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

Underlying Strengths

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...

Take a Guess:

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...

Mobilizing American Industry for War

The Wall Street Journal As America mobilizes for war, Washington must think more clearly about what it wants from American industry. K Street is ablaze with proposed subsidies, loan guarantees, tax breaks, and regulatory relief for industries termed "vital" to the anti-terrorist effort. In war-fevered Washington, politicians of all stripes may be too eager to accommodate. The airline bailout was notable not only for its size (its price tag exceeding the combined market value of United, American, Delta, Northwest, US Airways, America West, and Continental), but also the speed and near-unanimity with which it was granted. Senator John McCain warned his colleagues that "[i]f we don t act soon, I m afraid that it will be even more difficult to resuscitate this key industry in the future." The attack has also fueled efforts to protect the American steel industry from lower-cost imports. Noting the renewed importance of steel to national security, Commerce Secretary Don Evans pledged last...

The House Stimulus Package Is An Outrage

Broadcast Oct 25, 2001 It's one thing for the government to give the airline industry $5 billion without strings. More than the market value of the five major airlines put together, and $10 billion in guaranteed loans. The bailout makes almost no economic sense. I mean, even if an airline went bankrupt, the planes and crews wouldn't disappear. They'd just be bought up by another airline. But at least the public understands that airlines have taken a real beating since September 11th, so it's not completely absurd to give them some financial support. The same thing for the insurance industry. Congress is now readying legislation to protect insurers against the financial risk of future attacks. It's not clear why an industry that's in the business of assessing and covering risks should get this kind of handout, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt too. The insurance industry already absorbed $40 billion in losses from September 11th, and who knows how large losses from a future...

The Real Economic Drag

Broadcast April 12, 2001 The biggest drag on this economy -- easily two-thirds of the current slowdown -- comes from the huge drop in business investment. I mean, we re talking about Niagara Falls here. The first quarter last year, business spending was rocketing at an annual rate of more than 20 percent over the year before. By the end of last year, almost nothing. Okay, so why is American business so bearish? American companies invested like mad in the 1990s, expecting that American consumers would follow right along and buy everything that was being produced. But last year American consumers reached their limit. They re deep in debt and can t go deeper. The dirty little secret of the Roaring Nineties is that median family income -- the take-home pay of the middle of the middle class -- didn t rise very much. It went from around $55,000 in 1990 to around $60,000 last year, adjusted for inflation. Most of the Nineties Boom went to families at or near the top. But wealthy families don...

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