Reich urges Greens and inactive Dems back to party's fold

by Judith Phillips | 9/29/03 5:00am

In a Sunday address, Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich '68 roused the Democratic faithful, while likely antagonizing Republican students in attendance.

Reich, who served under President Clinton, currently teaches at Brandeis University and ran for Governer of Massachusetts in 2002, gave a lecture billed as "Bush's Economic Failure and the John Kerry Plan for Revitalization." He spoke, however, more about foreign policy and the need for Democratic political mobilization, among other topics.

At Dartmouth, Reich actively campaigned to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam and left the College in February of his senior year to work for Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign. He said that in contrast to college students today, those in his generation "understood that our involvement could shape the face of politics in the future. Our involvement in democracy and the politics of the Democratic party really did make a huge difference."

Reich asked Green voters and inactive Democrats to truly join the Democratic effort. "If we want to effect change, we've got to do it, for good or ill, through the Democratic party," he said.

"The more active we are, if we share progressive values, we can make the Democratic party more progressive." In turn, he said, "we can make the country more progressive. And if we do that, not only do we have a better chance of having a sane foreign policy, but also a domestic policy that works for all working people."

Reich criticized Bush's economic policies, stating that "we have not had this divergence in wealth and poverty in America since the 1920s ... And this administration is giving tax breaks to the wealthy."

Such tax breaks, he asserted, will not stimulate the economy. "If you give tax breaks to the wealthy, you're not stimulating the economy because people who are already very rich are already spending as much as they want to spend. The definition of being rich is that you already spend what you want to spend."

He accused the administration of using "lies and deception" to convince the public otherwise. He noted that the unemployment rate has not been this high since Herbert Hoover's presidency.

Reich criticized Republican foreign policy as "based on unilateralism and preemption" and a disregard for the United Nations, Geneva Accords, Kyoto Protocal for Environment, the International Court for Criminal Justice, and "almost every international treaty."

Although Reich favors Kerry for the presidency, he stated that "I want to make sure that we keep our eyes on the big prize. We understand that the real contest starts six or seven months from now after the Democrats decide on the primary candidate."

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