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  • BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company

  • ROBERT REICH: How do you constrain capitalism from doing

  • stupid things that are not in the public interest? You have a democracy that is sufficiently

  • well-functioning. That laws and rules limit what can be done. If the democracy is corrupted

  • itself by that capitalist excess, then the first thing you've got to do is get big money

  • out of politics.

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  • BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Odds are you know of Robert Reich.

  • Perhaps as the public servant he was under three administrationsfor his work as

  • President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, “Time Magazinecalled him one of the

  • best cabinet secretaries of the 20th century.

  • He’s written thirteen books, including his latest, “Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong

  • with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It.”

  • But youre about to see professor Reich who teaches public policy at the University

  • of California, Berkeley, in a wholly new light: as the star of a dynamic, witty, and entertaining

  • new film to be released next week in theatres across the country. It’s calledInequality

  • For All,’ and was directed by Jacob Kornbluth. Here’s the trailer:

  • ROBERT REICH in Inequality For All: Now the thing you want to know about this

  • Mini Cooper is it is small. We are in proportion, me and my car. My name is Robert Reich, I

  • was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. Before that the Carter administration. Before

  • that I was a special aid to Abraham Lincoln. Of all developed nations the United States

  • has the most unequal distribution of income and were surging toward even greater inequality.

  • 1928 and 2007 become the peak years for income concentration, it looks like a suspension

  • bridge.

  • WOMAN in Inequality For All: Last year we made $36,000.

  • MAN in Inequality For All: Think I probably make $50,000 a year working

  • 70 hours a week.

  • ROBERT REICH in Inequality For All: The middle class is struggling. People occasionally

  • say to me, “Now what nation does it better?” The answer is, the United States. In the decades

  • after World War II, the economy boomed but you had very low inequality.

  • BILL O’REILLY in Inequality For All: Do you know Robert Reich?

  • MAN in Inequality For All: I do.

  • BILL O’REILLY in Inequality For All: He’s a communist.

  • ROBERT REICH in Inequality For All: When I was a kid, bigger boys would pick on

  • me. I think it changed my life. I had to protect people from the people who would beat them

  • up economically. Who is actually looking out for the American worker? The answer is, nobody.

  • If workers don’t have power, if they don’t have a voice, their wages and benefits start

  • eroding. We are losing equal opportunity in America. Any one of you who feels cynical

  • just consider where we have been.

  • BILL MOYERS: That’s from "Inequality For All," starring

  • Robert Reich, who is with me now. Bob Reich, welcome.

  • ROBERT REICH: Thank you, Bill.

  • BILL MOYERS: I think this film is a game-changer in this

  • discussion about inequality. But I am curious because you're encroaching on my turf. Why

  • you turn to film to tell this story?

  • ROBERT REICH: Well, it was Jake's idea. And he really is

  • the brains and the creative giant behind it. But I was easily persuadable because I've

  • tried everything else. You know--

  • BILL MOYERS: Thirteen books--

  • ROBERT REICH: --I mean--

  • BILL MOYERS: --a blog--

  • ROBERT REICH: And television and so on. But there is something

  • about film. With which you can emotionally connect with people and open people's minds

  • and eyes and hearts. And on this issue of widening inequality there's so much confusion,

  • many people if theyre, you know, if they're rightwing, they want to blame the poor, if

  • they're leftwing they want to blame the rich.

  • There's a lot of blame going around. But people are not looking at the actual structure of

  • the economy as it's evolving. They're not looking at how we need to change the organization

  • of the economy, why we are the most unequal of all advanced societies and economies in

  • the world.

  • There is this popular misconception that the economy is kind of out there, it's kind of

  • natural forces that can't be changed. They're immutable. We all sort of work for this economy.

  • But in reality, the economy is a set of rules. There's no economy in the state of nature.

  • Theyre rules. I mean, there are rules about property and liability and anti-trust and

  • bankruptcy and subsidies for certain things and taxes for certain things.

  • These rules really are the rules of the game. They determine economic outcomes. If we don't

  • like them, we can change the rules. I mean, if we had a democracy that was working as

  • a democracy should be working, we could adapt the rules so that, for example, the gains

  • of economic growth were more widely distributed without a sacrifice of efficiency or innovation.

  • BILL MOYERS: Those rules are difficult to explain in writing,

  • much less on film. And yet you and Kornbluth do very well at it. Let me play an excerpt

  • for our audience to see how you did it.

  • ROBERT REICH in Inequality for All: Of all developed nations today, the United

  • States has the most unequal distribution of income and wealth by far. And we're surging

  • towards 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, adjusting for inflation, while

  • the average person in the top one percent earned $390,000. Now fast forward. By 2010,

  • the typical male worker earned even less than he did then. But at person 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. Four hundred people have more wealth

  • than half the population of the United States.

  • BILL MOYERS: And that wealth is increasing.

  • ROBERT REICH: It’s increasing.

  • BILL MOYERS: At the top.

  • ROBERT REICH: Yes, the latest data we have from one of my

  • colleagues at Berkeley, Emmanuel Saez, and his colleague Thomas Piketty, who had been

  • the pioneer researchers in this field, because they've been looking at a source that nobody

  • else has been looking at, IRS data going back to, really the beginning, 1913, the beginning

  • of the progressive income tax.

  • BILL MOYERS: And you featured their work in the film.

  • ROBERT REICH: Yes. Since the film, actually we put the film

  • together, there are new results that came out just within the last week or so show that

  • in the year 2012 inequality reached a new peak in the United States.

  • The previous peak, we thought was the peak, that is 2007 actually has been superseded

  • by this new peak of inequality, concentrated income in 2012 that almost all the gains of

  • economic growth have been going to a very small number of people at the very top.

  • BILL MOYERS: The figures are so startling, I had to shake

  • my head in disbelief when I first saw them, showing that in the first three years of the

  • recovery from the recession brought on by the financial collapse in 2008, the top one

  • percent of Americans took home 95 percent of the income gains. Ninety-five percent?

  • ROBERT REICH: That's right. As the economy grows it used

  • to be, you know, within the memory of many of us, myself included, between 1946 and 1978,

  • as the economy grew, everybody benefited. It was very wide-- the benefits were very

  • widely dispersed.

  • BILL MOYERS: Shared prosperity we called it.

  • ROBERT REICH: Well, we called it shared prosperity. It wasn't

  • socialism. I mean, Eisenhower was president through most of that. And we didn't consider

  • it abnormal. We considered it normal. As the economy grows, we should all get something.

  • And during those years, the economy doubled in size and everybody's income doubled. Even

  • if you were in the bottom fifth of the income earners you did actually better.

  • And then, and this is really the subject of the film. Something happened in the late 1970s,

  • early 1980s, to change the historic relationship between economic growth and the growth in

  • productivity on the one hand and wages. Beginning in the late '70s and really to a greater and

  • greater degree over the last three decades, all the wealth, or most of the wealth, most

  • of the new wealth in society went right to the top.

  • Income gains went right to the top and people in the middle, the median worker, the median

  • wage, stagnated. In fact since the year 2000, if you adjust for inflation, you have to adjust

  • for inflation, the actual median wage has been dropping. It's now five percent below

  • what it was then.

  • BILL MOYERS: So help us understand in practical terms what

  • it means when the layman or woman reads that the top one percent of Americans took home

  • 95 percent of the income gains. How can that be?

  • ROBERT REICH: I think that most people, if they really understand

  • it, will say: "This is not the America that I should be part of. This is not an economy

  • that is working as it should be working. Something is fundamentally wrong." And the game feels

  • rigged somehow.

  • And I think that's the conclusion that many people are coming to regardless of whether

  • you are, consider yourself, on the left or the right. Many Tea Partiers are angry at

  • the system because there seems to be so much collusion between government and big business

  • and Wall Street. That's where the Tea Party movement came from.

  • BILL MOYERS: Yeah. That was-- that intrigued me back when

  • Occupy happened, that it and the Tea Party were both about the one percent.

  • ROBERT REICH: Both about what looked like a fundamentally

  • unfair subsidy going from everybody, taxpayers, to mostly the top one percent, that is the

  • people on Wall Street who had blown it. Who had basically treated the economy as a casino

  • for much of their own benefit. And leaving many of the rest of us underwater in terms

  • of being able to pay our mortgages, with our savings depleted because the stock market

  • had basically reversed itself, and jobless.

  • BILL MOYERS: And here we are, five years after Lehman Brothers

  • collapsed and Wall Street went south and you say that the banks, the big banks are still

  • at it, still gambling?

  • ROBERT REICH: Unfortunately, they are. We don't even have

  • a Volcker Rule. Remember when we had the Dodd-Frank Act that was supposed to clean up all of this?

  • And a piece of it was kind of a watered-down Glass-Steagall. Glass-Steagall was the old

  • 1930s rule that said you had to split your commercial banking operations from your, basically