Give It To Me Straight, Doctor, I Can Take It

I agree with some of the things that Robert Reich has to say in his op-ed this morning. For example, I agree that many Americans have been living beyond their means:

The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means. That era is now coming to an end. Consumers have run out of ways to keep the spending binge going.

And I know that real wages are stagnating for many of us. I’ve seen it in my own family with lots of smart, well-educated, hard-working people struggling to stay in the middle class.

The underlying problem has been building for decades. America’s median hourly wage is barely higher than it was 35 years ago, adjusted for inflation. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Most of what’s been earned in America since then has gone to the richest 5 percent.

Yet the rich devote a smaller percentage of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich. They already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, and thus stimulating the American economy, the rich are more likely to invest their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

If Dr. Reich’s prescription is taxing away that income so it can be spent here rather than being invested elsewhere, is that really the best solution? That sounds like a “beggar thy neighbor” strategy to me, no?

And this

We also need stronger unions, especially in the local service sector that’s sheltered from global competition. Employees should be able to form a union without the current protracted certification process that gives employers too much opportunity to intimidate or coerce them. Workers should be able to decide whether to form a union with a simple majority vote.

sounds like a case for protectionism. If the only way that the American economy can prosper is protectionism, that doesn’t require stronger unions. That simply requires domestic hiring laws (particularly for companies that deal with the government) and erecting barriers to termination similar to those in Europe. Then we should expect some of the growth problems common in Europe, too.

And this:

Over the longer term, inequality can be reversed only through better schools for children in lower- and moderate-income communities. This will require, at the least, good preschools, fewer students per classroom and better pay for teachers in such schools, in order to attract the teaching talent these students need.

is just puzzling. Does improved education for jobs that don’t exist really help?

I’d like to see some prescriptions for dealing with the problems we have not for dealing with the problems you’d prefer to deal with. Give it to me straight, doctor, I can take it.

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