Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His website can be found here.

Recent Articles

Controversy: The Rhetoric of "Corporate Welfare"

Since Robert Reich coined the phrase several years ago, "corporate welfare" has become a rhetorical target for progressives. Activists argue that government subsidies to private businesses amount to giveaways, which sometimes even promote harmful activity. These critics have established "corporate welfare" in the lexicon of both liberal and conservative politics: a recent computer search turned up the phrase in 520 articles from major newspapers and 107 articles in popular magazines over just the last two years. The critics are sometimes right, but their polemics can be politically insidious and discourage serious discussion about when and how government should get involved in private industry. Invoking "welfare" legitimizes the idea that government in volvement in the economy is intrinsically corrupting. The phrase draws on the image of contemptible dependency on government that has dogged social programs for the poor and tries to transfer some of that contempt to CEOs. It risks...

It's the Year 2000 Economy, Stupid

Exactly eight years ago, I trudged through New Hampshire sleet and slush, telling anyone who'd listen that Bill Clinton would do wonders for the American economy. Now, as the nation lurches into a millennial election year, most Americans seem largely content. The economy has faded as an election-year issue. But it shouldn't have—there are Two Big Things about the American economy that ought to be framing the upcoming election. Big Thing Number One: America has been growing faster than ever. Productivity has been rising 2.1 percent a year since 1993, according to just-revised statistics. I wish the Clinton administration could take full credit, but it turns out that, as Barry Bluestone explains in this issue [see "Conversation: Clinton's Bequest Reconsidered," page 18], the productivity-growth spurt actually began picking up steam in the early 1980s. The recession of 1991-92 was only a temporary pause. Neither Reagan's supply-side tax cuts nor Clinton's deficit-thwacking budget...

The New Power

It seemed appropriate to begin my series of modest screeds with a short pre- snake person analysis of where power is moving to in America. Here's who's losing it: Giant corporations and their CEOs. They've made money in the current expansion, but they're losing clout. Vast industrial- age bureaucracies can't move fast enough. All are downsizing, and many CEOs are losing their jobs. Since 1990, heads have rolled at IBM, AT&T, General Motors, Sears, and other corporate behemoths. As the economy slows, expect more heads, lower profits, and downsizings on a monumental scale. Labor unions. Even with the tough- minded John Sweeney at the helm of the AFL- CIO, the percentage of private- sector workers belonging to labor unions continues to drop. Unless the AFL- CIO succeeds in organizing vast numbers of low- wage service workers in hotels, hospitals, retail stores, restaurants, and laundries, as well as platoons of overworked and underpaid high- tech workers, organized labor is in danger...

The House Stimulus Package Is An Outrage

Broadcast Oct 25, 2001 It's one thing for the government to give the airline industry $5 billion without strings. More than the market value of the five major airlines put together, and $10 billion in guaranteed loans. The bailout makes almost no economic sense. I mean, even if an airline went bankrupt, the planes and crews wouldn't disappear. They'd just be bought up by another airline. But at least the public understands that airlines have taken a real beating since September 11th, so it's not completely absurd to give them some financial support. The same thing for the insurance industry. Congress is now readying legislation to protect insurers against the financial risk of future attacks. It's not clear why an industry that's in the business of assessing and covering risks should get this kind of handout, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt too. The insurance industry already absorbed $40 billion in losses from September 11th, and who knows how large losses from a future...

The Real Economic Drag

Broadcast April 12, 2001 The biggest drag on this economy -- easily two-thirds of the current slowdown -- comes from the huge drop in business investment. I mean, we re talking about Niagara Falls here. The first quarter last year, business spending was rocketing at an annual rate of more than 20 percent over the year before. By the end of last year, almost nothing. Okay, so why is American business so bearish? American companies invested like mad in the 1990s, expecting that American consumers would follow right along and buy everything that was being produced. But last year American consumers reached their limit. They re deep in debt and can t go deeper. The dirty little secret of the Roaring Nineties is that median family income -- the take-home pay of the middle of the middle class -- didn t rise very much. It went from around $55,000 in 1990 to around $60,000 last year, adjusted for inflation. Most of the Nineties Boom went to families at or near the top. But wealthy families don...

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