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

Out of the Box

The New Republic Last week the Congressional Budget Office confirmed what every semiconscious observer of the budget process had known for months: that proposed spending by President Bush and Congress would force the government to take $9 billion from the ostensibly sacrosanct Social Security surplus. And over the following three years, CBO projected, the government would swipe another $21 billion--assuming, optimistically, that the president and Congress didn't spend even more money. In reality, these are piddling amounts. The federal budget will be nearly $2 trillion this year, meaning that a few billion here or there are hardly worth a second thought. But you wouldn't know it from listening to leading Democrats. Virtually without dissent, party leaders have announced that they are prepared to protect every single penny in the Social Security surplus, even if it means slashing the programs they consider most important. "You can go down the whole list--education, health care," House...

The Other Surplus Option

The New York TImes The way a debate is framed and choices are posed is often more important than which option is chosen. That's because the framing of the debate sends a powerful message to the public about what's at stake. It sets the boundaries of discourse. For politicians to stray beyond requires too much explaining and runs the risk of appearing irrelevant or radical. The debate over what to do with the Federal budget surplus offers a case in point. Congressional Republicans want to use almost all of it for a tax cut. President Clinton argues that it should be used to pay off present and future obligations. "Save Social Security. Save Medicare.... And get America out of debt for the first time since 1835," he said last week in response to the Republican proposal. Both alternatives cutting taxes and paying off obligations are attractive, if done equitably. Once the posturing is over, any final compromise...

Back of the Hand to the Safety Net

In Washington, a "gaffe" occurs when a high-level official accidentally says what he means. The Bush administration has been remarkably gaffe-free so far, with almost everyone sticking to the same bland script. All except Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that is, whose gaffes offer a glimpse into the real philosophy of the Bush corporation that now runs the United States. O'Neill's latest occurred in a recent interview with the Financial Times in which he questioned why the government should provide Social Security, Medicare or any other social insurance. "Able-bodied adults should save enough on a regular basis so that they can provide for their own retirement and, for that matter, health and medical needs," he said. The Treasury secretary's candor goes a long way toward explaining why Bush's giant $1.3-trillion tax cut--most of whose benefits will go to multimillionaires like O'Neill--hasn't caused more worry in the White House about what will happen to Social Security and Medicare...

A Tax Cut for Those Who Need It

The Washington Post The economy is slowing, yet the surplus keeps growing. President-elect W. wants to use both to justify a big tax cut. How should the Democrats respond? (A) Warn once again that a big tax cut will jeopardize Social Security and that a better use for the surplus is to pay down the nation's debt. (B) Reject any fiscal stimulus and trust Alan Greenspan alone to achieve a "soft landing." (C) Agree with Bush that a fiscal stimulus would be useful and appropriate, but argue that it should take the form of new spending on education, health care, child care and public transit rather than a tax cut. (D) Concur with Bush that a tax cut is appropriate but demand that it favor poor and working families instead of the rich. Answer: (D). Bush doesn't have a prayer of getting his touted $1.3 trillion tax cut through the next Congress, of course. Not even the Republican leadership is in favor. But unless Democrats counterpunch with one of the above, the betting is that a good-sized...

Cutting Taxes?

Broadcast June 7, 2001 Presidents are lucky if they accomplish one big thing in a term of office. The American political system is designed to make even one big thing difficult to get done, especially if there's no economic or foreign crisis to coral public support. President Bush has already got done one very big thing -- a tax cut of large proportion, approximately the size of the cut he campaigned on. Democrats complain that we can't afford it -- that the cut is fiscally irresponsible because it will create deficits if the President tries to do the other things he s promised, like upgrading the military, and paying the costs of privatizing Social Security, while at the same time preserving Medicare and giving a prescription drug benefit. But the complaint "we can t afford it" is easily countered by the supply-side mantra that tax cuts, especially for the well-to-do, will lead to greater economic growth, because people who can keep more of their earnings will have a grater incentive...

Pages