Robert Reich: Bringing Civility Back to Political Discourse

Have Americans lost the ability to talk politics? Recent studies show the country is more divided than ever before, and it’s only getting worse. In a lively talk at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, professor Robert Reich outlines what he sees as the main causes of the problem, and how we might be able to address them.

Political fights are a staple of American history. From the Civil Rights Movement to Vietnam, we haven’t always agreed. But, we used to agree on how to disagree, Reich says. He believes we have lost our respect, tolerance, and openness to the ideas of others. And making matters worse, we no longer trust government institutions to handle our disagreements.

Reich lays out three key factors he believes led to the current climate: geographic tribalism, stagnant incomes, and the media. Our opinions are most influenced by those around us, he says. And over time, we have separated ourselves into ‘red states’ and ‘blue states,’ becoming entrenched in political identities with little tolerance for outside opinions. Incomes have stopped growing with the economy, leading many to feel the system is rigged. Reich says politicians have latched on to that feeling to gain support. At the same time, a proliferation of media outlets has left each fighting for attention. One way to catch a viewer’s eye he says, is to stoke anger.

But, Reich says all is not lost. He lays out how each of us can do our part to bring civility back to political discourse. It all starts he says, with one conversation.

Watch Robert Reich: Why the Common Good Disappeared and How We Get It Back

The Coming Wave? 2018 Midterm Election Panel

There are just days left before the 2018 midterms, and analysts are split over what we can expect. Will there be a so-called blue wave, or will Republicans retain control of all branches of government?

That’s just one of the questions addressed by three political heavy-hitters at the Goldman School of Public Policy during a live-streamed discussion this week. Professor Robert B. Reich, Dean Henry E. Brady, and University of California President and Goldman School Professor Janet Napolitano gave their best predictions for Tuesday. Napolitano predicts Democrats will take back the house, but possibly lose ground in the Senate. Reich points to gerrymandering and voter suppression, saying it’s unlikely Democrats will be able to pick up a majority in either house. Brady looks at historical methods of predicting midterm results, but questions whether the old rules still apply.

But, the discussion doesn’t stop at predictions. The panel weighs in on what they see as the biggest issues for voters, how we got to this point in American politics, and what might happen next. Reich lays out three things he believes the Democratic party needs to focus on whether they win or lose on Tuesday, and gives a riveting monologue about the role of truth in a democracy. The discussion ends on a high note, with Reich and Napolitano sharing why they’re optimistic about the future of politics in the United States.

Watch The Coming Wave? 2018 Midterm Election Panel Featuring: Robert Reich, Janet Napolitano, and Henry E. Brady

An Evening With Luis Alberto Urrea

In many respects the life and work of Luis Alberto Urrea represent the fulfillment of the fabled American Dream. Born in Tijuana to an American mother and Mexican father, Urrea was raised in the Barrio Logan and Clairemont neighborhoods of San Diego. Often confined indoors because of poor health, the young Luis developed an avid interest in reading that was encouraged by his parents, though it didn’t occur to him then that he could be a professional writer.

As an undergraduate Urrea attended UC San Diego, which, in his words, “opened the door to a whole new world,” a world of Latin-American literature populated by Fuentes, Garcia Marquez, Borges, Llosa, Neruda, and others. Spurred on by their example, and encouraged by his professors and by noted author Ursula K. LeGuin, Urrea embarked on a prolific career as a writer. Indeed, not merely a writer but a true man of letters: poet, novelist, essayist, columnist, journalist, scholar, and educator.

Though not strictly autobiographical, much of Urrea’s work is inspired by his own experiences and those of his family. In the spirit of “write what you know,” he has often based characters on his relatives and other people he has encountered. Urrea is perhaps best known for his writings about the US-Mexico border region, but he points out that his true subject is not that physical border but “the borders that run between us, all of us.” Whatever his subjects or their source, Urrea’s work is marked by his distinctive voice, combining keen observation, rigorous research, fine attention to detail, an ear for the vernacular, a strong sense of social justice, a wry sense of humor, and, above all, a love for the real persons and invented characters about whom he writes.

While recounting his personal journey in his “Dinner in the Library” appearance, Urrea stresses the vital importance of education in shaping his worldview and guiding his career development. He believes that his work as an educator, currently as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, enables him to celebrate his social and literary legacy while hopefully serving as inspiration for new generations of aspiring writers. By encouraging his students to mine their own heritage for source material, Urrea honors those who supported him at key points in his life.

Watch An Evening with Luis Alberto Urrea – Dinner in the Library 2018

The Future of Single-Payer Health Care in California

Health care is one of the hottest issues in California politics. Last year, state lawmakers shelved a controversial single-payer bill. So, what’s next? California State Assembly Member David Chiu sat down with Dr. Andrew Bindman at UCSF to discuss the complex realities of health care reform.

Chiu represents the 17th Assembly District, which covers eastern San Francisco. He’s also one of eight members of the Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage, formed in the wake of the failed single-payer bill. Chiu and his colleagues on the committee have proposed 16 bills aimed at increasing health care access for Californians. But, he says there is still a long way to go to achieve universal coverage.

Just over 93 percent of Californians currently have health insurance. Chiu says getting that number to 100 percent, would cost billions of dollars. Switching all Californians to a single-payer system, would cost an estimated $400 billion a year – $200 billion of that needed from new taxes. And, Chiu says the cost is just one major challenge. There are also legal hurdles, including the need for federal tax waivers, which he calls a non-starter under the current administration. But, that doesn’t mean single-payer is dead in California. Chiu talks about the impact the upcoming election could have, and who he thinks should really be leading the conversation.

Watch The Landscape for Health Care Reform in California

The Future of Food and Agriculture in the Face of Climate Change

California is the top agriculture-producing state in the country, and that big business presents big challenges. California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross addressed many of the key issues during a speech presented by UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

Secretary Ross talks at length about the impact climate change has already had on the state’s resources and the effects we can expect to see in the future. She says prolonged droughts, like the one California just escaped, will become more common. But, we can also expect more severe flooding. Ross says the state needs to take a big-picture approach to water and land management in order to mitigate future disasters. But, she says there is hope. Agriculture accounts for just eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California, compared to 30 percent worldwide. Ross says her department and private farmers are working on ways to bring down greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in California, and she hopes their progress can serve as a model for sustainable farming worldwide.

Following her speech, Secretary Ross covers everything from immigration reform to the future of agricultural careers in a fascinating Q&A moderated by her former colleague, Executive Director of the Berkeley Food Institute, Ann Thrupp.

Watch California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross