Columnist George Will may crow about "an era of wealth creation unprecedented in human history." But the presidencies of Reagan, Bush, and Clinton have decisively increased poverty and dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor. A century of social welfare programs have been systematically dismembered. The social "safety net," which generally protected the poor and working poor from the free fall into abject misery, is sagging and tattered. Whereas in 1977, 16.2 percent of all children were raised in poverty, in 1993, 22.7 percent of children were poor, the highest percentage since 1964.
These statistics come as no surprise to the people on the short end of the stickthe poor, the working class, and the dwindling middle class. Several recent books provide chapter and verse on our country's dangerous course of driving an increasing number of people into poverty and the fact that, for nearly two decades, government has failed its most fundamental responsibility of serving and protecting the poor and marginalized of our society.
Robert B. Reich's Locked in the Cabinet provides an insider's view of Clinton's successful candidacy for presidency and his first term in office. Reich's journal details his struggle to balance his commitment to his family and his new job as Secretary of Labor. The heart of the book, however, is his ongoing struggle to preserve some measure of Clinton's promised "investment in the future."
Laced with humorous anecdotes and political barbs, the brunt of Reich's criticism is not aimed at foes across the aisle, the unlovable Newt Gingrich and his Republican buddies, many of whom Reich calls "bullies and thugs." His chief adversaries are fellow Cabinet members Panetta, Rivlin, and Bentsen and, as the 1996 election approaches, political spin master Dick Morris. As a result, Reich's tale is largely one of repeated compromise and frustration.