America’s Future in Global Economy: This Week’s Words and Deeds

Obama in MinneapolisOn Monday, the same day the White House was finalizing its $900 billion tax deal with Republicans, the President gave an important address at a vocational technical school in North Carolina.

It was his clearest statement yet about the challenges America faces in the global economy. The United States has gone from 1st to 9th place among nations in the percentage of its population that graduates from college, he noted. We now rank 24th in the portion of our children who have a high school degree. Our infrastructure is crumbling.

“The most competitive race is between America and our competitors around the world,” he said. “In the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind.”

But the President’s tax deal makes it harder for the United States to get back on top. By extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, shrinking the estate tax, and freezing discretionary spending (on everything except defense), he’s leaving almost nothing for education and infrastructure.

And by embracing deficit reduction while agreeing to $900 billion in tax breaks — the lion’s share for the rich — he’s making education and infrastructure spending sitting ducks for a Republican congress intent on shrinking the size of government.

Robert ReichThe states — many of them broke — are still firing teachers, doing away with pre-school programs, and raising tuitions and fees at public universities. And now that the stimulus is about over, there won’t be any more money to rehabilitate the roads, bridges, sewers, and energy systems that are still falling apart all over America.

“We can win the competition,” the President said, Monday. His words were inspiring. But his deed that day, approving a tax deal that continues George W. Bush’s fiscal policies, makes that goal harder to achieve.

Robert Reich

This article first appeared on Robert Reich’s Blog. Republished with permission

Published by the LA Progressive on December 11, 2010
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About Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.

Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.