Robert Reich: America’s Real Moral Crisis – OpEd


At a time when the six Republican appointees on the Supreme Court — prodded by Texas, Mississippi, and several other red states — seem ready to reverse Roe v. Wade, it’s important to see the even larger context of what’s at stake.

For years, rightwing Republicans have focused their ire on private morality – on the most intimate aspects of peoples’ lives — including abortion, contraception, gay marriage, and which bathrooms and sports teams trans young people choose.

But the real moral crisis in America today has nothing to do with private morality. The real crisis involves public morality. Consider, for example:

— Several Republican members of the House of Representatives appear to have helped plan the January 6 insurrection.

— Top executives of Facebook have knowingly fomented divisiveness and hate in order to sell more ads.

— Top executives of Big Pharma are buying off lawmakers to prevent Medicare from using its bargaining leverage to get lower drug prices for all Americans.

— Most Republican lawmakers continue to put their party and their careers ahead of American democracy by accepting Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

— A handful of extraordinarily wealthy people are spending unprecedented sums bribing legislators to stop their taxes from increasing and preserve their tax loopholes. They’re also parking their money in secret tax havens.

— State lawmakers are passing laws to suppress the votes of likely Democratic voters, and forbidding teachers to tell their students about America’s history of racism.

— CEOs of large corporations who now earn 300 times the wages of average workers (up from 60 times forty years ago) are refusing to raise the wages or benefits of hourly workers (whose pay has barely increased in four decades, adjusted for inflation). Meanwhile, they’re off-loading jobs onto so-called “independent contractors” who are cheaper because they get no labor protections. They’re also bribing legislators to give them and their corporations special favors and tax breaks.

If these don’t spell a moral crisis, I don’t know what does.

I understand why some of you may be reluctant to talk about morality. The right has hijacked the term. And the subject seems uncomfortably close to matters of personal faith and religion. Private moral choices are matters of personal faith and religion — and should stay that way.

But public morality is entirely different. I urge you to speak out about it, make a ruckus about it, and loudly condemn corporate executives, Wall Street bankers, and lawmakers who are defying the common good.

Take morality back from the radical right — in a way that’s profoundly relevant to the challenges we face today.

America’s real moral crisis has nothing to do with people deciding to end their pregnancies, or consenting adults choosing to use contraceptives, or trans young people choosing one bathroom or sports team over another. It has to do with the actions of people in boardrooms and legislative cloakrooms, and the failures of so many who occupy positions of power and public trust to honor the public good.

What do you think?

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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