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

How Obama Can Convince Congress to Enact a Larger Stimulus, and Why He Must.

The administration's biggest economic mistake so far was to badly underestimate last January how terrible the employment situation would become by fall. As a result, it low-balled the stimulus -- settling for a plan that, while avoiding even worse job losses, didn't go nearly far enough. Obama has to return to Congress, seeking a larger stimulus. Yes, I know. We're already in the gravitational pull of the midterm elections (look at the bizarre attention given to gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and even to a congressional election in the 23rd district of New York, as supposed harbingers of voter behavior a year from now!). So it will be even harder to round up the needed votes from Blue Dog Dems fretting over the deficit. And you can forget the Republicans. And yes, I know: Only about half the current stimulus has been spent, so it will be awkward to make the case that we need a larger one. But here's the problem. Everything else on the table -- a new jobs tax...

Too Big to Fail: Why The Big Banks Should Be Broken Up, But Why The White House and Congress Don't Want To.

And now there are five -- five Wall Street behemoths, bigger than they were before the Great Meltdown, paying fatter salaries and bonuses to retain their so-called talent, and raking in huge profits. The biggest difference between now and last October is these biggies didn't know then that they were too big to fail and the government would bail them out if they got into trouble. Now they do. And like a giant, gawking adolescent who's just discovered he can crash the Lexus convertible his rich dad gave him and the next morning have a new one waiting in his driveway courtesy of a dad who can't say no, the biggies will drive even faster now, taking even bigger risks. What to do? Two ideas are floating around Washington, but only one is supported by the Treasury and the White House. Unfortunately, it's the wrong one. The right idea is to break up the giant banks. I don't often agree with Alan Greenspan but he was right when he said last week that "[i]f they're too big to fail, they're too...

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...

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