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

Homeowners Alone

I f you couldn’t pay your debts in the 19th century, you went to jail. Debtors’ prison seemed an appropriate punishment for what was then considered moral laxity. The problem was that when debtors were locked up, they couldn’t work off their debts or be productive citizens. That’s why bankruptcy was invented. We seem to have forgotten this history when it comes to the biggest debt burden still hobbling most Americans—their home mortgage. Home values continue to drop. Since 2005, they’ve plummeted more than 30 percent on average and are expected to drop another 2.5 percent this year. That leaves one in five American homeowners “underwater”—owing more than their home is worth. The result is a new form of debtors’ prison. Underwater homeowners can’t refinance at today’s rock-bottom interest rates, because they’re considered bad credit risks. They can’t move to where jobs are more plentiful or the pay is better, because if they sell their home, they end up owing the banks a bundle. But if...

The Empty Bully Pulpit

The president's compromises might be understandable -- if only Obama would explain where he's leading us.

(Flickr/JoshBerglund19)
Barack Obama is one of the most intelligent and eloquent people to grace the White House, which makes his abject failure to tell the story of our era all the more disappointing. Many who were drawn to him in 2008 were dazzled by the power of his words -- his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, his autobiography and subsequent policy book, his insights about race and other divisive issues during the campaign -- and were excited by the prospect of an "educator in chief" who would use the bully pulpit to explain what has happened to the United States in recent decades and to mobilize Americans to do what must be done. But the man who has occupied the Oval Office since January 2009 is someone entirely different -- a man seemingly without a compass, a tactician who veers rightward one day and leftward the next, an inside-the-Beltway deal-maker who does not explain his compromises in light of larger goals. Americans have no idea why we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan, now that Osama...

Mitt Looks the Part

Why Mitt Romney still poses the greatest challenge to Obama in 2012

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
One of my regrets in life is losing the chance to debate Mitt Romney and whip his ass. It was the fall of 2002. Mitt Romney had thundered into Massachusetts with enough money to grab the Republican nomination for governor. Meanwhile, I was doing my best to secure the Democratic nomination. One week before the Democratic primary, I was tied in the polls with the state treasurer, well ahead of four other candidates. But my campaign ran out of cash. Despite pleas from my campaign manager, I didn't want to put a second mortgage on the family home. The rest is history: The state treasurer got the nomination, I never got to debate Mitt, and Mitt won the election. Now, many polls show Mitt leading the pack for the Republican nomination, which surprises me given the Republicans' recent penchant for self-immolation. Mitt would pose the most serious challenge to a second Obama term. I say this not because Mitt's mind is the sharpest of the likely contenders (Newt Gingrich is far more nimble...

The Myth of Triangulation

Obama must resist the Republican push to cut federal spending or else face voters in 2012 with continued high unemployment.

Former President Bill Clinton on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Shortly after the Democrats' "shellacking" last November, I phoned a friend in the White House who had served in the Clinton administration. "It's 1994 all over again," he said somewhat gloomily. "Now we move to the center." The supposed parallel between 2010 and 1994 is something of an article of faith in the Obama White House. That's partly because so many of President Barack Obama's current aides worked for Bill Clinton and vividly recall Clinton's own shellacking in 1994. It's also because the Clinton story had a happy ending, at least electorally. The fact that Bill Clinton went on to win re-election is a source of comfort to the current White House as it looks ahead to 2012. From this, many in the Obama White House have concluded that the president should follow Clinton's campaign script -- distancing himself from congressional Democrats, embracing further deficit reduction and deregulation, and seeking guidance from big business. If it worked for Clinton, it must work for Obama...

Telling Tales

The story that must be told isn't one of big government and deficits but of power and privilege amassing at the top.

Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)
Editors' Note: This piece has been corrected . Americans want to know what happened to the economy and how to fix it. At least Republicans have a story -- the same one they've been flogging for 30 years. The bad economy is big government's fault, and the solution is to shrink government. But what exactly is President Barack Obama's story or the Democrats'? That Wall Street screwed up big time and the solution is to fix the Street? That Americans have lived beyond our means and now we have to tighten our belts? That our trade imbalance got too big and the Chinese have to spend more and we have to save more? That American companies have been outsourcing jobs abroad and must be deterred? Without a clear story, there's no competition. Republicans win. Here's the real story. For three decades, an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth have gone to the wealthiest 1 percent. Thirty years ago, the top got 9 percent of total income. Now they take in almost a quarter. Meanwhile,...

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