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

What Happened to Democracy?

Nobody seems to be talking about the reforms needed to clean up democracy.

(White House/Pete Souza)
Which programs should be cut, which entitlements pared back, and which taxes raised in order to reduce the long-term budget deficit? Hmmm. Let's convene a commission and have it decide. At least this is what several members of Congress and the Obama White House are proposing. Commissions are a default mechanism when politicians want to hand off difficult issues to "experts." But reducing the long-term budget deficit has almost nothing to do with expertise. It's about our nations' values and priorities. These choices are supposed to be made democratically. Democracy requires at least three parts: Important decisions are made in the open. The public and its representatives have an opportunity to debate and influence them. And those who make the big decisions are accountable to voters. But these principles are in retreat. The Troubled Assets Relief Program began with a virtual blank check from Congress. Treasury officials then secretly decided which companies would receive hundreds of...

Obama Needs To Teach The Public How to Get Out Of The Mess We're In.

The president wants businesses that hire new employees this year to get $5,000 per hire, in the form of a tax credit. That will come to about $33 billion. It’s good step. He’s also supporting a cut in the capital gains tax for small businesses. That makes sense; after all, small businesses generate most jobs. But here’s the problem. Both of these measures, and many of the other tax cuts he’s proposing, give ammunition to supply-siders who think the way out of this awful economy is simply to cut taxes on businesses. If a new jobs tax credit is a good idea, why not a cut corporate in income taxes? If it’s useful to reduce capital gains taxes for small businesses, why isn’t it useful to reduce them for all businesses? The answer, of course, is that across-the-board supply-side tax cuts for businesses don’t increase the demand for the things businesses produce. They’re useful only to the extent businesses are confident consumers are out there, able and willing to buy. Carefully targeted...

Obama's Tiny Jobs Ideas for Main Street, A Big Spending Freeze for Wall Street.

President Obama today offered a set of proposals for helping America’s troubled middle class. All are sensible and worthwhile. But none will bring jobs back. And Americans could be forgiven for wondering how the president plans to enact any of these ideas anyway, when he can no longer muster 60 votes in the Senate. The bigger news is Obama is planning a three-year budget freeze on a big chunk of discretionary spending. Wall Street is delighted. But it means Main Street is in worse trouble than ever. A spending freeze will make it even harder to get jobs back because government is the last spender around. Consumers have pulled back, investors won’t do much until they know consumers are out there, and exports are minuscule. In December 1994, Bill Clinton proposed a so-called middle class bill of rights including more tax credits for families with children, expanded retirement accounts, and tax-deductible college tuition. Clinton had lost his battle for health-care reform. Even worse, by...

Why Obama Must Take On Wall Street.

It has been more than a year since all hell broke loose on Wall Street and, remarkably, almost nothing has been done to prevent all hell from breaking loose again. In fact, close your eyes and you could be back in the wilds of 2007. Bankers are still making wild bets, still devising new derivatives, still piling on debt. The big banks have access to money almost as cheaply as in 2007, courtesy of the Fed, so bank profits are up and bonuses as generous as at the height of the boom. The only difference is that now the Street’s biggest banks know they are “too big to fail” and will be bailed out by taxpayers if they get into trouble – which means they have every incentive to make even riskier bets. And, of course, American taxpayers are out some $120bn, while millions have lost their homes, jobs, and savings. All could be forgiven if the House and Senate committees with responsibility for coming up with new regulations were about to come down hard on the Street and if the Obama...

Will Health-Care Reform Be Paid For By The Rich or the Middle Class?

There’s only one big remaining issue on health-care reform: how to pay for it. The House wants a 5.4 percent surtax on couples earning at least $1 million in annual income. The Senate wants a 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided “Cadillac plans.” The Senate will win on this unless the public discovers that a large portion of the so-called Cadillacs are really middle-class Chevys -- expensive not because they deliver more benefits but because they have higher costs. The dirty little secret under the hood is that less than 4 percent of the variation in the cost of current health-care plans has to do with how many benefits they provide. Most plans that cost more do so because (1) a particular set of employees is older and tends to get sicker than the average set of employees (that’s true for a lot of old rust-belt firms), (2) the plan is offered by a small business that lacks bargaining clout with insurers (small businesses pay, on average, 16 percent more for the health insurance...

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