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 First Presidential Debate

In Wednesday night’s debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he’s either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he’s a fabulous actor. But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney’s budget plan—awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney’s 47 percent talk, or Romney’s “carried-interest” tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he’d replace and why. And so on. I’ve been worried about Obama’s poor debate performance for some time now. He was terrible in the 2008 primary debates, for example. Expectations are always high—he’s known as an eloquent orator. But...

Homeowners Alone

The number of Americans whose homes are "underwater" continues to be a huge drag on the economy, but the administration is failing to address the issue.

I f you couldn?t pay your debts in the 19th century, you went to jail. Debtors? prison seemed an appropriate punishment for what was then considered moral laxity. The problem was that when debtors were locked up, they couldn?t work off their debts or be productive citizens. That?s why bankruptcy was invented. We seem to have forgotten this history when it comes to the biggest debt burden still hobbling most Americans?their home mortgage. Home values continue to drop. Since 2005, they?ve plummeted more than 30 percent on average and are expected to drop another 2.5 percent this year. That leaves one in five American homeowners ?underwater??owing more than their home is worth. The result is a new form of debtors? prison. Underwater homeowners can?t refinance at today?s rock-bottom interest rates, because they?re considered bad credit risks. They can?t move to where jobs are more plentiful or the pay is better, because if they sell their home, they end up owing the banks a bundle. But if...

Homeowners Alone

I f you couldn’t pay your debts in the 19th century, you went to jail. Debtors’ prison seemed an appropriate punishment for what was then considered moral laxity. The problem was that when debtors were locked up, they couldn’t work off their debts or be productive citizens. That’s why bankruptcy was invented. We seem to have forgotten this history when it comes to the biggest debt burden still hobbling most Americans—their home mortgage. Home values continue to drop. Since 2005, they’ve plummeted more than 30 percent on average and are expected to drop another 2.5 percent this year. That leaves one in five American homeowners “underwater”—owing more than their home is worth. The result is a new form of debtors’ prison. Underwater homeowners can’t refinance at today’s rock-bottom interest rates, because they’re considered bad credit risks. They can’t move to where jobs are more plentiful or the pay is better, because if they sell their home, they end up owing the banks a bundle. But if...

The Empty Bully Pulpit

The president's compromises might be understandable -- if only Obama would explain where he's leading us.

(Flickr/JoshBerglund19)
Barack Obama is one of the most intelligent and eloquent people to grace the White House, which makes his abject failure to tell the story of our era all the more disappointing. Many who were drawn to him in 2008 were dazzled by the power of his words -- his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, his autobiography and subsequent policy book, his insights about race and other divisive issues during the campaign -- and were excited by the prospect of an "educator in chief" who would use the bully pulpit to explain what has happened to the United States in recent decades and to mobilize Americans to do what must be done. But the man who has occupied the Oval Office since January 2009 is someone entirely different -- a man seemingly without a compass, a tactician who veers rightward one day and leftward the next, an inside-the-Beltway deal-maker who does not explain his compromises in light of larger goals. Americans have no idea why we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan, now that Osama...

Mitt Looks the Part

Why Mitt Romney still poses the greatest challenge to Obama in 2012

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
One of my regrets in life is losing the chance to debate Mitt Romney and whip his ass. It was the fall of 2002. Mitt Romney had thundered into Massachusetts with enough money to grab the Republican nomination for governor. Meanwhile, I was doing my best to secure the Democratic nomination. One week before the Democratic primary, I was tied in the polls with the state treasurer, well ahead of four other candidates. But my campaign ran out of cash. Despite pleas from my campaign manager, I didn't want to put a second mortgage on the family home. The rest is history: The state treasurer got the nomination, I never got to debate Mitt, and Mitt won the election. Now, many polls show Mitt leading the pack for the Republican nomination, which surprises me given the Republicans' recent penchant for self-immolation. Mitt would pose the most serious challenge to a second Obama term. I say this not because Mitt's mind is the sharpest of the likely contenders (Newt Gingrich is far more nimble...

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