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Robert Reich: On Bedrooms and Boardrooms

May 10, 2012

The latest election controversies are over gay marriage and abortions, but we're not in trouble because of what goes on in the bedroom. We're in trouble because of the CEOs in the boardrooms.


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Image from Flickr via Lars Plougmann

By Robert Reich
By arrangement with Robert Reich

The 2012 election should be about what’s going on in America’s boardrooms, but Republicans would rather it be about America’s bedrooms.

Mitt Romney says he’s against same-sex marriage; President Obama announced his support. North Carolina voters have approved a Republican-proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Minnesota voters will be considering a similar amendment in November. Republicans in Maryland and Washington State are seeking to overturn legislative approval of same-sex marriage there.

Meanwhile, Republicans have introduced over four hundred bills in state legislatures aimed at limiting womens’ reproductive rights—banning abortions, requiring women seeking abortions to have invasive ultra-sound tests beforehand, and limiting the use of contraceptives.

The Republican bedroom crowd doesn’t want to talk about the nation’s boardrooms because that’s where most of their campaign money comes from. And their candidate for president has made a fortune playing board rooms like checkers.

Yet America’s real problems have nothing to do with what we do in our bedrooms and everything to do with what top executives do in their boardrooms and executive suites.

We’re not in trouble because gays want to marry or women want to have some control over when they have babies. We’re in trouble because CEOs are collecting exorbitant pay while slicing the pay of average workers, because the titans of Wall Street demand short-term results over long-term jobs, and because of a boardroom culture that tolerates financial conflicts of interest, insider trading, and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign “donations.”

Our crisis has nothing to do with private morality. It’s a crisis of public morality—of abuses of public trust that undermine the integrity of our economy and democracy and have led millions of Americans to conclude the game is rigged.

What’s truly immoral is not what adults choose to do with other consenting adults. It’s what those with great power have chosen to do to the rest of us.

It is immoral that top executives are richly rewarded no matter how badly they screw up while most Americans are screwed no matter how hard they work.

Regressive Republicans have no problem intruding on the most personal and most intimate decisions any of us makes while railing against government intrusions on big business.

They don’t hesitate to hurl the epithets “shameful,” “disgraceful,” and “contemptible” at private moral decisions they disagree with, while staying stone silent in the face of the most contemptible violations of public trust at the highest reaches of the economy.

We must protect and advance private rights of individuals over intimate bedroom decisions. We must also stop the abuses of economic power and privilege that are characterizing so many decisions in the nation’s boardrooms and executive suites.


By arrangement with Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalis which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

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