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

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...

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...

The Fiscal Response Is Too Tepid

Broadcast Oct 5, 2001 Alan Greenspan is pushing on a wet noodle. The Fed has repeatedly cut interest rates since January and nothing's happened which means that we shouldn't expect this week's half percent rate cut to have much impact either. Even figuring in the normal time lag between a rate cut and response, the fact is this economy just isn't responding. Luckily the car has two accelerators. If the Fed's monetary policy isn't enough, there's fiscal policy. This week, the president lent his support to a stimulus package of between $60 billion and $75 billion in the form of additional tax cuts and spending. Now the good news is that the White House and Congress are no longer obsessing about saving the Social Security surplus or indulging in any other accounting fiction. The national economy is near or in a recession, and Washington understands that now is the time for government to spend more and tax less even if that means temporarily going into the red. The bad news is that...

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