Robert Reich

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Robert Reich
Robert Reich at the UT Liz Carpenter Lecture 2015.JPG
22nd United States Secretary of Labor
In office
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 1997
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Lynn Morley Martin
Succeeded by Alexis Herman
Personal details
Born Robert Bernard Reich
(1946-06-24) June 24, 1946 (age 70)
Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Clare Dalton (m. 1973; div. 2012)
Children Sam Reich
Adam Reich
Education Dartmouth College (BA)
University College, Oxford (MPhil)
Yale University (JD)
Website Official website

Robert Bernard Reich (/ˈrʃ/;[1] born June 24, 1946) is an American political commentator, professor, and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997.

Reich has been the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley since January, 2006.[2] He was formerly a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government[3] 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 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,[4] and The Wall Street Journal in 2008 placed him sixth on its list of the "Most Influential Business Thinkers".[5] He was appointed a member of President-elect Barack Obama's economic transition advisory board.[6] Until 2012, he was married to British-born lawyer Clare Dalton, with whom he has two sons, Sam and Adam.[7][8]

He has published 14 books, including the best-sellers The Work of Nations, Reason, 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[9] The Robert Reich–Jacob Kornbluth film Inequality for All won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.[10][11]

Early life and career[edit]

Reich was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the son of Mildred Dorf (née Freshman) and Edwin Saul Reich (1914–2016), who owned a women's clothing store.[12][13] As a child, he was diagnosed with multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, also known as Fairbanks 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 later murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 for 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."[14]

He attended John Jay High School in Cross River, New York, and Dartmouth College, graduating with an A.B. summa cum laude in 1968 and winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford.[15] While at Dartmouth, Reich went on a date with Hillary Rodham, the future Hillary Clinton, then an undergraduate at Wellesley College.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

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. 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. In The Next American Frontier he blamed the nation's lagging economic growth on "paper entrepreneurialism"—financial and legal gamesmanship that drained the economy of resources needed for better products and services.

In The Work of Nations, he argues that a nation's competitiveness depends on the education and skills of its people and the infrastructure that connects them—rather than on the profitability of companies headquartered within it. Private capital, he says, is increasingly global and footloose—while a nation's people—its human capital—constitutes the one resource on which a nation's future standard of living uniquely depends. He urges policy makers to make such public investments the cornerstone of economic policy.

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), successfully promoted increasing the minimum wage, successfully lobbied to pass the School-to-Work Jobs Act, and launched a number of job training programs.

In addition, Reich used the office as a platform for focusing national attention on the need for American workers to adapt to the new economy. He advocated that the country provide more opportunities for workers to learn more technology.

After the Clinton administration[edit]

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.[19]

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.[20]

In 2002, he ran for Governor of Massachusetts. He also published an associated campaign book, I'll Be Short. Reich was the first Democratic candidate for a major political office 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;[21] Shannon O'Brien, the first-place finisher, went on to lose the general election to Republican Mitt Romney.[22]

In 2003, he was awarded the Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 Prize, by the former Czech President, for his writings in economics and politics.[23] In 2004, he published Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, a book on how liberals can forcefully argue for their position in a country increasingly dominated by what he calls "radcons", or radical conservatives.

In addition to his professorial role, he is 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.[24] He is also a frequent contributor 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.

In September 2005 Reich testified against John Roberts at his confirmation hearings for Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

On January 1, 2006 Reich joined the faculty of UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. Since then, he has taught a popular course called Wealth and Poverty, which he developed during his tenure at Brandeis.[25] In addition to his professorship, Reich is also a Member of the Board of Trustees for the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley.[26] The Center is focused on finding solutions to address the crisis of extreme poverty and disease in the developing world.[27]

In 2007 his book Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life was published. In it he argued turbo-charged corporate competition, fueled by consumers and investors seeking the best possible deals from anywhere in the world, was generating severe social problems. But governments were failing to address them because big corporations and Wall Street firms were also seeking competitive advantage over one another through politics, thereby drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens. The answer was to keep corporations focused on making better products and services and keep them out of politics. "Corporate Social Responsibility" is essentially forbearance from activities that undermine democracy.

Reich being interviewed by the press during the 2008 Democratic National Convention

During the 2008 primaries, Reich published an article that was extremely 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."[28]

On April 18, 2008, Reich endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States.[29]

On April 3, 2009, Reich commented that published U6 employment figures indicate that the United States is in a depression.[30]

In September 2010, his book Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future was published. In it, Reich explained how America's widening inequality had contributed to the great recession and made it difficult for the economy to recover, by undermining the purchasing power of the middle class relative to the nation's productive capacity. In April 2012, his book Beyond Outrage was published as an e-book. In Beyond Outrage Reich focused on why an increasing portion of the public felt the game was rigged in favor of those with wealth and power, why the "regressive right" was nonetheless able to persuade many that taxes should be lowered even further on corporations and the wealthy while many public services should be cut, and what average people could do to take back the economy and reclaim democracy.

In September 2015, his book Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few was published.[31]

On February 26, 2016, he endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.[32] After Sanders ended his campaign, Reich urged Sanders' supporters to back eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.[33]

In February 2017, Reich stated that he wouldn't rule out that left-wing violence at UC Berkeley against Donald Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos was a right-wing false flag for Trump to strip universities of federal funding. This idea was described as "phantasmagorical" by The Washington Post.[34]

Political stances[edit]

Official Department of Labor portrait of Robert Reich

In an interview with The New York Times, he 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.'"[35]

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."[35]

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."[36][37] He also favors raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hr over three years, believing that it will not adversely impact big business, and will increase higher value worker availability.[38]

Reich also supports an unconditional and universal basic income.[39] 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.[40]

Personal life[edit]

Reich was married to Clare Dalton from 1973 to 2012 when they divorced.[7]

Academic positions[edit]

  • Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley
  • Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy, Florence Heller Graduate School of Public Policy and Management, Brandeis University
  • Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard

Political positions[edit]

  • Chairman, President-elect's transition team for economic policy
  • Director of Policy Planning Staff, U.S. Federal Trade Commission
  • Assistant Director for Policy, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection
  • Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General[41]

List of affiliations[edit]



  • 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)[41]


  • Galbraith-Schlesigner Award for Lifetime Achievement, Americans for Democratic Action, June, 2009.
  • Outstanding Mentorship of Graduate Student Instructors, University of California at Berkeley, 2009.
  • Bruno-Kreisky Award, best political book of year (Supercapitalism), 2009.
  • Vaclev Havel Prize, Prague, October, 2003.
  • Distinguished Citizen Scholar Award, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2003.
  • Nelson Rockefeller Distinguished Public Service Award, Dartmouth College, 2002.
  • Teacher of the Year, Brandeis University, 2001
  • Louis Brownlow Award (best book on public administration), National Academy of Public Administration, 1984.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NLS/BPH: Other Writings, Say How? Key to Pronunciation". February 16, 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Robert Reich | Faculty & Affiliated Academics | Faculty & Directories | Goldman School of Public Policy | University of California, Berkeley". Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  3. ^ Longworth, R.C (December 6, 1992). "Clinton's top economic adviser likes the unusual". Chicago Tribune. Lakeland Ledger. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Robert Reich - Top 10 Best Cabinet Members". TIME. November 13, 2008. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ White, Erin (May 5, 2008). "Quest for Innovation, Motivation Inspires the Gurus". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  6. ^ Reich, Robert (November 7, 2008). "Obama's Transition Economic Advisory Board: the Full List". US News and World Report. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Will You Help My Parents Gets Divorced on Google?",, dated November 2, 2013
  8. ^ David Usborne (June 12, 1994). "Profile: Small guy, big deal: Robert Reich: Can this man get the West to work again? David Usborne on an economist with charisma - Voices". The Independent. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  9. ^ Peter Vidani. "Robert Reich". Robert Reich. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ "'Inequality for All' wins Sundance award". Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Exposing the lies at the heart of U.S. capitalism". The Observer / The Japan Times. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Entry: Robert Reich", NNDB
  13. ^ Newsmakers: the people behind today's headlines : 1995 cumulation, includes ... – Louise Mooney Collins, Gale Research Inc – Google Books. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  14. ^ Robert Reich (November 18, 2011). "Transcript: Robert Reich's speech at Occupy Cal". The Daily Californian. Retrieved September 11, 2013. 
  15. ^ Turco, Al. "Democrat Robert Reich says he’s prepared to make a difference in Mass.", Stoneham Independent, March 20, 2002. Accessed April 21, 2008. "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."
  16. ^ Phillips, Kate & Bumiller, Elisabeth (August 6, 2007). "The Caucus: Taking the Mystery Out of a Date". The New York Times; The Caucus, The Politics and Government Blog of The Times. The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ Maraniss, David. First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton. Simon and Schuster. 1995.
  18. ^ "Interviews – Robert Reich | The Clinton Years | FRONTLINE". PBS. January 16, 2001. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  19. ^ Carvajal, Doreen (February 24, 1998). "Now! Read the True (More or Less) Story!; Publishers and Authors Debate the Boundaries Of Nonfiction". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Biography, Robert Reich, JD, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley". Pro to the question "Is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Good for America?". Santa Monica, CA: September 1, 2010. 
  21. ^ Belluck, Pam (September 18, 2002). "Massachusetts Democrats Pick Nominee For Governor". New York Times. New York, NY. 
  22. ^ Viser, Matt (October 13, 2012). "Romney overcame similar deficit in '02 race: former Mass. governor capitalized on debates". Boston Globe. Boston, MA. 
  23. ^ "Foundation VIZE 97 - Laureates". Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  24. ^ "About Us". Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  25. ^ "University of California – UC Newsroom | Robert Reich to join School of Public Policy". July 22, 2005. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  26. ^ Maclay, Kathleen (April 19, 2006). "4.19.2006 – Blum Center to develop sustainable solutions to issues facing world's poor". Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Blum Center for Developing Economies | Real-World Solutions to Combat Poverty". Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  28. ^ [1] Archived January 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ [2] Archived April 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ [3] Archived April 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^ Joel Whitney (October 9, 2015). "'Saving Capitalism,' by Robert B. Reich". SFGate. 
  32. ^ "Former secretary of labor endorses Sanders". TheHill. 
  33. ^ "Chris Hedges vs. Robert Reich on Clinton, Third Parties, Capitalism & Next Steps for Sanders Backers", Democracy Now!, August 4, 2016
  34. ^ Cassell, Paul (6 February 2017). "Did Yiannopoulos secretly send more than 100 thugs to Berkeley to break up his own speech?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  35. ^ a b Dubner, Stephen J. (May 1, 2008). "Robert Reich Answers Your Labor Questions". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  36. ^ Pete Winn Reich's Call for Unionization is 'a 1930s Solution to a 2009 Problem,’ Economists Say Cybercast News Service February 18, 2009
  37. ^ Robert Reich Why We Need Stronger Unions and How to Get Them Robert Reich's blog January 27, 2009
  38. ^ Robert Reich "Why The Minimum Wage Should Really Be Raised To $15 An Hour" [4]
  39. ^ [5]
  40. ^ [6]
  41. ^ a b c d "Curriculum Vitae". Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  42. ^ "Profile- Robert Reich". Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  43. ^ "Author page - Robert Reich". Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  44. ^ "Profile - Robert Reich". Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  45. ^ "Board Members". Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  46. ^ "Journal of Women, Politics & Policy - Editorial board". Taylor and Francis. Retrieved June 3, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lynn Morley Martin
United States Secretary of Labor
Succeeded by
Alexis Herman