Robert Reich: America is now a hotbed of socialism — for the rich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump said recently.

Someone should alert him that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it’s socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.

In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. This pretty much describes General Motors’ receipt of $600 million in federal contracts, plus $500 million in tax breaks, since Trump took office.

Some of this corporate welfare has gone into the pockets of GM executives. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra raked in almost $22 million in total compensation in 2017 alone.

But GM employees are subject to harsh capitalism. GM is planning to lay off more than 14,000 workers and close three assembly plants and two component factories in North America by the end of 2019.

The nation’s largest banks saved $21 billion last year thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, some of which went into massive bonuses for bank executives. On the other hand, thousands of lower-level bank employees got a big dose of harsh capitalism. They lost their jobs.

Banks that are too big to fail—courtesy of the 2008 bank bailout—enjoy a hidden subsidy of some $83 billion a year because they have the backing of the federal government. This hidden subsidy gives Wall Street, giant banks a huge advantage.

In 2017, Wall Street’s bonus pool was $31.4 billion. So, take away the hidden subsidy, and that bonus pool disappears, along with most profits. Trump and his appointees at the Federal Reserve are easing bank requirements put in place after the bailout. But they will make sure the biggest banks remain too big to fail.

When he was in business, Trump perfected the art of using bankruptcy to shield himself from the consequences of bad decisions– socialism for the rich at its worst –while leaving employees twisting in the wind. Now, all over America, executives who run their companies into the ground are getting gold-plated exit packages while their workers get pink slips.

Under socialism for the rich, you can screw up big time and still reap big rewards. Equifax’s Richard Smith retired in 2017 with an $18 million pension in the wake of a security breach that exposed the personal information of 145 million customers to hackers.

Wells Fargo’s Carrie Tolstedt departed with a $125 million exit package after being in charge of the unit that opened more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts.

Whatever happened to the idea of a meritocracy  – an economic system that allows everyone to get ahead through hard work, and economic gains go only to those who deserve them?

Around 60 percent of America’s wealth is now inherited. Many of today’s super-rich have never done a day’s work in their lives. Trump’s response has been to expand this divide by cutting the estate tax to apply only to estates valued at over $22 million per coupleMitch McConnell is now proposing that the estate tax be repealed altogether.

To the conservative mind, the specter of socialism conjures up a society in which no one is held accountable, and no one has to work for what they receive. Yet, that’s exactly the society Trump and the Republicans are promoting for the rich.

Meanwhile, most Americans are subject to an increasingly harsh and arbitrary capitalism.

They need stronger safety nets, and they deserve a bigger piece of the economic pie.

If you want to call this socialism, fine. I call it fair.

***

Reposted from AlterNet

Robert Reich served as the nation’s 22nd Secretary of Labor and now is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His latest book, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, is now in bookstores. His earlier book, “Supercapitalism,” is out in paperback. For copies of his articles, books, and public radio commentaries, go to www.RobertReich.org.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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