Robert Reich

Of course you expect those on the right to bemoan President Obama’s spending, health-care law, and economic policies. It’s midterm election season, and gloom works against the incumbents. So it’s sobering to hear from a guy well to the left of the Obama administration, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who writes, “We are almost certainly in store for many years of high unemployment.” Indeed, his Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future (Knopf, $25) is a grim little book. Its villain is a top-end concentration of wealth, and its thesis is that unless middle-class consumption is again restored to the rightful center of the economy, our post-recession slump will last for a generation. Billionaires buying yachts or building trophy homes—both Paul Allen and Bill Gates are mentioned—simply isn’t enough stimulus to correct an inequitable system. Unless the estate tax is restored, capital gains taxes are raised, and marginal rates are returned to Clinton-era levels (among other proposals), Reich predicts that high unemployment and lower living standards will surely result. Children will be worse off than their boomer parents. Already, he writes, “Middle-class coping mechanisms are exhausted.” Some in the audience tonight may know exactly that feeling. BRIAN MILLER

Tue., Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m., 2010

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