Economist and Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich showed up on Reddit today… I believe at the behest of his son, who works for CollegeHumor.com. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:
evasilev: What is the top priority policy change you would like to see outlined in Obama’s upcoming policy speech to Congress?
robertbreich: It will be a hard sell, but when consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of the economy) won’t spend, and businesses (who are facing lackluster sales) won’t hire, government has to be the spender of last resort. The President should ask for a trillion dollars to boost the economy. Not just on the WPA and CCC I mentioned, also infrastructure investment, also loans to cash-starved states and localities. With 25 million Americans looking for full-time work, and the cost of borrowing so incredibly low (T-bills at 2 percent), this is the only responsible thing to do.
absinthe718: If you could eliminate a single federal regulation and replace it with some other regulation (or nothing at all), what would it be and why?
robertbreich: I’d start by legalizing marijuana.
bluehat9: “Add it up: (1) 25 mil Ams need full-time work. (2) Am’s infrastructure falling apart. (3) Ten-year T-bill at 2%. Borrow to rebuild America!”
-This was recently posted on your twitter. In your mind, is borrowing the best (or only) way back to economic strength for the US economy?
-Do you think the deleveraging of the economy is a necessary evil? Do you think that historical GDP (pre 2008) was unsustainable? Do you think GDP is even something we should be looking at to measure the strength of our economy? It seems to me that basing success on GDP encourages inefficiencies in the economy. Do you agree?
robertbreich: The GDP isn’t the best measure. I’d look at jobs and wages. In August, the U.S. economy created zero new jobs, and hourly wages continued to drop. We can’t possibly get back to a strong economy at this rate.
As to “deleveraging” — I don’t think it’s a necessary evil. Wringing all the debt out of the economy, including personal debt, would mean huge pain for tens of millions of people. It’s what Hoover’s Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, recommended in 1930 when he said “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmer, liquidate real estate … purge the rottenness out of the system.” It’s like trying to cure the patient by killing him.
eddylee71: Do you believe that the attack on the education system is more of an attempt to push towards the privatization of the system in order to control the education of future generations and further create the gap between the have’s and the have not’s? I am not a conspiracy theorists, but it just seems that the push towards private education prevents lower class (left) from acquiring education and further allows the upper (right) to further control the poor. English class system of nobles and serfs.
robertbreich: I’ve proposed vouchers whose worth is inversely proportionate to family income (so a poor family gets a very large voucher, say $15K, while a rich one gets a much smaller one, say $3K.) I’d be interested in your thoughts about this.
wackyguy15: Has Obama tried to contact and get advice from more progressive economists like yourself and Krugman, or has he stuck with the more center-left economic minds on his cabinet and staff?
robertbreich: Krugman and I met with him last January. Joe Stiglitz was also at that meeting. Haven’t heard from the President since then.
jfr359: I remember your saying that one of the problems with the last stimulus package was that it wasn’t big enough. I’m assuming you favor a bigger package this time around — is that correct? And will a stimulus combined with increased taxes on the wealthy be enough, or will we need something additional like a value-added tax?
robertbreich: Yes. And, yes, I’d increase marginal taxes on the wealthy — not only to help bring down the long-term debt and deficit but also to restore some balance to our society. It can’t be healthy when CEOs are takiing home 300 times what average workers are taking home (40 years ago it was closer to 30 times).
hardigree: Do you think the underlying philosophy behind Krugrman’s assertion that creating a fake alien invasion so we’d pump a trillion into the economy has some merits?
Will Detective Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Detective Conan O’Brien make a sequel?
robertbreich: I think we already have an alien invasion from space. It’s being led by Michele Bachmann.
I’d love to make a sequel with Conan. Write to him and let him know.
I like that he has the courage to out Michele Bachmann as an alien from space. You’ve got to love that in a politician.
And here’s that bit from Conan that was just referenced…. And, yeah, Reich is a super tiny guy.