By Tyler Kennedy, Contributing Writer
Robert Reich served as the featured speaker at the Inaugural John A. Hogan Distinguished Lecture series that took place in the Granite State Room yesterday afternoon.
Dr. John A. Hogan, for whom the speaker series is named after, served as a professor of economics at University of New Hampshire from 1947 to 1974. It was through a generous gift from Mrs. Rhoda A. Hogan, his wife, that this distinguished speaker series was established.
Reich has been publicized as one of the world’s leading thinkers on work and the economy. He has served three national administrations, most recently as Secretary of Labor during the first term of former president Bill Clinton. He also served on President Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board.
In 2008, Times Magazine named Reich one of the top 10 cabinet secretaries of the past century. He is currently the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Reich has authored 15 books, along with frequently contributing to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Financial Times.
The lecture opened up with a welcoming granted by Deborah Merril-Sands, dean of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. An introduction to Reich was made by Reagan Baughman, an associate professor of economics at UNH, who is classified as a John A. Hogan Distinguished Professor.
“The economy has worn me down,” Reich said as he began the lecture with a laugh from the audience. Those who made up the audience were all members of the UNH community, as the ticketed event was only open to faculty, staff and students..
Reich acknowledged that when it comes to discussing the national economy, there are a number of big issues commonly being debated; he listed government spending, taxes and monetary policy as three.
“I wish to transcend the usual debates,” he said, “and talk about inequality in a particular way.”
Reich made note of three issues that he described as separate but relatable issues connected with inequality, including stagnant median wage, aggregate demand and problems concerning upward mobility.
“What is a good society?” Reich asked. Not looking for a response, he quickly announced the follow-up question, “How do we get there?”
There is obviously no easy answer to that question, as Reich later admitted, but he did offer some input on the matter. He thinks we ought to discuss and debate it enough so that we might have a better understanding of what we have to accomplish.
“I’m not a class warrior,” Reich remarked in regards to the current state of the nation’s middle class. “I’m a class worrier,” The economy, as he stated, is currently twice as large as it was in 1980. Yet the median wage has stayed the same. Begging the question of where the money went, most of the individuals in the room all ready knew the answer: big money.
Reich holds no contempt towards those who have large salaries, but does firmly believe that big money should have no presence in the world of politics. In fact, he is the Board Chair of Common Cause, an organization that has been working to get big money out of politics for over 40 years.
“Ask [potential presidential candidates if] money and politics is a problem,” he urged to the audience. “If they answer no, don’t vote for them. They don’t know anything.”Since the 1970s, families have been finding new coping mechanisms for stress concerning limited income. More women have entered the workforce, and families have oftentimes taken out second mortgages on their homes.
Reich also spoke quite a bit on the topic of upward mobility and the lack of it. Upward mobility is simply described as rising from a lower to a higher social class or status.
Even though the lecture had somewhat bleak subject matter, Reich managed to keep it optimistic.
Reich, who was a one-time candidate for the Governor of Massachusetts, managed to keep talk of politics to a minimum for much of the lecture.
It wasn’t until the end that he made a plea to the students in attendance: “ If you give up on politics, you give up on our democracy. And if you give up on our democracy, you give up on everything.”