Reich has a nice eye for the instructive example. The wealth gap in the US is now at its widest since 1929: in 2005, 21.2 percent of US national income accrued to just 1 percent of earners. In 1968 the CEO of General Motors took home, in pay and benefits, about sixty-six times the amount paid to a typical GM worker; in 2005 the CEO of Wal-Mart earned nine hundred times the pay of his average employee. Indeed, the wealth of the Wal-Mart founders' family that year was estimated at about the same ($90 billion) as that of the bottom 40 percent of the US population: 120 million people. If the overall economy has grown "exuberantly" but "median household income has gone nowhere over the last three decades,...where has all the wealth gone? Mostly to the very top." As for the intrepid boldness of the latest generation of "wealth creators": Reich lists the tax breaks, pension guarantees, safety nets, "superfunds," and bail-outs provided in recent years to savings and loans, hedge funds, banks, and other "risk-takers" before dryly concluding that arrangements "that confer all upside benefit on private investors and all downside risk on the public are bound to stimulate great feats of entrepreneurial daring."
This is all well said. But what is to be done? Here Reich is less forthcoming. The facts he amasses appear to point to an incipient collapse of the core values and institutions of the republic. Congressional bills are written to private advantage; influential contributors determine the policies of presidential candidates; individual citizens and voters have been steadily edged out of the public sphere. In Reich's many examples it is the modern international corporation, its overpaid executives, and its "value-obsessed" shareholders who seem to incarnate the breakdown of civic values. These firms' narrowly construed attention to growth, profit, and the short term, the reader might conclude, has obscured and displaced the broader collective goals and common interests that once bound us together.
I would highly recommend watching Robert Reich's presentations below- he knows how to give a humorous talk on a controversial subject.
Robert Reich: How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap?
Where is America Going?
Why a Massachusetts Liberal Will Be the Next President
Politics and Principles
Robert Reich- Videocasts