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 Wall Street Reform is Stuck in Reverse.

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. Eight months ago it looked as if Wall Street was in store for strong financial regulation -- oversight of derivative trading, pay linked to long-term performance, much higher capital requirements, an end to conflicts of interest (i.e. credit rating agencies being paid by the very companies whose securities they're rating), and even resurrection of the Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial from investment banking. Now, Congress is struggling to produce the tiniest shards of regulation that would at least give the appearance of doing something to rein in the Street. What happened in the...

Lessons Overlearned

Affordable health care is important, but right now making a living is more urgent.

(David Katz/Obama for America)
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. Clinton spent so much of his initial political capital, as well as his time and energy, on deficit reduction that he didn't have enough left to enact health care in 1994. Barack Obama came to the White House intent on not repeating Clinton's failure to enact...

The Audacity of Greed: How Private Health Insurers Just Blew Their Cover.

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. It's an eleventh-hour bombshell. But the bomb went off under the insurers. The only reason these costs can be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums is because there's not enough competition among private insurers to force them to absorb the costs by becoming more efficient. Get it? Health insurers have just made the best...

Empty Hands on the Climate, and What Obama Needs to Do.

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. This is the cost of trying to do so much so quickly. Initiatives revert to powerful industry lobbyists because there's no time to organize countervailing power. When he's trying to do everything at once, the president can't mobilize public opinion behind any one thing. Progressive voices (which have difficulty being heard even under the best of circumstances) drown...

Why Obama Should Not Have Received the Peace Prize -- Yet.

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. I'd rather Obama had won it after Congress agreed to substantial cuts in greenhouse gases comparable to what Europe is proposing, after he brought Palestinians and Israelis together to accept a two-state solution, after he got the United States out of Afghanistan and reduced the nuclear arm's threat between Pakistan and India, or after he was well on the way to eliminating the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons. Any one of these would have been worthy of global praise. Perhaps the Nobel committee can give him half the...

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