Inequality for All

A passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, INEQUALITY FOR ALL features Robert Reich – professor, best-selling author, and Clinton cabinet member – as he demonstrates how the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy.
– Okay, we’re going
in my MINI Cooper.
Now, the thing you ought to know
about this MINI Cooper
is, it is small.
[car beeping]
I like having a MINI Cooper.
I sort of identify with it.
You know?
It’s pretty little.
I feel as if
it’s proportion–
that we are in proportion,
you know?
Me and my car,
we are sort of…
facing the rest of the world.
[whimsical music]
♪ ♪
[people chanting indistinctly]
– Economic fairness is,
“the defining issue of our time,
and what the millions…”
– This kind of gaping inequality
gives lie to the promise
that’s at the very heart
of America.
– There is income inequality
in America.
There always has been,
and hopefully
there always will be.
– If inequality is at a very
much higher level, who cares?
– Income inequality
has been ticking up.
– Income inequality is bull.
– I think it’s about envy.
I think it’s about
class warfare.
– It’s class warfare,
and it’s the kind of language
that you would expect
from a leader
of a third world country,
not the president
of the United States.
– It’s true,
because United States of America
is not a third world country
by any measure,
except perhaps
income inequality,
where we rank…
worse than the Ivory Coast,
worse than Cameroon–
Ah, in your face,
Uruguay, Jamaica, and Uganda!
[cheers and applause]
[downtrodden jazzy music]
♪ ♪
[people chatting indistinctly]
– Okay, are we all here?
My name is Robert Reich.
I was secretary of labor
under Bill Clinton.
Before that,
I was at Harvard.
Before that, I was in
the Carter administration.
Do you remember–
does anybody–
You don’t remember
the Carter administration.
Before that,
I was a special aide
to Abraham Lincoln.
Those were tough times.
We are going to deal
with three questions.
The first question is,
what is happening
in terms of the distribution
of income and wealth?
Number two, why?
Number three,
is it a problem?
Maybe it’s not a problem.
Many of you call yourselves
Many of you call yourselves
Those labels will become
increasingly irrelevant
as you get deeper and deeper
into this subject.
I want you to test
your assumptions.
If possible, I want to shake
your assumptions a little bit
about why the system
works as it does.
Some inequality is inevitable.
If people are gonna have
the proper incentives
to be productive, to work hard,
to be inventive…
that’s the essence
of capitalism,
and capitalism does generate
a lot of good things.
Look, the question
is not inequality per se.
The question is, when does
inequality become a problem?
How much inequality
can we tolerate
and still have an economy
that’s working for everyone
and still have a democracy
that’s functioning?
Of all developed nations today,
the United States has
the most unequal distribution
of income and wealth by far.
And we’re surging
toward even greater inequality.
One way of looking at
and measuring inequality
is to look at the earnings
of people at the top
versus the earnings
of the typical worker
in the middle.
The typical male worker
in 1978
was making around $48,000,
adjusted for inflation,
while the average person
in the top 1%
earned $390,000.
Now fast-forward.
By 2010,
the typical male worker
earned even less
than he did then,
but the person at the top
got more than twice as much
as before.
Today the richest 400 Americans
have more wealth
than the bottom
150 million of us put together.
Now, think about it.
400 people have more wealth
than half the population
of the United States.
[people chanting indistinctly]
– Anger rising
over an economic system
that has rewarded some
but leaves many
feeling left behind.
– After the economy crashed
in 2008,
inequality suddenly
became front-page news.
– Who else wants to join
the 1%?
You look like a one percenter.
We’re a fabulous percent.
– People from both parties were
looking for someone to blame.
But most people have no idea
how it got this bad
or why.
Not until the last few years
have we really understood
all that much about inequality.
I mean,
we knew the top 10% or 20%
were moving in one direction
and the bottom 10% or 20%
was moving in another.
But we didn’t know what was
happening at the very top,
to the top 1%.
– Hello.
– How are you doing?
Good to see you.
And then a few years ago,
two researchers,
Emmanuel Saez
and Thomas Piketty,
found a different
source of data.
They looked at IRS tax data,
not just
over the last few years
but all the way back
to 1913,
when the income tax
was instituted.
It showed
that there were two peak years.
1928 and 2007
become the peak years
for income concentration,
both of them in which the top 1%
is taking home
more than 23% of total income.
– We knew that inequality
had started to increase
in the late ’70s and the 1980s,
but we didn’t know
how dramatically
income concentration
had increased,
especially within
the top 1%.
– When you had this study
come out in 2003,
it sat there
for a number of years,
and then suddenly
it became important.
– But you see them
starting to recover…
– This graph
becomes very central
for explaining what has happened
to the U.S. economy
and, indeed, what’s happening
and has happened to our society.
It looks like
a suspension bridge.
What happened
the year after 1928?
The Great Crash.
And what happened
just after 2007?
Another crash.
The parallels are breathtaking
if you look at them carefully.
[bold brass music]
♪ ♪
Leading up
to those two peak years,
as income got more and more
in fewer and fewer hands,
the wealthy turned
to the financial sector,
and in both periods,
the financial sector ballooned.
They focused
on a limited number of assets:
housing, gold,
speculative instruments,
debt instruments.
And that creates
a speculative bubble
in both times.
We also know
that the middle class,
in both periods,
their incomes were stagnating,
and they went deeper and deeper
into debt
to maintain
their living standards.
And that creates a debt bubble.
[bubble pops]
[child screaming]
That’s why you see,
in both these periods,
economic instability.
What makes an economy stable
is a strong middle class.
Look, the most important thing
to understand
is that consumer spending
is 70%
of the United States economy.
And the middle class
is the heart
of that consumer spending.
So it’s your middle class
that keeps the economy going.
There’s no way you can sustain
the economy over the long term
without a strong and vibrant
and growing middle class.
Can’t be done.
People are being intimidated.
– Correct.
– I mean, they might
lose their jobs if they…
I talk to a lot
of different groups.
Some are wealthy.
Some are working-class.
Some are conservative.
Some are liberal.
– And he finally got
a full-time job.
– The middle class
is struggling.
It is going downhill.
I hear it all the time.
– Well, everyone tells me
that I am,
but I don’t feel
like I’m middle-class,
because I’m barely making it.
– Middle-class
is living comfortably
and not having to–not having
every week be a struggle.
– I’d like to save up
and buy a house one day,
and, you know, I haven’t really
been able to do that
and been kind of holding back
and just trying to make rent
right now.
– How much do you make
an hour?
– Right now,
I think it went up–$21.50.
$21.50 an hour.
Hola, Alberto.
I think I’m being paid fair.
It got to a point
that we were able to afford,
you know, a condo
on Olivera Road,
and we bought it.
We had our own things,
our own place.
It was little,
you know, two-bedroom.
– We bought it in 2004.
Around 2006, start of 2007,
the market just dropped
like a rock.
And not that long after,
I lost my job that I’d been at
for a long time.
Luckily we had
some really good friends,
and one of them said,
“Come over here
and live with me.”
So that’s where we are now.
– Go with Daddy.
Go with Daddy.
– I’m hungry.
– You’re hungry?
Child care for Paulina right now
costs me about $400.
I’m, like, undecided whether
I should make her walk home–
buy her a phone
and walk home,
making sure she gets home okay,
or keep paying
a day care.
– Bye.
– Here, Mom.
– Ready?
I have $25 in my
checking account right now
and just thinking about
all the things that we need.
I don’t have a way
of communicating
with Robert right now.
He doesn’t have a phone,
so we have to wait for that.
I got to figure out–
we have to have enough,
you know,
food on the table for the kids.
– $25 in your checking account,
that’s got to be–
That’s not very much.
– No, it’s not.
But, I mean,
it’s Tues–it’s Wednesday.
I’ll survive today.
I’ll look up in the pantry,
see what else is there to eat.
I have a full tank of gas,
so I’m fine on that part.
I don’t need to go anywhere
right now.
– When I was laid off,
I decided to go ahead
and pursue my degree
at that point.
Most of the classmates I have
are a lot younger than I am.
It’s different
when you’re reading about it
or somebody else’s issues.
That’s different from when
it’s your own family’s.
So when it hits home,
that’s probably
the hardest part.
– There is no official
definition of the middle class.
But Alan Krueger,
chairman of the Council
of Economic Advisors,
these are the percentage
of households
with annual incomes within 50%
of the median household.
$50,000, median income,
50% above, 50% below.
If you’re in the top %1,
you’re earning
at least $380,000 a year.
If you’re at the lower end
of this group,
you’re probably
at the top levels
of the professional fields,
a top doctor or a top lawyer.
Higher in this group,
earning several million dollars
a year,
are successful entrepreneurs
who start profitable companies.
At the highest levels, earning
$10 million a year or more,
are the CEOs
of big companies,
the heads of Wall Street banks,
top entertainers,
and also the top sports stars.
– Last year, we made $36,000,
and we’re a family of three.
– I think I probably make
in between $45,000 and $50,000
a year
working 70 hours a week,
six days a week.
– Combined income
with the army
and with my personal job,
maybe $55,000 to $60,000 a year.
– Probably close to $600,000.
– Usually more than $10 million,
less than $30 million
but, you know, a lot,
a ridiculous amount of money.
I am an entrepreneur
and venture capitalist.
My family owns a large
manufacturer of bed pillows
and down comforters called
Pacific Coast Feather Company.
We are, in fact,
one the largest manufacturers
of those things
in the world.
The problem
with rising inequality is,
a person like me,
who earns 1,000 times as much
as the typical American,
doesn’t buy 1,000 pillows
a year.
Even the richest people only
sleep on one or two pillows.
The pillow business
is quite tough,
as it is
for many, many industries,
because fewer and fewer people
can afford to buy
the products that we make.
[car alarm chirps]
And I have the nicest Audi
you can get,
but it’s still
only one Audi.
I personally hate fancy food.
I would infinitely rather
go have a great bowl
of pho at the local
Vietnamese place
than a five-course $300 dinner
at some fancy place.
You know, we can only
go out to eat
so many times a year.
We can only get
so many haircuts a year.
We can only get–
I can, you know–
Three pairs of jeans
will do you, you know?
Like, you don’t need
300 pairs.
– The problem
isn’t that the rich
spend too much
of what they earn.
It’s actually, paradoxically,
that they spend too little.
They’re not generating
enough economic activity.
Somebody earning
$10 million a year
doesn’t spend $10 million.
They save it.
And those savings go
anywhere around the world.
They can make the most money,
get the highest return.
They become part
of the global capital market,
including a lot
of speculative instruments,
having gold and real estate
and anything else
that they’re all chasing.
– With the exception
of the money I personally invest
to start companies,
I have essentially no idea
what happens to my money.
I invest in funds of funds,
and those hedge funds
do God knows what with it.
But I do believe absolutely
that most of the return
that’s being created
isn’t creating
any kind of social utility
other than creating
a return for me.
– Now, ordinarily
we like saving.
I mean, savings are good,
but when we have
so much unemployment,
so much underutilized capacity
here in the United States,
we need spending.
– Every single person there has
to process 12 units per hour.
– How are we gonna create jobs
if you’re taxing
the very successful people
in America
who provide those jobs?
– Sometimes we think
that this is a debate
over facts and figures
and data.
– To raise taxes on the job
creators in this country…
– I think if you believe that,
you’re fooling yourself
a little bit.
– The people that you call rich,
I call job creators.
– When somebody calls themselves
a job creator,
they’re not describing
the economy
or how the economy works,
although that’s
what it sounds like.
What they’re really doing
is making a claim
on status, privileges,
and power.
If a guy like me
is a job creator
at the center
of the economic universe,
the current
economic arrangements
are righteous and justified.
I know how comfortable
this is to believe
because I used to believe it.
You know, I grew up
kind of believing that.
You know, and when people
challenged that idea,
I would say things like,
“Well, you just don’t understand
But of course,
if rich business guys like me
are not job creators–
it’s actually our customers
that are the job creators–
we are not the center
of the economic universe.
They are.
We need to replace
trickle-down economics
with middle-out economics.
And, indeed,
every place you look on Earth
where you find prosperity,
you finds massive investments
in the middle class
and the poor,
because at the end of the day,
they are the true job creators.
The most pro-business thing
you can do
is to help middle-class people
– Okay, I’m gonna get the box.
Now, see, this box
is really important.
I travel not only
with my MINI Cooper
but with my box.
Hello, George.
How are you?
– You are so kind
to bring the box.
– We have one for you too.
It’s the same room and…
– In recent years,
I’ve discovered
that I actually have
a very, very rare
genetic condition.
It’s Fairbanks Syndrome
that is responsible
for me being very short.
– Hey, Bob, let me carry that.
– No, no, no, that’s fine.
My parents
were normal size.
My grandmother
always said to me,
“Don’t worry,”
’cause when I hit
about 10 or 11 or 12,
I’m gonna,
you know,
have a real growth spurt.
And then I got to be
about 10, 11,
and nothing happened,
you know?
– Right up this way
to the right.
– Right this way.
– Yup, behind you.
– I grew up in the shadow
of World War II.
My father was in the war.
We were middle-class.
My father sold dresses.
My mother helped in the shop.
My first job in Washington
was working as a summer intern
for Robert Kennedy.
It was a time
when there were kind of giants.
Robert F. Kennedy,
Martin Luther King,
they were all
trying to change society.
There was a sense
of possibility.
It kind of turned me on
to politics.
A few years later, I was picked
to be a Rhodes Scholar.
In those days,
all the Rhodes Scholars
who were selected
took a boat to England.
The problem was, you know,
when you go over there,
the Atlantic Ocean
is pretty rough.
You know, I and most
of the other Rhodes Scholars
were sick,
and I went down to my cabin.
You know,
I thought I was gonna die.
And then there was a knock
on the door,
and this fellow was there,
this kind of tall,
gangly Southerner,
and he had chicken soup
in one hand
and crackers in the other,
and he said, “I hear
you aren’t feeling too well.
“I thought these might help.
My name is Bill Clinton.”
At Oxford,
we were at the same college.
We kept in touch.
At Oxford,
I studied mostly economics
and philosophy.
But those experiences
really were a study for me
of the rules by which
markets are organized.
And this is an important point,
and it’s one
that’s very often lost,
but it was the focus
of my attention.
You see,
there’s no such thing
as a perfectly free market
Government sets the rules
by which the market functions.
All of these rules
are necessary
in order to construct
a free market.
The real question is,
who do these rules benefit
and who do they hurt?
And in the last 30 years,
as the structure of the economy
began to shift,
many of the rules
governing our market
began to shift as well.
Today we’re going
to try to explain
the mystery of why inequality
has been widening.
Remember, the economy is growing
all of this time.
The economy is–
The economy continues to grow.
Look, here is
gross domestic product growth
from 1929 to 2011.
The economy overall
has done extremely well,
and productivity
keeps on increasing.
We are producing
more and more and more
and more and more value.
That’s a big, big
success story.
But here is the problem.
Here’s the puzzle.
Because if you look
at the average hourly earnings
of production workers,
the average hourly earning
continued to rise
until the late 1970s,
and then something happened,
flattening wages.
Look at the gap.
Something happened
in the late 1970s.
Something happened
in the late 1970s, folks.
[funky music]
♪ ♪
In the late 1970s,
I was at
the Federal Trade Commission.
I was looking
at a lot of studies
about the direction
that the economy was going in.
More of American manufacturing
was beginning to move abroad.
There was the beginnings
of a technological revolution.
Financial markets were becoming
a little bit more powerful.
There was a move
to deregulate.
Well, you connect the dots,
and all of these
begin to look as if
they’re connected somehow
to this widening inequality.
For example, we knew that
labor unions were declining.
And that decline mirrored
almost exactly
the decline
in the middle class’ share
of national income.
[people chanting indistinctly]
The hard part
is stepping back
and seeing the big picture.
Many people,
even to this day,
say that the decline of unions
really was attributable
to Ronald Reagan taking on
the air traffic controllers.
all: Strike, strike, strike,
strike, strike, strike…
– I must tell those who failed
to report for duty this morning,
they have forfeited their jobs
and will be terminated.
– There’s no question
that beginning in the late ’70s
but also after Reagan fired
the air traffic controllers,
there was a major assault
on unions.
Employers did try to prevent
unions from being formed
much more aggressively
than before…
– I’ll go.
You don’t have to hang on to me.
– And employers fought
to bust unions
that were already there.
[people clamoring]
But maybe they were doing so
because they felt they had to
in order to maintain
their competitiveness
given so many other companies
that were nonunion
in the United States
and also many companies abroad.
The major underlying issue
was two interrelated things:
and technology.
I mean, you hear the word
over and over and over again.
Globalization, globalization,
Rarely has a word gone
so directly
from obscurity
to meaninglessness
without any intervening period
of coherence.
Can anybody lend me
their iPhone for a moment?
Anybody have one that–
Thank you.
I don’t have one,
and I’ve really wanted
to have one.
Where do most of your dollars go
when you buy an iPhone?
What do you think?
Let’s go.
Let’s do the bidding.
A little over 700 of you
have these clickers,
which is great.
You say mostly
to the United States,
some of you say
to China,
and then some of you say–
a few of you say Japan.
11 of you think Germany.
Well, here is where
your dollars go.
Most of your dollars
are going to Japan.
Some of your dollars
are going to Germany.
In fact, Germany
is the biggest–
is the second-biggest one.
South Korea’s the third,
and here,
6% of your dollars
are going to the United States,
and only 3.6% of your dollars
are going to China.
Now, it’s assembled in China.
Do you get this?
It’s assembled in China,
but the assembly
is of pieces
from all over the place.
Everything is coming
from everywhere.
I wanted my students to see
it’s not just
cost of wages or labor.
It’s also which country’s
workers add what value.
My MINI Cooper
is made by a foreign company.
But where a company’s
means less and less
in this new global economy.
like cargo ships, containers,
satellite communication
and eventually
computers and the internet,
these technologies enabled
the production process
to be parceled out
around the world.
Large numbers of American
manufacturing workers
began to lose their jobs,
which meant it inevitably
began undercutting
the wages of a lot
of working Americans.
Even factories
remaining in the United States
shed workers
as they automated.
And we have this romantic idea
that we can get
manufacturing back.
But you get manufacturing plants
and they’re filled
with robots and computers.
The old assembly line is gone.
– I was one of the earliest
investors in
I consider
to be one of the greatest
economic achievements
of our time
and certainly something
I’m incredibly proud of.
But make no mistake: employs 60,000 people
and does $70 billion,
$80 billion in sales.
But if mom-and-pop retailers
were doing
that $70 billion or $80 billion
in sales,
it would be 60,000 people
employed doing it.
It’d be 600,000
or 800,000 or a million people
because those business models
are so much less efficient.
So Amazon created
a huge economic windfall
here in the Pacific Northwest,
but all over
the country,
there are people
who are no longer employed
in selling stuff
who are not happy.
– As a manager for Circuit City,
it was a look behind
the curtain, so to speak,
as a manager, to see exactly
how everything worked.
– So when you got laid off,
did you see it coming,
or was it sudden?
– They did several layoffs
while I was there.
People who had been there
too long:
“They’re making too much money
“because they’ve
been there too long,
and we’re gonna have to do
something to cut the payroll.”
The hardest part was thinking,
“Is it gonna happen to me?”
Until I became a student,
it was pretty dicey.
I mean, it would have been
easy for me
to just fall into depression,
which happens
to a lot of people,
or go for a lower-paying job,
which would have
put me in a worse
financial situation.
Looking back on it,
you can see the pattern.
It’s not as easy to see
when you’re in it,
but the signs were there.
I mean, there was
a major slowdown in business,
and I think a lot of that
had to do
with things like Amazon.
Because I’ve been in retail
for so long,
I don’t go through
the automated checkout lines.
And one of the main reasons
is because I know
that every time
I go through that,
it’s taking a little bit
of someone’s job away.
It’s not that I think
that I’m going to…
save their jobs
in the long run.
But I know
that I’m gonna slow down
the transition a little bit
so that maybe
they’re gonna have
a little bit longer
to get ready for the transition.
– Contrary to popular mythology,
globalization and technology
haven’t really
reduced the number of jobs
available to Americans.
These transformations
have reduced their pay.
I mean, it’s not just
that wages are stagnating,
but when you take
into consideration
rising costs–
the rising costs of rents
or homes,
dramatically increasing costs
of health care,
the rising costs
of child care,
and also the rising costs
or higher education,
rising much faster
than inflation–
Take all of these
into consideration,
and you find
that it’s much worse
than just stagnating wages.
It’s basically
middle-class families,
often with two wage earners,
working harder and harder
and harder
and getting nowhere.
– I work at a law firm
as a litigation assistant.
– And Moises?
– I work as a bus operator.
– Do you know how much is
in your bank account right now?
– Mine is less than 100 bucks.
So I want to say maybe $80.
– Yeah, yesterday
it was only $30.
– And that’s with us working.
– Yeah.
– Car insurance, $125.
Kids’ World, $150.
Rent, $1,375.
We felt like we had
to write it all down,
because how could we
not have money?
We make money.
You know,
I’m working now.
We don’t know how much
we’re gonna be paying on that.
The Y.
This is my money
that I donate.
$16 a month
to Children International.
We don’t even have here
my UCSF bill.
Remember that hospital bill?
It’s, like,
200 and something dollars
that’s not even here
that we need to pay.
– Oh, yeah.
– What about savings?
– We haven’t been able to.
– We don’t have
a savings account.
I took it off because it…
– It wasn’t working.
Oh, you brought your glove.
Did you guys play baseball?
And she’s been playing with you?
When she was born,
we had no money.
The refrigerator was empty.
The freezer was empty.
I said, “This is not the way
I want to raise my daughter.”
How was your day?
– Good.
– I’ve seen single mothers
work three jobs
just to be able
to pay rent.
And I didn’t want that.
So I started
going to school.
How do you build wealth?
Not that I want to be wealthy.
I just–
How do you do it?
How the heck
do you build wealth,
like, when you don’t
have anything,
when you don’t have any assets,
when you don’t have nothing?
This is gonna be Mommy’s office.
This is gonna be my office.
It’s not my office yet,
but it’s going to be my office
really soon.
– People, I think,
would be less concerned
about inequality
of income and wealth
if everybody had a chance
to make it.
As long as there’s
upward mobility,
as long as anybody
with enough guts and gumption
and hard work
can make it in America,
can move up the income ladder,
then we don’t have a problem.
But as income inequality rises,
upward mobility is actually less
than it was before.
– Come on.
You want to see the rest?
– Yeah.
– In the United States,
42% of kids born into poverty
will not get out.
Compare that to Denmark,
where only 25% of kids
born into poverty stay there.
Even Great Britain,
a country that still has
an aristocracy,
has more upward mobility
than we do.
You know,
people occasionally say to me,
“Okay, Reich, if you think
it can be done better,
“what nation does it better?
Whom should we emulate?”
And the answer is
the United States.
In the three decades
after World War II,
a period that I call
“the Great Prosperity,”
the economy boomed,
but not only
did the economy boom,
but you had very low inequality.
We made education
a national priority,
particularly higher education.
By 1940,
only 5% of adult Americans
had a four-year college degree,
but that percentage
began to explode.
The GI Bill
paid college costs
for those who returned
from war,
and the subsequent expansion
of public universities
made higher education
affordable to many.
By the late ’50s, we had
the best-educated workforce
of any country in the world.
[gavel pounding]
We also had labor unions.
By the mid-1950s,
more than 1/3 of all workers
belonged to a union.
This gave average workers
bargaining leverage
to get a larger share
of the growing pie.
We created
the largest middle class
the world had ever seen.
And that middle class
was part of a virtuous cycle.
The wider their prosperity,
the more people were included
in that prosperity,
the more that prosperity
generated more prosperity.
Okay, now,
they’re gonna be calling in
– From American Public Media,
this is Marketplace.
[upbeat percussive music]
– America’s already
making it harder
for young people of modest means
to attend college.
41 states are cutting spending
for public higher education,
and tuition and fees
are rising as a result.
One of the things
we’ve learned about inequality
is that it’s clearly
linked to education,
including higher education.
More than anything else,
that’s what lifted people
out of poverty
and into the middle class
during the Great Prosperity.
But starting in the late 1970s,
our college graduation rates
began to flatten out.
Countries that kept focusing
on higher education
were able to deal
with globalization better
by creating
a highly skilled workforce.
Look at South Korea.
Look at the Netherlands.
Look at Germany.
They’ve invested substantially
in education,
in skill building
of all of their workers.
Even though their wages
are high,
it’s worth it
to make stuff
that goes into the iPhone
from Germany
because it is so well made
and is so precise.
Basically, every other
industrialized country–
Japan, Germany, France–
they are investing per capita
much more public investment
in all of the areas:
roads, bridges,
public education.
That’s what we’re not doing.
That’s what we have to be doing.
– We’re almost out of time.
– We can’t do it,
not with new tech.
– For years,
I have been writing
about the importance
of investing in people,
in our workforce,
so that our people could compete
in this new global economy.
And then in 1992,
I thought I finally
might be able
to do something about it.
– Today I proudly announce
my candidacy
for president
of the United States of America.
[cheers and applause]
– Bill Clinton told me
he had read all my books.
They must have influenced him,
because it formed the backbone
of his 1992 campaign
about putting people first.
– If you put people first,
if you do what works,
what we know works
in the global economy,
you’ll do what the Germans do;
you’ll do what the Japanese do.
You’ll put your people first.
You’ll expand the middle class.
– I mean, here was, you know,
somebody I’d known
from the age of 22,
and he called me one day
and said, “Look, Bob,
what I really want you to do
“is come down to Washington
right now.
I need you to run
the economic transition team.”
I didn’t even know what
an economic transition team was.
You can’t imagine
the headiness, the excitement.
I mean, the chance
to actually take these ideas,
put them into practice…
– I named my economic plan
Putting People First
to highlight my belief
that our nation
can only become a high-wage,
high-growth economy
if we make a commitment
to invest in the American people
to make the American economy
That is why I’m naming today
one of my most trusted advisors
and closest friends
to the position
of secretary of labor.
– Well, modesty aside,
I have assumed for months
that I was on Bill Clinton’s
short list.
– You can step up on that, Bob.
– There is a step.
– Oh, there is a step here.
It was a dream job
for somebody like me,
who had worried about
and fretted about
and studied and taught about
and wrote about
what was happening
to the American workforce
for years.
That long decline
in median wages–
the wage of that person
smack in the middle
of the wage scale–
that decline started in 1978.
Those wages began to decline
in terms of the real purchasing
power of the dollar…
You know, on the one side,
it was pretty clear
that wages were flat
for most people.
The flip side was that
some people in this country
were doing extraordinarily well.
You see,
the same new technologies
that brought globalization
and automation
bestowed ever larger rewards
on people
who had the right education
and connections
to take advantage
of globalization.
Some people say to me,
“But wait a minute.
You’ve got technologies today
that you didn’t have in 1980.”
You know, we didn’t have
flat-screen televisions.
We didn’t have
low-cost air travel.
We didn’t have Skype.
We didn’t have the internet.
So who are
the winners and losers
from this great shift?
Consumers certainly are winning.
I mean, you guys,
as consumers,
you are doing very well.
You get wonderful products.
Almost everything you’re buying
is getting cheaper,
and the investors
are doing well.
Here is a chart showing
the rise and fall
of the Dow Jones
Industrial Average.
You can see something here.
There is sort of a pattern.
You see,
something happened,
and I think it happened
starting right in these years.
You see these were the…
years I was labor secretary.
And investors
got very excited.
I mean, we all saw
the stock market
going like this.
I mean, how–
What in the world was going on?
How could that be possible?
Were companies suddenly
that much more profitable?
One of the big reasons
were showing higher profits is,
they were keeping pay down.
At the same time,
corporate CEOs
were starting to pay themselves
large multiples
of what the average worker
was earning.
– When we, in the fourth quarter
of last year,
along with a number
of other companies,
has to consider
workforce reductions,
it was a difficult time.
You knew that you
were impacting people
who would have a difficult time,
many of them,
in finding new jobs,
but you had to do it
for the organization to,
in that day, look to survive.
– This chart shows you
the compensation
of the highest-paid executives
in 2010.
These executives
are being paid a lot of money.
Executive pay
keeps going up.
Here’s the ratio
of average CEO compensation
to the average worker’s pay.
Suddenly this ratio
goes kablooey.
Bill Clinton in 1992,
one of his campaign planks
was that no company
should be able
to deduct the cost
of executive compensation
in excess of $1 million.
– Many big corporate executives
raised their own salaries
even when their companies
were losing money
and their workers were being
put into the unemployment lines.
I expect the jet-setters
and the featherbedders
of corporate America to know
that if you sell your companies
and your workers
and your country down the river,
you’ll be called on the carpet.
That’s what the president’s
bully pulpit is for.
– When it came
to actually implementing it,
the Treasury Department decided
that as long as CEO pay
was linked
to company performance,
you could deduct pay
over $1 million.
Well, that was the signal
to a lot of executives
and to their boards of directors
to make more and more
of executive pay
into stock options.
That’s where the whole
stock option thing came from.
It was kind of a perversion
of Bill Clinton’s promise
in the 1992 election.
Another result of all of this
is that you get
the third group of people
who are doing remarkably well.
They’re the people
who always do well,
particularly in times
of high inequality:
the financiers.
[people clamoring]
Between 1997 and 2007,
finance was the fastest-growing
part of the American economy.
In 2009, during the depths
of the recession,
the seven highest-paid
hedge fund managers
were taking in
more than $1 billion each.
Remember that government
sets the rules
by which the market functions.
We deregulated Wall Street,
allowing Wall Street
to engage
in more and more excessive
These are
the financial sector wages
relative to everyone else’s.
Does this graph look familiar?
I mean, this is
our bridge graph,
our old inequality graph.
It’s the same pattern.
And meanwhile
you’ve got many working people
succumbing to this huge lie
that government is bad,
that the market is good,
that everything government does
works against you
and everything the market does
helps you.
[birds chirping]
– Our Father in heaven,
we thank You for this food
that’s been placed before us.
We ask You to bless it.
Bless the hands
that prepared it.
Bless it’ll strengthen
our bodies.
We ask a special blessing
this day, Lord,
for those that have no food.
Bless them
with comfort and hope.
– Amen.
Ooh, ooh.
This looks good.
I am registered
as a Republican.
It probably has to do
with our religion too,
okay, Mormons.
The majority
of the Mormons are.
There are those rare Democrats,
but the majority of them
are Republicans.
Oh, I called them,
but you know what it is?
– I don’t look at myself
as someone
that’s economically troubled.
No way.
But I am worried about my kids.
– We have paid for doctor bills.
We’ve paid for dental bills.
– Two of my children right now
do not have health insurance.
Our kids without health care
was a big turning point for us.
That really got my attention.
I’m a power plant operator.
Where I work, The Geysers,
it’s a renewable
energy source.
Calpine is a good company.
They are.
– So then why are they
cutting back on people
and cutting sick leave?
– Well, the operation
will be more profitable
if they cut back on personnel.
That’s a given.
[people chatting indistinctly]
I’ve always been pro-union
from a philosophical standpoint.
I consider myself
part of the labor force.
Therefore I think labor
needs a say.
The company brought in
anti-union consultants
and put on a good campaign
to counter the union.
– Let me just say
I came here–
Some of you were still
on the fence.
Some people walked out.
There was tension in the air.
The underlying reality
is that if workers
don’t have power,
if they don’t have a voice,
inevitably their wages
and benefits start eroding.
It happens inevitably.
– Personally
I’m a proud Christian.
I’m a proud Calpine employee.
I think they treat me
more fair
than I should be treated.
– If you have a company that is
dependent on shareholders,
there is growing and growing
pressure on that company
to show better
and better profits
and have higher and higher
share prices.
That’s just
the way capitalism is.
That’s not bad.
But what that means
is that there’s greater
and greater pressure
to push wages and benefits
down to the minimum.
– So you’re a capitalist.
I’m a capitalist.
I say for these people
making their millions,
that’s fantastic.
I could have done
the same thing
if I went to school
and had the brains for it.
I do not.
So I’m a laborer.
And there’s such a burden
on the companies
in the United States now
that the cost of business
drives that–
them to go elsewhere.
– But this right now
is the richest country
in the world,
and we are richer
than we’ve ever been.
Believe me,
we as a nation are doing great,
and certain people
in this country
are doing better than anybody
has ever done in the world
in world history.
[people chatting indistinctly]
– It’s not just Calpine.
I took a $12-an-hour
cut in pay, okay?
My benefits are going down.
– I do twice the duties.
I’ll be running two plants
instead of one.
– If you have $10 million
or if you have $1 billion,
why do you need
that little bit that I have?
– Big companies are designed
not to generate good jobs
in the United States.
Big companies are designed
to make profits.
– And thanks to the members
of the administration,
Jeff and Cass
and others that have worked…
– This isn’t a matter of fault.
You know, the head of GE
is on the president’s
Jobs Council.
– I want to start off
by thanking Jeff
for his continued outstanding
leadership of this Jobs Council.
– Well, GE has been creating
more jobs abroad
than it’s been creating jobs
in the United States.
So who is taking care
of the American worker?
Who is looking out
for the American worker
as GE and other big companies
and Wall Street
and the very wealthy,
who basically have capital
all over the world–
As they have more and more
political power,
who is actually working in a way
in Washington
and in state capitals
that improves the well-being
of the American workforce?
The answer is nobody.
So why didn’t the nation
respond to the great regression
that started around 1980?
Why didn’t we take bold steps
to make the economy
continue to work
for just about everyone?
Because we figured out
three ways
to cope with flattening
or declining incomes
without reducing
our relative standard of living.
starting in the late ’70s,
the typical wage is flat.
But a lot of people are buying.
How did they do that?
How does the middle class
manage to keep on spending
when wages are flat?
The first coping mechanism,
starting in the late ’70s,
is, women go into paid work.
[boisterous music]
♪ ♪
– ♪ Tumble out of bed
and stumble to the kitchen ♪
♪ Pour myself
a cup of ambition ♪
♪ And yawn and stretch
and try to come to life ♪
– Young mothers
went into work in huge numbers.
We haven’t seen
anything like it,
a social revolution.
– ♪ Traffic starts jumpin’ ♪
♪ With folks like me on the job
from nine to five ♪
♪ Working nine to five ♪
♪ What a way… ♪
Nine to Five.
Dolly Parton?
Dolly Parton, you know,
she is only five feet tall.
– ♪ And they never
give you credit ♪
♪ It’s enough to drive you crazy
if you let it ♪
♪ Nine to five ♪
– They didn’t go to work
because there were
all these wonderful professional
opportunities open to women.
Some of them did,
but that’s not the major reason
women went to work.
They went to work mainly
because they had to prop up
family incomes
that were dropping
because the men in the family,
their wages were going nowhere.
But there’s only a limit
to how many young mothers
can go into work.
And so the second strategy
used by the 1990s
was that families–
both men and women–
worked longer hours.
– ♪ Working nine to five ♪
♪ What a way
to make a living ♪
♪ Barely getting by ♪
– When I was secretary of labor,
I remember looking at the data,
and I was amazed,
and then I’d go out
into the field,
and I’d go to various cities,
and I’d talk with people,
and people were working,
you know, all hours–
I mean, second jobs,
third jobs, overtime.
If they were professionals,
billable hours
coming out of their ears.
We were working 300 hours a year
more than the typical European.
I mean, we were working harder
than the industrious–
enormously industrious Japanese.
But there’s a limit
to how hard you can work.
When those were exhausted,
the third coping mechanism
was borrowing,
going into debt,
which seemed easy because
housing prices were going up.
[saw buzzing]
– For 13 years, Americans
have enjoyed a housing boom,
the longest ever.
– This a great time
to buy a house in Delray Beach.
You can make,
if you have some cash,
an unbelievable deal.
– From the mid- to late ’90s
you have this huge rise
in housing prices.
People said, “Well,
I can take out a loan
against my home.”
“I could use my home
as collateral,”
or, “I can refinance my home.”
And that kept the middle class
Homes were like piggy banks.
– Americans have been using
their home as an ATM,
cashing out more than
$500 billion in home equity
from 2001 to 2005 to cover
expenses like health costs,
student debt, repairs,
and credit cards.
– We had a debt bubble
prompted by middle-class America
trying to maintain
its living standard
in the face
of stagnant wages.
– We’re seeing more clients
every day that,
very sadly, they’ve gotten
into a debt hole
that is very difficult
to dig out of.
– But there’s a limit
to how far you can do that.
You know,
that was a speculative bubble,
and it burst in 2008.
We know what happened.
And so all of the coping
that the middle class has used
to avoid the inevitable reality
that their wages
have gone nowhere for 30 years,
adjusted for inflation,
are now exhausted.
When the middle class doesn’t
share in the economic gains,
you get into this downward
vicious cycle.
The problem is,
for the last three decades,
has fundamentally changed
in terms of inequality.
And it wasn’t until
the Clinton administration
that there was an opportunity
to reverse all of this.
And that was what was
so damn frustrating.
– The Senate, I believe,
is on the verge of passing
the jobs program.
Things are going well.
– I mean,
we had budget surpluses.
We might have been able
to take those surpluses
and invest them in education
and job training,
change the structure,
ultimately, of the economy.
But there wasn’t
the political will to do that.
– Before I leave,
I also want to say
a special word of thanks
to my longtime friend
Secretary Reich,
who’s carried on this fight
for the minimum wage.
This was an especially sweet day
for him as well,
and I thank him for his efforts.
– I should say something
just so it’s not misunderstood.
You know,
Bill Clinton did preside
over one of the best economies
we’ve had in this country
in living memory.
The wages
of most people went up.
Poverty actually declined.
But we didn’t do enough.
We did really alter
the underlying trend.
I became a true pain in the ass.
I mean, looking back on it,
I’m embarrassed.
In meetings,
I would sound off about,
you know, inequality,
and, “Are we looking
at the distributional impacts
of this policy or that policy?”
I mean, I became predictable.
People would roll their eyes.
I’m surprised Bill Clinton
kept me around.
I did want to bring you
up to date
on a couple of matters.
First of all,
the president was reelected.
The second
is that I’m going home.
[audience groans]
I am so glad you did not clap.
In the end, I left.
Partly, I was frustrated.
Partly, I just hadn’t seen
anything in my family.
I hadn’t seen the boys.
I said to Bill Clinton
I had to go home.
I–I do ask myself
whether I’ve been
a total failure.
I’ve been saying much
of the same thing for 30 years.
And some of the trends
have grown worse.
Inequality has become worse.
The danger to the economy
and democracy have become worse.
But here’s what I tell myself
in my quiet moments.
I say, close to home,
you know, nuts and bolts,
over the kitchen sink,
dining room table,
you know, this is what counts
for most people:
good jobs, good wages,
a good opportunity
and set of opportunities
for their kids.
This is where people live.
– Detective Conan O’Brien
and Detective Former Secretary
of Labor Robert Reich.
– I am a cockeyed optimist.
I ask you,
do I look like big government?
I wouldn’t have spent
so much of my adult life
banging my head against the wall
if I didn’t think
that ultimately
it would pay off
in terms of social change.
– No!
– That’s why I teach.
Now, people who are worried
about widening inequality
are also worried
about something else.
It’s not upward mobility.
It’s not even trust.
They are worried about
the undermining of democracy…
when so many resources,
so much money, so much wealth,
so much income
accumulates at the very top,
that with money
comes the capacity
to control politics.
[slick spy music]
♪ ♪
– There’s nothing sinister
the way it starts.
Usually they bring in somebody
you haven’t seen
for a few years.
You know,
they’re paying them 10 grand.
Might be the best man
in your wedding
or a guy
you played football with.
You say, “Eddie, hell,
I haven’t seen you…”
And then they say,
“Now, I’d like to turn it over
to old Freckles here…”
And then they give you
the whole load.
– But money–
I mean, do the lobbyists come in
and obviously
the unspoken reality is,
“We can help you win
your next election
if you cooperate with us”?
– There’s a guy
in every office
to say, “So-and-so
wants to see you.
“He’s from the American
Shoe Leather Company.
“They have maxed out,”
meaning they gave you
the maximum in your primary
when you first started.
“They gave you the maximum
in every general.
“You’ve run three times now,
and they were there for you
at every point.”
And what for?
– This is actually
where there is blame,
and I think the blame
is justifiable.
It’s not that people are rich.
It’s that they abuse
their wealth
by lobbying for bailouts
and subsidies and taxes
that are going to entrench
their wealth.
That’s the reason why the rules
have changed so dramatically.
Look at history.
Inequality and top tax rates
have had
an inverse relationship.
When inequality was lowest,
top tax rates were higher.
When inequality was highest,
tax rates on the wealthy
went down.
Under Dwight D. Eisenhower–
you know, he was a Republican;
nobody dared call him
a socialist–
the top marginal tax rate
was 91%.
I mean, even when you consider
all deductions
and all tax credits,
they were still paying
way over 50%.
– I, John Fitzgerald Kennedy,
do solemnly swear…
– I will faithfully execute…
– The office of president
of the United States…
– So help me, God.
– So help me,
– Taxes on the top
were never below 70%
until Reagan dropped
those taxes on the top.
– Read my lips.
No new taxes.
– I,
William Jefferson Clinton…
– I, George Walker Bush…
– Do solemnly swear…
– Do solemnly
– I, Barack Hussein Obama,
do solemnly swear…
– In fact, most of the very rich
in this country
don’t even pay
close to that
because most of their income
is in the form
of capital gains,
which is now taxed at 15%.
– My total taxes paid–
payroll taxes plus income tax,
mine came to 17.7%.
The average for the office
was 32.9%.
There wasn’t anybody
in the office,
from the receptionist on,
that paid as low a tax rate.
The taxation system
has tilted toward the rich
and away from the middle class
in the last ten years.
It is dramatic, and I don’t
think it’s appreciated.
– What’s the effective rate
I’ve been paying?
Well, it’s probably closer
to the 15% rate than anything.
– Mr. Romney’s income taxes
were finally posted,
and he paid 13.9%.
Nancy and I
paid 33% or more.
It was in the 30s,
and I find that atrocious.
– I paid 11% last year
on an eight-figure income.
– Wowzers.
– So less than Mitt Romney.
When you give rich
businesspeople tax breaks
all in the name of job creation,
all that really happens
is that the fat cats get fatter.
And, of course,
that’s what’s happened
over the last 30 years.
That’s the signature feature
of the economy
over the last 30 years.
– Look, nobody wants
to pay taxes.
But taxes are the price we pay
to finance the kinds of things
that we can’t do individually,
that we need to do together.
There’s kind of a negative
trickle-down effect,
and it starts in Washington.
I mean, if the wealthy
are not paying their fair share
and if the middle class
are basically stagnant
and are not paying much
in taxes
because they’re not making
much money,
then you’re gonna have
a budget crisis
somewhere along the line.
That means less revenue sharing
with the states.
That means the states
have to pull in their belts.
They cannot support
public higher education.
As state funding to institutions
of higher education went down,
tuitions went up
to compensate.
I mean, at Berkeley,
where I teach,
in the 1960s,
tuition was free.
In the 1970s,
it was $700 a year
in today’s dollars.
But now
it costs $15,000
for in-state residents.
– Next week,
members of Congress
are gonna have a chance to vote
on what we call
the Buffett Rule,
and it’s simple.
If you make more money–
more than $1 million a year,
not if you have $1 million
but if you make more
than $1 million a year,
you should pay
at least the same percentage
of your income in taxes
as middle-class families do.
– He is killing the economy,
and this is class warfare.
– I think Barack Obama
is a socialist.
– It’ll only be a minimum tax
on people who make
lots of money.
– More class warfare
from an affable billionaire.
– Is he completely a socialist?
– Is Warren Buffett a socialist?
You really have no [bleep] clue
what socialism is, do you?
– CEOs and Wall Street
have been doing terribly–
you know, enormously well.
Why should they get
continued tax cuts
when, in fact, we have a huge
deficit way down the line?
– Robert Reich.
You know Robert Reich?
– I do indeed.
– He’s a Communist.
You know that, right?
– Communist/socialist.
– okay.
– Confused. He’s a confused.
– The guy secretly adores
Karl Marx
and is up there in Cambridge…
– Can I just be clear
about this?
I am not,
nor have I ever been,
a member of the Communist Party
or a Communist.
A lot of people are
watching Fox, and I like Fox.
I like appearing with you,
and I like you personally.
I used to be on O’Reilly’s show.
In fact, I even substituted
for Bill O’Reilly
a couple of times.
He asked me.
I was on Fox quite a lot.
– Joining us now
is former labor secretary,
our good friend Robert Reich.
Secretary, how are you,
my friend?
Good see you.
– But no longer.
They don’t ask.
The football field
of American politics
has kept on shifting
to the right.
I just–you know,
basically I just stand here.
I’ve watched it move.
I used to be
something of a centrist.
In fact, my first job
was in the Ford administration.
That’s a Republican
You know, were considered
conservative in the 1990s.
– Yeah.
– You almost became the
majority leader of the Senate.
– I could have been king.
– Our staffs
were not terribly happy
that we were getting together.
My staff said, “Don’t have lunch
with this right-winger.”
– From Wyoming.
– From Wyoming.
“There’s nothing in it.”
We were approached
about doing a show.
– Mm-hmm.
– Hello, Robert.
Good to see you again.
– Good evening.
Yeah, here.
– Oh, thank you so much.
– You’re now considered
a moderate,
if not lefty.
– Commie.
– What happened?
– They came in,
and they brought with them
an antigovernment hatred.
And you don’t have adversaries
You have enemies.
– There does seem to be
a strong correlation
between political polarization
on the one hand
and widening
economic inequality.
Researchers measured
the distance
between the median
voting patterns
of one party
and the other party,
and what they found is that
in times of high inequality,
you have the highest degree
of polarization.
It almost tracks exactly.
You see how totally integrated
and connected
the issue of inequality is
to our democracy.
And you see how the ultimate
guardians of our democracy–
if Congress doesn’t do it
and if the executive
doesn’t do it,
the ultimate guardians
are up here.
In 2010, the Supreme Court
in Citizens United
decided that corporations
are people.
And as Citizens United
was interpreted by lower courts,
it basically said
that corporations,
wealthy individuals,
anybody who has a lot of money,
can flood the political system,
can basically inundate
our democracy
with their money.
Mr. Wertheimer?
– Robert, how are you?
– How are you?
– The idea that a corporation
could spend $1 billion
in an election
to elect a president
and it would not have
the capacity
to have a corrupting influence
over government decisions…
– That’s absurd.
I mean–
– Is a concept
from another planet.
The money isn’t new.
The quantity of the money
is new.
– In the last
presidential election,
we saw for the first time
in this country
I mean,
a handful of billionaires–
contributing huge sums of money
to individual candidates,
basically keeping
those candidates going.
– I mean, is this America?
Not in my mind.
I think
it’s absolutely stupefying.
I think,
if you keep going,
in the next presidential
it will be, “Have you got
$300 million in your pocket?
‘Cause you can buy a president.”
There are liberal billionaires.
There are conservative
So if you see someone
buying a result that you like,
someone else can buy a result
that you’re gonna hate
if they can give
a huge amount of money.
You cannot have government
on the auction block.
– When we see the contrast
between the values we share
and the realities we live in,
that is the fundamental
foundation for social change.
all: You work for us!
You work for us!
[cheers and applause]
– The Tea Party movement
was born in the wake
of the Wall Street bailout.
– We want to make sure
that the government
is doing what’s right
for all people,
not just for some of the people.
– An everyday Tea Partier
is an American citizen
that is frustrated
with the direction
the country’s going.
all: The banks got bailed out.
We got sold out.
The banks got bailed out.
– The Occupy movement
has focused its wrath
on Wall Street
and big corporations.
– The White House is really
in the pockets of the banks.
– It’s a plutocracy,
– It’s not about the money
and how much money people have.
It is about people
not having their voices heard.
– There’s so many people
who’ve lost their jobs.
There’s so many people
who’ve lost their homes.
It’s just totally unfair.
– You’ve got a lot of people
who feel like
the game is stacked
against them.
all: Can you hear us now?
– The game is rigged.
all: Can you hear us now?
– We need to get lobbyists,
Goldman Sachs,
George Soros, Merrill Lynch,
everyone out of our politics.
– Whoo!
– Why should they
be allowed
to throw millions
at politicians?
They’re supposed
to be our voice,
not their voice.
– Losers of rigged games
can become very angry.
– You don’t love America.
You don’t love the Constitution.
You don’t love anything
but your stupid,
smarmy-ass, taking little self.
[people chanting indistinctly]
– Health care.
– Kill the bill!
Kill the bill!
– Most people are still worried
about their jobs.
They are angry.
They are frustrated.
They’re looking
for people to blame.
– We think the Muslims
are moving in and taking over.
all: Go back home!
Go back home!
Go back home!
– One nation under God,
not Allah!
– These trends are dangerous.
[people clamoring]
[loud pops]
We’re seeing an entire society
that is starting to pull apart.
all: Education must be free.
No costs!
No fees!
Education must be…
[people screaming and clamoring]
– Oh, my God.
– At Cal Berkeley,
after being beaten by police
and cleared out
of their protest site,
Occupy Cal was back
with a full day
of protest activities today.
Joining us now is Cal Berkeley
professor Robert Reich.
– Well, on campus,
there is a kind of mood
of restlessness and uncertainty.
A lot of the students
don’t know
if the police
are coming back in.
The irony of all of this is that
instead of allowing people
to peaceably assemble
to express their outrage
at how much money
is now going into politics,
we’ve got mayors
and other officials
all over the country
who are saying,
“You can’t assemble.
“You can’t express yourself.
“But we are going to listen
to the money
“from the big corporations
that now are basically
engulfing American politics.”
[cheers and applause]
We are losing
equal opportunity in America.
We are losing
the moral foundation stone
on which this country
and our democracy are built.
[cheers and applause]
It undermines
our democracy
when all that money
can come down
from the wealthy,
from the corporations.
When there are no limits
to the amount of money–
money they can infect
and undermine
and corrupt our democracy,
then what do we have left?
What do we have left?
[people yelling]
If you can permit me
a personal note.
Because I was always
short for my age
and I was always very short–
in fact…
when I was a little boy,
I was even shorter…
I was always getting beat up.
When I was a kid,
the bigger boys
would pick on me.
You know,
that was what you did.
That’s what is done.
So I got an idea
that I would make alliances
with older boys,
you know, like,
just one or two
who would be
my protectors.
The summer when I was about ten,
one of the older boys
who I depended on
to kind of be a protector,
his name was Michael Schwerner.
In the summer of ’64,
I learned that Mickey
had been in Mississippi
registering voters.
And he and two other people
who had been with him
registering voters were–
were tortured and murdered.
And when I heard
that my protector
had been murdered
by the real bullies…
I think it changed my life.
I had to protect people
from the bullies,
the people who would
beat them up economically
or the people who would
subject them and their families
to real harm.
Because if you don’t
have a voice,
if you don’t have power,
if you are vulnerable
economically in society,
you don’t have anybody
to protect you.
There’s no single
magic bullet
to solving this problem.
I mean, I’ve written
a lot of books.
I’ve come up with a lot
of policy ideas.
I’m not alone.
Policy ideas are plentiful.
Remember, we make the rules
of the economy.
And we have the power
to change those rules.
You’ve got to mobilize.
You’ve got to organize.
You’ve got to energize
other people.
Politics is not
out there.
It starts here.
Today’s our last–
our last class.
– Whoo!
– I’ll try that again.
Today’s our last class.
[students groan]
Remember the first part
of the course,
we looked at the dynamics
of wealth and poverty,
and many of you–
many of you
were a little bit down
after that?
And some of you worried
that that dynamic
was inevitable.
Is this going to be
just a partisan fight?
Are we just going to have
class warfare in this country?
The rich actually do better
with an economy
that is growing faster,
when everybody else
is doing better.
This is not a zero-sum game.
History is on the side
of positive social change:
unemployment insurance,
social security,
civil rights,
and voting rights,
environmental protection,
the Environmental
Protection Act,
signed into law
by Richard Nixon,
of all people.
[students chuckling]
Any one of you
who feels cynical
about the possibility
of social progress,
just consider
where we have been.
– Roger.
– Which sort of comes to you.
To you.
You don’t necessarily
need to be elected
president of the United States
or be a secretary of labor
to have a huge impact.
You can be a leader
in many, many different spheres.
There are a lot of other things
I could be doing.
But I choose to be here
in this course
because I believe in you.
I believe that some of you
are going to change
the community, our society,
maybe even the world.
One final word.
May your lives
be filled with passion,
and also,
may your days be filled
with wonder and happiness.
May you do great things
with your life,
and may you have a wonderful,
exuberant, brilliant career.
Thank you.
[cheers and applause]
[boisterous music]
♪ ♪
– ♪ Tumble out of bed
and stumble to the kitchen ♪
♪ Pour myself
a cup of ambition ♪
♪ And yawn and stretch
and try to come to life ♪
♪ Jump in the shower
and the blood starts pumpin’ ♪
♪ Out on the street
the traffic starts jumpin’ ♪
♪ With folks like me
on the job from nine to five ♪
♪ Working nine to five ♪
♪ What a way
to make a living ♪
♪ Barely getting by ♪
– He inspired me, actually,
to really want to go out
and make a difference.
– Going to Brazil to work
with an NGO in the Favelas.
– Oh, you can get a hug.
– I know my wife definitely–
Erika wants
to go to school too
now that she sees
that it’s possible.
– I wanted to become a lawyer.
– You know,
I’ve thought about it a lot.
I wrote a couple of books
on this stuff.
– If I knew what to do,
I would–
on my weekends, I would take
a day off to start, okay,
not a revolution.
But you know what?
Maybe we do need
something like that.
♪ ♪
– ♪ They let you dream
just to watch them shatter ♪
♪ You’re just a step
on the boss man’s ladder ♪
♪ But you got dreams
he’ll never take away ♪
♪ In the same boat
with a lot of your friends ♪
♪ Waiting for the day
your ship will come in ♪
♪ And the tide’s
gonna turn ♪
♪ And it’s all
gonna roll your way ♪
♪ Working nine to five ♪
♪ What a way
to make a living ♪
♪ Barely getting by ♪
♪ It’s all taking
and no giving ♪
♪ They just use your mind ♪
♪ And you never
get the credit ♪
♪ It’s enough to drive you crazy
if you let it ♪
♪ Nine to five ♪
♪ Yeah, they got you
where they want you ♪
♪ There’s a better life ♪
♪ And you think about it
don’t you ♪
♪ It’s a rich man’s game ♪
♪ No matter what they call it ♪
♪ And you spend your life ♪
♪ Putting money
in his wallet ♪
♪ Nine to five ♪
♪ What a way
to make a living ♪
♪ Barely getting by ♪
♪ It’s all taking
and no giving ♪
♪ They just use your mind ♪
♪ And they never
give you credit ♪
♪ It’s enough to drive you crazy
if you let it ♪
♪ Nine to five ♪
♪ Yeah, they got you
where they want you ♪
♪ There’s a better life ♪
♪ And you dream about it,
don’t you ♪
♪ It’s a rich man’s game ♪
♪ No matter what they call it ♪
♪ And you spend your life ♪
♪ Putting money
in his wallet ♪
♪ Nine to five ♪
♪ Ooh, working nine to five ♪
♪ Working nine to five ♪
[whimsical music]
♪ ♪