its status and position as oppose to those less fortunate who end up chasing after their own tails and unable to see themselves as being able to do anything about it.

  • David Kelley

    Spend spend spend everyone wants us to spend…spend our savings our paycheck but we are ALL in debt we have to stop spending and teach to start saving where is our money going….really going? To the top 1% our culture need to become less spenders beyond our means and more responsible with our money

    • Noelle

      The 1% aren’t spending enough in the economy, instead, they create tax shelters or else bribe the politicians.

  • geraldfnord

    I think the only factor that made enough of the rich feel they had to make any concessions was fear of Communists taking all they had. This is not an endorsement of there being powerful Communists in the world—for one thing, they were really oligarchic State Capitalists—but an analysis of why the wealthy ever, as a group, behave decently: self-interest.

  • Albert

    The film is always playing in Palo Alto, but it’s at the theater that showed the hit piece about Julian Assange.

  • Robert Thomas

    Disparity among the people has been recognized as a corrosive element bearing down on the country since the founding. Rutherford Hayes, who was, despite his sordid complicity in “the Great Betrayal”, the last great Republican president of the third party system saw the problem, too, but offered no solution.

    Madison, before his term in office and while he was inventing our country, warned in Federalist 10 that the pernicious effect of faction finds its chief antecedant in disparity.


    “But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold, and those who are without property, have ever formed distinct interests in society.”

    In 1887, and six years out of office, the very formidable Hayes wrote of this in Volume 4 of his diary.

    Rutherford Hayes:

    “December 4. [1887] Sunday.–In church it occurred to me that it is time for the public to hear that the giant evil and danger in this country, the danger which transcends all others, is the vast wealth owned or controlled by a few persons. Money is power. In Congress, in state legislatures, in city councils, in the courts, in the political conventions, in the press, in the pulpit, in the circles of the educated and the talented, its influence is growing greater and greater. Excessive wealth in the hands of the few means extreme poverty, ignorance, vice, and wretchedness as the lot of the many. It is not yet time to debate about the remedy. The previous question is as to the danger–the evil. Let the people be fully informed and convinced as to the evil. Let them earnestly seek the remedy and it will be found. Fully to know the evil is the first step towards reaching its eradication. Henry George is strong when he portrays the rottenness of the present system. We are, to say the least, not yet ready for his remedy. We may reach and remove the difficulty by changes in the laws regulating corporations, descents of property, wills, trusts, taxation, and a host of other important interests, not omitting lands and other property.”

    Diary and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes, V. IV, p354

  • Robert Thomas

    Something that bugs me is the accusation of “class warfare” during debate about income disparity.

    I decided to counter this with the fact that “class warfare” was what the French aristocracy suffered at the gallows in 1789, when they had the privilege of first watching their children decapitated, their headless small bodies destined to be thrown to the swine, before being shortened themselves. THAT’S class warfare. It would make you run away like a little child. What we’re discussing now is speaking truth to power.

  • TrainedHistorian

    The one factor about the domestic economy 1946-1976–the golden decades of the American worker– that Reich avoids mentioning is very low immigration rate, the lowest we have had in our entire industrial history. This kept real wages for workers in the bottom half relatively high. The unwillingness of our elites since the 1980s to really enforce laws against illegal immigration , which is overwhelmingly of lower-skilled, lower-paid workers, has glutted the lower- and medium-skilled labor market here, and sabotages any real chance for workers in the bottom half or so to get better wages..

    Why doesn’t he advocate the tight immigration policy of 1946-1976 as he advocates the tax policies of that period? Too many Democrats are beholden to the political pressure groups that want open borders. .Look at the so-called immigration “reform” measures pushed by Democrats this year: none of them has any effective way of preventing future illegal immigration, just as the 1986 non-reform immigration law just encouraged rather than prevented more illegal immigration. In a planet where the population continues to increase rapidly, open borders for the US will simply lead to stagnating or declining wages for those at the bottom of the US labor force.

    • Kurt thialfad

      We have high unemployment among older tech workers, yet foreign workers still seem to land jobs at our most successful tech companies. You can see the dynamic at work: the unemployed American continues to slide out of the middle class, and the foreign worker gets paid less because he will accept less, which further erodes the middle class. Reich seems more attached to his ideology and less pragmatic.

  • Matthew Reiser

    Forum often hosts only one-sided viewpoints, and could do better by inviting guest(s) to counterpoint. This segment begs for such fair treatment. Any business owner who both sweats and risks to hire and grow will hear this segment as wishful leftist thinking. For example, raising tax rates to 70% (or 90% as your guest craves) would suffocate job creation and economic growth. Please invite onto Forum both capitalists as well as the usual socialists.

    • Matthew Reiser

      I’ll admit it’s tougher finding conservative guests to provide counterpoint because A) They’re busy creating a living for their families and their employees and B) Socialists are easier to find in California. But in the name of fairness, please keep trying.

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