A final thought from Robert Reich on the SOTU

I was at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga this evening to hear former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich speak about why the economy is still struggling, and our political discourse remains so bitter.

After filing my story, I walked up to the front of the Soda Activity Center to ask Reich where he expects the nation’s leaders would find the political will to address the past 30 years of flattened workers’ wages while the rich have gotten richer – a problem he says was the root cause of the recession, to be solved by expanding the earned income tax credit up through the middle class while raising marginal tax rates for the richest Americans.

He said it’s not really a “redistribution of wealth,” as I’d put it in my question, because he’s convinced the top 1 percent of Americans in the longer term would do better with a smaller share of a burgeoning economy than a larger share of a struggling economy.

“In this environment, when Republicans, have so effectively hammered home the story that our problem is government, we need politicians who have the courage to tell the truth,” Reich said.

President Obama’s State of the Union address was accurate in recognizing the need for long-term investment, innovation and international competition, he said, but didn’t address the immediate challenge of increasing demand for goods and services, and thus creating jobs. “If he doesn’t address that central issue, he’s allowing the Republicans’ story to dominate.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.