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 Big Split

I t would be bad enough if the Republicans' tax plans were merely extravagantly regressive, rewarding the rich and leaving a big budget hole for everyone else to fill. But they appear just when the income gap has grown wider than it has been in more than a century. It's a double whammy. Al Gore correctly assails the Republican tax proposals, yet Gore and most Democrats have failed either to emphasize the larger regressive trends in American income and wealth or to propose the most direct remedy--a more progressive tax. Neither Bush nor Gore talks about the biggest consequence of the 1990s boom: America's rich have become much, much richer. Bush doesn't mention it because his proposals would make things worse. Gore wants to claim the boom was good for everybody. But here are the unadorned facts. First, income: The average income of the richest 1 percent of Americans--after they paid all federal income taxes, and adjusting for inflation--rose from $273,562 in 1986 to $517,713 in 1997 (...

Of Our Time: The Missing Options

H ow the national debate is framed, and what options are put before the public, can be more important ultimately than the immediate choices made. The framing defines the breadth of the nation's ambition, and thus either raises or lowers expectations, fires or depresses imaginations, ignites or deflates political movements. A future generation pondering the present era may find it strange that the nation focused most of its collective energies between the start of 1993 and the end of 1997 on bringing the federal budget into balance by 2002 (after which time it will likely fall out of balance again), cutting taxes (mostly on the wealthy), and forcing the poorest Americans off welfare without a guarantee of a job at a livable wage. Republicans had wanted to do all of this somewhat more aggressively, and Democrats, somewhat more equitably. But the differences were of degree and there was no real debate. The larger issues facing the nation had either been put aside, or were declared, by...

Accounting the Future

Why we need a capital budget.

B ill Clinton plans to spend $219 billion on educating and training Americans and on rebuilding the infrastructure of the nation. George Bush plans to cut taxes. In assessing the two plans, much of the media-along with Paul Tsongas, Warren Rudman, Pete Peterson, ross Perot, and a group of vocal academic economists-have focused on one deceptively simple question : Which plan will cut the budget deficit the most? On this criterion, Clinton's proposal is obviously superior because he has specified where the revenues would come from to pay for his plan; as of this writing, Bush has not-a difference that elicited belated, if not whole-hearted, support for Clinton's plan from Paul Tsongas, among other deficit fretters. But it's safe to assume that Bush soon will be compelled to offer his own laundry list of proposed spending cuts and "revenue enhancers" (no taxes, please), regardless of how gimmicky. The moment Bush's list is released, the debate about the two plans will shift to...

Fiscal Irresponsibility

I t's time to strike the term "fiscal responsibility" from responsible political rhetoric. Few terms in public discourse have moved as directly as this one has from imprecision to meaninglessness without any intervening period of coherence. Democrats have been particularly loose-lipped about it lately. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, recently campaigning in Iowa for a fellow Democrat, was quoted in The Des Moines Register as calling the Bush tax cut fiscally irresponsible and touting the Democrats' 1993 effort to reduce the budget deficit. "I'm glad we did what was right in 1993," he said, "and I'll do it again because I believe in being fiscally responsible with taxpayers' money." The reporter for the Register assumed that Gephardt had meant that Democrats would repeal the Bush cut if they controlled the House. The minority leader's office promptly issued a rejoinder: He'd meant no such thing. Then what did Gephardt--who is among the Democrats' shrewdest politicians--mean? In...

Eliminating the Debt

One party claims that the budget surplus will be small and that the most important goal is to eliminate the debt. The other says the surplus will be big and we can do ambitious things with it. You'd be forgiven if you thought that the first party was the Democrats and the second the Republicans. But it's actually the reverse. The Democrats are marching under the banner of fiscal austerity, and the Republicans proclaim this the era of large ambition. "Here's the facts," says George W., pointing to the latest estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showing that the nation could well afford his plan to trim income taxes by $1.3 trillion over 10 years and still have enough money to fund social programs. The White House claims the surplus is far less. And it says retiring the debt should be the nation's first big priority. "Let's make America debt-free for the first time since 1835!" the president exuded in his State of the...

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