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caption: Robert Reich discusses The System via livestream. Town Hall Seattle presented the program.
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Robert Reich discusses The System via livestream. Town Hall Seattle presented the program.
Credit: Courtesy of Robert Reich

The system: It’s about class and power

If you are a member of the 99-plus percent of Americans who aren’t counted as super-wealthy, Robert Reich has an urgent message for you. He wants you to drop your left-right divisions and focus on the issue of oligarchy vs. democracy.

Reich’s new book is The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.

There are reams of statistics available about how much wealth the super-rich control. Early last year, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted that the top .1% own about as much as the bottom 90%. Allowing for some economic quibbling over wealth vs. income, PolitiFact called Warren’s assertion “mostly true.”

They added a note of research from a Federal Reserve-University of Pennsylvania study: "In all of the estimates discussed here, top wealth shares in the United States are very high and increasing over time."

The top 0.1% is fewer than 200,000 American families. The bottom 90% is about 110 million households. A system that may seem like a numbers game, is not a game at all for most Americans.

At a time when Mr. Reich spoke to us during a pandemic, via video conference from home, his views on how our economy benefits and fails us all are timelier than ever. A certain Mr. Bezos comes in for some scrutiny, but Reich insists it’s not personal.

Reich often jokes that he needs a soapbox to see over most podiums. He didn’t need one in this context, but his call for common sense measures to address wealth and class inequalities is loud and clear.

Professor Robert Reich teaches Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations and has written fifteen books, including The Work of Nations, The Common Good and Saving Capitalism.

He recorded this livestream on April 15. Town Hall Seattle presented the program. Town Hall’s Wier Harman moderated the event.