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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

Happy Tax Day, and Why the Top 1% Pay a Lower Rate Than You Do (Video)

(315) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 11:33 AM

It's tax time again, April 15, when our minds turn toward paying the taxes we owe or possibly getting a tax refund. But what we don't think about enough is whether our tax system is fair. The richest 1 percent of Americans are now getting the largest percent of total...

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Why the Minimum Wage Should Really Be Raised to $15 an Hour

(871) Comments | Posted April 8, 2014 | 9:12 PM

Momentum is building to raise the minimum wage. Several states have already taken action -- Connecticut has boosted it to $10.10 by 2017, the Maryland legislature just approved a similar measure, Minnesota lawmakers just reached a deal to hike it to $9.50. A few cities have been more ambitious -- Washington, D.C. and its surrounding counties raised it to $11.50, Seattle is considering $15.00

Senate Democrats will soon introduce legislation raising it nationally to $10.10, from the current $7.25 an hour.

All this is fine as far as it goes. But we need to be more ambitious. We should be raising the federal minimum to $15 an hour.

Here are seven reasons why:

1. Had the minimum wage of 1968 simply stayed even with inflation, it would be more than $10 an hour today. But the typical worker is also about twice as productive as then. Some of those productivity gains should go to workers at the bottom.

2. $10.10 isn't enough to lift all workers and their families out of poverty. Most low-wage workers aren't young teenagers; they're major breadwinners for their families, and many are women. And they and their families need a higher minimum.

3. For this reason, a $10.10 minimum would also still require the rest of us to pay Medicaid, food-stamps, and other programs necessary to get poor families out of poverty -- thereby indirectly subsidizing employers who refuse to pay more. Bloomberg View describes McDonald's and Walmart as "America's biggest welfare queens" because their employees receive so much public assistance. (Some, like McDonalds, even advise their employees to use public programs because their pay is so low.)

4. A $15/hour minimum won't result in major job losses because it would put money in the pockets of millions of low-wage workers who will spend it -- thereby giving working families and the overall economy a boost, and creating jobs. (When I was Labor Secretary in 1996 and we raised the minimum wage, business predicted millions of job losses; in fact, we had more job gains over the next four years than in any comparable period in American history.)

5. A $15/hour minimum is unlikely to result in higher prices because most businesses directly affected by it are in intense competition for consumers, and will take the raise out of profits rather than raise their prices. But because the higher minimum will also attract more workers into the job market, employers will have more choice of whom to hire, and thereby have more reliable employees -- resulting in lower turnover costs and higher productivity.

6. Since Republicans will push Democrats to go even lower than $10.10, it's doubly important to be clear about what's right in the first place. Democrats should be going for a higher minimum rather than listening to Republican demands for a smaller one.

7. At a time in our history when 95 percent of all economic gains are going to the top 1 percent, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour isn't just smart economics and good politics. It's also the morally right thing to do.

Call your senators and members of Congress today to tell them $15 an hour is the least American workers deserve. You can reach them at 202-224-3121.

ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix Instant Watch. Watch the trailer below:
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Today's Jobs Report and the Supreme Court's McCutcheon Debacle

(100) Comments | Posted April 4, 2014 | 12:04 PM

What does the Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision this week have to do with today's jobs report, showing 192,000 new jobs for March?

Connect the dots. More than five years after Wall Street's near meltdown the number of full-time workers is still less than it was in December 2007, yet the...

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McCutcheon and the Vicious Cycle of Concentrated Wealth and Political Power

(115) Comments | Posted April 3, 2014 | 2:15 PM

If wealth and income weren't already so concentrated in the hands of a few, the shameful McCutcheon decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn't be as dangerous. But by taking Citizens United one step further and effectively eviscerating campaign finance laws, the Court has issued an...

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The Distributional Games

(301) Comments | Posted March 31, 2014 | 2:36 PM

Every year I ask my class on "Wealth and Poverty" to play a simple game. I have them split up into pairs, and imagine I'm giving one of them $1,000. They can keep some of the money only on condition they reach a deal with their partner on how it's...

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The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State

(38) Comments | Posted March 26, 2014 | 1:07 PM

We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The same pattern can be seen even in America -- especially in American politics.

Before the rise of the nation-state, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the world was mostly tribal. Tribes were united by language,...

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The New Billionaire Political Bosses

(639) Comments | Posted March 26, 2014 | 8:48 AM

Charles and David Koch should not be blamed for having more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans put together. Nor should they be condemned for their petrochemical empire. As far as I know, they've played by the rules and obeyed the laws.

They're also entitled to their own...

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The Real Truth About Obamacare

(927) Comments | Posted March 24, 2014 | 8:24 AM

Despite the worst roll-out conceivable, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working. With less than two weeks remaining before the March 31 deadline for coverage this year, five million peoplehave already signed up. After decades of rising percentages of Americans' lacking health insurance, the

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The 'Paid-What-You're-Worth' Myth

(1119) Comments | Posted March 14, 2014 | 10:41 AM

It's often assumed that people are paid what they're worth. According to this logic, minimum wage workers aren't worth more than the $7.25 an hour they now receive. If they were worth more, they'd earn more. Any attempt to force employers to pay them more will only kill jobs.

...
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The Great U-Turn

(657) Comments | Posted March 6, 2014 | 4:59 PM

Do you recall a time in America when the income of a single school teacher or baker or salesman or mechanic was enough to buy a home, have two cars, and raise a family?

I remember. My father (who just celebrated his 100th birthday) earned enough for the rest...

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The Real Job Killers

(1230) Comments | Posted February 28, 2014 | 2:04 PM

House Speaker John Boehner says raising the minimum wage is "bad policy" because it will cause job losses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says a minimum wage increase would be a job killer. Republicans and the Chamber also say unions are job killers, workplace safety regulations are job...

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Inequality, Productivity, and WhatsApp

(614) Comments | Posted February 20, 2014 | 3:30 PM

If you ever wonder what's fueling America's staggering inequality, ponder Facebook's acquisition of the mobile messaging company WhatsApp .

According to news reports today, Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.

That's the highest price paid for a startup in history. It's $3 billion more than Facebook...

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America's "We" Problem

(477) Comments | Posted February 14, 2014 | 1:57 PM

America has a serious "We" problem -- as in "Why should we pay for them?"

The question is popping up all over the place. It underlies the debate over extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and providing food stamps to the poor.

It's found in the resistance of...

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Why The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten

(283) Comments | Posted February 11, 2014 | 12:38 PM

Why has America forgotten the three most important economic lessons we learned in the thirty years following World War II?

Before I answer that question, let me remind you what those lessons were:

First, America's real job creators are consumers, whose rising wages generate jobs and growth. If average people...

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Why the Lousy Jobs Report Boosted Wall Street

(76) Comments | Posted February 9, 2014 | 10:20 PM

The stock market surged Friday after the lousy jobs report. The Dow soared 160 points, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also rose.

How can bad news on Main Street (only 113,000 jobs were created in January, on top of a meager 74,000 in December) cause good news on Wall...

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The War on the Poor and Middle-Class Families (Video)

(223) Comments | Posted February 7, 2014 | 11:57 AM


Most Americans are on a downward escalator. Median household pay is dropping, adjusted for inflation. A smaller share of working-age Americans...

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Why Widening Inequality Is Hobbling Equal Opportunity

(459) Comments | Posted February 5, 2014 | 10:33 AM

Is it to be inequality or equal opportunity?

Under a headline "Obama Moves to the Right in a Partisan War of Words," The New York Times' Jackie Calmes notes Democratic operatives have been hitting back hard against the President or any other Democratic politician talking about income inequality, preferring...

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Why There's No Outcry

(759) Comments | Posted January 25, 2014 | 2:59 PM

People ask me all the time why we don't have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all...

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David Brooks' Utter Ignorance About Inequality

(942) Comments | Posted January 19, 2014 | 7:30 AM

Occasionally David Brooks, who personifies the oxymoron "conservative thinker" better than anyone I know, displays such profound ignorance that a rejoinder is necessary lest his illogic permanently pollute public debate. Such is the case with his New York Times column last Friday, arguing that we should be focusing...

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Fear Is Why Workers in Red States Vote Against Their Economic Self-Interest

(630) Comments | Posted January 16, 2014 | 7:01 AM

Last week's massive spill of the toxic chemical MCHM into West Virginia's Elk River illustrates another benefit to the business class of high unemployment, economic insecurity, and a safety-net shot through with holes. Not only are employees eager to accept whatever job they can get. They are also also unwilling...

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