He started his lecture by telling us that "morals of trade" in the late 19th century, included economics, so that he was justified in giving a speech on economics and then he proceeded to deliver a mostly political speech.
He's no Bob Murphy, but Reich could have a second career as a stand-up comic. He's comfortable speaking in front of a crowd and his timing is good when he delivers jokes.
He told us that once when he was debating an issue on television, that during a commercial break, the producer said into his ear plug that he needed to get angrier in the debate. He replied to the producer that he thought the debate was going just fine, but the producer reiterated that he needed to become angrier because people flipping channels will stop when they hear an angry debate. This he said got his temperature boiling.
In watching him speak, I got the sense that he is a surface guy. He seemed to be aware of all the topics of the day, but there really wasn't any depth to his knowledge. He seemed to keep up on events, but that was about it.
I once knew a "high class" stripper that reminded me of Reich. She didn't seem to have a particular interest in world affairs, but would force herself to watch at least an hour of news everyday. I got the sense that she did this so that during breaks between lap dances at work, she would have a working knowledge about what men were talking to her about. She might for example recognize the name Hosni Mubarek, but most certainly would not know that the Shah of Iran was a dictator propped up by the U.S. and that he was replaced during the revolution by Ayatollah Khomeini.
This was the sense I got about Reich. Now, I can't imagine the man providing a lap dance, but he rattled off knowledge the way my friend could rattle off knowledge about headlines, and given that Reich gives a lot of speeches, if he wasn't an in depth thinker, this surface "lap knowledge" in economics would serve him well.
Getting this sense, and given that he writes a lot of books about economics, I decided to have a little fun with Reich during Q&A. I asked him about excess reserves and the fact that there were a trillion dollars sitting there because Bernanke had started to pay interest on them and I asked him if this was a mistake.
He clearly didn't have a clue about excess reserves and started to rattle off about risk that execs didn't want to take. I stopped him and replied that this wasn't about risk but the fact that Bernanke was paying, risk free to banks, an interest rate that was 3 to 4 times the comparable T-bill rates. He went on to make a total fabricated point as if at the recent FOMC meeting there was some big discussion about excess reserves. It was obvious at this point that he was just going to continue to make inane comments, so I stopped pushing the question.
But the point is clear, he's a real surface guy when it comes to economics, despite all the books he has written on the topic. I have had discussions about the Fed with another member of Bill Clinton's cabinet, where we have debated and discussed many Fed-related topics, including excess reserves. This cabinet member's knowledge of economics is deep and there appears to be a real search for knowledge. In comparison, Reich is running a carnival act.
But, I digress.
In his lecture, Reich was all over the place when it came to economic analysis. He spent a considerable amount of time stating the Keynesian notion that the problem with the economy was a lack of aggregate demand, but at one point he decided to reach into the Austrian school of business cycle theory and managed to say that business cycles are always brought about by Fed policy.
He confessed to us that he certainly had no clue a housing bubble was about to occur, by telling us that he bought a house in Berkeley at the very peak of the market in April 2006.
Somehow ignoring his earlier statement that the business cycle is always the result of Federal Reserve monetary policy, he called for more deficit spending and said we should only worry about debt problems "3 to 5 years down the road."
He did bring up that he is now chairman of Soros-funded Common Cause, and as if to make clear there is now a battle between oligarchs, he specifically mentioned the Koch brothers and the fact that they were buying and influencing politicians across the country.
Most intriguing, he told us that he recently had a discussion with a senior Tea Party official. He noted that the Tea Party was formed because of a revulsion over Wall Street bailouts and there was an "overlap between the views of
Reich's comment, though, shows the danger in compromising with those who simply want to change things and are not hardcore and principled about liberty. Cozying up to the Scott Walkers of the world isn't going to do it. It's only the principled stands of those like Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell and the Mises Institute that have no chance of being co-opted by Reich and his crew.
To waste time supporting the Scott Walkers of the world, when the Robert Reich's of the world are plotting to co-opt them, is a terrible waste of time. Libertarians need to talk about liberty, not the taking away of union cards. Reich is not there, yet. But he is plotting and probing on the best way to do a little dance, and tease out the interventionist instincts of those Tea Party members who don't yet understand that it is only liberty that will set us free. It is not about taking away union cards and "improving" the public school education system. It is about ending the public school education system. It is not about fixing medicare and medicaid, it is about getting government completely out of the healthcare and charity industries.
It's not about a nip and a tuck here or there. It's about ending government involvement. For those who think a nip and tuck is the answer, Robert Reich is busy thinking of how he can come up with the nip and tuck that he can present to Tea Party members who don't understand the liberty versus intervention difference.
In other words, Reich wants to pull right out from under the Koch brothers all those compromisers the brothers are supporting. The Soros-Koch cage match is on.