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Robert Reich: Why the Views of the Wall Street Journal’s Letter Writers Are Far From This World

August 8, 2010

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By **Robert Reich**

By arrangement with RobertReich.Org.

Robert Reich.JPGThoughtful debate is to be found in places other than Letters to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal where, in last Friday’s edition, under the ad hominem heading “Mr. Reich’s View Seems to Be Far From This World,” the editor gathers what the Journal apparently considers insightful responses to my Tuesday column (posted on August 3 as “The Origins of the Enthusiasm Gap.”)

Mr. Don Schoen from Northbrook, Illinois, says the Administration’s initiatives “are not too bold or too small,” as I suggest. Rather, they have had “little to do with our actual problems” and have been used instead “as cover for unrelated and sometimes significantly redistributionist actions.”

There’s a much simpler explanation for the drop in consumer spending: consumers lost their credit, their savings, and in many cases their jobs and their homes. [One letter to the editor] offers the same right-wing claptrap the Journal’s editorial page and congressional Republicans have been peddling for months.

Mr. Schoen never states what he considers the nation’s “actual problems” nor what he believes to be Obama’s “significantly redistributionist actions.” This is rhetorical vacuity.

Chris Gray of St. Augustine, Florida, calls the President “arguably the most liberal White House occupant in history,” and believes my ulterior motive is to paint him “as a middle-of-the-road compromiser bracketed between progressives on the left and conservatives on the right.” Mr. Gray says “positioning President Obama as the midway point in that ideological battle probably is the best that the left can hope for, given the continued center-right temperament of the electorate” and that “the majority of Americans want Washington to shift back toward the center.”

Mr. Gray never defines what he means by “liberal,” “progressive,” “left,” “conservative,” “right,” “center-right,” or “center.” This is ideology masked as argument.

J. P. Ruggio, of Bonita Springs, Florida, writes that I fail to emphasize the importance of “consumer confidence and consumer spending as a major force in diving our economy,” both of which are low because of “uncertainty of the intended or unintended consequences caused by recent or proposed legislation.”

Ruggio couldn’t have read my column because my whole argument for why Obama’s stimulus package was too small is based on the dramatic falloff in consumer spending starting in 2008 and continuing through 2009. That drop, by the way, couldn’t have occurred because of uncertainties about the consequences of Obama’s legislation because that legislation hadn’t been enacted by then; much hadn’t even been proposed. There’s a much simpler explanation for the drop in consumer spending: consumers lost their credit, their savings, and in many cases their jobs and their homes. J.P. Ruggio offers the same right-wing claptrap the Journal’s editorial page and congressional Republicans have been peddling for months.

One letter raises a fair point. Mr. Carter Evans, of Washington, D.C., takes issue with my assertion that when Congress approved the stimulus in February 2009 no one knew how sick the economy really was. That can’t have been entirely true because at that time I, among others, argued for a larger stimulus. So at least a few of us knew.

Copyright 2010 Robert Reich

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This entry originally appeared at RobertReich.org

Robert Reich.JPGRobert B. Reich is 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. He has written eleven books (including his most recent, Supercapitalism, which is now out in paperback). Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s Marketplace are heard by nearly five million people.

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