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Robert Reich On Inequality

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on his big new documentary on inequality – and his prescription for the future.

This Jan. 21, 2013 photo shows economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich from the film "Inequality For All" during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at the Fender Music Lodge in Park City, Utah. (AP)

This Jan. 21, 2013 photo shows economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich from the film “Inequality For All” during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at the Fender Music Lodge in Park City, Utah. (AP)

American inequality just keeps growing.  Growing so great that it’s raising new questions for this country.

We had rich and poor in the great post-war 20th Century, but the middle was all right, so the country felt all right.  Today, the middle is not all right.  And the top tier’s income and wealth have raced off the charts.  Some conservatives say “what’s the problem with that?”  And we’ve heard them.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says it’s a big problem.  For democracy and the economy.  He’s got a new movie out.  And he’s here.

This hour, On Point:  Robert Reich and “Inequality for All.”

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Robert Reich, political economist, professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley. He served as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton. He’s the star and subject of the new documentary “Inequality For All” — directed by Jacob Kornbluth — which examines widening income inequality in America. (@rbreich)

Jason Fichtner, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. (@jfichtner)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Los Angeles Times: Ex-Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich warns about income inequality — “If nothing changes, the median household is going to get poorer and poorer. The wealth of the country is going to get more concentrated, which is not only bad for the economy but it’s also bad for society. I’m optimistic only because this has happened before in American history. If we were having this conversation in 1900, we would say much the same thing. Then two years later, we’d be in the middle of the Progressive movement. How did we get from 1900 to the Progressive era? Frankly nobody knows how social upheaval of a positive kind that we have in the United States occurs, but it’s very simple: We get to a gap where our ideal — equal opportunity, a society based on merit — is so far away from the reality that people just can’t stand it anymore.”

New York Magazine: Is America Catching Up With Robert Reich’s Income-Inequality Crusade? — “It’s been nearly two decades since Robert Reich held political office as Bill Clinton’s Labor secretary. Back then he was considered an affable moderate, capable of reaching across the aisle, but his steady pounding of the drums of middle-class neglect and income inequality in the years since as a cable TV pundit and Berkeley professor with 155,000 Twitter followers have made him into the kind of radical who is persona non grata at Fox News.”

The New York Times: The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery — “The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels on record since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax. The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so.”

Trailer: ‘Inequality For All’

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