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Robert Reich: Ponderings on the New Politics of Extremism

June 18, 2012

Washington feels under siege. Who's outside the walls?

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Image from Flickr via katieharbath

By Robert Reich
By arrangement with Robert Reich

Back from several days in Washington. The city still has all the disadvantages of being a one-industry town, with almost everyone working for the government or lobbying the government or reporting on the government or trying to influence the government or litigating on behalf of or against the government. It’s like L.A. and the entertainment industry, or downtown New York and finance. Everyone is in the same bubble, and every conversation sounds vaguely similar.

The only difference this time is that Washington feels under siege, as if marauding bands are closing in on it. Unlike Europe, America doesn’t have feudal traditions that in the last century spun into fascism and communism. Our right and left are much closer to the center than are Europe’s.

But the American right—whose roots are found in Jeffersonian libertarianism and the Jacksonian alliance of small Southern farmers and Northern white workers–is moving further right, and pulling the Republican Party with it. It’s fueled by economic fears combined with racism, anti-immigrant nativism, and Southern white evangelical Christians.

The puzzle is why Wall Street and corporate America are going along with it when their interests are so different. The new Republican right is anti-Wall Street and protectionist. It doesn’t want to expand immigration. It distrusts big business and opposes the sorts of special tax cuts, subsidies, and big government contracts that big business has thrived on. The Obama administration has been far better to corporate America and Wall Street than the new Republican right would ever be.

I don’t get it, but the alliance between the energies of the new right and the money of big corporations and Wall Street is formidable, and in this early summer of our discontent Washington can already sense the barbarians at the gates.

Author Image

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 Capitalism 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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One comment for Robert Reich: Ponderings on the New Politics of Extremism

  1. Comment by WesFly on June 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    It is indeed shocking that Wall Street would think that a capitalist business oriented government in Washington would be more successful for them. Go figure!

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