Saturday, September 24, 2016

Robert Reich: Conservative when he's home

Robert Reich

Why has Robert Reich endorsed a conservative for Mayor of Berkeley?
Harry Brill
September 23, 2016

In Berkeley nine candidates are running for mayor to replace Tom Bates, who is retiring. The two top contenders, who are on the Berkeley City Council, are politically worlds apart. 

Laurie Capitelli tilts in a conservative direction, and Jesse Arreguin is among the most progressive council members. Because Capitelli is an ardent supporter of development projects, he receives substantial contributions from real estate interests. In fact, his habit of favoring developers and landlords as well explains why he raises more money than any other member of the Council. Also, despite Capitelli's recent support for a minimum wage law---elections are around the corner---he has for a long while obstructed efforts to increase the minimum wage.

Although Jesse Arreguin is not opposed to development, he is infinitely more sensitive to the impact of development on small business and residents. Particularly important, Arreguin strongly supports labor legislation that benefits working people. Unlike Capitelli, he has never wavered on minimum wage and any other labor issues. It is no surprise, then, that among his significant endorsers are Bernie Sanders and the Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Very surprising to progressive activists, however, is that among Capitelli's endorsers is Robert Reich. Reich is among the nation's most progressive intellectuals. He has no problem criticizing big business, and exposing how they have stacked the deck. Clearly, Reich is many light years away from the politics of Capitelli and also from his close ally, Tom Bates, who Reich had said is "the best mayor in the country".

Just as startling is Reich's comment about Capitelli: "Laurie is a serious progressive, one that doesn't just talk about progressive values but who demonstrates them." The Progressive Student Association, which is based on the UC Berkeley campus, disagrees with Reich's endorsement, because Capitelli has "repeatedly voted to reduce funding for affordable housing and has opposed campaign finance reform."

Although Reich's endorsement of Capitelli is disappointing, it is really, if we think about it, not surprising. Reich pays little attention, as he admits, to local politics...

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