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...

No Tax Cut. Period.

D emocrats should draw a bright line: No tax cut. Period. The surplus should be used instead for the three things regular working families need most: affordable health care (including prescription drugs), child care, and better schools. Instead Democrats are putting all their energies behind keeping Bush's tax cut closer to the $1.2 trillion they squeezed it down to in the Senate several weeks ago rather than the $1.6 trillion passed by the House. The $1.2 trillion "was a great victory for us," one prominent Democratic senator assured me recently. "In the end, if we can just keep 51 votes together, we'll triumph." Triumph? How can a tax cut anywhere near $1.2 trillion be considered a Democratic triumph? The public won't see any significant difference between it and Bush's $1.6 trillion proposal. Besides, either way, Republicans (who, let us remind ourselves, have the majority in both houses of Congress, plus the presidency) will make sure that most of its beneficiaries are people 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...

Little Guy Left in the Lurch

The Washington Post The Great American Debate about how to use the largest budget surplus in history has come to a choice between the giant $1.2 trillion tax cut recently passed by the Senate and the gargantuan $1.6 trillion cut passed by the House. This week House-Senate conferees begin picking a figure between these two. If future historians ever want to illustrate both the pathetic paucity of political debate at the start of the 21st century and the near-bankruptcy of the Democratic Party, they could do no better than to use this example. A few years ago Democrats championed such things as universal health care. Now that there's money to pay for it, they're rooting for the smaller of the two huge tax cuts instead. The Democrats' own budget alternative put aside just $80 billion for expanded health coverage. By the time Senate Democrats finished compromising on the tax cut, health care was whittled to $28 billion. The dirtiest little secret about the Roaring Nineties is that average...

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