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

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...

What's Ahead for the Economy and Politics in 2010.

Just about everything you'll hear coming out of Washington starting now is really about November's midterm election. The gravitational pull of the midterms was already apparent last year, as Republicans marched in perfect lockstep to vote against whatever the president and Dems proposed -- Republicans always have authoritarian discipline on their side, which is why they're Republicans -- but you haven't seen anything yet. The Dems have enough votes to enact health care -- the hurdle Bill Clinton failed to jump, contributing to the Republican takeover in 1994 -- but when it's enacted, expect the spin machines on both sides to be at full throttle. And because health-care legislation won't be implemented for another three or four years (depending on whether the House or Senate versions prevail), Americans won't be able to test the veracity of these wildly divergent claims. So don't count on health reform to help Dems next November -- nor harm them, either. Foreign policy is just as...

Slouching Toward Health-Care Reform.

"Don't make the perfect the enemy of the better," says the president and congressional insiders when confronted with the sorry spectacle of a health-care bill whose scope and ambition continue to shrink, and whose long-term costs to typical Americans continue to grow. They're right, of course. But by the same logic, neither the White House nor congressional Democrats will be able to celebrate the emerging legislation as a "major overhaul" or "fundamental reform." At best, it's likely to be a small overhaul containing incremental reforms. Real reform has moved from a Medicare-like public option open to all, to a public option open to 6 million without employer coverage (still in the House bill), to a public option open only to those same people in states that opt for it, or about 4 million (the original Harry Reid version of the Senate bill), to no public option but expanded Medicare (the Senate compromise) to no expanded Medicare at all (the deal with Joe "I love all the attention"...

How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care.

The public option is dead, killed by a handful of senators from small states who are mostly bought off by Big Insurance and Big Pharma or intimidated by these industries' deep pockets and power to run political ads against them. Some might say it's no great loss at this point because the Senate bill Harry Reid came up with contained a public option available only to 4 million people, which would have been far too small to exert any competitive pressure on private insurers anyway. To provide political cover to senators who want to tell their constituents that the intent behind a robust public option lives on, the emerging Senate bill makes Medicare available to younger folk (age 55), and lets people who aren't covered by their employers buy in to a system that's similar to the plan that federal employees now have, where the federal government's Office of Personnel Management selects from among private insurers. But we still end up with a system that's based on private insurers that...

The President's Jobs Initiative Doesn't Measure Up.

Barack Obama is trying once again for balance. On the one hand, he wants enough government spending to offset the timid spending of consumers and businesses. Otherwise, the jobs and wage recession could drag on for years. On the other hand, he doesn't want to set off more alarm bells about the budget deficit. Otherwise, conservative Democrats might join forces with Republicans to block heath care. So what does he do? A little bit more stimulus spending, but stimulus spending that doesn't look like more stimulus because it's not really adding to the deficit. It's coming out of savings from money already authorized to be spent on the bank bailout. Hmmm? No president in modern times walks a tightrope as exquisitely as this one. His balance is a thing of beauty. But when it comes to this economy right now -- an economy fundamentally out of balance -- we need a federal government that moves boldly and swiftly to counter-balance the huge recessionary forces still at large. States and cities...

Pages