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.
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...
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...
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...
Broadcast October 19, 2001 The American economy is almost certainly in recession right now, and a lot of people are scared not only about terrorism, but also about their economic futures. The good news is that the economic fundamentals--that is, the underlying structures of the American economy--are very strong. Consider employment. Well, undoubtedly, a lot of people are losing jobs, and it's likely that October's unemployment rate will move up a notch from the 4.9 percent it registered in September to about 5 1/2 percent, or possibly even 6 percent. That sounds bad, and it is bad news for the people who can't find a job. But a 6-percent rate of unemployment is still among the lowest we've had over the past 30 years. When I became secretary of Labor in 1993, national unemployment was hovering between 7 percent and 8 percent. Most economists assumed that 6 percent was the so-called natural rate of unemployment; that is, we couldn't get below 6 percent without igniting accelerating...
The Los Angeles Times Not since World War II have Americans felt so unified. We're fighting a war against terrorism and we're fighting to get the economy moving again. And we're all in this together. Except when it comes to paying the bill. The cost of the war on terrorism since Sept. 11 is estimated to be $40 billion, just for this year. That includes at least $20 billion for the military; $7 billion for recovery and relief in New York and at the Pentagon; $3 billion to fight bioterrorism; $2 billion for more security at dams, power plants and federal buildings; and $600 million to secure our airports and aircraft. That's a lot but still less than 1% of our annual national product. To get the economy moving again, the federal government will have to part with a lot more. Ideally, the government would put that added money into the hands of middle-and lower-income people. Not only are they the most at risk of losing their jobs but they're also much more likely to spend additional cash...