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

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 cuts...

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 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...

How Long Can Consumers Keep Spending?

The New York Times CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The old industrial struggle was between companies and workers. The new struggle is between . . . companies and workers. But the battle isn't what it used to be. Now, it's over who's going to spend enough to keep the economy moving forward. The crunch will come if companies lay off so many employees that consumers go on a spending strike. Since last year, American companies have cut way back on their purchases. The economy isn't in recession only because consumers haven't cut back their spending as well. If they do, the American economy tanks. A slowdown usually starts the other way around. Consumers reduce their spending because they've used up too much of their savings and can't afford or don't want to borrow more. Then companies cut back their own spending because sales are down. This time, companies started it. They overspent in the late 90's, mostly on capital equipment and software, and then began cutting back last year at the first sign of...

How Did Spending Become Our Patriotic Duty?

The Washington Post A growing chorus is telling Americans that one of the best ways to demonstrate that the nation won't be cowed by terrorism is to continue to buy shares of stock and retail goods. Vice President Cheney said he hoped Americans would "stick their thumb in the eye of the terrorists and . . . not let what's happened here in any way throw off their normal level of economic activity." House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt proclaimed that Americans were "not giving up on America, they're not giving up on our markets." Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said, "We're going to show we have backbone." On Thursday night, President Bush asked Americans for their "continued participation and confidence in the American economy." Call it market patriotism. The theory is that we demonstrate our resolve to the rest of the world by investing and consuming at least as much as we did before, preferably more. The terrorists tried to strike at the heart of American capitalism. We show that...

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