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Nick: I am an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. My family owns a large manufacturer of bed pillows and down comforters called Pacific Coast Feather Company. We are in fact one of the largest manufacturers of those things in the world.
The problem with rising inequality is a person like me who earns a thousand times as much as the typical American doesn’t buy a thousand pillows a year. Even the richest people only sleep on one or two pillows.
The pillow business is quite tough, as it is for many, many industries, because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the products that we make.
I have the nicest Audi you can get, but it’s still only one Audi. I personally hate fancy food. I would infinitely rather go have a great bowl of pho at the local Vietnamese place than a five-course $300 dinner at some fancy place. You know, we can only go out to eat so many times a year, we can only get so many haircuts a year, we can only get... you know, three pairs of jeans will do you. You know, like, you don’t need 300 pairs.
Robert Reich: The problem isn’t that the rich spend too much of what they earn, it’s actually paradoxically that they spend too little. They’re not generating enough economic activity. Somebody earning $10 million a year doesn’t spend $10 million, they save it, and those savings go anywhere around the world they can make the most money, get the highest return. They become part of the global capital market, including a lot of speculative instruments, I mean, gold and real estate and anything else that they’re all chasing.
Nick: With the exception of the money I personally invest to start companies, I have essentially no idea what happens to my money. I invest in funds of funds, and those hedge funds do god knows what with it. But I do believe, absolutely, that most of the return that’s being created isn’t creating any kind of social utility other than creating return for me.
Robert: Ordinarily we like saving, savings are good. But when we have so much unemployment, so much underutilized capacity here in the United States, we need spending.
Worker: Every single person there has to process 12 units per hours.
Stuart Varney: How are going to create jobs if you’re taxing the very successful people in America who provide those jobs.
Reporter: So those are the job creators, and by the way . . .
Nick: Sometimes we think that this is a debate over facts and figures and data.
Sen. John Barrasso: To raise taxes on the job creators in this country . . .
Nick: I think if you believe that, you’re fooling yourself a little bit.
Male: The people that you call “rich,” I call “job creators.”
Nick: When somebody calls themselves a “job creator,” they’re not describing the economy, or how the economy works, although that’s what it sounds like. What they’re really doing is making acclaim on status, privileges, and power.
If a guy like me is a job creator at the center of the economic universe, the current economic arrangements are righteous and justified. I know how comfortable this is to believe because I used to believe it. You know I grew up kind of believing that and when people challenged that idea, I would say things like, “Well, you just don’t understand economics.” But, of course, if rich business guys like me are not job creators, it’s actually our customers that are the job creators. We are not the center of the economic universe. They are. We need to replace trickle-down economics with middle-out economics, and, indeed, every place you look on Earth where you find prosperity, you find massive investments in the middle class and the poor because at the end of the day, they are the true job creators. The most pro-business thing you can do is to help middle class people thrive.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This is a clip from "Inequality for All," the film starring Robert Reich. You can see or order it here. It's also available to watch instantly on Amazon, or you can get the DVD from Netflix. It is truly worth your time to see the whole movie — I promise! Fact-checks by Robert Reich's very capable crew. More from Nick Hanauer in this wonderful TED talk and this interesting little graphic.


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