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.
At a conference in London, a Goldman Sachs international adviser, Brian Griffiths, praised inequality. As his company was putting aside $16.7 billion for compensation and benefits in the first nine months of 2009 -- up 46 percent from a year earlier -- Griffiths told us not to worry. “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all,” he said.
Presidents tend to overcompensate for the errors of their predecessors in the same party and in so doing, sow seeds of their own mistakes. Bill Clinton wanted above all to avoid Jimmy Carter's fate -- losing re-election because the economy was heading south on Election Day. So Clinton made a deal with Alan Greenspan to slash the budget deficit and thereby jettison much of his ambitious campaign agenda -- Greenspan's precondition for lowering interest rates and causing an economic boom in time for the re-election -- and then took direction from Dick Morris, who told Clinton to move to the right. The result: Clinton avoided Carter's failure and won re-election handily. But the Clinton years produced few if any major social reforms.
The health-insurance industry has finally revealed itself for what it is.
Background: The industry hates the idea that's emerged from the Senate Finance Committee of lowering penalties on younger and healthier people who don't buy insurance. Relying on an analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers, insurers say this means new enrollees will be older and less healthy -- which will drive up costs. And, says the industry, these costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums. Proposed taxes on high-priced "Cadillac" policies will also be passed on to consumers. As a result, premiums will rise faster and higher than the government projects.
On Friday, Denmark's climate and energy minister, Connie Hedegaard, who will be chairing U.N.-sponsored climate talks in December in Copenhagen, said President Obama needs to do more on climate. "It is hard to imagine that he will be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10 and then come empty-handed to Copenhagen a week later," she said.
But there's no way between now and then Obama can get a strong climate bill through Congress.
Over the next months, the White House needs to focus on health care if it's to have any hope of coming up with anything more than Big Pharma and the private insurance companies want.
President Obama's only real diplomatic accomplishment so far has been to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy from unilateral bullying to multilateral listening and cooperating. That's important, to be sure, but not nearly enough. The Prize is really more of Booby Prize for Obama's predecessor. Had the world not suffered eight years of George W. Bush, Obama would not be receiving the prize. He's prize-worthy and praiseworthy only by comparison.