iOS app Android app

Robert Reich
GET UPDATES FROM Robert Reich
 
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

Labor Day 2028

(70) Comments | Posted September 1, 2015 | 8:31 AM

In 1928, famed British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would advance so far in a hundred years -- by 2028 -- that it will replace all work, and no one will need to worry about making money.

"For the first time since his creation man will be...

Read Post

The Upsurge in Uncertain Work

(170) Comments | Posted August 25, 2015 | 8:26 AM

As Labor Day looms, more Americans than ever don't know how much they'll be earning next week or even tomorrow.

This varied group includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

On demand and on call --...

Read Post

Corporate Welfare in California

(121) Comments | Posted August 20, 2015 | 5:16 PM


Corporate welfare is often camouflaged in taxes that seem neutral on their face but give windfalls to big entrenched corporations at the expense of average people and small businesses.

Take a look at commercial property taxes in California, for example.

In 1978 California voters passed Proposition 13 - which began to assess property for tax purposes at its price when it was bought, rather than its current market price.

This has protected homeowners and renters. But it's also given a quiet windfall to entrenched corporate owners of commercial property.

Corporations don't need this protection. They're in the real economy. They're supposed to compete on a level playing field with new companies whose property taxes are based on current market prices.

This corporate windfall has caused three big problems.

First, it's shifted more of the property tax on to California homeowners.

Back in 1978, corporations paid 44 percent of all property taxes and homeowners paid 56 percent. Now, after exploiting this loophole for years, corporations pay only 28 percent of property taxes, while homeowners pick up 72 percent of the tab.

Second, it's robbed California of billions of dollars to support schools and local services. If all corporations were paying the property taxes they should be paying, schools and local services would have $9 billion dollars more in revenues this year.

Third, it penalizes new and expanding businesses that don't get this windfall because their commercial property is assessed at the current market price - but they compete for customers with companies whose property is assessed at the price they purchased it years ago.

That's unfair and it's bad for the economy because California needs new and expanding businesses.

Today, almost half of all commercial properties in California pay their fair share of property taxes, but they're hobbled by those that don't.

This loophole must be closed. All corporations should be paying commercial property taxes based on current market prices.

The giant corporations that are currently exploiting the loophole for their own profits obviously don't want it closed, so they're trying to scare people by saying closing it will cause businesses to leave California.

That's baloney. Leveling the playing field for all businesses will make the California economy more efficient, and help new and expanding businesses.

Besides, California's property taxes are already much lower than the national average. So even if corporations pay their full share, they're still getting a great deal.

Right now, a grassroots movement is growing of Californians determined to reform this broken commercial property tax system, and who know California needs more stable funding for its schools, libraries, roads, and communities.

ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

Read Post

The Fraud of the New "Family-Friendly" Work

(62) Comments | Posted August 17, 2015 | 12:17 PM

Netflix just announced it's offering paid leave for new mothers and fathers for the first year after the birth of adoption of a child. Other high-tech firms are close behind.

Some big law firms are also getting into the act. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is offering 22 paid weeks...

Read Post

The Outrageous Ascent of CEO Pay

(78) Comments | Posted August 9, 2015 | 9:46 PM

The Securities and Exchange Commission just ruled that large publicly held corporations must disclose the ratios of the pay of their top CEOs to the pay of their median workers.

About time.

For the last thirty years almost all incentives operating on American corporations have resulted in...

Read Post

What the Fed's Upcoming Decision Means for You

(27) Comments | Posted August 6, 2015 | 2:08 PM

What the Fed is about to do will affect your job and your income, and here's what you can do to make sure the Fed makes the right decision.


ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

Read Post

The Revolt Against the Ruling Class

(384) Comments | Posted August 2, 2015 | 6:21 PM

"He can't possibly win the nomination," is the phrase heard most often when Washington insiders mention either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.

Yet as enthusiasm for the bombastic billionaire and the socialist senior continues to build within each party, the political establishment is mystified.

They don't understand that the...

Read Post

Happy Birthday Medicare

(102) Comments | Posted July 24, 2015 | 5:48 PM

Medicare turns fifty next week. It was signed into law July 30, 1965 -- the crowning achievement of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. It's more popular than ever.

Yet Medicare continues to be blamed for America's present and future budget problems.

A few days ago Jeb Bush even suggested phasing...

Read Post

Why Progressives Must Stay United

(210) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 12:24 PM

A new report finds more U.S. children living in poverty than before the Great Recession. According to the report, released Tuesday from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 22 percent of American children are living in poverty (as of 2013, the latest data available) compared with 18 percent in 2008.

...
Read Post

How Goldman Sachs Profited from the Greek Debt Crisis

(106) Comments | Posted July 17, 2015 | 4:10 PM

The Greek debt crisis offers another illustration of Wall Street's powers of persuasion and predation, although the Street is missing from most accounts.

The crisis was exacerbated years ago by a deal with Goldman Sachs, engineered by Goldman's current CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

Blankfein and his Goldman team helped Greece...

Read Post

Hillary Clinton's Glass-Steagall

(188) Comments | Posted July 14, 2015 | 9:52 PM

Hillary Clinton won't propose reinstating a bank break-up law known as the Glass-Steagall Act -- at least according to Alan Blinder, an economist who has been advising Clinton's campaign. "You're not going to see Glass-Steagall," Blinder said after her economic speech Monday in which she failed to mention it....

Read Post

The Choice Ahead: A Private Health-Insurance Monopoly or a Single Payer

(450) Comments | Posted July 6, 2015 | 8:03 AM

The Supreme Court's recent blessing of Obamacare has precipitated a rush among the nation's biggest health insurers to consolidate into two or three behemoths.

The result will be good for their shareholders and executives, but bad for the rest of us -- who will pay through the nose for the...

Read Post

On Patriotism

(8) Comments | Posted July 4, 2015 | 12:27 PM

A few words about patriotism -- something we talk a lot about, especially around July 4th, but seldom stop to examine its real meaning.

True patriotism isn't simply about waving the American flag. And it's not mostly about securing our borders from outsiders.

It's about coming together for the common good.

Real patriotism is not cheap. It requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going -- being willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes and squirreling away money abroad.

Patriotism is about preserving and protecting our democracy, not inundating it with big money and buying off politicians.

True patriots don't hate the government of the United States. They're proud of it. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve our government, not destroy it.

Finally, patriots don't pander to divisiveness. They don't fuel racist or religious or ethnic divisions. They aren't homophobic or sexist.

To the contrary, true patriots seek to confirm and strengthen the "we" in "we the people of the United States."

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

Read Post

Overtime: Finally, A Break for the Middle Class

(124) Comments | Posted July 1, 2015 | 2:11 PM

The U.S. Department of Labor just proposed raising the overtime threshold -- what you can be paid and still qualify to be paid "time-and-a-half" beyond 40 hours per week -- from $23,600 a year to $50,400.

This is a big deal. Some 5 million workers will get a raise. (See...

Read Post

Why We Must Fight Economic Apartheid in America

(45) Comments | Posted June 28, 2015 | 6:43 PM

Almost lost by the wave of responses to the Supreme Court's decisions last week upholding the Affordable Care Act and allowing gays and lesbians to marry was the significance of the Court's decision on housing discrimination.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Court found that the Fair Housing...

Read Post

Making the Economy Work for the Many and Not the Few #12: Most Important of All, Get Big Money Out of Politics

(92) Comments | Posted June 23, 2015 | 5:54 PM

Over the past two months, the videos I've done with MoveOn.org have detailed several ways to make the economy work for the many, not the few: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making public higher education free, busting up the big banks, expanding Social Security, making polluters pay, raising the estate tax, strengthening unions, ending corporate welfare, helping families succeed economically, and letting all Americans buy into Medicare.

But none of these is possible if we don't get big money out of politics.

In fact, nothing we need to do as a nation is possible unless we limit the political power of the moneyed interests.

So we made one more video -- the one accompanying this post -- and it's incredibly important you share this one, too.

At the rate we're going, the 2016 election is likely to be the most expensive in history -- and the moneyed interests will be responsible for most of it. Our democracy is broken, and we must fix it.

Easy to say, but how do we do it?

First and most immediately, require full disclosure of all original sources of campaign money -- so the public knows who's giving what to whom, and can hold politicians accountable if they do favors for contributors while neglecting their responsibilities to all of us.

If Congress won't enact a law requiring such full disclosure, the Federal Election Commission has the power to do it on its own and the SEC can do it for public corporations -- which, by the way, are major campaign spenders.

Meanwhile, the president should issue an executive order requiring all federal contractors to fully disclose their political contributions. There's a growing movement to encourage him to do just that.

Next, our government should provide matching funds for small-donor contributions -- say $3 in public dollars for every $1 dollar from a small donor. Those public dollars could come from a check-off on your income tax return indicating you want, say, $15 of your taxes devoted to public financing of elections.

Third and most importantly, we must reverse the Supreme Court's 5-4 First Amendment decisions holding that money is speech and corporations have the political rights of people -- and that therefore no laws can be enacted limiting the amount of money wealthy individuals or big corporations can spend on elections.

We have to work hard for a constitutional amendment to overturn "Citizen's United" -- with the understanding that we'll either succeed in amending our Constitution, or we'll build a social movement powerful enough to influence the Supreme Court, just like the movement that led to the historic "Brown v. the Board of Education" decision.

Ultimately we need Supreme Court justices who understand that the freedom of speech of most Americans is drowned out when big money can spend as much as it wants, to be as loud as it needs to be.

The fundamental rule for an economy that works for everyone is a democracy that works, period.

ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

Read Post

Making the Economy Work for the Many and Not the Few #11: Medicare Isn't the Problem; It's the Solution

(47) Comments | Posted June 22, 2015 | 8:37 AM

Again and again the upcoming election you'll hear conservatives claim that Medicare -- the health insurance program for America's seniors -- is running out of money and must be pared back.

Baloney. Medicare isn't the problem. In fact, Medicare is more efficient than private health insurance.The real problem is that the costs of health care are expected to rise steeply.

Medicare could be the solution -- the logical next step after the Affordable Care Act toward a single-payer system.

Please see the accompanying video -- #11 in our series on ideas to make the economy work for the many rather than for the few. And please share.

Some background: Medicare faces financial problems in future years because of two underlying trends that will affect all health care in coming years, regardless of what happens to Medicare:

The first is that healthcare costs are rising overall -- not as fast as they were rising before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, but still rising too quickly.

The second is that the giant post­war baby boom is heading toward retirement and older age. Which means more elderly people will need more health care, adding to the rising costs.

So how should we deal with these two costly trends? By making Medicare available to all Americans, not just the elderly.

Remember, Medicare is more efficient than private health insurers ­­ whose administrative costs and advertising and marketing expenses are eating up billions of dollars each year.

If more Americans were allowed to join Medicare, it could become more efficient by using its growing bargaining power to get lower drug prices, lower hospital bills, and healthier people.

Allowing all Americans to join Medicare is the best way to control future healthcare costs while also meeting the needs of the baby boomer and other Americans.

Everyone should be able to sign up for Medicare on the healthcare exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.This would begin to move America away from its reliance on expensive private health insurance, and toward Medicare for all - a single­ payer system.

Medicare isn't a problem. It's part of the solution.


ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

Read Post

How to Punish Bank Felons

(63) Comments | Posted June 21, 2015 | 10:01 AM

What exactly does it mean for a big Wall Street bank to plead guilty to a serious crime? Right now, practically nothing.

But it will if California's Santa Cruz County has any say.

First, some background.

Five giant banks -- including Wall Street behemoths JPMorgan Chase and Citicorp --...

Read Post

Making the Economy Work for The Many and Not the Few #10: End Mass Incarceration, Now.

(58) Comments | Posted June 19, 2015 | 12:17 PM

Imprisoning a staggering number of our people is wrong. The way our nation does it is even worse. We must end mass incarceration, now.

If I'm walking down the street with a Black or Latino friend, my friend is way more likely to be stopped by the police, questioned, and even arrested. Even if we're doing the exact same thing--he or she is more likely to be convicted and sent to jail.

Unless we recognize the racism and abuse of our criminal justice system and tackle the dehumanizing stereotypes that underlie it, our nation - and our economy - will never be as strong as it could be.

Please take a moment to watch the accompanying video, and please share it so others can understand what's at stake for so many Americans.

Here are the facts:

Today, the United States has 5 percent of the world's population, but has 25 percent of its prisoners, and we spend more than $80 billion each year on prisons.

The major culprit is the so-called War on Drugs. There were fewer than 200,000 Americans behind bars as recently as the mid-70's. Then, a racially-tinged drug hysteria swept our nation, and we saw a wave of increasingly militant policing that targeted communities of color and poorer neighborhoods.

With "mandatory minimums" and "three strikes out" laws, the number of Americans behind bars soon ballooned to nearly 2.5 million today, despite widespread evidence that locking people up doesn't make us safer.

Unconscious bias and cultural stereotypes lead to discriminatory enforcement of the laws - from who gets pulled over to where police conduct drug sweeps.

Even though Blacks, whites, and Latinos use drugs at similar rates, people with black and brown skin are more likely to be pulled over, searched, arrested, charged with a crime, convicted, and sent to jails and prisons where they can be subject to some of the worst human rights abuses.

As a result, black people incarcerated at a rate five times that of whites, and Latinos incarcerated at a rate double that of white Americans.

Even if you've "served your time," you never escape the label.

A felony conviction can bar you from getting a student loan, putting a roof over your head, or even from voting. It might even disqualify you from getting a job which can make it impossible for people with felony convictions to pull themselves out of poverty. And many who end up in prison were living in chronic poverty to begin with.

All of this means a lot of potential human talent is going to waste. We're spending a fortune locking people up who could fuel our economy and build strong communities, in some cases just to increase the profits of private prison corporations.

So what do we do?

First, enact smarter sentencing laws that end mandatory minimums and transform the way we treat people who enter the criminal justice system. Instead of prisons and jails, we need well-paying jobs, and to invest in proven and cost-effective alternatives to incarceration, like job training and mental health and drug treatment programs.

Second, stop the militarized policing and end discriminatory policing practices such as "stop and frisk" and "broken windows" that disproportionately target communities of color.

Third, stop building new jails, start closing some existing ones, and begin to invest in schools, public transit, and housing assistance or local jobs programs. States are spending more and more on prisons, while cutting funding for schools. That's crazy.

Finally, "ban the box" - the box on job applications that asks whether you have ever been convicted of a felony on a job application. Already, dozens of states cities, and counties have passed bills requiring that employers consider what you can do in the future, not what you might have done in the past.

Instead of locking people up unjustly, and then locking them out of the economy for the rest of their lives, we need to stop wasting human talent and start opening doors of opportunity - to everyone.


ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

Read Post

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Nearly Dead

(187) Comments | Posted June 14, 2015 | 6:22 PM

How can it be that the largest pending trade deal in history -- a deal backed both by a Democratic president and Republican leaders in Congress -- is nearly dead?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership may yet squeak through Congress but its near-death experience offers an important lesson.

It's not...

Read Post