If you only know Robert B. Reich as a former secretary of Labor, frequent TV commentator and author of numerous books on economic policy, you’re missing out. Turns out, he’s also got a remarkable knack for wielding a Sharpie. His economic cartoons are a vital part of such documentaries as 2013’s Inequality for All and Saving Capitalism, due out this month. Now he’s putting his artistic side front and center in Economics in Wonderland: A Cartoon Guide to a Political World Gone Mad and Mean — and I spoke to him about his cartooning life (our interview has been edited for length and clarity).
Reich tells me that as a kid, he always went straight for the comics pages of the newspaper. “I’m dating myself, but they used to have whole comics [pages] that would come with the Sunday paper! That was the age of 6 or 7, that’s the first thing I looked at.”
When Reich got a little older, he discovered the cartoons in the New Yorker: “I used to send cartoons to the New Yorker, and I was always rejected. I began to paper the walls of my bedroom with rejection slips from the New Yorker and I actually papered the entire wall of my bedroom. I had New Yorker rejection slips for all my cartoons,” he says.
In the book you say that, having taught two generations of college students, you’ve noticed what you called a “subtle but unmistakable change in the way they absorb information.” What’s the nature of that change?
Young people today are much more visually acute than they were a generation ago. They pick up visual cues much faster. I think a lot of that comes from watching films, and videos, and the Internet. I [could] sit next to a young person, watching a movie, and they would see things that would completely escape me. One of my sons suggested about five or six years ago, “If you want to reach my generation, Dad, you might want to experiment with videos, and film, and even cartooning.” … READ MORE AT NPR.