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Former U.S. Labor Secretary speaking at UC Santa Barbara says economy is rigged towards the wealthy

Robert Reich wil speak at UC Santa Barbara's Campbell Hall Wednesday night at 7:30.
UCSB Arts and Lectures
Robert Reich wil speak at UC Santa Barbara's Campbell Hall Wednesday night at 7:30.

Robert Reich served in three presidential administrations. He's appearing at UCSB's Campbell Hall Wednesday night.

A man who’s been a part of three presidential administrations believes America’s democratic system is under threat, and that the economy has become rigged for the wealthy, and large companies.

"We used to have a growing middle class in America," said Robert Reich, who is an author, professor, and political commentator who served in the Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton presidential administrations.

"In fact, between the end of World War II, and the 1970's, we had the fastest growing middle class in the world," said Reich. "But then, we did a U-turn. Starting in 1980, the middle class began shrinking, and the working class grew, and the number of people who were considered poor also grew."

He’s speaking at a public event at UC Santa Barbara Wednesday night. Reich says some Americans have become disenchanted with our economic and political system.

"More and more of the national income, and national wealth went to the top," said Reich.

He said many people are disillusioned with our system, and he thinks that's why Donald Trump has gathered so much support.

What does he think needs to be done to fix it?

"The strategy is not terribly complicated," said Reich. "More people have got to stop viewing politics as a spectator sport, and get involved, and roll up their sleeves, say this country belongs to us, not just to the very, very rich, and the big corporations, and demand changes. One of the most important changes is to get big money out of politics."

Reich has written nearly 20 books, many focusing on what he believes has gone wrong with our economic system. He says there’s a lot of cynicism about it, with people thinking that it’s in effect rigged towards the wealthy, and corporate America.

He was Secretary of Labor in the 1990’s when the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement to reduce trade barriers was being pushed by the Clinton Administration. He lobbied for it, because he was part of the administration, but admits he felt then and feels now it wasn’t a good idea. Reich thinks it hurts working people.

Reich says there’s an even bigger problem than the economy. He said the issue isn't partisanship. It's democracy versus authoritarianism.

Reich said he tries to stay out of presidential politics, but he admits he does have to speak up about what’s happening this year.

"We're at a huge danger point," said Reich. "Donald Trump is a clear and present existential danger to the future of America."

Robert Reich will speak at UC Santa Barbara’s Campbell Hall at 7:30 Wednesday night. Tickets are available at the door for the UCSB Arts and Lectures event.



Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.