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 Final Health-Care Vote and What it Really Means.

It’s not nearly as momentous as the passage of Medicare in 1965 and won’t fundamentally alter how Americans think about social safety nets. But the likely passage of Obama ’s health-care reform bill is the biggest thing Congress has done in decades and has enormous political significance for the future. Medicare directly changed the life of every senior in America, giving them health security and dramatically reducing their rates of poverty. By contrast, most Americans won’t be affected by Obama’s health-care legislation. Most of us will continue to receive health insurance through our employers. (Only a comparatively small minority will be required to buy insurance who don’t want it, or be subsidized in order to afford it. Only a relatively few companies will be required to provide it who don’t now.) Medicare built on Franklin D. Roosevelt ’s New Deal notion of government as insurer, with citizens making payments to government, and government paying out benefits. That was the central...

A Worried Postscript to the House Health-Care Bill.

Nothing that’s legislated is perfect, and in my view the good that will come from passing health-care legislation outweighs the bad. But be warned: The pending House bill (that will go to the Senate for a “reconciliation” vote) does not repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurers, nor does it contain a public insurance option. It thereby will allow health insurers to continue to consolidate into even larger entities, gain as much market power as they can, and charge ever higher prices. Yet Americans will be required to buy health insurance from them. Assuming the bill becomes law, this dissonance spells trouble. It will have to be addressed before 2014, when the bill takes effect. -- Robert Reich

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...

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