If you won’t speak up for yourself, who will?

— by Nick Hanauer, via Democracy for America

President Obama and the Department of Labor just proposed giving millions of Americans a raise, increasing the overtime threshold from $23,600 a year to $50,440. From the fearful squawks coming from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbyists you’d think the sky was falling.

But all this trickle-down scare-talk about job-killing regulations and unintended economic consequences is just that — trickle-down scare talk —  without an ounce of empirical data to back it up.

Business lobbies are already hollering this will kill jobs. Baloney. We call it: Chicken Little Economics.

Far from the end of the world, middle-class Americans never did better than when the overtime threshold  —  the annual salary below which workers are automatically entitled to time-and-a-half overtime pay — was at its peak.

President Obama’s plan is a courageous step in the right direction. It’s like a minimum wage hike for the middle class. The Department of Labor has started the rule-making process to make the increase official. They’re taking public comment right now, and we need you to let them know you support it.

Say no to Chicken Little Economics! Join me, Robert Reich, and Democracy for America and tell the Department of Labor that you support President Obama’s plan to raise overtime pay.

A half-century ago, more than 60 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay. But after 40 years in which the threshold has been allowed to steadily erode, only about 8 percent do. If you feel like you’re working longer hours for less money than your parents did, it’s probably because you are.

The erosion of overtime and other labor protections is one of the main factors leading to worsening inequality. But a higher threshold would help reverse this trend.

Under the higher salary threshold, employers would have a choice: They could either pay you time-and-half for your extra hours worked, or they could hire more workers at the standard rate to fill your previously unpaid hours. Employers could put more money into your pockets, or put more leisure time at your disposal while directly adding more jobs. And either would be great for workers and great for boosting economic growth.

Submit your comment to the Department of Labor today: tell them to raise the overtime threshold.

Here’s why the right-wing and the business lobbyists are wrong about overtime. Lower- and middle-income workers don’t stash their earnings in offshore accounts the way CEOs do . When workers have more money, they spend it. Businesses have more customers; and when businesses have more customers, they hire more workers.

A higher overtime threshold would increase total employment, tightening the labor market and driving up real wages for the first time since the late 1990s.

Conservative pundits and politicians will attempt to preserve the status quo by warning that a return to more reasonable overtime standards would somehow cripple our economy, hurting the exact same workers we intend to help.

But that’s what they always warn about every regulation – from the minimum wage, to Obamacare, to child labor laws. Yet it never turns out to be true. And trickle-down economics looks more like Chicken Little Economics with every passing day.

Let’s put an end to Chicken Little Economics. Join me, Robert Reich, and DFA: tell the Department of Labor you support the new overtime rules.

Thank you for taking a stand against income inequality.

Bunk! Baloney! Hogwash!

— by Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley; Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration.

I keep on debating right-wingers who tell me the economy is working for everyone, that widening inequality isn’t really a problem, that the rich are using their wealth to generate growth and jobs — and that therefore supply-side “trickle-down” economics — starting with Reagan’s giant tax-cuts on the rich and continuing through George W. Bush’s tax cuts on the rich — has been a huge success. Baloney. Yesterday’s Census Bureau report reveals just the opposite.

MIDDLE-CLASS SHARE OF TOTAL INCOME DROPPING: The middle 60 percent of households took home only 45.7 percent of the nation’s income in 2012, the same percent it took home in 2011 and well below the 53.2 percent it used to take home in 1968.

TYPICAL HOUSEHOLDS ARE LOSING GROUND. The average under-65 household in the United States has lost $7,490 in annual income since the year 2000. In 1989, the median American household made $51,681 in current dollars; In 2012, $51,017. That means that 24 years ago, a middle class American family was making more than the a middle class family was making one year ago.

ALMOST ALL THE GAINS HAVE GONE TO THE TOP. Between 1967 and 2012, the average income of the top 5 percent grew by 88.2 percent in real terms, or three times the 26.6 percent growth experienced by the middle 60 percent.

Get it? Supply-side economics has been one of the biggest failures in American history. It’s a cruel hoax – a hoax because nothing has trickled down, cruel because it has imposed extraordinary hardship on millions of Americans.

Time Magazine named Robert Reich one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, “Inequality for All,” will be out September 27.   Here’s the trailer for that film:

Words of Wisdom from Robert Reich

A basic economic principle is government ought to tax what we want to discourage, not what we want to encourage. For example, if we want less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we should tax carbon polluters. On the other hand, if we want more students from lower-income families to be able to afford college, we shouldn’t put a tax on student loans.

Unfortunately, congressional Republicans are intent on doing exactly the opposite. The Republican-led House has passed a bill pegging student-loan interest rates to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percentage points. Republicans estimate this will bring in around $3.7 billion of extra revenue to help pay down the federal debt. In other words, it’s a tax on students from lower-income families. Meanwhile, most GOP House members and Senators have signed a pledge – sponsored by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers (whose companies are among America’s 20 worst polluters) — to oppose any climate-change legislation that might raise government revenues by taxing polluters.

Go figure.

Robert Reich is an American politician, academic, writer, and political commentator. He served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 1997, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries of the last century. In 2008 he served on President-elect Barack Obama’s economic advisory board.

It’s Well Past Time to FIX our Citizens United Problem

— by Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary for President Bill Clinton

The Supreme Court, which hears oral arguments today and tomorrow on same-sex marriage, has become the nation’s de facto decider of social policy. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, whose monetary policy is pumping $83 billion into the economy every month to keep long-term interest rates down, has become the nation’s de facto decider of economic policy. And the Department of Defense, now in the twelfth year of an undeclared war on terror, has become the nation’s de facto decider of foreign policy. As politics becomes inundated with big money and paralyzed by partisanship, key government functions are being parceled out to entities having little or no accountability to the public, and whose decisions are far removed from public scrutiny. Future historians may well ask: What happened to American democracy?

Whatever issue you may be most concerned about — climate change, widening inequality, declining real median wages, rising poverty among the young, the soaring costs of healthcare, bailouts for Wall Street, the sprawling military-industrial-congressional complex, the morality brigade that wants to dictate who can marry and whether a woman has control over her body, a government captured by corporations and the wealthy — nothing can be done until we get big money out of politics and reclaim our democracy. It is the first step to all reform. It’s difficult, it’s frustrating, it’s not sexy — but it’s a necessity.

And where do we begin on this arduous task? How do we choose between getting behind a constitutional amendment to reverse “Citizen’s United,” or public financing of major federal and state elections, or requiring all media using public airwaves or cables to provide free advertising to candidates, or fighting against gerrymandering at the state level? What’s most important? All of it, and more. When I’m not spouting off about the problems of our economy and democracy I chair a citizen’s group called “Common Cause,” which is leading the charge on these issues nationally and in many states. At the very least, I urge you to join up and get involved. (I’ll provide you with the link in a later post, in a moment.) Complaining is easy, and it may be even therapeutic. Rolling up your sleeves and doing something about all this is much harder — but, in my view, the most important thing you can do as a citizen.