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Big government

December 10, 2010 - Jim Anderson
The problem, Robert Reich says, isn’t big government. It’s power and privilege at the top.

Reich, who served as secretary of labor under President Clinton, is a persistent critic of what he labels the “Republican world-view” — that the weak economy is big government’s fault and the solution is to shrink government.

In a recent blog (, Reich points out that the middle class has lost some of its purchasing power.

Thirty years ago, he says, the top 1 percent of earners got 9 percent of total income. Today, they take in almost a quarter. While the rich have gotten richer, the earnings of a typical worker have stayed flat, leaving less disposable income, Reich says.

It’s true, yes, that wealth “trickles down.” In Reich’s view, too little regard is given to how it “trickles up” — how the rewards of worker productivity are reaped by an ever-concentrated privileged and powerful few.

Meanwhile, we’ve launched wars and cut taxes. We’ve bailed out Wall Street and maintained the tax cuts.

Count me among those who want Republicans to have good ideas. Efficient government is a good idea. Free markets are essential, but must remain fair.

Shrinking government for its own sake, however, is no blessing to all. When people talk about shrinking government, they tend to think it’s someone else’s needless programs that will get cut.

The reality is that shrinking government has widespread public consequences, both bad and good. If the powerful protect their government (Wall Street bailouts) and shrink yours (Medicare, grants and loans for college), whose economy is getting fixed?



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