Reich: Debating America's future

Robert Reich

KAI RYSSDAL: We air commentaries on a fairly regular basis. Points of view on one topic or another. We set aside two minutes of the show every Wednesday for our regulars. Robert Reich and, until last week, David Frum. David's decided he's not the best person for us anymore.

Bob uses his time today to respond.


ROBERT REICH: Last week, David Frum, who alternates Wednesday commentaries with me, called it quits as a regular commentator. He explained he could no longer represent the views of most people who call themselves Republicans and conservatives.

I respect David's decision but it's a sad commentary (no pun intended) on what's happening to public discourse in America.

Why exactly was it necessary for David to "represent" the views of conservative Republicans? I don't feel any obligation to represent liberal Democrats. Over the years I've argued, for example, in favor of getting rid of the corporate income tax, and creating school vouchers inversely related to family incomes. And I'm opposed to putting trade sanctions on China for so-called currency manipulation. None of these positions represents liberal democratic orthodoxy.

The public doesn't want or need to hear "representatives" from the so-called right or left. It wants insight into what's best for America. And yet over and over again -- on the radio, on TV, in print, in the blogosphere, and all over Washington -- political ideology is substituting for thought. Politicians take oaths and sign pledges. Special-interest groups abide by litmus tests and ideological labels. Pundits are either on the left or the right.

David says he disagrees with most Republicans these days about whether now's the time to cut public spending and shred safety nets. Well, it so happens a majority of economic policy experts also think now's not the right time.

David's voice will be sorely missed. Yet I understand his dilemma. Introducing him last week, Kai Ryssdal said David has been a regular commentator on this program for years, offering the voice of the political right against Robert Reich and the views of the political left.

Kai, my friend, that's the problem in a nutshell. Labels like this fuel what's happening all over America right now. We're getting empty phrases and unthinking ideology instead of arguments, facts, and logic. We're either on the right or the left, and we don't have to listen to anyone on the other side.


RYSSDAL: Robert Reich teaches public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book is called "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." Send us your thoughts about what you hear on the broadcast -- write to us.

About the author

Robert Reich is chancellor's professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

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