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

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...

Talking Back to Greenspan

New York Times I do not believe that it is politically feasible to insulate such huge funds from a governmental direction," Alan Greenspan told the House Ways and Means Committee last week, one day after President Clinton proposed investing a portion of Social Security funds in the stock market. Mr. Greenspan was equally forthright in criticizing the President's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour from $5.15. "My own preference would be to lower it and, in fact, eliminate [the minimum wage] because I think that it does more damage than good," he told the committee. Pundits are now declaring Mr. Clinton's stock plan to be in deep trouble, in large part because Mr. Greenspan opposes it. And a new cloud also hangs over the possibility of raising the minimum wage. Rarely has the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board been so outspokenly critical of the White House. Rarely, in fact,...

An Unemployment Recession?

Broadcast July 5, 2001 In previous slowdowns, unemployment has reached 7, 8, 9 percent. But we're nowhere near those levels, and we're not likely to be even if this slowdown slides into a full-fledged recession. So what's going on? Here's a hint. In the old days--that is, before 1990--most Americans held steady jobs with steady pay. As long as you had a job, you could be reasonably certain about how much you'd earn next month or even next year. Unless, of course, a recession came along and you got laid off. So it was all or nothing--a steady job or unemployment. That's no longer the case. These days even if you're classified as a full-time employee, your take-home pay is more likely to vary from month to month and year to year. A growing percent of the paychecks of America rise or fall depending on demand for what's being sold. More employees than ever are paid by commission, a direct percentage of what they sell. Or their pay is based on billable hours. One guy was bragging to me...

A Clear Win for Alan Greenspan

Financial Times The big winner in this week's bizarre presidential election is Alan Greenspan, the venerable chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board. Mr Greenspan won because the next president - regardless of whether it is George W Bush or Al Gore - will go into office without authority to do much of anything. To some, it may appear that the occupant of the White House has great authority simply by virtue of holding the office of president. But in fact, even under the best of circumstances, his authority is tightly circumscribed. He must share power with Congress and must depend on the public's continued support. This time around, presidential authority is more constrained than ever. Given that about half of Americans bothered to vote, only about a quarter of eligible voters will have put the new president into office. If it is Mr Gore, he will be relying on a razor-thin majority of those voters; if Mr Bush, he will have no popular majority at all...

It's a Hot Economy, but Not for Janitors, Others

The L.A. Times The American economy is so hot that Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, is worried it's overheating. Dot-com billionaires are blooming like spring crocuses. The average pay of chief executives of major companies rose 18% in 1999 to $12 million. Across the managerial, professional and executive ranks of the United States, pay (including bonuses, stock options and perks) is skyrocketing. Afraid of losing their talent to the dot-coms, big law firms just hiked the pay for first-year associates to $120,000. Greenspan worries that all this prosperity is causing consumers to buy too much--more than the economy can produce--which means inflation is just around the corner. That's why he and his pals at the Fed have hiked interest rates five times since last June in an attempt to cool things down and head off inflation. But wait. What about Los Angeles' striking janitors...

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