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

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

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...

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...

A Tax Cut for Those Who Need It

The Washington Post The economy is slowing, yet the surplus keeps growing. President-elect W. wants to use both to justify a big tax cut. How should the Democrats respond? (A) Warn once again that a big tax cut will jeopardize Social Security and that a better use for the surplus is to pay down the nation's debt. (B) Reject any fiscal stimulus and trust Alan Greenspan alone to achieve a "soft landing." (C) Agree with Bush that a fiscal stimulus would be useful and appropriate, but argue that it should take the form of new spending on education, health care, child care and public transit rather than a tax cut. (D) Concur with Bush that a tax cut is appropriate but demand that it favor poor and working families instead of the rich. Answer: (D). Bush doesn't have a prayer of getting his touted $1.3 trillion tax cut through the next Congress, of course. Not even the Republican leadership is in favor. But unless Democrats counterpunch with one of the above, the betting is that a good-sized...

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