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.
Among the hottest regulatory issues today are these: How to prevent kids
from smoking cigarettes? What to do about the flood of handguns? How to
end sweatshop labor in the apparel industry? How to cope with new kinds of
market power in high-technology industries?
In the old days, state legislatures or Congress would enact laws, which
would be administered by regulatory agencies. But now the era of big
government is over. "Regulation" is a bad word. So how are these regulatory
issues being handled? Through lawsuits.
Consider tobacco. Last spring, Congress punted. It gave up on a bill to jack
up the price of cigarettes. But that didn't mean tobacco companies were off
the hook. The state attorneys general, who had sued the tobacco
companies, settled for $246 billion.
In his State of the Union Address, President Clinton announced he wanted
Broadcast January 18, 2001 A lot of Americans are concerned these days about sweatshops in Asia and Latin America where poor people cut and sew garments at cut-rate wages, often in unsanitary conditions. But you don't need to go to a third-world nation to find a sweatshop. You can find all the sweatshops you want right here in the United States, producing a big portion of the shirts, dresses, blouses, and skirts on the shelves of big American retailers. The U.S. Department of Labor, where I used to work, recently completed its latest survey of cutting and sewing shops in New York and Los Angeles. The places surveyed were randomly selected from lists of registered garment contractors. And here's what the Labor Department found. In Los Angeles, 61 percent of the cutting and sewing shops don't give their workers even minimum wages or overtime. In New York, 65 percent don't provide minimum wages or overtime. In other words, the vast majority of cutting and sewing shops in America s...
The Washington Post
Last year I woke up to discover that I'm now working part-time for a German
company named Bartelsmann AG. You see, when I wasn't looking,
Bartelsmann scooped up Random House, which has published several of my
books and still occasionally sends me exceedingly small royalty checks.
Bartelsmann is now the largest publisher of English-language books in the
world, and for all I know it may become the largest publisher of Chinese
books as well. Do I care whether an American-owned publisher (which may
print its books in Singapore, bind them in New Zealand and market them
through Hong Kong) gains better access to China than my own
Bartelsmann? Not at all, as long as the royalty checks keep coming.
Don't think me either unpatriotic or selfish. It's just my way of suggesting
that there's something missing in all the talk about how America will soon
have its goods on Beijing's streets and will own...
Broadcast February 2, 2001 Recently I was putting gas in my car, minding my own business, enjoying my solitude there by the gas pump, when the gas pump suddenly comes alive with a commercial -- right there, on a little liquid-crystal screen mounted on the pump. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm in the middle of filling my tank with gas. I'm a captive audience to a loud talking head who s hawking a product at me. The same thing happened the other day when I was in an elevator. The doors shut, the elevator starts to move, I m enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, and then suddenly another little screen up in the corner of the elevator starts up, with another loud commercial. I can't get out of the elevator until I reach my floor. I mean, I could have got off at the next floor and waited for another elevator, but the other one would have had a commercial, too. Have you noticed -- it s happening all over. Little commercial messages on little screens which you can't escape from. You...
We're not in a war economy yet. We're in an economy that's just plain sinking. What to do? Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has told Congress to "wait and see" what happens before enacting a stimulus package lest it create inflationary fantasies among traders of long-term bonds. In an extraordinary show of newly bipartisan gutlessness, our representatives in Washington are heeding his advice. Congress shouldn't listen to Greenspan. A stimulus is needed right now. Even before the September 11 terrorist attacks, American consumers were in a deep funk. Personal-savings rates were nearing a 70-year low and credit-card and mortgage debt were at record heights. Millions of Americans were already stepping back from the brink. In June they paid down $1.8 billion of debt and in July they took on no additional debt--the biggest two-month retreat from borrowing in nine years. Meanwhile, their jobs were disappearing. Last year the U.S. economy gained 1.76 million jobs. But since last March...