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Robert Reich
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Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His film Inequality for All is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and Netflix. His homepage is robertreich.org.

Entries by Robert Reich

Why We Must Try

(72) Comments | Posted February 8, 2016 | 8:21 AM

Instead of "Yes we can," many Democrats have adopted a new slogan this election year: "We shouldn't even try."

We shouldn't try for single-payer system, they say. We'll be lucky if we prevent Republicans from repealing Obamacare.

We shouldn't try for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The best we...

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It Takes a Movement

(147) Comments | Posted February 2, 2016 | 12:28 PM

In 2008, when then-Senator Barack Obama promised progressive change if elected President, his primary opponent, then-Senator Hillary Clinton, derided him.

"The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,"...

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Six Responses to Bernie Skeptics

(0) Comments | Posted January 27, 2016 | 3:41 PM


1. "He'd never beat Trump or Cruz in a general election."

Wrong. According to the latest polls, Bernie is the strongest Democratic candidate in the general election, defeating both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in hypothetical matchups. (The latest RealClear Politics averages of all polls shows Bernie beating Trump by a larger margin than Hillary beats Trump, and Bernie beating Cruz while Hillary loses to Cruz.)

2. "He couldn't get any of his ideas implemented because Congress would reject them."

If both house of Congress remain in Republican hands, no Democrat will be able to get much legislation through Congress, and will have to rely instead on executive orders and regulations. But there's a higher likelihood of kicking Republicans out if Bernie's "political revolution" continues to surge around America, bringing with it millions of young people and other voters, and keeping them politically engaged.

3. "America would never elect a socialist."

P-l-e-a-s-e. America's most successful and beloved government programs are social insurance - Social Security and Medicare. A highway is a shared social expenditure, as is the military and public parks and schools. The problem is we now have excessive socialism for the rich (bailouts of Wall Street, subsidies for Big Ag and Big Pharma, monopolization by cable companies and giant health insurers, giant tax-deductible CEO pay packages) - all of which Bernie wants to end or prevent.

4. "His single-payer healthcare proposal would cost so much it would require raising taxes on the middle class."

This is a duplicitous argument. Single-payer systems in other rich nations have proven cheaper than private for-profit health insurers because they don't spend huge sums on advertising, marketing, executive pay, and billing. So even if the Sanders single-payer plan did require some higher taxes, Americans would come out way ahead because they'd save far more than that on health insurance.

5. "His plan for paying for college with a tax on Wall Street trades would mean colleges would run by government rules."

Baloney. Three-quarters of college students today already attend public universities financed largely by state governments, and they're not run by government rules. The real problem is too many young people still can't afford a college education. The move toward free public higher education that began in the 1950s with the G.I. Bill and extended into the 1960s came to an abrupt stop in the 1980s. We must restart it.

6. "He's too old."

Untrue. He's in great health. Have you seen how agile and forceful he is as he campaigns around the country? These days, 70s are the new 60s. (He's younger than four of the nine Supreme Court justices.) In any event, the issue isn't age; it's having the right values. FDR was paralyzed." In any event, the issue isn't age; it's having the right values. was paralyzed, and JFK had Addison's Crohn's diseases, but they were great presidents because they fought adamantly for social and economic justice.

ROBERT B. REICH's new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," is now out. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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The Volcanic Core Fueling the 2016 Election

(86) Comments | Posted January 25, 2016 | 3:11 PM

Not a day passes that I don't get a call from the media asking me to compare Bernie Sanders's and Hillary Clinton's tax plans, or bank plans, or health-care plans.

I don't mind. I've been teaching public policy for much of the last thirty-five years. I'm a...

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Bernie's Movement

(119) Comments | Posted January 25, 2016 | 10:54 AM

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman yesterday warned Bernie supporters that change doesn't happen with "transformative rhetoric" but with "political pragmatism" -- "accepting half loaves as being better than none." He writes that it's dangerous to prefer "happy dreams [by which he means Bernie] to hard thinking about...

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Who Lost the White Working Class?

(380) Comments | Posted January 20, 2016 | 8:34 AM

Why did the white working class abandon the Democrats?

The conventional answer is Republicans skillfully played the race card.

In the wake of the Civil Rights Act, segregationists like Alabama Governor George C. Wallace led southern whites out of the Democratic Party.

Later, Republicans charged Democrats with coddling black "welfare...

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6 Responses to Bernie Skeptics

(471) Comments | Posted January 18, 2016 | 9:33 AM


1. "He'd never beat Trump or Cruz in a general election."

Wrong. According to the latest polls, Bernie is the strongest Democratic candidate in the general election, defeating both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in hypothetical matchups. (The latest RealClear Politics averages of all polls shows Bernie beating Trump by a larger margin than Hillary beats Trump, and Bernie beating Cruz while Hillary loses to Cruz.)

2. "He couldn't get any of his ideas implemented because Congress would reject them."

If both house of Congress remain in Republican hands, no Democrat will be able to get much legislation through Congress, and will have to rely instead on executive orders and regulations. But there's a higher likelihood of kicking Republicans out if Bernie's "political revolution" continues to surge around America, bringing with it millions of young people and other voters, and keeping them politically engaged.

3. "America would never elect a socialist."

P-l-e-a-s-e. America's most successful and beloved government programs are social insurance - Social Security and Medicare. A highway is a shared social expenditure, as is the military and public parks and schools. The problem is we now have excessive socialism for the rich (bailouts of Wall Street, subsidies for Big Ag and Big Pharma, monopolization by cable companies and giant health insurers, giant tax-deductible CEO pay packages) - all of which Bernie wants to end or prevent.

4. "His single-payer healthcare proposal would cost so much it would require raising taxes on the middle class."

This is a duplicitous argument. Single-payer systems in other rich nations have proven cheaper than private for-profit health insurers because they don't spend huge sums on advertising, marketing, executive pay, and billing. So even if the Sanders single-payer plan did require some higher taxes, Americans would come out way ahead because they'd save far more than that on health insurance.

5. "His plan for paying for college with a tax on Wall Street trades would mean colleges would run by government rules."

Baloney. Three-quarters of college students today already attend public universities financed largely by state governments, and they're not run by government rules. The real problem is too many young people still can't afford a college education. The move toward free public higher education that began in the 1950s with the G.I. Bill and extended into the 1960s came to an abrupt stop in the 1980s. We must restart it.

6. "He's too old."

Untrue. He's in great health. Have you seen how agile and forceful he is as he campaigns around the country? These days, 70s are the new 60s. (He's younger than four of the nine Supreme Court justices.) In any event, the issue isn't age; it's having the right values. FDR was paralyzed." In any event, the issue isn't age; it's having the right values. was paralyzed, and JFK had Addison's Crohn's diseases, but they were great presidents because they fought adamantly for social and economic justice.

ROBERT B. REICH's new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," is now out. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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The Big Short and Bernie's Plan to Bust Up Wall Street

(167) Comments | Posted January 11, 2016 | 8:25 PM

If you haven't yet seen The Big Short - directed and co-written by Adam McKay, based on the non-fiction prize-winning book by Michael Lewis about the housing and credit bubble that triggered the Great Recession -- I recommend you do so.

Not only is the movie an enjoyable (if that's...

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At Stake in 2016: Ending the Vicious Cycle of Wealth and Power

(76) Comments | Posted January 3, 2016 | 2:31 PM

What's at stake this election year? Let me put as directly as I can.

America has succumbed to a vicious cycle in which great wealth translates into political power, which generates even more wealth, and even more power.

This spiral is most apparent in declining tax rates on corporations and...

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Of Rotten Apples and Rotten Systems

(90) Comments | Posted December 22, 2015 | 10:04 AM

Martin Shkreli, the former hedge-fund manager turned pharmaceutical CEO who was arrested last week, has been described as a sociopath and worse.

In reality, he's a brasher and larger version of what others in finance and corporate suites do all the time.

Federal prosecutors are charging him with conning wealthy...

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How to Deal With Your Uncle Bob This Holiday

(126) Comments | Posted December 18, 2015 | 8:28 AM

In preparation for the holidays, here's a survival guide for dealing with your right-wing relatives.

ROBERT B. REICH's new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," is now out. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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The Revolt of the Anxious Class

(131) Comments | Posted December 14, 2015 | 4:03 PM

The great American middle class has become an anxious class -- and it's in revolt.

Before I explain how that revolt is playing out, you need to understand the sources of the anxiety.

Start with the fact that the middle class is shrinking, according to a new Pew survey.

...
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Look Who's Buying American Democracy (VIDEO)

(39) Comments | Posted December 7, 2015 | 8:08 PM

According to an investigation by the New York Times, half of all the money contributed so far to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates -- $176 million -- has come from just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control.

Who are these people? They're almost entirely white, rich, older and male -- even though America is becoming increasingly black and brown, young, female, and with declining household incomes.

According to the report, most of these big contributors live in exclusive neighborhoods where they have private security guards instead of public police officers, private health facilities rather than public parks and pools.

Most send their kids and grand kids to elite private schools rather than public schools. They fly in private jets and get driven in private limousines rather than rely on public transportation.

They don't have to worry about whether Social Security or Medicare will be there for them in their retirement because they've put away huge fortunes. They don't have to worry about climate change because they don't live in flimsy homes that might collapse in a hurricane, or where water is scarce, or food supplies endangered.

It's doubtful that most of these 158 are contributing to these campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts or a sense of public responsibility. They're largely making investments, just the way they make other investments.

And the success of these investments depends on whether their candidates get elected, and will lower their taxes even further, expand tax loopholes, shred health and safety and environmental regulations so their companies can make even more money, and cut Social Security and Medicare and programs for the poor -- and thereby allow these 158 and others like them to secede even more from the rest of our society.

These people are, after all, are living in their own separate society, and they want to elect people who will represent them, not the rest of us.

How much more evidence do we need that our system is in crisis? How long before we make it work for all of us instead of a handful at the top? We must not let them buy our democracy. We must get big money out of politics. Publicly-finance political campaigns, disclose all sources of campaign funds, and reverse "Citizens United."

ROBERT B. REICH's new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," will be out September 29. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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What to Do About Disloyal Corporations

(38) Comments | Posted December 6, 2015 | 6:07 PM

Just like that, Pfizer has decided it's no longer American. It plans to link up with Ireland's Allergan and move its corporate headquarters from New York to Ireland.

That way it will pay less tax. Ireland's tax rate is less than half that of United States. Ian Read,...

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Paul Ryan's 7 Terrible Ideas (Video)

(169) Comments | Posted December 4, 2015 | 12:05 PM

Yesterday, the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, summed up his House Republican agenda -- vowing to pursue legislation that would frame a stark choice for voters in 2016.

"Our No. 1 goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left's agenda," he said.

Despite the speech's sweeping oratory and careful stagecraft, Ryan clings to seven dumb ideas that are also cropping up among Republican presidential candidates.

Here they are, and here's why they're dumb:

1. Reduce the top income-tax rate to 25% from the current 39%. A terrible idea. It's a huge windfall to the rich at a time when the rich already take home a larger share of total income that at any time since the 1920s.

2. Cut corporate taxes to 25% from the current 35%. Another bad idea. A giant sop to corporations, the largest of which are already socking away $2.1 trillion in foreign tax shelters.

3. Slash spending on domestic programs like food stamps and education for poor districts. What?! Already 22% of the nation's children are in poverty; these cuts would only make things worse.

4. Turn Medicaid and other federal programs for the poor into block grants for the states, and let the states decide how to allocate them. In other words, give Republican state legislatures and governors slush funds to do with as they wish.

5. Turn Medicare into vouchers that don't keep up with increases in healthcare costs. In effect cutting Medicare for the elderly. Another awful idea.

6. Deal with rising Social Security costs by raising the retirement age for Social Security. Bad! This would make Social Security even more regressive, since the poor don't live nearly as long as the rich.

7. Finally, let the minimum wage continue to decline as inflation eats it away. Wrong again. Low wage workers need a higher minimum wage.

These 7 ideas will harm most Americans. Ryan is wrong.

ROBERT B. REICH's new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," will be out September 29. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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Why Hate Speech by Presidential Candidates Is Despicable

(280) Comments | Posted November 30, 2015 | 12:52 PM

On Friday, a gunman killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. Later, in explaining his motive to the police, he said "no more baby parts."

Last Monday, gunmen opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis who were demanding action against two white Minneapolis police officers...

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Why the Sharing Economy Is Harming Workers -- and What Must Be Done

(21) Comments | Posted November 28, 2015 | 12:02 PM

In this holiday season it's especially appropriate to acknowledge how many Americans don't have steady work.

The so-called "share economy" includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

It's estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will be in such uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.

Already two-thirds of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck.

This trend shifts all economic risks onto workers. A downturn in demand, or sudden change in consumer needs, or a personal injury or sickness, can make it impossible to pay the bills.

It eliminates labor protections such as the minimum wage, worker safety, family and medical leave, and overtime.

And it ends employer-financed insurance -- Social Security, workers' compensation, unemployment benefits, and employer-provided health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

No wonder, according to polls, almost a quarter of American workers worry they won't be earning enough in the future. That's up from 15 percent a decade ago.

Such uncertainty can be hard on families, too. Children of parents working unpredictable schedules or outside standard daytime working hours are likely to have lower cognitive skills and more behavioral problems, according to new research.

What to do?

Courts are overflowing with lawsuits over whether companies have misclassified "employees" as "independent contractors," resulting in a profusion of criteria and definitions.

We should aim instead for simplicity: Whoever pays more than half of someone's income, or provides more than half their working hours should be responsible for all the labor protections and insurance an employee is entitled to.

In addition, to restore some certainty to people's lives, we need to move away from unemployment insurance and toward income insurance.

Say, for example, your monthly income dips more than 50 percent below the average monthly income you've received from all the jobs you've taken over the preceding five years. With income insurance, you'd automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.

It's possible to have a flexible economy and also provide workers some minimal level of security.

A decent society requires no less.

ROBERT B. REICH's new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," will be out September 29. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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Five Prerequisites for War Against ISIS

(149) Comments | Posted November 24, 2015 | 11:45 AM

We appear to be moving ever closer toward a world war against the Islamic State.

No sane person welcomes war. Yet if we do go to war against ISIS we must keep a watchful eye on 5 things:

1. The burden of fighting the war must be widely shared among...

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The Perils of Circus Politics

(50) Comments | Posted November 17, 2015 | 2:50 PM

The next president of the United States will confront a virulent jihadist threat, mounting effects of climate change, and an economy becoming ever more unequal.

We're going to need an especially wise and able leader.

Yet our process for choosing that person is a circus, and several leading candidates are...

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What I Learned on My Red State Book Tour

(21) Comments | Posted November 8, 2015 | 9:10 PM

I've just returned from three weeks in "red" America.

It was ostensibly a book tour, but I wanted to talk with conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers.

I intended to put into practice what I tell my students -- that the best way to learn is to talk with people who...

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