The Corner

Robert Reich, Liberal Fascist

Is there anybody whose writing is as silly and fascistic as Robert Reich’s has become of late? He’s out flogging a “Corporate Pledge of Allegiance,” arguing that businesses that do not support his preferred public policies should be considered unpatriotic and disloyal.

He has written some very stupid words in the service of this very stupid idea. Here are some of them:

By flooding our democracy with their shareholders’ money, big corporations are violating their shareholders’ First Amendment rights because shareholders aren’t consulted. They’re simultaneously suppressing the First Amendment rights of the rest of us because, given how much money they’re throwing around, we don’t have enough money to be heard.

And they’re indirectly giving non-Americans (that is, all their foreign owners, investors and executives) a say in how Americans are governed. Pardon me for being old-fashioned but I didn’t think foreign money was supposed to be funneled into American elections. 

Professor Reich plays an economist on television; in real life, he is a lawyer. And any law-school graduate ought to know that the First Amendment is a limitation on government, not a limitation on private persons or private organizations. To write that “big corporations are violating their shareholders’ First Amendment rights” is legally, historically, and constitutionally illiterate. The cheap xenophobia that follows — Egads! Dirty foreigners own shares in American businesses! — ought to be an indicator of where this kind of hate-driven nonsense is headed.

Here is his suggested Corporate Pledge of Allegiance:

We pledge to create more jobs in the United States than we create outside the United States, either directly or in our foreign subsidiaries and subcontractors.

If we have to lay off American workers, we will give them severance payments equal to their weekly wage times the number of months they’ve worked for us.

We further pledge that no more than 20 percent of our total labor costs will be outsourced abroad.

We pledge to keep a lid on executive pay so no executive is paid more than 50 times the median pay of American workers. We define “pay” to include salary, bonuses, health benefits, pension benefits, deferred salary, stock options, and every other form of compensation.  

We pledge to pay at least 30 percent of money earned in the United States in taxes to the United States. We won’t shift our money to offshore tax havens and won’t use accounting gimmicks to fake how much we earn.

We pledge not to use our money to influence elections.

Good ideas? Bad ideas? That is beside the point: In the fevered mind of Professor Reich, pledging to impose his preferred severance-pay model is precisely the same thing as pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands. Failing to embrace Professor Reich’s policy prescriptions is a form of unpatriotic disloyalty.

This man served in a Democratic cabinet and enjoys a tenured sinecure at Berkeley. He is considered to be part of the moderate, respectable end of the Left. 

Never let it be said again that the title of Jonah’s book was hyperbolic. 

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