1. Robert Reich Interview Pt. 2 09/09/13

Robert Reich Interview Pt. 2 09/09/13

Robert points out that when Henry Ford paid his workers thrice the usual amount, people called him a communist.


Conan: I'm a history buff, read a lot of history and notice that historically when a smaller and smaller group of people have all the money and most people don't have any money, the people without the money say we have had enough and that's where you see serious unrest and it's actually, it's in the interest of people who have a great deal of money to be worried about this problem as well.
Robert: Yes, it's in their interest.
They would do better with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy, growing because people have the money to keep it going, and they would do better with a country that was less divided, less polarized, a country that people really felt the game wasn't rigged against them.
CONAN: You use Henry Ford as an example, Henry Ford used, he raised the minimum wage -- the minimum wage at the time that Henry Ford set his, increased prices.
Robert: In 1914, Henry Ford gave his factory workers three times what the typical factory worker was then earning and the "Wall Street Journal" called him a communist.
How can you justify doing this?
CONAN: You're making the rest look terrible, you're ruining the country.
Robert: Henry Ford said when my workers get all of this money, they can turn around and buy model t Fords.
He was right.
Once they had the money and other factories started emulating what he did, they had to get their workers, all of a sudden, workers had enough money to buy cars.
So everybody who was in the car business got wealthy.
CONAN: What is interesting, you say in the movie and in the book, you say we have been here before.
We went through the gilded age, incredible concentration of wealth among very few people and there was a lot of unrest.
There was a lot of unease.
We have been through this three or four cycles the United States.
Robert: We have been through it before.
I have faith we will rectify what is wrong.
I'm very optimistic.
CONAN: Tell us where the optimism comes from.
You talk about, you teach a lot of young people, you interact with a lot of young people.
You say they are the great hope.
Robert: They are.
You can't be around 18 to 26-year-olds and not be optimistic about the future.
They are idealistic.
They want to change things.
Also, look, I look at American history.
We have always been resilient.
We always bounced back.
We always eventually as Winston Churchill once said, "Americans always do the right thing when they have exhausted all other alternatives."
That's sort of an optimistic, sort of.
CONAN: You think we will get there eventually?
Robert: We will eventually.
CONAN: We have a clip there are some powerful moments in the movie.
This was really powerful to me.
You talk about being bullied as a kid.
Robert: Most kids -- you weren't, because you were a big kid.
You were the bully.
CONAN: No, no, no, no, no.
Robert: No, you weren't.
CONAN: No, I was bullied.
Robert: I was bullied.
I was seriously bullied.
CONAN: You want me to get my bullies out here?
Three of them are in prison right now.
Robert: My bullies up against your bullies any day.
Robert: I came up with an idea.
That is I would make alliances with older boys who were big and make friends with them and they would protect me.
It was one of the original protection rackets in America.
It worked.
These older guys, there were a few of them, they were lovely guys.
They kept me safe.
CONAN: We have a clip here that addresses this issue in your life.
Let's take a look.
Robert: The summer when I was about 10, one of the older boys who I depended on to kind of being a protector, his name was Michael.
The summer of 1964, I learned that Mickey had been in Mississippi registering voters and he and two other people who had been with him registering voters were tortured and murdered.
And when I heard that my protector had been murdered by the real bullies, I think it changed my life.
I had to protect people from the bullies, the people who had beat them up economically, the people that would subject them and their families to real harm, because if you don't have a voice, if you don't have power, if you're vulnerable economically in society, you don't have anybody to protect you.