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

Why the Continuing Bad Job Numbers Make it Harder To Pass Health-Care Reform.

The loss of 36,000 jobs in February is better than expected, but it’s still miserable: 26,000 were lost in January, according to the government’s revised figures. And the “underemployment” rate — including jobless workers who have given up looking for work and part-time workers who want full-time jobs — rose from 16.5 percent in January to 16.8 percent in February, offsetting some of January’s gains. (And don’t blame it mostly on the weather. Although the surveys on which the report is based were done in mid-February during winter snowstorms in the east, the major impact of bad weather was on hours worked, not the numbers of jobs. If you had a job in February but were snowed in, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported you as having a job.) This complicates the president’s final push for health-care reform. With employers still shedding jobs and consumer confidence down, Americans are worried first and foremost about paying their bills. Because most people aren’t aware how much of...

Bust Up the Health Insurance Trusts.

Years ago I worked at the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC predates the New Deal. It was set up in 1914 during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, at a time when many of America’s industries had combined into giant trusts that had enormous market and political power. The FTC was designed to root out such unfair practices. It ought to take on the health insurance trusts. My health insurer here in California is Anthem Blue Cross. So far, my group policy hasn’t been affected by Anthem’s planned rate increase of as much as 39 percent for its customers with individual policies — but the trend worries me, as it should everyone. Rates are soaring all over the country. Insurers have been seeking to raise premiums 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon and a wallet-popping 56 percent in Michigan. How can insurers raise prices as much as they want without fear of losing customers? Astonishingly, the health insurance industry is exempt from federal antitrust laws...

It's Time To Enact Health Care With 51 Senate Votes.

This week the president is hosting a bipartisan gabfest at the White House to try to tease out some Republican votes for health care. It’s a total waste of time. If Obama thinks he’s going to get a single Republican vote at this stage of the game, he’s fooling himself (or the American people). Many months ago, you may recall, the White House and Dem leaders in the Senate threatened to pass health care with 51 votes – using a process called “reconciliation” that allows tax and spending bills to be enacted without filibuster – unless Republicans came on board. It’s time to pull the trigger. Why haven’t the president and Senate Dems pulled the reconciliation trigger before now? I haven’t spoken directly with the president or with Harry Reid , but I’ve spent the last several weeks sounding out contacts on the Hill and in the White House to find an answer. Here are the theories. None of them justifies waiting any longer. 1. Reconciliation is too extreme a measure to use on a piece of...

A Thought on Evan Bayh and Partisan America.

Not long ago I was debating someone on television. I thought the discussion was going well until the commercial break when a producer said into my earpiece, “Be angrier.” “Why should I be angrier?” I asked him, irritated that he hadn’t appreciated the thoughtfulness of debate. “That’s how we get channel surfers to stop and watch the program,” the producer explained. “Eyeballs are attracted to anger.” At this point I lost my temper. The incident came back to me when I heard about Evan Bayh ’s decision to leave Congress because he felt it was becoming too partisan. The real problem isn’t partisanship. Bold views and strong positions are fine. Democratic debate and deliberation can be enhanced by them. The problem is the intransigence and belligerence that has taken over Congress and much of the rest of the public -- a profound distrust of people “on the other side,” an unwillingness to compromise, a bitterness and anger disproportionate to issues being discussed. Anger makes good...

One Free Market System for Wall Street, Another Free Market System for Main Street.

Washington is paralyzed by snow and partisanship. Nothing is getting done -- even as the Great Recession pulls more Americans into its maw. In the midst of this paralysis, the president was asked about the giant pay packages of Jamie Dimon , CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co. ($17 mullion for 2009) and Lloyd Blankfein , CEO of Goldman Sachs ($9 million). “First of all, I know both those guys,” Obama said. “They’re very savvy businessmen. And I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That’s part of the free market system.” Free market system? As I remember it, American taxpayers forked out hundreds of billions to keep JPMorgan, Goldman, and other big Wall Street banks afloat through most of 2009. Had we not done so, Dimon, Blankfein, and most other top executives on Wall Street would not have earned a dime last year. In fact, some would be out on the street, rather than sitting pretty on the Street. The free market system has been unleashed instead on...

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