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

How Long Can Consumers Keep Spending?

The New York Times CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The old industrial struggle was between companies and workers. The new struggle is between . . . companies and workers. But the battle isn't what it used to be. Now, it's over who's going to spend enough to keep the economy moving forward. The crunch will come if companies lay off so many employees that consumers go on a spending strike. Since last year, American companies have cut way back on their purchases. The economy isn't in recession only because consumers haven't cut back their spending as well. If they do, the American economy tanks. A slowdown usually starts the other way around. Consumers reduce their spending because they've used up too much of their savings and can't afford or don't want to borrow more. Then companies cut back their own spending because sales are down. This time, companies started it. They overspent in the late 90's, mostly on capital equipment and software, and then began cutting back last year at the first sign of...

How Did Spending Become Our Patriotic Duty?

The Washington Post A growing chorus is telling Americans that one of the best ways to demonstrate that the nation won't be cowed by terrorism is to continue to buy shares of stock and retail goods. Vice President Cheney said he hoped Americans would "stick their thumb in the eye of the terrorists and . . . not let what's happened here in any way throw off their normal level of economic activity." House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt proclaimed that Americans were "not giving up on America, they're not giving up on our markets." Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said, "We're going to show we have backbone." On Thursday night, President Bush asked Americans for their "continued participation and confidence in the American economy." Call it market patriotism. The theory is that we demonstrate our resolve to the rest of the world by investing and consuming at least as much as we did before, preferably more. The terrorists tried to strike at the heart of American capitalism. We show that...

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...

Back To Normal?

Broadcast December 14, 2001 One of the things we're hearing a lot these days from political leaders is "We need to try to get our lives back to normal." None of us can go back to exactly what we were doing before September 11th, of course, and no one's suggesting we should stop grieving for those who died and for the innocence America lost that day. But our political leaders are asking that we at least try to take up where we left off. And step by step, most of us are doing so. . . . Except in Washington. That's the one place in the nation where almost no one is going back to doing what they were doing before September 11th. Prior to that date, you remember the Washington media were obsessed with Congressman Gary Condit and his former intern, who had gone missing. Maybe you know more than I do, but I haven't heard a word since then about the congressman or his missing intern. Meanwhile, you may recall, Democrats and the White House had finally reached broad agreement on legislation...

What's Happening at the Grass Roots

Broadcast November 16, 2001 We hear a lot about a stimulus package coming out of Congress, eventually. Regardless of what combination of tax cuts and spending increases finally emerges, almost everyone agrees that the government has to spur the economy right now. Alan Greenspan and company can't do it alone. Cuts in short-term rates are helpful, but we can't fight this recession with one hand tied behind our back. We also need government to spend more and tax less now. But the federal government isn't the only government in American whose spending and taxing affects the economy. There are also 50 state governments and hundreds of city governments. In fact, if you add up the budgets of all of America's states and cities, you reach almost the same figure as the federal budget, in the order of some $2 trillion this year. In other words, the fiscal policy coming out of Washington is only half of America's fiscal policy. So what's the story with the other half? Are state and local...

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