Robert B. Reich: The state of the (dis)union

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On Tuesday, an impeached president who is up for reelection gave a State of the Union address to the most divided union in living memory. But why are we so divided? Part of the answer is Trump himself. The Great Divider knows how to pit native-born Americans against immigrants, the working class against the poor, whites against blacks and Latinos, and evangelicals against secularists. Trump thrives off disruption and division. But that begs the question of why we have been so ready to be divided by Trump. The answer derives in large part from what has happened to wealth and power in America. In the fall of 2015, I spoke with many of the people I had met 20 years before when I was secretary of labor, as well as with some of their grown children. They were angry at their employers, the government, Wall Street. Many had lost jobs, savings or homes in the Great Recession following the financial crisis of 2008 or knew others who had. Most were back in jobs, but the jobs paid no more than they had two decades before, in terms of purchasing power. They spoke about a “rigged system” that delivered flat wages, shrinking benefits and growing job insecurity. They talked about the bailout of Wall Street, political payoffs, insider deals, soaring CEO pay and “crony capitalism.” With the 2016 primaries looming, I asked which candidates they found most attractive. At the time, the leaders of the Democratic party favored Hillary Clinton, […]

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