Robert Reich: The Really Big Picture – OpEd


By now you know that I love to draw — not just because it’s fun, but also because I sometimes find it easier to express ideas through drawing than through words. 

A while ago I decided to draw the “big picture” of how we got into the mess we’re in. It’s a kind of historical “docurama.”

I arranged to have a huge sheet of paper put up on a wall. (Thanks to everyone who helped!)

Then I drew Part 1 on the far left — representing 1946 to 1979. This was the time when America’s middle class grew, upward mobility was the norm, and America became more equal. 

Part 2, the second column on my wall, depicts 1980 to 2000 — the era when neoliberalism, deregulation, privatization, globalization, Wall Street, and Ronald Reagan conspired to reverse the path we’d been on. The result was widening inequality, a shrinking middle class, and stalled mobility. 

Part 3, in the middle column on my wall, represents 2008 to 2010, when the financial economy nearly collapsed, exposing the underlying rigging of the system. Banks were bailed out, but millions of people lost their homes, jobs, and savings. 

Part 4, the second-to-last column, shows what happened between 2010 and 2016, when the losers of the rigged game expressed their anger through the “Tea Party” movement, the “Occupy” movement, and the sudden appearance of two populists — Bernie Sanders on the progressive left and Donald Trump on the authoritarian right. 

Part 5, the final column, represents 2016 to 2050 — an era when I believe America will come to a basic decision about whether it wants authoritarian neofascism to run the country from the top down, or a robust democracy in which the gains from growth are widely shared. 

I hope you not only enjoy this but also find it a useful way of framing what’s occurred and the choice ahead. (If you do, please share!)

Thanks again for joining me.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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