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.
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...
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...
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...
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...
Broadcast September 27, 2001 Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has told Congress to wait and see what happens before enacting a stimulus package. Congress is heeding his advice. It shouldn't. A stimulus is needed right away. Even before the September 11th terrorist attack, American consumers were in a deep funk. Personal savings rates were nearing a 70-year low, and debt was at record heights. Jobs were already disappearing. No wonder that, according to the Conference Board survey released this week, September marked the largest one-month drop in consumer confidence since October 1990, and almost all that survey was done before the terrorist attack. As consumers pull back from spending and the economy falls into recession, the people hurt the most are those likely to lose their jobs first and have no cushion to fall back on. I'm talking about retail store clerks, restaurant workers, janitors, hotel cashiers and other low-wage service workers. It's estimated that more than 100,...