The Six Principles of the New Populism: Then Is Now

Here’s something I wrote 2 years ago on the “Six Principles of the New Populism.” How do you think this holds up in light of what’s occurred since then?

More Americans than ever believe the economy is rigged in favor of Wall Street and big business and their enablers in Washington. We’re five years into a so-called recovery that’s been a bonanza for the rich but a bust for the middle class. “The game is rigged and the American people know that. They get it right down to their toes,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Which is fueling a new populism on both the left and the right. While still far apart, neo-populists on both sides are bending toward one another and against the establishment.

Who made the following comments? (Hint: Not Warren, and not Bernie Sanders.)

A. We “cannot be the party of fat cats, rich people, and Wall Street.”

B. “The rich and powerful, those who walk the corridors of power, are getting fat and happy…”

C. “If you come to Washington and serve in Congress, there should be a lifetime ban on lobbying.”

D. “Washington promoted moral hazard by protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which privatized profits and socialized losses.”

E. “When you had the chance to stand up for Americans’ privacy, did you?”

F. “The people who wake up at night thinking of which new country they want to bomb, which new country they want to be involved in, they don’t like restraint. They don’t like reluctance to go to war.”

(Answers: A. Rand Paul, B. Ted Cruz, C. Ted Cruz, D. House Republican Joe Hensarling, E. House Republican Justin Amash, F. Rand Paul )

You might doubt the sincerity behind some of these statements, but they wouldn’t have been uttered if Republicans didn’t respond enthusiastically – and that’s the point. Republican populism is growing, as is the Democratic version, because the public wants it.

And it’s not only the rhetoric that’s converging. Populists on the right and left are also coming together around six principles:

1. Cut the biggest Wall Street banks down to a size where they’re no longer too big to fail. Left populists have been advocating this since the Street’s bailout now they’re being joined by populists on the right. David Camp, House Ways and Means Committee chair, recently proposed an extra 3.5 percent quarterly tax on the assets of the biggest Wall Street banks (giving them an incentive to trim down). Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter wants to break up the big banks, as does conservative pundit George Will. “There is nothing conservative about bailing out Wall Street,” says Rand Paul.

2. Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act, separating investment from commercial banking and thereby preventing companies from gambling with their depositors’ money. Elizabeth Warren has introduced such legislation, and John McCain co-sponsored it. Tea Partiers are strongly supportive, and critical of establishment Republicans for not getting behind it. “It is disappointing that progressive collectivists are leading the effort for a return to a law that served well for decades,” writes the Tea Party Tribune. “Of course, the establishment political class would never admit that their financial donors and patrons must hinder their unbridled trading strategies.”

3. End corporate welfare – including subsidies to big oil, big agribusiness, big pharma, Wall Street, and the Ex-Im Bank. Populists on the left have long been urging this; right-wing populists are joining in. Republican David Camp’s proposed tax reforms would kill dozens of targeted tax breaks. Says Ted Cruz: “We need to eliminate corporate welfare and crony capitalism.”

4. Stop the National Security Agency from spying on Americans. Bernie Sanders and other populists on the left have led this charge but right-wing populists are close behind. House Republican Justin Amash’s amendment, that would have defunded NSA programs engaging in bulk-data collection, garnered 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans last year, highlighting the new populist divide in both parties. Rand Paul could be channeling Sanders when he warns: “Your rights, especially your right to privacy, is under assault… if you own a cellphone, you’re under surveillance.”

5. Scale back American interventions overseas. Populists on the left have long been uncomfortable with American forays overseas. Rand Paul is leaning in the same direction. Paul also tends toward conspiratorial views about American interventionism. Shortly before he took office he was caught on video claiming that former vice president Dick Cheney pushed the Iraq War because of his ties to Halliburton.

6. Oppose trade agreements crafted by big corporations. Two decades ago Democrats and Republicans enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since then populists in both parties have mounted increasing opposition to such agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, drafted in secret by a handful of major corporations, is facing so strong a backlash from both Democrats and tea party Republicans that it’s nearly dead. “The Tea Party movement does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” says Judson Philips, president of Tea Party Nation. “Special interest and big corporations are being given a seat at the table” while average Americans are excluded.

Left and right-wing populists remain deeply divided over the role of government. Even so, the major fault line in American politics seems to be shifting, from Democrat versus Republican, to populist versus establishment – those who think the game is rigged versus those who do the rigging.

In the 2014 Republican primaries, tea partiers continue their battle against establishment Republicans. But the major test will be 2016 when both parties pick their presidential candidates.

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are already vying to take on Republican establishment favorites Jeb Bush or Chris Christie. Elizabeth Warren says she won’t run in the Democratic primaries, presumably against Hillary Clinton, but rumors abound. Bernie Sanders hints he might.

Wall Street and big business Republicans are already signaling they’d prefer a Democratic establishment candidate over a Republican populist.

Dozens of major GOP donors, Wall Street Republicans, and corporate lobbyists have told Politico that if Jeb Bush decides against running and Chris Christie doesn’t recover politically, they’ll support Hillary Clinton. “The darkest secret in the big money world of the Republican coastal elite is that the most palatable alternative to a nominee such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas or Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky would be Clinton,” concludes Politico.

Says a top Republican-leaning Wall Street lawyer, “it’s Rand Paul or Ted Cruz versus someone like Elizabeth Warren that would be everybody’s worst nightmare.”

Everybody on Wall Street and in corporate suites, that is. And the “nightmare” may not occur in 2016. But if current trends continue, some similar “nightmare” is likely within the decade. If the American establishment wants to remain the establishment it will need to respond to the anxiety that’s fueling the new populism rather than fight it.

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Facebook Page


Mary in Miami: A 10-hour Day Trip

Mary in Manhattan

Everything about Miami screams relaxation and indulgence. During our Miami day trip, we swooned over giant colorful murals in Wynwood, skipped through the waves of South Beach and noshed on lunch at a tiny Cuban spot in Little Havana.

South BeachMy brother and I spent 10 hours in Miami, traveling from Fort Lauderdale. We decided to Uber everywhere, which made us very mobile and we were able to see a LOT. Check out our day, hour by hour, and then save my Google map to your phone so you can save an itinerary that will keep you busy in this famous Florida metropolis:

Hour 1: Wake up at 8:00 a.m. Snooze. Then snooze again, then finally wake up and eat a couple of bites for breakfast.

Hour 2: Call an Uber. Jump in the car, and it’s 45 minutes to Miami from Fort Lauderdale. We loved Ubering right away. Since…

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Are Green Supply Chains Important?

Amazon Continues to Build Its Sustainability Team

On-line giant Amazon has never pushed a sustainability message all that much, and unlike many of its brick and mortar rivals such as Walmart and Target it has never issued a sustainability report.

Is that soon to change?

A few weeks ago, Amazon hired Dara O’Rourke as a principal scientist in its sustainable science team. O’Rourke was previously a professor of environmental and labor policy at UC Berkeley. In the 1990s, he drew attention to the issue of sweatshops in developing countries by exposing what he called “exploitative and hazardous working conditions” in factories in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, notably those supplying Nike, and later was co-founder of Good Guide, a web site which rates the environmental and social performance of consumer products.

O’Rourke joins a team led by Kara Hurst, the company’s director of worldwide sustainability and social responsibility, who became Amazon’s first sustainability leader in 2014. Hurst is the former CEO of The Sustainability Consortium.

Christine Bader
, author of The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist, joined Amazon last August. Then in December, the company hired Christina Page, who led energy and sustainability strategy at Yahoo for eight years.

As usual, Amazon isn’t saying much, and is not making any of these executives available for interviews yet. But when Amazon does something, it does it big, so it seems likely that before long Amazon will make a big sustainability splash, and expects that first Amazon sustainability report to show up before too long.

What especially intrigues us is this notion of “sustainability science.” Is it possible Amazon will take on sustainability with a whole new approach to what we have largely seen thus far? Our guess is Yes. But we also guess drones emit a lot of CO2 per delivery.



How Riding the Rails Can Change Cities and Lives

Don’t Judge L.A.’s New Train Lines by the Number of Cars They Take Off the Road. Their Potential to Nurture New Communities Is Incalculable.


What will the railroad bring us?

That was the question Henry George sought to answer for California in his famous 1868 essay, “What the Railroad Will Bring Us,” on the eve of the transcontinental railroad’s completion. The renowned political economist’s vision—that the railroad would help make California a global giant of business and trade—was so prescient, it was taught in California schools well into the 20th century.

Now the question is timely again for Californians, as Metro in Los Angeles County opens two new light rail connections—one through the San Gabriel Valley this Saturday, the other connecting downtown L.A. to a station four blocks from the beach in Santa Monica on May 20.

That Southern California, of all places, is leading the way in building new rail links (and there will be many more new lines, funded by local sales taxes, opening in the years ahead) suggests we have entered a new era of California transit. It also raises questions about the rest of the state

Will the Bay Area further develop its expensive and union-plagued BART system, including adding a second tunnel under the bay? Will San Francisco ever revamp its embarrassingly slow and dirty MUNI system? How can San Diego best expand its trolleys, and Sacramento its light rail? Can the Inland Empire, the 13th largest metropolitan area in America, raise its transit game? And when will greater Fresno, more than one million people and growing, realize it’s a major American city in need of a real urban transit system?

For now, progress outside L.A. is slow. Maybe that’s because as we consider the possibilities, Californians are asking questions the wrong way. Journalists, environmentalists, and other boring people obsess over the math—what new rail lines might cost us in dollars or what they might save us in traffic or car trips. That’s a losing game—traffic is driven by large, hard-to-predict trends—in the nature of work and technology, in telecommuting patterns, in immigration levels, in the aging of the population, and in the price of gas.

The smarter, more inspiring question about transit projects is George’s old one: What new things do these new rail lines bring us? Do they connect us to places and events in powerful new ways? Do the trains provide comfort and reliability? Is riding the rail a compelling experience in itself that it changes us?

For me, these questions are urgent and personal. I spend as many as four hours a day commuting by car. But the new rail lines could change my life. I live five blocks from the Metro Gold Line, which is opening its 11-mile extension through the San Gabriel Valley to Azusa this weekend. And my office is in Santa Monica, seven blocks from the terminus of the Expo line extension that opens in May.

What might the light-rail bring me? The promise of a healthier, more productive, and more fun routine.

Riding the trains to work could take 90 minutes, with two changes between lines, but that’s no different than driving takes me many days. If the trains are on time, the commute will be more predictable than it is now. And so I’ll start riding the trains with the following hopes. I hope I’ll get more exercise from the extra walking to get to the stations. I hope I’ll be able to read and get work done in transit. And I hope that, as I don’t have to spend as much time in the evening working, I can sleep more and spend more time with my family.

On weekends, I want to ride the new Gold Line to the east with my three train-crazy boys, and explore places near the new stations. Tops on my list are playtime at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area and Friday nights at the Family Festival on Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia. I could even see an old-school date night for surf-and-turf at the Derby (the horse players restaurant once owned by Seabiscuit jockey George Woolf) if the owners were to grant me and other rail riders a special exemption from the dress code.

This is what the light rail could bring us. The Gold Line extension could make Azusa Pacific, an ambitious Christian university at the end of the new line, a bigger factor in civic life here. It should allow more people to discover, or re-discover, the enchiladas at La Tolteca in Azusa, the Justice Brothers Racing Museum in Duarte, the old movie theater (now a 12-plex) in Monrovia, and the Santa Anita Park race track, and the 626 Night Market in Arcadia.

The Expo Line could be even more transformational. It’ll get you to the beach or the Santa Monica Pier without a car. The delicious Japantown along Sawtelle Boulevard, a spot to be avoided if you drive, should see a surge in customers with the nearby Pico/Sepulveda stop. And more people will find their ways to art shows and studies at the Bergamot Station arts complex, which has its own stop on the new line.

Of course, none of this is guaranteed. Metro needs to make sure the trains are safe, reliable—and, most of all, fun. The new Gold Line cars looked great in a recent preview, with big windows and comfortable seating. And on the Expo Line, those trains better have strong Wi-Fi and maybe tables for us working commuters.

I’m most excited about the surprises that these new rail lines—and other lines under construction—will bring us in the future. What new communities, new downtowns (the city of Duarte sure needs one), new businesses, and new friendships might emerge of which we can’t conceive? What new ideas might come from, say, a doctor riding to her job at the City of Hope meeting a Caltech computer scientist on a Gold Line train?

Re-reading “What The Railroad Will Bring Us,” I was struck by how George, even in making grand predictions about California’s future, underestimated the cultural and economic impact of the railroad. Yes, he correctly saw San Diego becoming a vital second city of California. And he was right that the Bay Area would become a future global capital of commerce.

But he never once mentioned Los Angeles. It was unimaginable then that such a small town could become our greatest city, now featuring the best public transit in the state.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.


A Note to Bernie Supporters: Never Stop Fighting!

’m getting lots of emails and notes on this page from those of you who say you’re feeling discouraged, given the diminishing likelihood of Bernie’s nomination. And from others of you who ask me what you should do in the event he doesn’t get the nomination. To both, I have these three suggestions:

1. First, continue to work hard to increase Bernie’s chance of success. (Despite what you hear in the media, he still does have a chance.) California’s June 7 primary will be critical.

2. If Bernie doesn’t win the nomination, you have to decide for yourself how active you’ll be in supporting Hillary Clinton. If Trump is the Republican nominee, my personal view is Hillary’s election to the presidency is absolutely essential to the future of this nation and the world.

3. Finally, and regardless of the outcome of the 2016 election, remember that you’re part of a long-term movement to reclaim our democracy and economy from the moneyed interests that now have a chokehold on both. No movement to change the allocation of power in America can succeed in a single presidential election. It will take time and effort. Continue to join with others in your city and your state, and across America, and get involved in elections at all levels, including the presidential election of 2020. Do not succumb to cynicism. Do not give up. Never stop fighting.

What do you think?

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Facebook Page

CSX train derails in Northeast Washington D.C., possible hazardous leak

A CSX freight train has derailed  near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station Sunday morning leaving several cars overturned and a possible hazardous leak.

No injuries have been reported. It’s unclear what caused the derailment.

According to CSX,  14 cars derailed from a train bound for Hamlet, North Carolina, from Cumberland, Maryland. The derailment occurred at around 6:40 a.m.

The leak of sodium hydroxide, described as coming from one full tank car,  was finally “plugged,” and emergency responders, including hazmat crews, had moved on to the clean-up phase, officials said during a 10:45 a.m. press conference.

“CSX operations and hazardous materials personnel are working with first responders on the derailment this morning in Washington D.C.,” CSX said in a statement.  “The safety of the community, first responders and CSX’s employees is our highest priority.”

Sodium hydroxide is used primarily “to produce various household products including paper, soap and detergents.”

CSX later said crews found leaks in two other cars . A rail car leaking non-hazardous calcium chloride solution had been sealed. Another ethanol rail car was leaking from the base of a valve. A CSX spokeswoman said crews were working to seal the leak.

Ansonia Copper & Brass Factory Coming Down!

Pictured above is a Metro North Railroad “Brooksville” locomotive (in New Haven Railroad paint) running on the Waterbury Branch through the abandoned Ansonia Copper and Brass (formerly Anaconda American Brass) — consisting of six rusting buildings spanning 43-acres of Naugatuck Riverfront property and divided by an active rail line.

Read the full story in the Connecticut Post.