Have a peaceful, prosperous new year

Robert Reich

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: It's an understatement to point out that this has been a year for the history books -- politically, economically, of course. And for commentator Robert Reich, personally.


Robert Reich: The biggest thing to happen to me this year was the birth of my first grandchild, a little girl named Ella. Now, I know this kind of thing happens all the time, and frankly, I get a little bored with people who go all gushy about the birth of kids or grandkids.

I'm bringing Ella up not so much because she's special -- of course, she is -- but because she was born right in the middle of the worst economic downturn in my lifetime and probably yours, and maybe even hers. Ella came with a crash.

Like almost everyone else, I've lost a big chunk of my savings. And the house I bought here in Berkeley at the very top of the housing boom is probably worth a lot less than I paid for it. I'm not too worried about my job because I have tenure here at the University of California, although maybe I should worry because the state is technically bankrupt.

My point is that, relative to Ella, it's all, well, sort of irrelevant. OK, maybe I'm going all gushy. But that's the point. Having kids or grandkids expands your focus, and also your time horizon.

You pay a little bit less attention to what the Dow is likely to do over the next quarter, and more to the underlying wealth of the nation. Not just its gross domestic product, but its gross domestic decency, if there were such a measure: The quality of our public schools and of our atmosphere, the extent of our generosity to one another. You find yourself paying less attention to the gossip surrounding Bernie Madoff or Rod Blagojevich, than to the larger questions they raise about greed and public morality.

Which brings me to today, and tomorrow and beyond.

I wish you not just a prosperous new year; on that score, 2009 may be something of a bummer. No, I wish you and your kids and grandkids, and Ella, a good and peaceful and generous new year.

Ryssdal: Robert Reich is a grandfather and a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book is "Supercapitalism."

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