Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His website can be found here.

Recent Articles

The 5-Step CEO Pay Scam

Average CEO pay at big corporations topped $14.5 million in 2018. That’s after an increase of $5.2 million per CEO over the past decade, while the average worker’s pay has increased just $7,858 over the decade. Just to catch up to what their CEO made in 2018 alone, it would take the typical worker 158 years . This explosion in CEO pay relative to the pay of average workers isn’t because CEOs have become so much more valuable than before. It’s not due to the so-called free market. It’s due to CEOs gaming the stock market and playing politics. How did CEOs pull this off? They followed these five steps: First: They made sure their companies began paying their executives in shares of stock. Second: They directed their companies to lobby Congress for giant corporate tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks. Third: They used most of the savings from these tax cuts and rollbacks not to raise worker pay or to invest in the future, but to buy back the corporation’s...

The Myth of the Rugged Individual

The American dream promises that anyone can make it if they work hard enough and play by the rules. Anyone can make it by pulling themselves up by their “bootstraps.” Baloney. The truth is: In America today, your life chances depend largely on how you started— where you grew up and how much your parents earned . Everything else— whether you attend college , your chances of landing a well-paying job , even your health —hinges on this start. So as inequality of income and wealth has widened — especially along the lines of race and gender — American children born into poverty have less chance of making it . While 90 percent of children born in 1940 grew up to earn more than their parents, today only half of all American adults earn more than their parents did. And children born to the top 10 percent of earners are typically on track to make three times more income as adults than the children of the bottom 10 percent. The phrase “pulling...

Where Your Tax Dollars Really Go

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress claim that America spends too much on things like food stamps, welfare, and foreign aid. But let’s look at how the government actually spends your federal tax dollars each year. We’re going to look at what’s known as the “discretionary budget,” which has to be reappropriated by Congress each year. Start with foreign aid, the conservatives’ favorite boogeyman. It’s $29 billion a year. That may sound like a lot but it’s only 2 percent of all discretionary spending. Add all spending on international affairs, it’s 4 percent. What about science and technology, including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and research in clean energy, which conservatives love to hate? Just 3 percent . The environment and natural resources—money for clean air, safe drinking water, and protecting public lands? Another 3 percent . Roads, bridges, highways, airports, all transportation funding: Another 3...

The Real Reason for Impeachment

In today’s political climate, the question of whether or not to impeach the President of the United States is often thought of in political terms. But there is a much deeper concern at the heart of the question. An impeachment inquiry in the House is unlikely to send Trump packing before Election Day 2020 because Senate Republicans won’t convict him . And it’s impossible to know whether an impeachment inquiry will hurt or help Trump’s chances of being reelected. Does this mean impeachment should be off the table? No. There’s a non-political question that Congress should consider: Is enforcing the United States Constitution important for its own sake— even if it goes nowhere , even if it’s unpopular with many voters , even if it’s politically risky ? Every child in America is supposed to learn about the Constitution’s basic principles of separation of powers, and checks and balances. But these days, every child and every adult in...

How Corporate Welfare Hurts You

You often hear Trump and Republicans in Congress railing against so-called “welfare programs”—by which they mean programs that provide health care or safety nets to ordinary Americans. But you almost never hear them complaining about another form of welfare that lines the pockets of wealthy corporations. We must end corporate welfare. Now. There are several ways corporations get rich on the taxpayer’s dime. The most obvious comes through subsidies or tax breaks for certain businesses or industries. Consider the fossil fuel industry, one of the most profitable and privileged sectors of the economy. Every year, oil companies get to deduct millions of dollars from their tax bills for the cost of new wells, oil exploration, and other drilling and mining expenses. It’s been estimated that repealing these special tax breaks would save taxpayers $39 billion over 10 years. Other examples of corporate welfare include billions in government subsidies for...

Pages