Robert Reich is the former secretary of labor for the Clinton administration. He’s currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the U.C. at Berkeley. His blogging style is thought-provoking, direct and understandable.
It’s the biggest Trump con since he told Americans the tax cut would help them more than the rich. He’s calling for a $1.5 trillion boost in infrastructure spending – but he’s proposing just $200 billion in federal funding.
So where does the rest come from? Tax hikes on the middle-class and poor, and from private investors.
1. State and local governments, already starved for cash, would have to raise taxes.
2. Private investors, for their part, won’t pitch in unless they’re guaranteed a good return on their investment, most likely in the form of tolls and other user fees. Or worse, governments might be forced to transfer ownership of roads and bridges to private corporations.
So the public will end up paying twice: in higher taxes and higher tolls, and won’t even get what’s needed.
3. Projects that will be most attractive to big investors are where tolls and fees will bring in the biggest bucks: Brand new highways and bridges rather than the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair.
4. Trump’s infrastructure plan only worsens the racial justice divide in America, by leaving disadvantaged communities behind while giving massive profits to the rich and corporations through new tolls and fees.
5. It’s a double con because now that Trump and the Republicans have enacted a huge tax cut for corporations and the rich, there’s no money left for infrastructure. The White House says the $200 billion of federal spending will be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, but doesn’t explain how or where. Given what we know of Trump’s and the GOP’s priorities, that means taking money from programs that protect vulnerable Americans, not from the billions in wasted on military spending.
A real infrastructure program – as opposed to Trump’s fake program – would focus on repairing existing infrastructure, doing so based on need rather than financial returns, prioritizing public transportation over private, and clean water and renewable energy over projects that generate more pollution.
And it would be paid for by closing tax loopholes used by big corporations and the rich, not by imposing higher taxes, Trump tolls and user fees on the rest of us.
To really make America great again we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public – not for big developers and investors.
The 6 Ways Millennials Are Changing America - YouTube
6 WAYS MILLENNIALS WILL CLEAN UP THE MESS BOOMERS LEFT THEM
Baby Boomers – my
generation, born between 1946 and 1964 – dominated politics and the economy
for years. There were just more Boomers than people of any other
generation. But that’s no longer the case. Now, the biggest generation is
the Millennials, born between 1983 and 2000.
Millennials are different from boomers in 6 important ways that will shape the future.
1. Millennials are
more diverse than boomers – so as Millennials gain clout, expect America to become more open.More than 44 percent
of Millennials identify as a race other than white. And they’re more accepting
of immigrants: 69 percent of millennials think that newcomers strengthen
American society, compared to 44 percent of Boomers.
2. Millennials are
more distrustful of the political system than Boomers – so as Millennials gain power, expect more anti-establishment politics. A strong majority of Millennials think the country is on the wrong track. Most disapprove of both
the Republican Party and the Democratic party. Virtually no Millennials – only
6 percent – strongly approve of Donald Trump, compared to 63 percent who
disapprove. A strong majority – 71 percent – want a third major party to
compete with Democrats and Republicans.
3. Most Millennials
have a tougher financial road than Boomers – so expect them to demand changes in how we finance higher education. According to Pew
Research, Millennials are the first generation in the modern era, “to have
higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment, and lower levels
of wealth and personal income than any other generation at the same stage of
life.” No surprise, then, that Millennials are living at home much longer than
previous generations, and getting married later.
4. Millennials view the social safety net differently than boomers – so expect them to demand that Medicare and Social Security are strengthened. Boomers move into
older age, more and more of the federal budget is going into Medicare,
Medicaid, and Social Security. Many Millennials even doubt
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be there for them when they
5. Millennials care
more about the environment – so expect them to demand stronger environmental protection. Over 90 percent of
them believe climate change is occurring, compared with 74 percent of Boomers.
Over 60 percent of Millennials want to reduce the use of coal as an energy
source, compared with 28 percent of Boomers. And over half of Millennials
support a carbon tax, compared with 23 percent of Boomers.
6. Finally, as wealthy Boomers transfer $30 trillion to their lucky Millennial heirs, expect Millennials to demand a fairer inter-generational tax system. America is now on the
cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As very
wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children and
grandchildren over the next three decades. The tax code allows these lucky
Millennials to inherit rich Boomer assets without paying capital gains on them,
and paying far lower estate taxes than previous generations. Expect this to change.
As I said, I’m a Boomer – born the same year as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and
Dolly Parton, among others. It’s up to you – the Millennials – to fix a
system we Boomers broke.
Donald Trump once said
he identified with Ayn Rand’s character Howard Roark in “The
Fountainhead,” an architect so upset that a housing project he designed
didn’t meet specifications he had it dynamited.
Others in Trump’s
circle were influenced by Rand. “Atlas Shrugged” was said to be the
favorite book of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state. Rand also had a
major influence on Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA chief. Trump’s first nominee for
Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, said he spent much of his free time reading
The Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan,
required his staff to read Rand.
Uber’s founder and
former CEO, Travis Kalanick, has described himself as a Rand follower. Before he
was sacked, he applied many of her ideas to Uber’s code of values, and even
used the cover art for Rand’s book “The Fountainhead” as his Twitter
Who is Ayn Rand and
why does she matter? Ayn Rand – best known for two highly-popular novels
still widely read today – “The Fountainhead,” published in 1943, and
“Atlas Shrugged,” in 1957 – didn’t believe there was a common good.
She wrote that selfishness is a virtue, and altruism is an evil that destroys
When Rand offered
these ideas they seemed quaint if not far-fetched. Anyone who lived through the
prior half century witnessed our interdependence, through depression and war.
After the war we used our seemingly boundless prosperity to finance all sorts of
public goods – schools and universities, a national highway system, and
healthcare for the aged and poor (Medicare and Medicaid). We rebuilt war-torn
Europe. We sought to guarantee the civil rights and voting rights of
African-Americans. We opened doors of opportunity to women. Of course there was
a common good. We were living it.
But then, starting in
the late 1970s, Rand’s views gained ground. She became the intellectual
godmother of modern-day American conservatism.
This utter selfishness, this
contempt for the public, this win-at-any-cost mentality is eroding American
Without adherence to a set of common notions about right and wrong, we’re
living in a jungle where only the strongest, cleverest, and most unscrupulous
get ahead, and where everyone must be wary in order to survive. This is not a
society. It’s not even a civilization, because there’s no civility at its core.
It’s a disaster.
In other words, we
have to understand who Ayn Rand is so we can reject her philosophy and dedicate
ourselves to rebuilding the common good.
The idea of the common
good was once widely understood and accepted in America. After all, the U.S.
Constitution was designed for “We the people” seeking to “promote the general
welfare” – not for “me the selfish jerk seeking as much wealth and power as
Yet today you find
growing evidence of its loss – CEOs who gouge their customers, loot their
corporations and defraud investors. Lawyers and accountants who look the other
way when corporate clients play fast and loose, who even collude with them to
skirt the law.
Wall Street bankers who defraud customers and investors. Film
producers and publicists who choose not to see that a powerful movie mogul they
depend on is sexually harassing and abusing young women.
Politicians who take
donations (really, bribes) from wealthy donors and corporations to enact laws
their patrons want, or shutter the government when they don’t get the partisan
results they seek.
And a president of the United States who lies repeatedly
about important issues, refuses to put his financial holdings into a blind
trust and then personally profits off his office, and foments racial and ethnic
The common good consists of our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society. A concern for the common good – keeping the common good in mind – is a moral attitude. It recognizes that we’re all in it together.
How to build the economy? Not through trickle-down economics. Tax cuts to the rich and big corporations don’t lead to more investment and jobs.
The only real way to build the economy is through “rise-up” economics: Investments in our people – their education and skills, their health, and the roads and bridges and public transportation that connects them.
Trickle-down doesn’t work because money is global. Corporations and the rich whose taxes are cut invest the extra money wherever around the world they can get the highest return.
Rise-up economics works because American workers are the only resources uniquely American. Their productivity is the key to our future standard of living. And that productivity depends on their education, health, and infrastructure. Just look at the evidence.
Research shows that public investments grow the economy.
A recent study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth found, for example, that every dollar invested in universal pre-kindergarten delivers $8.90 in benefits to society in the form of more productive adults.
Similarly, healthier children become more productive adults. Children who became eligible for Medicaid due to expansions in the 1980s and 1990s were more likely to attend college than similar children who did not become eligible.
Investments in infrastructure – highways, bridges, and public transportation – also grow the economy. It’s been estimated that every $1 invested in infrastructure generates at least $1.60 in benefits to society. Some research puts the return much higher.
In the three decades following World War II, we made huge investments in education, health, and infrastructure. The result was rising median incomes.
Since then, public investments have lagged, and median incomes have stagnated.
Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush’s tax cuts on the top didn’t raise incomes, and neither will Donald Trump’s.
Trickle-down economics is a hoax. But it’s a convenient hoax designed to enrich the moneyed interests. Rise-up economics is the real deal. But we must fight for it.
Why the Common Good Disappeared (And How We Get it Back)
In 1963 over 70
percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing all or most of
the time; nowadays only 16 percent do.
There has been a similar decline in
trust for corporations. In the late 1970s, 32 percent trusted big business, by
2016, only 18 percent did.
Trust in banks has dropped from 60 percent to 27
percent. Trust in newspapers, from 51 percent to 20 percent. Public trust
has also plummeted for nonprofits, universities, charities, and religious
Why this distrust? As
economic inequality has widened, the moneyed interests have spent more and more
of their ever-expanding wealth to alter the rules of the game to their own
Too many leaders in business and politics have been willing to do anything to make more money or to gain more power – regardless of the consequences for our society.
We see this everywhere – in the new tax giveaway to big corporations, in gun manufacturer’s use of the NRA to block gun controls, in the Koch Brother’s push to roll back environmental regulations, in Donald Trump’s profiting off his presidency.
No wonder much of the
public no longer believes that America’s major institutions are working
for the many. Increasingly, they have become vessels for the few.
The question is whether we can restore the common good. Can the system be made to work for the good
Some of you may feel such a quest to be hopeless. The era we are living
in offers too many illustrations of greed, narcissism, and hatefulness. But I
don’t believe it hopeless.
Almost every day
I witness or hear of the compassion of ordinary Americans – like the thousands who helped people displaced by the wildfires in California and floods in Louisiana; like the two men in Seattle who gave their lives trying to protect a young Muslim woman from a hate-filled assault; like the coach who lost his life in Parkland, Florida, trying to shield students from a gunman; like the teenagers who are demanding that Florida legislators take action on guns.
The challenge is to turn all this into a new public spiritedness extending
to the highest reaches in the land – a public morality that strengthens our
democracy, makes our economy work for everyone, and revives trust in the major
institutions of America.
We have never been a
perfect union; our finest moments have been when we sought to become more
perfect than we had been. We can help restore the common good by striving for
it and showing others it’s worth the effort.
I started my career a
half-century ago in the Senate office of Robert F. Kennedy, when the
common good was well understood, and I’ve watched it unravel over the last
Resurrecting it may take another half century, or more. But as
the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be
achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.“
First, you can complain. Yell. Bang on the dinner table. Tell
your family and friends the man is a dangerous fool. Explode every time you
read something about him. Swear every time you see him on TV. Go ballistic when
you listen to him or about him on the radio.
Complaining may feel good, but it
Your second choice: You can bury your head in the sand. Pretend
he’s not there. Stop reading the news. Turn off the TV and radio. No longer
visit political Internet sites. When family or friends bring up his name,
change the subject.
Burying your head in the sand may also feel good, but
it certainly won’t help, either.
You have a third choice. You can get active, and make it harder
for Trump to damage America. This coming November 6, 34 senate seats, all 435
seats in the House of Representatives, and 36 governorships will be up for
election or re-election.
Support primary candidates who will resist Trump. Mobilize to
get out the vote. Organize so that November 6 becomes a total repudiation
of Donald Trump and all he stands for.
Start right now. Find an Indivisible group near you.
Go Indivisible.org and become part of the solution. If you’re already in a
blue state and want to reach out to purple or red parts of the country,
visit swingleft.org or sisterdistrict.com.
Democracy is fragile, it requires all of us to protect it.
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