The book “The System” by best-selling author Prof. Robert Reich is a penetrating analysis of how the “rigged” systems of politics and power work, how they came to be, and how the average citizen can bring about change.
Millions of people have lost confidence in the political and economic system.
“When more and more people feel that they will never get off the ground, no matter how hard they work, and more and more lose hope for better living conditions for themselves and their children, anger and frustration naturally increase. This is a ready-made meal for demagogues, who use this anger and frustration for their own purposes to build a political base and redirect the anger so that it is directed against scapegoats such as migrants, the poor, cultural elites or the so-called “Deep State.” This is comparable to Hitler’s approach in the 1930s. Exploiting the anger and frustration of the working class is a familiar strategy for demagogues,” Prof. Robert Reich said in an interview with IPG.
After years of stagnant wages, volatile labor markets, and the unwillingness of those in power to deal with profound threats like climate change, there is a growing sense that the system is fixed and serves only the wealthy few who have enough money to secure a majority stake.
With the characteristic clarity and passion that has made him a central civic voice, Prof. Robert B. Reich shows how wealth and power work together to install an elite oligarchy, gut the middle class, and undermine democracy.
Using the example of Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Reich lays out how those at the top spread myths about meritocracy, national competitiveness, corporate social responsibility, and the “free market” to distract most Americans from their accumulation of extraordinary wealth and power over the system.
Rather than heeding the call of civic duty, they have chosen to adhere to self-serving policies that fill their own wallets and benefit their bottom line.
Robert Reich’s goal is not to promote cynicism, but to demystify the system so that fundamental change can be brought about and demanded to make democracy work again for the majority.
Robert Reich’s new book, “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It”, provides an excellent overview of 30 years of neoliberal fiscal policy, corporate malfeasance, and malign lobbying. The reader is given a clear understanding of how democracy is crumbling, the specific forces that have dried up the middle class, and what leaves an oligarchy where the average citizen has virtually no power.
Problems like those in the U.S. since Donald Trump have long existed in Germany as well. Under no circumstances should Germany and Europe therefore look only at Donald Trump and the developments in the U.S., but should finally fix their own problems. Donald Trump in the USA has only been a blueprint since Gerhard Schröder at the latest, following decades of neoliberalism in Germany. So the shift to the right, nationalism and disenchantment with politics in Germany are homemade and very dangerous.
Right-wing extremists, nationalists and demagogues have existed in Germany since the end of World War II. After they continued to sit in the corporations, in the executive, judiciary and politics, they were allowed to exist for the profit and power of the corporations. They were always there. The population was told something about social market economy, which never existed in reality. To think that they would disappear by themselves and that one could continue as before is dangerous and has fatal consequences for Germany and Europe.
The now frustrated and politically disenchanted population will continue to be instrumentalized by right-wing extremists and demagogues, look for someone to blame and scapegoat, and allow themselves to be incited against minorities in order to further divide society if politicians do not finally ensure the well-being of the population and fair redistribution and eliminate the causes.
Already, the working population in Germany is among the poorest in Europe, financing the system but unable to live on their minimum wages, pensions and pay rents. In Germany, the ten percent of the rich own more than half of all wealth (56 percent), according to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). The poorer half of the population has a share of only 1.3 percent, owns no real estate and has to pay rent.
Monetary annual income, with real estate ownership, is $47,000 per capita in Germany. Even in crisis-stricken Greece, income per capita is higher at $55,000 than in Germany. As in the other EU countries, the income, i.e. wealth, of the population per capita is higher than in Germany, as in the case of the Danes with $87,000, the Dutch with $94,000, the French with $120,000, the Italians with $125,000, the Belgians with $168,000, in Lichtenstein also with $168,000 and in Switzerland with 229,000 per capita at the top.
According to the Global Wealth Report, Germany, ranks 5th among countries with the most millionaires, after the U.S. in 1st place, China in 2nd place, Japan in 3rd place and the U.K. in 4th place. The ranking of the U.K. after Brexit could change, in which case Germany would move up to 4th place.
To this day, even in Germany, the rich and corporations are favored by lobbying, nepotism and a lack of transparency in politics. Every year CEO s receive millions in salaries and bonii, shareholders are paid dividends even in the Corona crisis, and the money of corporations and the rich is moved to tax havens. The corporations that are now demanding Corona bailouts – which subsequently the working people will have to pay again.
Not only Donald Trump favors the rich, but also Germany through its neoliberal policies for decades. The list of corruption scandals in the last 30 years is long. As now in the Corona crisis, where the CDU/CSU and FDP are already discussing again to lower taxes on the rich and corporations or to introduce an Anwrack premium for car companies.
Prof. Robert Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center.
He was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century.
He has written 17 other books, including the bestsellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage, and The Common Good.
Robert Reich is founding editor of American Prospect magazine, founder of Inequality Media, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentaries “Inequality For All” and “Saving Capitalism” now streaming on Netflix.
Astrid Ebenhoch is journalist, founder and editor of Hounds & People.
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