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

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...

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...

Use the Budget Surplus for Universal Health Care

Los Angeles Times Senate Democrats have managed to whittle George W 's tax cut from $1.6 trillion to $1.2 trillion. Big deal. Last year, Bill Clinton vetoed a $700 billion tax cut. And once the Senate tax bill goes to conference with the House, it's sure to be back up there where Bush wants it. Democrats can't fight Bush's tax cut with nothing but an admonition that it's "too large." They need to put something else on the table that's important to working Americans -- and which won't be possible if the surplus is used for Bush's tax cut. That something is universal health care. Besides, what better time than now to revive the idea of universal health care? There's a huge budget surplus. Meanwhile, the number of Americans lacking health insurance continues to rise (now almost 43 million, up from 38 million ten years ago). And those who have it are paying more than ever in co-payments, deductibles, and premiums. About 28 million households now spend more than 10 percent of their pay on...

The Wrong War

The Financial Times Like generals preparing to fight the old war, the world's central bankers are still obsessed with inflation. They should be looking forward to the real enemy: deflation. Look around the world and what you see are identical policies in favour of trimming public spending, cutting debt, raising interest rates and squeezing money supply. Euroland has made deficit reduction the ticket to admission. The International Monetary Fund still screams "austerity!" at any hint that capital may flee a developing nation. And in the US, the Delphic and venerable Alan Greenspan, the US Federal Reserve chairman, told the Senate banking committee last month that the Fed would continue to evaluate "whether the full extent of the policy easings undertaken last fall to address the seizing-up of financial markets remains appropriate as those disturbances abate". Translated: If we do anything over...

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