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Robert Bernard Reich

REICH, ROBERT BERNARD (1946– ), U.S. political economist, educator, and government official. Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Reich was raised in Westchester County, N.Y., and educated at Dartmouth College (B.A. 1968), Oxford (Rhodes Scholar, M.A. 1970), and Yale Law School (J.D. 1973). He was an intern in the office of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1967, and worked for the presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy in 1968. He was an assistant solicitor general in the Department of Justice, 1974–76; director of policy planning, Federal Trade Commission, 1976–81; and lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government, 1981–93. Reich was a contributing editor of the New Republic, 1982–93, and a cofounder of the journal American Prospect in 1990. An advisor to Democratic presidential candidates Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, and John Kerry in 2004, he was secretary of labor during the first term (1993–97) of the administration of President Bill Clinton, a friend Reich had known as a student at Oxford and Yale. Small in stature, he quipped that he always knew that he was on Clinton's short list. Reich was professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University, 1997–2005. In 2002 he ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor of Massachusetts. He became a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

From the early 1980s Reich was a prominent public "policy entrepreneur," an enthusiastic advocate and popularizer of economic policy ideas through public appearances, articles, and books, focusing on jobs, the global economy, and related issues. He was associated with the tendency known as neoliberalism, which combines a fundamental reliance on markets and free trade to achieve economic growth with a belief in government regulation and at least minimal social provision. Once an advocate of a comprehensive state industrial policy that would direct investment to certain industries, by the time he became secretary of labor he had abandoned that approach for one that favored education and retraining as a way of adapting the American workforce to a changing global economy whose conditions are determined by essentially unrestrained multinational corporate activities. He did implement generally liberal policies, however, having to do with sweatshops, child labor, minimum wages, worker safety, and pensions, and attempted to get the administration to address seriously the issues of economic insecurity on which it had been elected, but lost influence as Clinton moved politically to the center/right after the 1994 congressional elections. Reich argued against any attempt to keep American manufacturing jobs from being outsourced overseas, believing that such jobs are being lost everywhere because of automation, and that the benefits of cheaper products will generate more American jobs in the long run.

Among Reich's books are Minding America's Business (1982, with Ira Magaziner); The Resurgent Liberal and Other Unfashionable Prophecies (1989); Public Management in a Democratic Society (1990); The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism (1991); Locked in the Cabinet (1997); The Future of Success: Working and Living in the New Economy (2000); and Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America (2004).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.