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2012's defining political issue

Commentator Robert Reich says the defining political issue of 2012 won’t be the government’s size. It will be who government is for.

Jeremy Hobson: So in addition to banking fees, 2011 brought us some new things to talk about: the debt ceiling, credit downgrades, the Kardashians. So what will 2012 bring, other than hopefully less
about all three of those things?

Well, Robert Reich has a prediction for a commentary series we're calling: What Now?


Robert Reich: The defining political issue in 2012 won't be the size of government. It's who government is for. Nearly 80 percent of respondents in a recent Pew Foundation poll said too much power is in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.

After all, Wall Street got bailed out, but home owners caught in the fierce downdraft caused by the Street's excesses have got almost nothing. Big agribusiness continues to rake in billions in price supports. Big pharma gets extended patent protection that drives up everyone's drug prices. Big oil gets its own federal subsidy.

But small businesses on Main Street are barely making it.

American Airlines uses bankruptcy to ward off debtors and renegotiate labor contracts. But the law won't allow you to use personal bankruptcy to renegotiate your home mortgage.

Not a day goes by without Republicans decrying the budget deficit. But the cost of one of the deficit's biggest drivers -- Medicare -- would be lower if Medicare could use its bargaining leverage to get drug companies to reduce their prices. Big pharma won't allow it.

The other big budgetary expense is national defense. The basic defense budget -- unrelated to the costs of fighting wars -- is now about 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago, adjusted for inflation. We can't even cancel obsolete weapons systems. Could this be because defense contractors have carefully cultivated sponsors on Capitol Hill, and located their plants and facilities in politically important congressional districts?

"Big government," in other words, isn't the problem. The problem is the big money that's taking over government.

We need real campaign finance reform. And a constitutional amendment reversing the Supreme Court's bizarre rulings that under the First Amendment money is speech and corporations are people.

We've got to get big money out of politics if we want to get our democracy back.


Hobson: Robert Reich teaches public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His most recent book is called "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." We'd love to hear your thoughts -- 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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Instead of complaining let’s find a solution. How about this. First, let’s give in to the fact that the Supreme Court action is permanent. Second, let’s regulate this decision. If corporations are people and all people are equal and money equates free speech then let’s agree to this sentiment and instead impose a cap on spending that hits all people equally. Say, $1000 per person per year total political spending (remember, corporations are now people). This would make all people equal with the exact same amount of freedom of speech as the next guy. This would drive the search for political money back down to the grassroots level where it should belong. In addition get rid of ALL Packs, etc and only allow the money to be run through a registered political party with requirements for both completely open books and very hefty fines for exceeding the $1000 limit.

We the people are more powerful than government and big business. Not through elections: through LIFESTYLE VOTING. Wall Street, Big Oil, Agribusiness, and the other oversized players depend on us to shop at their superstore. If we get around by bike, eat from our garden, trade for the neighbor’s eggs, and invest on a smaller, personal scale, they’re powerless. Sure, it’s hard to completely bypass Wall Street—we might need a medication from Big Pharma, or use the car to visit Grandma—but we could try harder than we are. Achieving independence can be thrilling. Oh, but wouldn’t our present economy collapse? Yep. It will anyway—best to start working on the alternative now.

Please Professor! And who "bailed out the bankers" - not the bankers, protected big pharma, abused the Community Reinvestment Act and oversaw Freddie and Fannie, voted on subsidies for big oil? And you still think that it is the lobbyist who are in charge? What about the democratically elected members of Congress, and the political appointees who pass the laws (tax breaks, aka loop holes), fund the prgrams (defense), and authorize the transfer of payments? The problem is not citizens who petition their goverment, but a goverment of elected and appointed reperesentatives whose primary mission in life is to get re-elected and continue to enjoy immunity from the laws they pass that the rest of us must follow. The Congrees and the appointees ARE the problem. The guy that accepts the bride is not a victim. Not in my world anyway.

When two people are in bed together, it hardly matters which one climbed in first.

Hmmm the question isnt who is getting in or out of bed first. The question how do we get them out of bed. When the furious business mans wife storms in It dont matter if the prostitute got in bed first or if the business mans got in bed first. Its an angry wife that is the most likely to clobber them both. It's the middle class and small businesses that need to get angry at big business Business is business; but big business is Prostitution.

I know the problems already. What I want to hear are solutions. Obama promised us that he would get special interests and lobbyists out of WDC. Has that happened? NO! You present campaign finance reform as the solution, but my goodness, the people who have to enact this are the very people who are getting rich from it. Come on! An 11 percent approval rating doesn't even scare them! And please, to the other commentators, stop the nonsense about one political party. Neither cares much about you, but almost all members from BOTH are very, very rich--and it's not from their salary. And BTW, you are part of the problem if you keep sending the same old jokers back to the Capitol.

There just isn’t anything to add or subtract from this commentary, except to say RIGHT ON THE MONEY, Mr. Reich. If only mainstream media had been framing issues in this way for the last twenty years, instead of offering divisive, either/or characterizations that miss the point entirely (and seemingly deliberately), maybe we wouldn’t be facing global financial collapse.

I stood at my kitchen counter, hanging onto every word, and saying "Yes, yes, yes" to every thing Robert Reich said today. Dr. Reich's commentary should be re-aired on every media platform. Absolutely brilliant!

I have only one question Robert....How much will it cost US all to get big money out of government? Seriously isn't this the biggest problem we have? Our national identity is built on selling to each other for a profit and we can not see how contributing to each other could possibly be profitable for anyone. My late minister grandfather once said "The true measure of a great nation is not how well we take care of the well-off; but how we help each other to become better off."

Unfortunately today we are faced with the ultra-conservative mantra "I am number one; which makes everyone else number two and I have your money to prove it." At some point one realizes no one is truly wealthy when those around you are truly poor.

Bingo! Wow, I usually glaze over when the financial news comes on. Thanks Robert for putting words on my exact sentiments!

I left my lights on recently and went into the huge box store to see if the service desk could jump my battery. The kid at the at the service counter really wished he could help and mentioned they used to do this, but explained corporate policy cannot afford this risk. A girl in her early 30s who was next in line was more than willing to offer her battery. Once we got my car started, I asked her why she was not worried about the financial risk involved. She just laughed and said hey people used to help me all the time. I am glad I finally got out of my Junkers. I didnt think I had a junker, but she obviously wasn't worried about political correctness, but that comment was also helpful in a different way. Corporations
will never help us like human being help each other and therefore must not be treated as human beings with the right to vote and the protection of the courts they enjoy. They don't have any empathy and don't deserve any either.

Bingo Bingo what we gunna do ee oh!

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