Robert Reich is the Bill Nye of Economics

I love Bill Nye, the Science Guy. He makes science approachable to the masses. But his biology degree doesn’t make him a versed expert in modern nanobiotechnology, nor does his mechanical engineering experience qualify him to design bridges. He’s best at making science fun.

Robert Reich knows more than the average bear about economics. He’s heavily credentialed from his early career under previous presidents. But lately he’s been cashing in on populist sentiments about capitalism and pushing questionable math and methodologies. His straddling of pop econ and pop politics leave his presentations weak on both. His book titles Supercapitalism, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future and Beyond Outrage give you a sense of where he’s coming from.

Let’s critique his latest short video above point by point.

  1. Electability – I’ve said a hundred times, “I’ve said a hundred times: pre-nomination matchup-polls are useless.” There’s an insistence that Sanders is electable before the GOP has spent a dime on attack ads (versus $3mm v Clinton) or started down their laundry list of complaints about him.
  2. Congress – There is little comparison between the coalitions Hillary and Sanders have respectively built. Sanders has upset a large portion of the DNC yet hopes for their full support. Reich claims the Sanders revolution can fix Congress, ignoring that Clinton has raised millions for progressives while helping their election chances this season while Sanders has raised zero.
  3. Socialism – Highways are not a socialist trademark. Neither are retirement plans or national defense. Reich gives credit to socialism for obvious programs that every nation maintains regardless of economic and political structure. He attacks popular boogeymen like cable companies and ag subsidies (food security, anyone?) as examples of socialism gone backwards.
  4. Single Payer – America isn’t Norway. Heavier hitters than Reich have explained in great detail why the numbers don’t add up. Every progressive in America wants universal health care, but it’s going to take a lot more thorough plan than what Sanders has presented.
  5. Gov’t in College – No-strings money given to states for either enrolling or graduating students has side effects. We’re already in a for-profit university student loan boondoggle with billions of dollars spent and little real education to show for it. Limitations on staff raises and fancy new building construction would have to be part of any deal. This doesn’t even touch on the huge unfunded responsibilities put on states that can afford to participate.
  6. Age – Individual opinions may vary.

So, no, this skeptic remains unconvinced.

I posit that as an economist in this election season, Robert Reich is working from a platform of activism, not defensible math or methods.

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Jay is Editor In Chief of The Agonist, veteran and technologist.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • No thanks rr was standing there when big dog sold Amerikas citizens to wall street. rr is part of the problem why we the people can’t have anything nice like Health Care instead corp. care.

  • I rebut most of your arguments:

    1. If you don’t try, then you get a “Pragmatist” owned by Wall St.

    2. Hilary is bought by Wall St, and has in turn bought progressives.

    3. Bernie is no Socialist. What we have is welfare for the Rich in the US, such as the Tax Code, TARP etc.

    4. For a country which prides itself on its business acumen, spending 18 to 20% of GDP on health care is very foolish. Bernie has a proposal, not a plan. We do need a plan, and in the process of erecting single payer will demolish the shibboleth that private businesses can provide public good. Personally I doubt the proposition that profit motives (selfishness) deliver Public Good.

    5. Monetize the private loan debt. Address the cost of higher education and bloated University Administrative budgets.

    6. Let’s elect a younger candidate. Where is a younger democrat?

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