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The Big Answer


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Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it

a book by Robert B. Reich

(our site's book review)

Nothing Important Can Happen in Washington Unless U.S. Citizens Are Inspired and Organized

In this book, Robert B.Reich shows why nothing important can happen in Washington unless U.S. citizens are inspired and organized to make sure politicians honor their promises. But in order to be effectively mobilized, we need to see the whole picture. Beyond Outrage makes the connections for us, showing us why the increasing share of income and wealth going to the top has hobbled jobs and growth for everyone else, which is undermining our democracy. It is also causing Americans to become more and more cynical about public life. It has even turned many Americans against one another. Reich explains why the proposals of the "regressive right" are dead wrong and provides a clear description of what must be done instead of falling for rightwing diversions, distractions, and cliches. Here's a blueprint for realistic action for everyone who cares about the future of America. Reich gives us a way of implementing "don't get mad, get even" rather than staying stuck at the helpless rage stage.

"The problem with our economy is that it currently works for the few—corporate and Wall Street elites—at the expense of the rest of us . . . Reich recommends that politicians and the public get out of their ideological bubbles and face the need to raise tax rates on the wealthy, reduce military spending, and restrict the size of banks to reduce the risk to taxpayers in case of failure."—Vernon Ford

The income gap is extreme and embarassingly indicative of the need to raise tax rates on the wealthy
The income gap is extreme and embarassingly indicative of the need to raise tax rates on the wealthy

The Super-Rich Have Rigged Our Economy in Their Favor

Reich explains how the super-rich have rigged our economy in their favor and at the expense of the average American. Reich provides an overwhelming amount of data in support of his argument. The enhanced edition of this book contains videos which provide further explanation and clarity for his talking points. America, he says, will soon be the world's greatest offshore employer and purveyor of weaponry, and it has a lousy record of taking care of its people. The politicians do not represent the people, especially after the horrible Citizens United v. FEC decision the Supreme Court handed down, so the government works to enrich the rich and wring the wealth from the non-rich. Welcome to the oligarchy! So what are we prepared to do about it? Note: America will not "soon" be the world's greatest purveyor of weaponry. It already is. See Arms and Drug Trade.

The U.S. government works to enrich the rich and wring the wealth from the non-rich—it's a shake-down
The U.S. government works to enrich the rich and wring the wealth from the non-rich—it's a shake-down

The Regressive Right Agenda Is to Regress Us Back to the Gilded Age

In his incisive chapter on the rise of the Regressive Right, the author posits that the agenda is not only to undo the social legislation of the New Deal, it is to go even further back to the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, including economic Darwinism. The 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the entire bottom half of earners—150 million Americans—put together. That adds up to "gilded" indeed! Income in excess of $1 million should be taxed at 70 percent, says Reich. There should be more tax brackets at the top and higher rates in each of those top brackets. He quotes Louis Brandeis, a member of the US Supreme Court, who once said that, "We may have democracy, or we may have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both." Note: Mark Twain's 1873 book 'The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today,' satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding, and this is how the period from 1870 to 1900 got its name. We're most of the way back to that age already, thanks to fat cats, neocons, too-big-to-fail megacorporations, and the crooks in Congress we laughingly refer to as our representatives.

Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse
Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse

Reich wanted us to re-elect Obama in 2012. We disagree. After seeing how he sold out, gave the rich tax breaks, and gave the too-big-to-fail corporations huge bailouts, on top of making the Middle East wars continue and bungling the Middle East strategies so badly that ISIS was created, and add to that decreasing our rights and oppressing brave whistleblowers who he charged with crimes for doing their civic duty, and we were ready to vote for anything or anyone rather than OBomb'em. We voted for Romney—who we do not like—but Anyone or Anything would be better than Obama. We'd have voted for a kitten or an amoeba or a microwave oven rather than casting a vote for Obama!

Falling tax revenues due to rich people using a whole raft of tax avoidance strategies mean that the little guy, and the little business, are both being screwed
Falling tax revenues due to rich people using a whole raft of tax avoidance strategies mean that the little guy, and the little business, are both being screwed

Tax Breaks for the Rich Have Eroded Schools, Infrastructure, Etc.

According to the author, ". . . tax revenues at all levels of government have fallen precipitously. This has led to a major squeeze on government budgets. The result has been deteriorating schools, less college aid, crowded and pockmarked highways, unsafe bridges, antiquated public transportation, unkempt parks, fewer police officers, fewer social workers, and the decline of almost everything else the broader public relies on. . . . Average Americans are competing with one another for slices of a shrinking pie. There is now more intense competition for a dwindling number of jobs, a smaller share of total income, and ever more limited public services."

Tax breaks for the rich result in unsafe bridges, crowded and pockmarked highways, and general infrastructure decline
Tax breaks for the rich result in unsafe bridges, crowded and pockmarked highways, and general infrastructure decline

Reich argues that our inability to recover economically, the seeming dysfunction of government, unemployment, deterioration of infrastructure, and collapse of education, among other major social problems, exist due to the unprecedented accumulation of wealth in the 1%—a.k.a. fat cats, wealthy, rich, and well-to-do. Regressives are often promoting a political revival of 19th-century Social Darwinism to justify shameless inequality and survival of the fittest, i.e., the law of the jungle. Democrats' “stunning failure” to offer an alternative has helped regressives gain political traction, according to the author.

Regressives are often promoting a political revival of 19th-century social Darwinism to justify shameless inequality and survival of the fittest, i.e., the law of the jungle
Regressives are often promoting a political revival of 19th-century social Darwinism to justify shameless inequality and survival of the fittest, i.e., the law of the jungle

The problem is that increasingly the vast majority of the population has no voice—which is not a democracy. As Reich points out, the only way to fix it is for more people to get involved. See Democracy—an American Delusion.


We—and Reich—Are Detecting That Something Is Rotten in Our Nation's Capital

Reich charges Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas, and Newt Gingrich with shady political dealings, while he systematically debunks various right-wing tactics, such as the benefits of lowering taxes on corporations in order to stimulate job growth. It stimulates only fat cat wallets and bank accounts. And it stimulates the noses of those of us who are NOT fat cats. We are detecting that something is rotten in our nation's capital.

We are detecting that something is rotten in our nation's capital
We are detecting that something is rotten in our nation's capital

The point of Beyond Outrage is to help you focus on what needs to be done and how you can do it, and to encourage you not to feel bound by what’s politically possible this year or next. You need to understand why the stakes are so high, and why your participation—now and in the future—is so important. In Reich's experience, nothing good happens in Washington unless good people outside Washington become mobilized, organized, and energized to make it happen. Nothing worth changing in America will actually change unless you and others like you are committed to achieving that change. We need to keep in mind, however, that there will never again be great people to vote for—like FDR, perhaps the best ever. So we will not be solving our country's problems by voting for a good person—no such person rises in politics and is allowed on the national ticket.

We'll not be solving our country's problems by voting for a 'good person'—no such person rises in politics and is allowed on the national ticket, which explains voter apathy
We'll not be solving our country's problems by voting for a 'good person'—no such person rises in politics and is allowed on the national ticket, which explains voter apathy

Reich Says We Need a $15 Minimum Wage

Reich says we need a $15 minimum wage. But dramatically lessening economic inequality by taking money out of struggling and hard-pressed small businesses and giving it to workers sounds great until you actually talk to such businesses and find out the real truth of the short-sighted policy of suddenly making small businesses pay a whole lot more than they can afford for workers.

The problem with addressing income inequality by raising the minimum wage is this: For consumers, higher unemployment and a higher cost of living as prices rise. As small businesses have to pay more for workers, they either fire some of their people or go out of business. It is estimated that the new minimum wage in Oregon will put up to 40,000 Oregonians out of work and it is estimated that the new minimum wage in California will put up to 700,000 Californians out of work and it will kill many small businesses or make them move over the state line. Those who've looked at the balance sheets of a lot of small businesses see they all have in common: a courageous desire to keep the business going at all costs. So they operate at break even or even at a loss for a bit, taking out second mortgages or borrowing from relatives. They are often on the edge, and big box stores and chains and franchises keep making the small business enterprises compete against unfair advantages of scale and political clout.

Adding the $15 minimum wage burden to already struggling businesses will push many over the edge
Adding the $15 minimum wage burden to already struggling businesses will push many over the edge

When liberal do-gooders that have never had the slightest experience of trying to keep a small business alive come along with utopian ideas of "living wages," we all agree we'd like to see it happen, including the small business owners. But adding this burden to already struggling businesses will push many over the edge or make owners that worked 40-hour weeks start working 70 hours a week to make up for the workers they had to fire to keep from going under, eliminating their family life. Will the do-gooders come work for free or contribute free money so these people will be able to go back to having time for families? Not a chance. And if the little companies are forced to raise prices to survive, the big box stores' unfair advantages of scale and political clout will send more customers away from their higher prices and towards the big box behemoths. See The Faces of $15.

Rather than adding millions more to the unemployment roles and killing tens of thousands of businesses and causing lots of price increases on top of inflation by employing a minimum wage increase, utilize progressive taxation
Rather than adding millions more to the unemployment roles and killing tens of thousands of businesses and causing lots of price increases on top of inflation by employing a minimum wage increase, utilize progressive taxation

The only fair way to handle the matter is—rather than adding millions more to the unemployment roles and killing tens of thousands of businesses and causing lots of price increases on top of inflation—through progressive taxation—an idea Reich agrees with, and he's right, of course. (Income in excess of $1 million should be taxed at 70 percent, Reich says.) There are thousands of rich oligarchs finding ways to avoid taxes with offshore accounts, loopholes in laws put there just for them, creative accounting, using foundations and charities as tax shelters, etc. Take away all these tax avoidance tactics and force them to pay at least a minimum of the 39.6% they are supposed to be paying. Give this money to the small business owners, according to payroll sizes, to pay the extra $5/hour to their hourly workers. This is fair, since abruptly expecting the small business owners to come up with extra money they do not have is unfair. Unless they suddenly learn how to defecate money, the sudden jump up to a $15 minimum wage will break the backs of many little business owners. True, Reich wants progressive taxation too, but he needed to make his $15 minimum wage proposal contingent upon those funds from higher taxes on the rich being used to pay 5$/hour of that $15 minimum wage so that the proposal is fair to everyone.

Unless they suddenly learn how to defecate money, the sudden jump up to a $15 minimum wage will break the backs of many little business owners
Unless they suddenly learn how to defecate money, the sudden jump up to a $15 minimum wage will break the backs of many little business owners

Technically, this is money the oligarchs are cheating us out of anyway, one way or another, since the taxes the rich do not pay due to their avoidance tactics get wrung out of the rest of us and that is not fair. Or up the top rate to 50% and close some loopholes. Bottom line? Robbing middle class small business owners so they become lower class or unemployed is stupid. Take the money from bigger businesses that can afford it, or oligarchs who are cheating us all out of tons of money—that makes a whole lot more sense. The author is against the way we are getting screwed by rich elites, but his $15 minimum wage is more pain for the little guy, as well as less employment opportunities.

To support the $15 minimum wage, take the money from bigger businesses that can afford it, or oligarchs who are cheating us all out of tons of money—that makes a whole lot more sense
To support the $15 minimum wage, take the money from bigger businesses that can afford it, or oligarchs who are cheating us all out of tons of money—that makes a whole lot more sense

Corporations Appear to “Pay” Corporate Income Tax, but In Reality, It’s Consumers Who Pay It

In Reich's book Supercapitalism, he says that corporations appear to “pay” corporate income tax, but in reality, it’s consumers who pay it. Why continue this charade? Abolish this corporate income tax and ensure that companies charge consumers less, since the corporations’ cost of doing business is now lower. This tax, since it started, has given the corporations the idea that they should have the right to participate in democratic decision making—a really bad idea for everyone.

So add this idea to the rest of the ideas in this review and Reich has a more complete plan for reversing U.S. Decline.