Eminentoes

Isn’t It Reich?

Obama backer says there can be no stimulus without affirmative action.

By 2.5.09

Send to Kindle

The biodegradable celebratory balloons at the parties marking the election of the nation's first black (or half-black) president weren't even half-deflated before Robert Reich, economic adviser to Barack Obama, took a direct shot at white males and their allegedly overprivileged and overly snug and comfy position in the America economy.

More specifically, Reich took aim at "white male construction workers," warning that they might be positioned to be on the receiving end of a disproportionate share of the government's stimulus package and the ensuing jobs.

"I am concerned, as I'm sure many of you are, that these jobs not simply go to high-skilled people who are already professional or to white male construction workers," said Reich, labor secretary under Bill Clinton and currently a public policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Saying he has "nothing against white male construction workers," Reich warned that "if construction jobs go mainly to white males who already dominate the construction trades, many people who need jobs the most -- women, minorities and the poor -- will be shut out."

Reich also expressed concern that spending in the stimulus package on the development of alternative energies and other high-end programs will just increase the paychecks of those who are already plenty comfortable.

"If there aren't enough skilled professionals to do the jobs involving new technologies," explained Reich, "the stimulus will just increase the wages of the professionals who already have the right skills rather than generate many new jobs in these fields."

So exactly what is Reich recommending?

Instead of getting our biggest bang for the buck as taxpayers when it comes to repairing the nation's infrastructure -- bridges, sewers, levees, ports, water pipes and highways -- our top priority should be gender-balancing the work, even if there aren't too many women around who majored in the engineering of sewage?

Is Reich saying that we should kick-start our rush to energy independence by way of geothermal, wind and solar research and the development of safe nukes and clean coal by hiring the less skilled and the disproportionately needy?

In fact, if Reich believes that the goal of stimulus spending is to create jobs for the needy, he should recommend a cut in spending in his own two areas, education and government, and push for a spending hike to create jobs for construction workers, regardless of pigmentation, since the unemployment rate in construction is currently running four times higher than the jobless rate in education and six times higher than the unemployment rate for government employees.

Instead, Reich appears to see no problem in more billions flowing to education and recommends that a numbers game be set up for those who labor in places other than academia, a quota system based on alleged victimhood, a top-down planning model designed to redistribute income rather than increase the productivity of labor or improve the level of American competitiveness or increase the efficiency of government spending.

To ensure that white male construction workers don't pocket a disproportionate amount of the bailout money, advises Reich, "Criteria can be set, so the money does go to others, the long-term unemployed, minorities, women." In other words, the long-term unemployed and government-defined perpetual victims will be up on the bridges and levees, patching and constructing, while the guys who know how to do the work will be sent off to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed, all for the purpose of leveling.

In Reich's worldview, it's groups that matter and individualism that's the enemy. "The American myth of the Triumphant Individual may have outlasted its time," Reich has explained. "The story of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself and eventually earns wealth, fame and honor" is outmoded.

Instead, "we must begin to celebrate collective entrepreneurship," states Reich. In place of individuals who "buck the odds" with "drive and guts," Reich argues for a world where the central planners right the wrongs, determine the production, distribute the rewards in a "fair" manner, i.e., with "only modest differences in income," and knock the rough edges off anyone who doesn't demonstrate sufficient obedience to the collective.

"Success can be measured only in reference to collective results," Reich asserts, warning against an economic system that encourages "individualistic endeavor."

The correct ideology, according to Reich: "We need to honor our teams more, our aggressive and maverick geniuses less." In short, it's not unlike the Cuban model -- a nice photo of Fidel goes to the top cane-cutting team and any Bill Gates types are sent off on an inner tube to Key West.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.