In the Twin Cities, the former U.S. labor secretary praised the tone of the president's speech but said the strategy was inadequate.
President Obama's proposed stimulus solution doesn't go far enough for former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
"I would rather that [Obama] came up with a jobs plan that the Republicans would have opposed anyway, rather than the marginal plan" he proposed for the sake of getting Republican agreement, Reich said. "There is a jobs crisis. We are right now on the verge of a double-dip recession."
Reich, who was in the Twin Cities on Friday for a grassroots labor summit, made his comments at a meeting with the Star Tribune editorial board.
Avoiding a second recession will require a far meatier stimulus package, something along the lines of a net $800 billion to $900 billion, Reich said, not the $447 billion Obama proposed Thursday night.
Reich, who served as labor secretary under former President Bill Clinton, insisted that the government must do more to avoid a crisis.
"Ninety percent of economists would say the same thing. This is really mainstream stuff. This shouldn't be contentious," he said. "But it's very difficult to fight ideology with those who ... believe that the government is the source of all our problems."
Reich, a professor, lecturer, author and radio commentator, doesn't soft-soap his views. He complained that Republicans' supply-side arguments "make no sense. ... It's a silly argument."
The jobs crisis is so bad that the country is teetering on the edge of a "depression," he said. Unless something dramatic is done, the number of unemployed and underemployed Americans could rise from 25 million to 30 million to 35 million Americans.
Reich praised Obama's tone and feisty speech, saying "my only disappointment was the scale of the package." Obama's stimulus relies too much on Social Security and other tax cuts, he said.
Reich noted that GDP is nearly flat. Consumer confidence is shot. Business demand remains elusive and domestic hiring is weak at the same time that global economies are slowing.
He advocated that the U.S. government use low-cost debt (U.S. Treasuries at 2 percent) to finance a significant stimulus package. He also questioned Obama's reliance on tax cuts.
"Tax cuts don't have big multiplier effects because people use them to pay down [existing] debt," he said. Excluding those tax cuts leaves about $150 billion to create change. And that's just not enough, he said.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725