Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.

Recent Articles

Health Care 2010 and 1994, and the Political Lessons of History.

Health-care reform is necessary, and House Democrats should vote for it because it’s best for the nation. They should also remember the political lessons of history. To paraphrase Mark Twain , history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme. As the White House and the House Democratic leadership try to line up 216 votes to pass health-care reform — and as Republicans, aided by the National Association of Manufacturers and abetted by fierce partisans like Newt Gingrich , try to kill it – I can’t help thinking back to 1994 when the lineup was much the same. I was serving in the Clinton administration at the time. In the first months of 1993 it looked as if Clinton’s health-care proposal would sail through Congress. But the process dragged on and by 1994 it bogged down. We knew health care was imperiled but none of us knew that failure to pass health care would doom much of the rest of Clinton’s agenda and wrest control of Congress out of the hands of the Democrats. In retrospect, it’s...

The Sham Recovery.

Are we finally in a recovery? Who’s “we,” Ke-mo sah-bee? Big global companies, Wall Street, and high-income Americans who hold their savings in financial instruments are clearly doing better. As to the rest of us – small businesses along Main Streets, and middle and lower-income Americans – forget it. Business cheerleaders naturally want to emphasize the positive. They assume the economy runs on optimism and that if average consumers think the economy is getting better, they’ll empty their wallets more readily and – presto! – the economy will get better. The cheerleaders fail to understand that regardless of how people feel, they won’t spend if they don’t have the money. The U.S. economy grew at a 5.9 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2009. That sounds good until you realize that GDP figures are badly distorted by structural changes in the economy. For example, part of the increase is due to rising health care costs. When WellPoint ratchets up premiums, that enlarges the...

Bail Out Our Schools.

Any day now, the Obama administration will announce $4.35 billion in extra federal funds for under-performing public schools. That’s fine, but relative to the financial squeeze all the nation’s public schools now face, it’s a cruel joke. The recession has ravaged state and local budgets, most of which aren’t allowed to run deficits. That’s meant major cuts in public schools and universities, and a giant future deficit in the education of our people. Across America, schools are laying off thousands of teachers. Classrooms that had contained 20 to 25 students are now crammed with 30 or more. School years have been shortened. Some school districts are moving to four-day school weeks. After-school programs have been canceled; music and art classes, terminated. Even history is being chucked. Pre-K programs have been shut down. Community colleges are reducing their course offerings and admitting fewer students. Public universities, like the one I teach at, have raised tuition and fees. That...

Why the Continuing Bad Job Numbers Make it Harder To Pass Health-Care Reform.

The loss of 36,000 jobs in February is better than expected, but it’s still miserable: 26,000 were lost in January, according to the government’s revised figures. And the “underemployment” rate — including jobless workers who have given up looking for work and part-time workers who want full-time jobs — rose from 16.5 percent in January to 16.8 percent in February, offsetting some of January’s gains. (And don’t blame it mostly on the weather. Although the surveys on which the report is based were done in mid-February during winter snowstorms in the east, the major impact of bad weather was on hours worked, not the numbers of jobs. If you had a job in February but were snowed in, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported you as having a job.) This complicates the president’s final push for health-care reform. With employers still shedding jobs and consumer confidence down, Americans are worried first and foremost about paying their bills. Because most people aren’t aware how much of...

Bust Up the Health Insurance Trusts.

Years ago I worked at the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC predates the New Deal. It was set up in 1914 during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, at a time when many of America’s industries had combined into giant trusts that had enormous market and political power. The FTC was designed to root out such unfair practices. It ought to take on the health insurance trusts. My health insurer here in California is Anthem Blue Cross. So far, my group policy hasn’t been affected by Anthem’s planned rate increase of as much as 39 percent for its customers with individual policies — but the trend worries me, as it should everyone. Rates are soaring all over the country. Insurers have been seeking to raise premiums 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon and a wallet-popping 56 percent in Michigan. How can insurers raise prices as much as they want without fear of losing customers? Astonishingly, the health insurance industry is exempt from federal antitrust laws...

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