Robert Reich

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ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, “Inequality for All,” is now available on Netflix, iTunes, DVD, and On Demand.
Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 16:08
Until the 1980s, corporate CEOs were paid, on average, 30 times what their typical worker was paid....

Antitrust in the New Gilded Age

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:28
We’re in a new gilded age of wealth and power similar to the first gilded age when the...

HAPPY TAX DAY, AND WHY THE TOP 1% PAY A MUCH LOWER TAX RATE THAN...

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 08:09


HAPPY TAX DAY, AND WHY THE TOP 1% PAY A MUCH LOWER TAX RATE THAN YOU

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 national income in almost a century. So you might think they’d pay a much higher tax rate than everyone else. 

But you’d be wrong. Many millionaires pay a lower federal tax rate than many middle-class Americans.

Some don’t pay any federal taxes at all. That’s because they‘re allowed to deduct from their taxable income such things as large interest payments on mortgages for huge homes, also the costs of business entertainment and conferences  (aka vacations at golf resorts), and gold plated health care plans.

Some also take advantage of tax loopholes that let them park some of their earnings in offshore tax havens like the Bahamas or the Netherlands Antilles.

And other loopholes that allow them to treat some income as capital gains – subject to a much lower tax rate than ordinary income. If you happen to be a hedge-fund or private-equity manager, there’s a capital gains loophole designed especially for you.

Consider the Social Security payroll tax and the situation is even more lopsided. That tax applies to every dollar of income up to a cap — which this year is $117,000. Anything earned above the cap is not subject to Social Security taxes at all – meaning anyone with a high income pays a much smaller percentage of it in Social Security taxes than most people do.

Put these all together and you see why Warren Buffet, the second richest person in America, pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, as he readily admits.

State and local taxes are even more regressive. The poorest fifth of Americans pay an average state and local tax rate of over 11 percent, while the richest fifth pay only 5.6 percent. This isn’t small change. State and local taxes account for about 40 percent of all government revenues. 

Believe it or not, Republicans want to make all this worse by cutting taxes on the wealthy even more. Paul Ryan’s new budget doesn’t just slice Medicare, education, and food stamps. It also lowers the top federal tax rate to 25 percent. 

When the rich are let off the hook in all these ways, the rest of America has to pay more in taxes to make up the difference – or have services cut because government doesn’t have the funds.

WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD REALLY BE RAISED TO $15 AN...

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 15:54


WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD REALLY BE RAISED TO $15 AN HOUR

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 McDonalds 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.


Today's Jobs Report and the Supreme Court's "McCutcheon" Debacle

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 08:49
What does the Supreme Court’s “McCutcheon” decision this week have to do with...

McCutcheon, and the Vicious Cycle of Concentrated Wealth and Political Power

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:39
If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, the shameful...

The Distributional Games

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 10:35
Every year I ask my class on “Wealth and Poverty” to play a simple game. I have them...

The New Billionaire Political Bosses

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 15:31
Charles and David Koch should not be blamed for having more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of...

The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 17:02
We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The the same...

The Real Truth About ObamaCare

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 10:41
Despite the worst roll-out conceivable, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working. With less than...

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

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 18:26
It’s often assumed that people are paid what they’re worth. According to this logic,...

The Great U-Turn

Thu, 03/06/2014 - 15:12
Do you recall a time in America when the income of a single school teacher or baker or salesman or...

The Real Job Killers

Fri, 02/28/2014 - 12:47
House Speaker John Boehner says raising the minimum wage is “bad policy” because it will cause job...