May 22, 2013
Robert Reich and Robert Scheer at Occupy L.A. Teach-In
Posted on Nov 10, 2011
Last weekend former Labor Secretary Reich and Truthdig Editor Scheer, who, in his own words, got a little wound up, were among the luminaries teaching in at the Occupy LA encampment.
More speakers can be found here.
Transcript of Scheer’s talk:
I think we just witnessed a historic moment, before, with Robert Reich. At least for me; it was incredible, it was a Jeffersonian moment. It was what, really, the Founders—for all of their imperfections, and I’m aware of them—had in mind when they thought of this whole idea of a constitutional democracy based on the individual. And here you had a guy who—by the way, I don’t know, he got a good introduction. But in the Clinton administration there was a battle of the two Bobs. There was Robert Rubin and Robert Reich. And Robert Rubin, who had come from Goldman Sachs into the Clinton administration, represented everything that has been evil about our government. He carried water for Wall Street; he’s the one who’s responsible for the repeal of Glass-Steagall; he’s the one that’s responsible for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that ended any regulation of derivatives that have gotten us into all of this trouble. And through the legislation that he pushed through, working with Phil Gramm, working with the Republicans, getting Bill Clinton to sign off on it. And Bill Clinton, just at a conference paid for by his foundation at Georgetown University—they didn’t even mention Glass-Steagall. They didn’t even mention the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. These people have created incredible mischief for the whole world’s economy. They brought the system to its knees, and they had a conference celebrating Bill Clinton, and they didn’t even mention those sad chapters.
And in that administration, the one person—I think he was there by accident, because he had been Hillary Clinton’s professor, and he knew Bill Clinton, and he’s a brilliant man. Robert Reich was the one consistent voice in the Clinton administration who was against what was called welfare reform, which ended the federal poverty program. That’s why we have a situation now where we have 46 million Americans, 22 percent of children, living below the poverty line, and we have no federal, national program that was called welfare reform. We have another group of about 45 million Americans who the New York Times today labeled as “almost poor,” meaning they couldn’t survive in any major city. And by the way, recent studies have shown that this impovertization of America has now expanded more rapidly into the suburban community than the urban community. So this is very widespread; poverty is now as American as apple pie. It’s the norm.
And in that administration—I’ve written a book about this, and I’ve written lots of columns; some of you have read them—the one name that consistently came out was that little guy that was here before, Robert Reich. [Applause] And I remember when I was writing my book—I’m going to take a little time, since I was supposed to take 15 minutes, and then I won’t speak later, it’s OK. I’m getting wound up. [Applause] When I was writing my book, I was interviewing lots of different people. And let me just say, I used to work over there at the Los Angeles Times, and there’s still some good people there. But I remember when I was covering financial deregulation, the mass media in America not only was indifferent to the dire consequences of reversing the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the mass media was a cheerleading component … because they wanted the Telecommunications Act that would allow them to control television and print in the same market. They were cheerleaders for deregulation. And this fantasy that Wall Street lobbyists had been pursuing ever since the ink dried on those sensible rules of the road, imposed during the Depression by Franklin Delano Roosevelt—those sensible rules of the road to save capitalism from itself, to put some limits on greed—the lobbyists had been trying to get those things changed, but for six decades they couldn’t do it. And they couldn’t even do it when Ronald Reagan was president. Reagan certainly had the fantasy. He certainly talked the game, but he also had the savings and loan crisis. And because of the savings and loan crisis, at the end of Reagan’s administration he actually had to, under tremendous pressure, tighten regulations rather than loosen them.
So going to a question that was raised about the Democratic Party before, this never could have happened were it not for Bill Clinton and his triangulation. [Applause] It’s something that we have to remember, because we’re always suckers for the lesser evil; we’re always suckers for our friends; we’re always suckers for people who talk a good game. But I’m telling you, as a matter of fact, that what happened here was not the normal flow of capitalism. It was a sting operation. It was a scam. There are lots of problems; problems of globalization, problems of global warming; yes, they’re real problems. But we are the victims of something that would have put the Mafia in jail forever. [Applause] We are the victims of a sting operation. These collateralized debt obligations; these credit default swaps; these bets upon bets upon bets. Taking people’s homes and making them gambling chips in a casino. Playing with people’s fantasies, hustling them—go down to a bank here and they say, ‘Oh, did you capture the equity in your home yet? Why don’t you try this? Have a cappuccino.’ Right down there!
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