Robert Bernard Reich (//; born June 24, 1946) is an American economist, professor, author, lawyer, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, as well as serving as the United States Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton. He was a member of President Barack Obama's economic transition advisory board.
|22nd United States Secretary of Labor|
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 1997
|Preceded by||Lynn Morley Martin|
|Succeeded by||Alexis Herman|
Robert Bernard Reich
June 24, 1946
Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
(m. 1973; div. 2012)
|Education||Dartmouth College (BA)|
University College, Oxford (MA)
Yale University (JD)
|Total views||30.4 million|
Updated: October 2020
Reich has been the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley since January 2006. He was formerly a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and professor of social and economic policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management of Brandeis University. He has also been a contributing editor of The New Republic, The American Prospect (also chairman and founding editor), Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
Reich is a political commentator on programs including Erin Burnett OutFront, CNN Tonight, Anderson Cooper's AC360, Hardball with Chris Matthews, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CNBC's Kudlow & Company, and APM's Marketplace. In 2008, Time magazine named him one of the Ten Best Cabinet Members of the century, and in the same year The Wall Street Journal placed him sixth on its list of Most Influential Business Thinkers.
He has published 18 books which have been translated into 22 languages, including the best-sellers The Work of Nations, Reason, Saving Capitalism, Supercapitalism, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, and a best-selling e-book, Beyond Outrage. He is also chairman of Common Cause and writes his own blog about the political economy at Robertreich.org. The Robert Reich–Jacob Kornbluth film Saving Capitalism was selected to be a Netflix Original, and debuted in November 2017, and their film Inequality for All won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
In 2015 Reich and Kornbluth founded Inequality Media, a nonprofit digital media company. Inequality Media's videos feature Reich discussing topics relating to inequality and power primarily in the United States, including universal basic income, the racial wealth gap, affordable housing, and gerrymandering.
Early life and careerEdit
Reich was born to a Jewish family in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the son of Mildred Freshman (née Dorf) and Edwin Saul Reich (1914–2016), who owned a women's clothing store. As a child, he was diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, also known as Fairbank's disease, a bone disorder that results in short stature among other symptoms. This condition made him a target for bullies and he sought out the protection of older boys; one of them was Michael Schwerner, who was one of the three civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 for the registration of African-American voters. Reich cites this event as an inspiration to "fight the bullies, to protect the powerless, to make sure that the people without a voice have a voice".
He attended John Jay High School in Cross River, New York. Reich received a National Merit Scholarship and attended Dartmouth College, graduating with an A.B. summa cum laude in 1968 and winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at University College, Oxford. While at Dartmouth, Reich went on a date with Hillary Rodham, the future Hillary Clinton, then an undergraduate at Wellesley College. While a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Reich first met Bill Clinton, also a Rhodes Scholar. Although he was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, he did not pass the physical as he was under the required minimum height of five feet. Reich subsequently earned a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. At Yale, he was classmates with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Clarence Thomas, Michael Medved, and Richard Blumenthal.
From 1973 to 1974, he served as law clerk to Judge Frank M. Coffin, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; and from 1974 to 1976 was assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, Robert Bork (at Yale, Reich had studied antitrust law under Bork). In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him director of the Policy Planning Staff at the Federal Trade Commission.
From 1980 until 1992, Reich taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he wrote a series of influential books and articles, including The Next American Frontier and The Work of Nations.
Tenure as Secretary of LaborEdit
Bill Clinton incorporated Reich's thinking into his 1992 campaign platform, "Putting People First", and after being elected invited Reich to head his economic transition team. Reich later joined the administration as Secretary of Labor. During his tenure, he implemented the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and successfully lobbied to increase the minimum wage.
In addition, Reich used the office as a platform for focusing national attention on the need to help American workers to adapt to the new economy. He popularized the term "corporate welfare"—arguing that the nation could get the money it needed to retrain people and move them from welfare to work by cutting "aid for dependent corporations". He advocated that the country provide more opportunities for workers to learn technological skills.
After the Clinton administrationEdit
In 1996, between Clinton's re-election and second inauguration, Reich decided to leave the department to spend more time with his sons, then in their teen years. He published his experiences working for the Clinton administration in Locked in the Cabinet. After publication of the book, Reich received criticism for embellishing events with invented dialogue. The paperback release of the memoir revised or omitted the inventions.
Reich became a professor at Brandeis University, teaching courses for undergraduates as well as in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. In 2003, he was elected the Professor of the Year by the undergraduate student body.
In 2002, he ran for Governor of Massachusetts, losing in the Democratic primary to Shannon O'Brien. He also published an associated campaign book, I'll Be Short. Reich was the first US gubernatorial candidate to support same-sex marriage. He also pledged support for abortion rights and strongly condemned capital punishment. His campaign staff was largely made up of his Brandeis students. Although his campaign had little funding, he came in a close second out of six candidates in the Democratic primary with 25% of the vote; O'Brien went on to lose the general election to Republican future two-time presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Mitt Romney.
In 2003, he was awarded the Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 Prize, by the former Czech President, for his writings in economics and politics. In 2004, he published Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America.
In addition to his professorial role, he was a weekly contributor to the American Public Media public radio program Marketplace, and a regular columnist for The American Prospect, which he co-founded in 1990. He has also frequently contributed to CNBC's Kudlow & Company and On the Money.
In early 2005, there was speculation that Reich would once again seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of Massachusetts. He instead endorsed the then-little-known candidacy of Deval Patrick, who had previously served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton Administration. Patrick won the party's endorsement, a three-way primary with nearly 50% of the vote, and the general election in November 2006.
On January 1, 2006, Reich joined the faculty of UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. Since then, he has taught a popular undergraduate course called Wealth and Poverty, in addition to his graduate courses. Reich is also a member of the board of trustees for the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley. The center is focused on finding solutions to address the crisis of extreme poverty and disease in the developing world.
On April 18, 2008, Reich endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States. During the 2008 primaries, Reich published an article that was critical of the Clintons, referring to Bill Clinton's attacks on Barack Obama as "ill-tempered and ill-founded", and accusing the Clintons of waging "a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics".
On February 26, 2016, he endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. After Sanders ended his campaign, Reich urged Sanders's supporters to back eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Since at least summer 2016, Reich has contributed an opinion column to Newsweek. In 2020, he again endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.
In 2017, he again teamed up with Jacob Kornbluth to produce the documentary Saving Capitalism, based on his book of that name. Netflix chose the film to be a Netflix Original Documentary. In the documentary, Reich posits that large corporations began in the late 1960s to use financial power to purchase influence among the political class and consolidate political power, highlighting in particular the influence of the 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed corporations to contribute to election campaigns. In the documentary, he advocates for grassroots political mobilization among working class Americans to countervail the political power of corporate America.
In February 2017, Reich criticized UC Berkeley's decision to host Donald Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos. Following protests on the Berkeley Campus Reich stated that although he didn't "want to add to the conspiratorial musings" he wouldn't rule out the possibility the "agitators" were a right-wing false flag for Trump to strip universities of federal funding.
On May 31, 2020, Reich declared that "by having no constructive response to any of the monumental crises now convulsing America, Trump has abdicated his office."
In an interview with The New York Times, Reich explained that "I don't believe in redistribution of wealth for the sake of redistributing wealth. But I am concerned about how we can afford to pay for what we as a nation need to do [...] [Taxes should pay] for what we need in order to be safe and productive. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, 'taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.'"
In response to a question as to what to recommend to the incoming president regarding a fair and sustainable income and wealth distribution, Reich said: "Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit—a wage supplement for lower-income people, and finance it with a higher marginal income tax on the top five percent. For the longer term, invest in education for lower income communities, starting with early-childhood education and extending all the way up to better access to post-secondary education."
Reich is pro-union, saying: "Unionization is not just good for workers in unions, unionization is very, very important for the economy overall, and would create broad benefits for the United States." He also favors raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hr across three years, believing that it will not adversely impact big business, and will increase higher value worker availability.
Reich also supports an unconditional and universal basic income. On the eve of a June 2016 popular vote in Switzerland on basic income, he declared that countries will have to introduce this instrument sooner or later.
While affordable housing has been a central issue in Reich's activism, in July 2020 Reich opposed a high-density development project in his own neighborhood in Berkeley. He supported making a 120-year-old triplex a landmark to prevent the construction of a 10-apartment building, one of which would be deed restricted to be rented to a low income tenant, citing "the character of the neighborhood". During an interview with W. Kamau Bell the following month, Reich reaffirmed his support for affordable housing "in every community I've been involved in," and critiqued the development for replacing the house with "condos selling for one and a half million dollars each."
In 2013, with Jacob Kornbluth, Reich founded Inequality Media, which produces videos, live interviews on Facebook, portions of his undergraduate class at Berkeley, and long-form videos. The purpose is to educate the public about the implications of the widening inequalities of income, wealth, and political power. Reich and Kornbluth have produced more than 90 videos of two minutes each about the economy and current events, that have been watched by more than 50 million people.
Since shortly after the 2017 inauguration Reich has produced a "Resistance Report" program, offering contextual analysis of latest White House and Cabinet activities, typically a 15- to 30-minute presentation, available on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube.
In late January 2020, Reich and Inequality Media launched a new YouTube weekly talk show called The Common Good.
Reich married British-born lawyer Clare Dalton in Cambridge, UK, in 1973; they divorced in 2012. During their marriage, the couple had two sons: Sam, an American producer, director, writer, actor, and performer; and Adam, a sociology professor at Columbia University. Reich was subsequently married to photographer Perian Flaherty.
In 2020, the City of Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission published letters that he had written to them regarding a housing project being constructed near his home.
- 1982: Minding America's Business: The Decline and Rise of the American Economy (with Ira Magaziner), ISBN 0-394-71538-1
- 1983: The Next American Frontier, ISBN 0-8129-1067-2
- 1985: New Deals: The Chrysler Revival and the American System (with writer John Donahue), ISBN 0-14-008983-7
- 1987: Tales of a New America: The Anxious Liberal's Guide to the Future, ISBN 0-394-75706-8
- 1989: The Resurgent Liberal: And Other Unfashionable Prophecies, ISBN 0-8129-1833-9
- 1990: The Power of Public Ideas (editor), ISBN 0-674-69590-9
- 1990: Public Management in a Democratic Society, ISBN 0-13-738881-0
- 1991: The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism, ISBN 0-679-73615-8
- 1997: Locked in the Cabinet, ISBN 0-375-70061-7
- 2000: The Future of Success: Working and Living in the New Economy, ISBN 0-375-72512-1
- 2002: I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society, ISBN 0-8070-4340-0
- 2004: Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, ISBN 1-4000-7660-9
- 2007: Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life, ISBN 0-307-26561-7
- 2010: Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, ISBN 978-0-307-59281-1 (updated edition 2013)
- 2012: Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It, ISBN 978-0345804372
- 2015: Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, ISBN 978-0385350570
- 2017: Economics in Wonderland, ISBN 978-1683960607
- 2018: The Common Good, ISBN 978-0525520498
- 2020: The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, ISBN 9780525659044
- Milton and Augusto (reading, University of California Berkeley, Center for Latin American Studies, September 2013)
- Public Exposure (East Coast premier, Wellfleet Harbor Actor's Theater, June 2005; West Coast premier, Santa Rosa Theater, June 2008)
These documentaries, and additional social media movies, have been made in collaboration with Jacob Kornbluth.
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Reich started out as a graduate of John Jay High School, a regional public high school in small-town Cross River, New York. Reich then earned a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College in 1968 and won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford where he received degrees in philosophy, politics and economics.
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- The Monopolization of America, published on Robert Reich's YouTube channel (May 6, 2018)
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- "Blum Center for Developing Economies | Real-World Solutions to Combat Poverty". Blumcenter.berkeley.edu. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
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- "Bill Clinton's Old Politics". Robert Reich's Blog. January 24, 2008. Archived from the original on January 27, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2018 – via BlogSpot.
- "It's a Depression". Robert Reich's Blog. April 3, 2009. Archived from the original on April 6, 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2018 – via BlogSpot.
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- "Former secretary of labor endorses Sanders". TheHill. February 27, 2016.
- "Chris Hedges vs. Robert Reich on Clinton, Third Parties, Capitalism & Next Steps for Sanders Backers". Democracy Now!. August 4, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
- "Trump's Corrupt State is so much worse than his imaginary Deep State | Opinion". Newsweek. June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
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- Reich, Robert [@RBReich] (February 26, 2020). "The best way for Democrats to defeat Trump's fake anti-establishment populism is with the real thing, coupled with an agenda of systemic reform. This is what @BernieSanders offers" (Tweet). Retrieved August 5, 2020 – via Twitter.
- Kornbluth, Jacob; Gilman, Sari (Directors) (November 21, 2017). Saving Capitalism (Motion picture). USA.
- reich, Robert. "A Yiannopoulos, Bannon, Trump Plot to Control American Universities?". RobertReich.org.
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- Reich, Robert, Fire, pestilence, and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over, The Guardian, May 31, 2020
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- Reich, Robert (January 27, 2009). "Why We Need Stronger Unions and How to Get Them". Robert Reich's blog. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
- Reich, Robert (April 8, 2014). "Why The Minimum Wage Should Really Be Raised To $15 An Hour". Retrieved January 8, 2019.
- "Robert Reich: Universal Basic Income In The US 'Almost Inevitable'". Daily Kos. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
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- Yelimeli, Supriya (August 7, 2020). "Landmarking fails for 130-year-old Berkeley house in passionate debate over housing, history". Berkeleyside. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
- Robert B. Reich (July 22, 2020). "Preservation of the Payson House" (PDF). Correspondence received for 1915 Berryman Landmark Designation application. City of Berkeley. p. 27. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
The character of the neighborhood is anchored by the Payson House [...] If historic preservation means anything, it means maintaining enough of the character of an older neighborhood to remind people of its history and provide continuity with the present. Development for the sake of development makes no sense when it imposes social costs like this.
- The Reshaping of the Democratic Party: W. Kamau Bell and Robert Reich. Youtube. August 5, 2020. 13:50 minutes in. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021.
I'm a big advocate for affordable housing in every community I've been involved in. You got some developers down my street that are posing as affordable housing developers but actually what they're doing is taking down old buildings and putting up these high rises or townhouses and condos selling for one and half million dollars each and pretending they're low income[...] Those old buildings had renters who were low income, and replacing them with these townhouses selling well over a million dollars and getting subsidies? When is 1.4 million dollars affordable? [...] I am for affordable housing in Berkeley, and I've spent a huge amount of time and effort trying to push for affordable housing, and I'm pushing the Mayor for affordable housing, but I am not for developers who are pretending to be about affordable housing.
- "Zoning Project Application for 1915 Berryman St" (PDF). City of Berkeley Planning Department. May 26, 2020. p. 29. Retrieved August 6, 2020 – via GitHub.
- "Former US secretary: Netanyahu speech 'poisoning' ties". The Times of Israel. March 1, 2015.
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