The Former Secretary of Labor to President Bill Clinton told “This Week” he’s impressed by Paul Ryan’s poverty plan ahead of his appearance on the show’s roundtable Sunday.
We asked UC Berkley professor Robert Reich about Ryan’s plan, and he also discussed Hillary Clinton’s “dead broke” comment and how she and Sen. Elizabeth Warren may differ on some issues – if both decide to run for president in 2016.
1) What was your reaction when you first heard former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s “dead broke” comment that she made during an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer? Did it surprise you?
RR: I knew they had huge legal bills and were deep in debt when they left the White House, so I didn’t doubt her veracity. But I did cringe a bit when she said it. The questions she’s been getting about her finances don’t really require her to justify how or how much she and her husband have been earning since leaving the White House. The underlying question is whether, if she runs for and becomes president, she’ll have become too close to the Wall Street banks and other corporate interests.
2) Hillary Clinton has said she has not made up her mind up whether she is going to make a run for the White House. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has repeatedly said she isn’t running but of course that could change. But it’s possible they both decide to run. Do you think Warren is more in touch with the average American than Hillary Clinton?
RR: I’ve known Hillary for almost fifty years, and have complete confidence that she knows exactly what the average American is going through, as does Elizabeth Warren. The question is who will fight hard for working Americans and the poor, and be willing to confront the vested monied interests that have been fighting against what must be done: raising the minimum wage, raising taxes on the rich, providing a minimum guaranteed income to all Americans, moving toward a single-payer healthcare plan, ensuring that every American child gets a first-class education, overturning “Citizens United,” capping the size of Wall Street banks, and resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act.
How might their approaches as presidential candidates to issues you care about – inequality and Wall Street regulation — differ?
RR: At this point, it’s too early to tell. Elizabeth Warren has been more outspoken on many of these issues than has Hillary Clinton, especially when it comes to Wall Street. But the jury is out on whether HRC will take them on, should she become a candidate.
3) Rep. Paul Ryan outlined a proposal this week to fight poverty. What do you make of it?
RR: Frankly, I’m impressed. It doesn’t cut spending on the poor, as his previous plans have done. It focuses on giving the poor real opportunities for improving their lives. And it expands the Earned Income Tax Credit, which I think is a very important policy.
4) You recently posted a blog, writing “we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.” Explain why you think that is problematic and what specifically should be done to address it.
RR: It undermines our ideals about meritocracy — that anyone with enough guts and gumption can make it in America; it sets us on the way toward a dynastic form of aristocracy — something Europe had for over three centuries but America avoided; it threatens our democracy, because ever-larger amounts of wealth in fewer and fewer hands inevitably distort our politics; and it’s harmful to our economy, because a large and growing generation of people who never worked for their money will have a large say over how assets are allocated.
There are several ways to address it. My preference would be to hike the inheritance tax significantly, and to eliminate the “stepped-up-basis-at-death” rule that allows heirs to avoid paying capital gains taxes on the increased value of assets they inherit.
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