In post-Occupy 2013, the term "one percent" has crept dangerously close to jargon—a phrase used by everyone from Fox News to Mitt Romney in order to land some demographic points with the rest of us.
Read anything written by Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and current UC Berkeley professor, and you'll remember why those two words set the country on fire. In his numerous articles and book Beyond Outrage, Reich drops sentence after fact-laced sentence that will have you laughing—or crying—in disbelief. Take this little nugget: "The 400 richest Americans now have more wealth than the entire bottom half of earners—150 million Americans—put together."
Or this, from his blog: "A half century ago, American's largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50, in today's dollars, including health and pension benefits. Today, America's largest employer is Walmart, whose average employee earns $8.81 an hour." (A third of those employees don't qualify for benefits.)
A strong advocate for union-less workers—those without political capital or Super PACs or, really, much of a voice—Reich offers comprehensive and clear outlines of what we already know but might be tempted to forget. As Rohnert Park contemplates opening a Walmart supercenter and zoning exemptions are made for other big-box retailers, his work is a reminder why the language of Occupy is worth reclaiming by the 99 percent.
Robert Reich speaks on Walmart, the new economy and America's future on Monday, Feb. 25, at the Glaser Center. 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. 7pm. Free. 707.568.5381.