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 Politics of the Jobs Report

The White House is breathing easier this morning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent—the first time it’s been under 8 percent in 43 months. In political terms, headlines are everything—and most major media are leading with the drop in the unemployment rate. Look more closely, though, and the picture is murkier. According to the separate payroll survey undertaken by the BLS, just 114,000 new jobs were added in September. At least 125,000 are needed per month just to keep up with population growth. Yet August’s job number was revised upward to 142,000, and July’s to 181,000. In other words, we’re still crawling out of the deep crater we fell into in 2008 and 2009. The percent of the working-age population now working or actively looking for work is higher than it was, but still near a thirty-year low. But at least we’re crawling out. Romney says we’re not doing well enough, and he’s right. But the prescriptions he’s offering—more tax cuts...

The First Presidential Debate

In Wednesday night’s debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he’s either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he’s a fabulous actor. But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney’s budget plan—awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney’s 47 percent talk, or Romney’s “carried-interest” tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he’d replace and why. And so on. I’ve been worried about Obama’s poor debate performance for some time now. He was terrible in the 2008 primary debates, for example. Expectations are always high—he’s known as an eloquent orator. But...

Homeowners Alone

The number of Americans whose homes are "underwater" continues to be a huge drag on the economy, but the administration is failing to address the issue.

I f you couldn?t pay your debts in the 19th century, you went to jail. Debtors? prison seemed an appropriate punishment for what was then considered moral laxity. The problem was that when debtors were locked up, they couldn?t work off their debts or be productive citizens. That?s why bankruptcy was invented. We seem to have forgotten this history when it comes to the biggest debt burden still hobbling most Americans?their home mortgage. Home values continue to drop. Since 2005, they?ve plummeted more than 30 percent on average and are expected to drop another 2.5 percent this year. That leaves one in five American homeowners ?underwater??owing more than their home is worth. The result is a new form of debtors? prison. Underwater homeowners can?t refinance at today?s rock-bottom interest rates, because they?re considered bad credit risks. They can?t move to where jobs are more plentiful or the pay is better, because if they sell their home, they end up owing the banks a bundle. But if...

Homeowners Alone

I f you couldn’t pay your debts in the 19th century, you went to jail. Debtors’ prison seemed an appropriate punishment for what was then considered moral laxity. The problem was that when debtors were locked up, they couldn’t work off their debts or be productive citizens. That’s why bankruptcy was invented. We seem to have forgotten this history when it comes to the biggest debt burden still hobbling most Americans—their home mortgage. Home values continue to drop. Since 2005, they’ve plummeted more than 30 percent on average and are expected to drop another 2.5 percent this year. That leaves one in five American homeowners “underwater”—owing more than their home is worth. The result is a new form of debtors’ prison. Underwater homeowners can’t refinance at today’s rock-bottom interest rates, because they’re considered bad credit risks. They can’t move to where jobs are more plentiful or the pay is better, because if they sell their home, they end up owing the banks a bundle. But if...

The Empty Bully Pulpit

The president's compromises might be understandable -- if only Obama would explain where he's leading us.

(Flickr/JoshBerglund19)
Barack Obama is one of the most intelligent and eloquent people to grace the White House, which makes his abject failure to tell the story of our era all the more disappointing. Many who were drawn to him in 2008 were dazzled by the power of his words -- his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, his autobiography and subsequent policy book, his insights about race and other divisive issues during the campaign -- and were excited by the prospect of an "educator in chief" who would use the bully pulpit to explain what has happened to the United States in recent decades and to mobilize Americans to do what must be done. But the man who has occupied the Oval Office since January 2009 is someone entirely different -- a man seemingly without a compass, a tactician who veers rightward one day and leftward the next, an inside-the-Beltway deal-maker who does not explain his compromises in light of larger goals. Americans have no idea why we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan, now that Osama...

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