The forum is called “Ask Me Anything,” so one of Robert Reich’s students decided to ask for the answer to an essay question. Reich was not impressed:REDDIT USER: Hi Professor Reich, let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you had a paper due tomorrow on reforming one policy that you believe contributes to wealth and income inequality in the US. Which policy would you find most important to reform and how would you reform it?
REICH: Your question sounds remarkably close to the question I set for my class, which is due tomorrow. So my advice to you is to stop Reddit and write your paper.
REDDIT USER: haha, fair enough. I’ll just ask a couple more, then log off and work on the paper. * What’s your take on our current healthcare system? Do you think the Supreme Court will declare the individual mandate unconstitutional? * For those of us who want to get involved with public policy after graduation, where do you suggest we start? Should we apply to public policy grad school? First work in local government or a public sector? Where did you first get your bearings?
Reich chose not to answer his student’s second round of questions either.
But hopefully the student stuck around, because later in the interview Reich basically answered the essay question:
We’re drifting toward becoming a plutocracy, run by a relatively small number of extremely wealthy individuals, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls. That’s why we need to get serious about campaign finance reform, why tax reform is vital, and why the entire economy needs to be reorganized to widen the circle of prosperity — so that far more of us benefit from the gains of productivity growth. If I were back in the administration, I’d strengthen labour unions, try to create a single-payer system for healthcare, use antitrust laws to break up big concentrations of power (such as the biggest banks on Wall Street), resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (that used to separate investment from commercial banking), and enlarge the Earned Income Tax Credit (a wage subsidy for lower-income workers).
He also commented on the student loan bubble:
I agree. The original idea behind the federal student loan program was sound — give students an opportunity to attend college or get additional graduate skills, on the assumption they’d be able to repay the loan fairly easily with the higher earnings that the education would generate. But it hasn’t worked out that soundly because (1) college costs have continued to soar faster than inflation, (2) government support — directly in the form of transfers to public universities and indirectly in the form of grants to students — has dropped significantly, and (3) jobs don’t pay enough or aren’t available, because we’re still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. That’s why I’ve suggested that loan repayments be proportional to full-time earnings…
The rate will essentially double July 1 unless Congress and the President take action. It’s another showdown. Republicans say the country can’t afford the $6 billion a year tab, but at the same time their budget gives trillions of dollars in tax breaks to millionaires. Obama is ready to extend the low-interest student loan but can’t without the votes. A good issue to get outraged about (and get beyond outrage and do something about).
Reich teaches public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, which made our list of the best colleges in America.