Reich Decries Claims of Economic Recovery

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich told a crowd of hundreds of liberals at the Campaign for America’s Future “Take Back America” events Tuesday that he would teach them an entire economics course in 10 minutes to debunk myths about a recovery propagated by the Bush administration.

Reich—who spoke immediately after former Vermont Gov. Howard B. Dean at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge—said adults experiencing difficulty finding jobs with benefits mistakenly believe that the problem lies only with themselves. Rather, Reich said, the economy has lost one million jobs over the course of Bush’s presidency—a problem compounded by the need to create 125,000 jobs a month just to keep up with current population growth rates, he said.

Reich added that wages for 80 percent of Americans have dropped since Bush took office in 2001, and that many employers have shifted the burden of paying for health care to workers.

“There is no economic recovery,” Reich said.

Reich said the White House has used careful rhetoric to mislead the public about the state of the economy.

“What the Bush administration keeps saying is that average wages keep going up,” said Reich, whose height is just short of 4’11”. “The basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and I have an average height of 6’1” .”

Reich also said he could not figure out the economic rationale behind Bush’s tax cuts, which Reich said failed to stimulate the economy.

“If you give very rich people tax cuts, they are not going to turn out the extra money. They are already spending as much as they want to spend,” Reich said. “That is the definition of being rich.”

Reich added that the notion of trickle-down economics—the theory that the affluent will pass on the benefits of their tax cuts to their employees—was debunked in the 1980s.

“It’s not trickle-down economics—it’s trickle-on economics,” Reich said. “Nothing actually trickles down.”

Finally, Reich said the Republican notion of investing in capital is misguided. Democrats invest in things like education and health care instead, Reich said.

“We [Democrats] don’t invest in property. We don’t invest in capital,” Reich said. “We invest in people.”

—Staff writer Alan J. Tabak can be reached at tabak@fas.harvard.edu.