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

The Lessons from History on Health-Care Reform.

With Congress returning from recess to consider health care legislation and the president set to deliver a major address on the subject to both houses of Congress tomorrow, a bit of history may be in order. An excellent starting place David Blumenthal 's and James Marone 's The Heart of Power , which I reviewed for The New York Times this past weekend. Here are the major points: Universal health care has bedeviled, eluded or defeated every president for the last 75 years. Franklin Roosevelt left it out of Social Security because he was afraid it would be too complicated and attract fierce resistance. Harry Truman fought like hell for it but ultimately lost. Dwight Eisenhower reshaped the public debate over it. John Kennedy was passionate about it. Lyndon Johnson scored the first and last major victory on the road toward achieving it. Richard Nixon devised the essential elements of all future designs for it. Jimmy Carter tried in vain to re-engineer it. The first George Bush toyed with...

The Real News About Jobs and Wages -- An Ode to Labor Day.

Why aren't we hearing more about the worst job and wage situation since the Great Depression? The latest employment figures (released this morning) show job losses continuing to grow. According to the payroll survey, job losses are increasing more slowly than in previous months. According to the household survey, they're accelerating -- from 9.4 percent of the workforce in July to 9.7 percent in August. Bottom line: almost one out of six Americans who needs a full-time job either can't find one or is working part-time. Meanwhile, wage growth among people who have jobs has just about stopped. The Economic Policy Institute reports that between 2006 and 2008, wages grew at an annualized rate of 4.0 percent; by contrast, over the past three months annual wage growth has plummeted to just 0.7 percent . At the same time, furloughs -- requiring workers to take unpaid vacations -- are on the rise: recent surveys show 17 percent of companies imposing them. More than 20 percent of companies...

The Guns of August, and Why the Right Was So Adept at Using Them on Health Care.

What we learned in August is something we've long known but keep forgetting: The most important difference between America's Democratic left and Republican right is that the left has ideas and the right has discipline. Obama and progressive supporters of health care were outmaneuvered in August -- not because the right had any better idea for solving the health-care mess but because the right's attack on the Democrats' idea was far more disciplined than was the Democrats' ability to sell it. I say the Democrats' "idea," but in fact there was no single idea. Obama never sent any detailed plan to Congress. Meanwhile, congressional Dems were so creative and undisciplined before the August recess they came up with a kaleidoscope of health-care plans. The resulting incoherence served as an open invitation to the Republican right to focus with great precision on convincing the public of their own demonic version of what the Democrats were up to -- that it would take away their Medicare,...

THE PUBLIC OPTION'S LAST STAND -- AND THE PUBLIC'S.

I would have preferred a single-payer system like Medicare but became convinced earlier this year that a public, Medicare-like optional plan was just about as much as was politically possible. Now the White House is stepping back even from the public option, with the president saying it's "not the entirety of health-care reform," the White House spokesman saying the president could be "satisfied" without it, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that a public insurance plan is "not the essential element." Without a public Medicare-like option, health-care reform is a band-aid for a system in critical condition. There's no way to push private insurers to become more efficient and provide better value to Americans without being forced to compete with a public option. And there's no way to get overall health-care costs down without a public option that has the authority and scale to negotiate lower costs with pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hospitals, and...

OBAMA'S SECOND BIGGEST TEST: REFORMING WALL STREET.

Citigroup -- the giant Wall Street bank still on life-support courtesy of $45 billion from American taxpayers -- wants to pay its 25 top executives an average of $10 million each this year, and award its best trader $100 million. Whaaat? Second only to health-care reform as a test of Obama 's toughness and resolve is reform of Wall Street. And like the health-care industry, Wall Street has platoons of lobbyists and an almost unlimited war chest to protect its interests and prevent change. So what can we learn by what's going on now, regarding pay for the top brass at big "too big to fail" banks? After the bonus plan for AIG executives blew up last year, a law enacted last February requires that any "too big to fail" institution that's received bailouts get Treasury's approval on pay for their top earners. So far, most are seeking around $7 million each for their top 25. More after the jump. -- Robert Reich

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