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Robert Reich: Americans Feel Powerless, Thanks to Lack of Choices

By    |   Tuesday, 28 April 2015 07:20 AM

Americans feel more and more powerless amid consolidation in both the corporate and government sectors, says former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

"The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable," he writes on his blog.

"A large part of the reason is we have fewer choices than we used to have. In almost every area of our lives, it's now take it or leave it."

In the job market, "companies are treating workers as disposable cogs because most working people have no choice," writes Reich, now a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. "They need work and must take what they can get."

On the consumer side, consolidation among big companies curbs our selections, he explains.

"Finally, as voters we feel no one is listening because politicians, too, face less and less competition. Over 85 percent of congressional districts are considered safe for their incumbents in the upcoming 2016 election; only 3 percent are toss-ups," Reich writes.

"Powerlessness comes from a lack of meaningful choice. Big institutions don't have to be responsive to us because we can't penalize them by going to a competitor," he adds.

"Our economy and society depend on most people feeling the system is working for them. But a growing sense of powerlessness in all aspects of our lives — as workers, consumers and voters — is convincing most people the system is working only for those at the top."

Meanwhile, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University has spent a lot of time studying the issue of growing income inequality.

He offers several solutions in his new book, "The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them," which was excerpted on Yahoo Finance.
  • Tax Reform. The idea should be for "those at the top pay at least the same share" of their income as everyone else does, Stiglitz says. Tax provisions that weaken the economy and create more inequality should be eliminated.
  • Structural economic reform. It is "the way our economy works that creates this inequality," Stiglitz says. He cites "ineffective and ineffectively-enforced" anti-trust and corporate governance laws that favor the wealthy. That leaves "less for investment, less for wages," Stiglitz writes.
  • Equal access to education. "We spend more even in the public school on the children of the rich than we do the poor," he explains. "We are transmitting advantages and disadvantages across generations, and that is the most important factor in creating this inequality of opportunity."

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Americans feel more and more powerless amid consolidation in both the corporate and government sectors, says former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
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Tuesday, 28 April 2015 07:20 AM
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