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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

The House Stimulus Package Is An Outrage

Broadcast Oct 25, 2001 It's one thing for the government to give the airline industry $5 billion without strings. More than the market value of the five major airlines put together, and $10 billion in guaranteed loans. The bailout makes almost no economic sense. I mean, even if an airline went bankrupt, the planes and crews wouldn't disappear. They'd just be bought up by another airline. But at least the public understands that airlines have taken a real beating since September 11th, so it's not completely absurd to give them some financial support. The same thing for the insurance industry. Congress is now readying legislation to protect insurers against the financial risk of future attacks. It's not clear why an industry that's in the business of assessing and covering risks should get this kind of handout, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt too. The insurance industry already absorbed $40 billion in losses from September 11th, and who knows how large losses from a future...

The Real Economic Drag

Broadcast April 12, 2001 The biggest drag on this economy -- easily two-thirds of the current slowdown -- comes from the huge drop in business investment. I mean, we re talking about Niagara Falls here. The first quarter last year, business spending was rocketing at an annual rate of more than 20 percent over the year before. By the end of last year, almost nothing. Okay, so why is American business so bearish? American companies invested like mad in the 1990s, expecting that American consumers would follow right along and buy everything that was being produced. But last year American consumers reached their limit. They re deep in debt and can t go deeper. The dirty little secret of the Roaring Nineties is that median family income -- the take-home pay of the middle of the middle class -- didn t rise very much. It went from around $55,000 in 1990 to around $60,000 last year, adjusted for inflation. Most of the Nineties Boom went to families at or near the top. But wealthy families don...

How Long Can Consumers Keep Spending?

The New York Times CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The old industrial struggle was between companies and workers. The new struggle is between . . . companies and workers. But the battle isn't what it used to be. Now, it's over who's going to spend enough to keep the economy moving forward. The crunch will come if companies lay off so many employees that consumers go on a spending strike. Since last year, American companies have cut way back on their purchases. The economy isn't in recession only because consumers haven't cut back their spending as well. If they do, the American economy tanks. A slowdown usually starts the other way around. Consumers reduce their spending because they've used up too much of their savings and can't afford or don't want to borrow more. Then companies cut back their own spending because sales are down. This time, companies started it. They overspent in the late 90's, mostly on capital equipment and software, and then began cutting back last year at the first sign of...

How Did Spending Become Our Patriotic Duty?

The Washington Post A growing chorus is telling Americans that one of the best ways to demonstrate that the nation won't be cowed by terrorism is to continue to buy shares of stock and retail goods. Vice President Cheney said he hoped Americans would "stick their thumb in the eye of the terrorists and . . . not let what's happened here in any way throw off their normal level of economic activity." House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt proclaimed that Americans were "not giving up on America, they're not giving up on our markets." Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said, "We're going to show we have backbone." On Thursday night, President Bush asked Americans for their "continued participation and confidence in the American economy." Call it market patriotism. The theory is that we demonstrate our resolve to the rest of the world by investing and consuming at least as much as we did before, preferably more. The terrorists tried to strike at the heart of American capitalism. We show that...

Circuit Breakers For Layoffs

Broadcast September 28, 2001 Consumer confidence is dropping like a stone. Mass layoffs are sending chills through an America already shaken by the horror of September 11th. Last week alone, companies announced more than 100,000 layoffs, and there are signs of hundreds of thousands more to come. Worries about terrorism, coupled with growing worries about job security, aren't exactly inspiring consumers to flood into the malls and buy a lot of stuff despite patriotic calls to spend money. And if consumers don't buy, there are likely to be more layoffs. You see how it becomes a vicious cycle. Layoffs that undermine consumer confidence create more layoffs, further undermining confidence. When the pace of layoffs is more gradual, you don't get this downward spiral. But too many layoffs occurring too quickly can send the whole economy into a tailspin. Wall Street faces something of the same problem when too many stocks are unloaded too quickly, and the market drops too far, too fast. Panic...

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