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May 2016 Newsletter: Robert Reich on Bringing Power Back to the People

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    I don’t get into politics much and don’t want to take any sides during the upcoming presidential election, but wanted to share some interesting insights about the “volcanic core of the upcoming presidential election” according to Robert Reich (Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC and former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and well-known Bernie Sanders supporter). Reich argues that “the volcanic core” of the presidential election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the chokehold of big money on our political system.

    For Reich “If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who are working harder than ever but getting nowhere, and who understand that the political-economic system is rigged against you and in favor of the rich and powerful, what are you going to do? Either you’re going to be attracted to an authoritarian son-of-a-bitch who promises to make America great again by keeping out people different from you and creating “great” jobs in America, who sounds like he won’t let anything or anybody stand in his way, and who’s so rich he can’t be bought off… Or you’ll go for a political activist who tells it like it is, who has lived by his convictions for fifty years, who won’t take a dime of money from big corporations or Wall Street or the very rich, and who is leading a grass-roots “political revolution” to regain control over our democracy and economy.”

    In other words, either a dictator who promises to bring power back to the people or a movement leader who asks us to join together to bring power back to the people. You don’t care about the details of proposed policies and programs. You just want a system that works for you.

    The Role of the Plaintiff’s Lawyer?

    A plaintiff’s lawyer also fights for the rights of the “little guy” against the powerful. This is their role in bringing power back to the people on a daily basis.

    So, as this election has come to represent a movement back to power to the people, at least according to Reich (and the rise of candidates like Trump and Sanders) it is also about us in our profession as plaintiff’s lawyers. It is a reminder of the ever-important role we play as we fight against insurance companies and powerful corporations to level the playing field to right corporate wrongs. We must defend the rights of injured victims and those subjected to illegal and discriminatory treatment on the job.

    Gerry Spence, when asked about the Citizens United Supreme Court Case, said that “Corporate power is a disease from which democracy suffers-because corporations are given the same rights as human beings, but no human approaches the size of a corporation. All human beings are mortal. Corporations can be immortal. As a consequence, the individual faces these monsters in an attempt to realize justice. It’s like putting an ant in a cage filled with elephants.” (Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.)

    In these political times, bringing power back to the people is more important than ever. This includes understanding the role of the plaintiff’s lawyer.

    About Robert Reich

    Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as 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 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, and Beyond Outrage, and, his most recent, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, Inequality for All.

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