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. 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 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. 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 a victim in the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner 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, 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. 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. 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.
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. 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; Shannon O'Brien, the first-place finisher, went on to lose the general election to Republican 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, 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. 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. 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. The Center is focused on finding solutions to address the crisis of extreme poverty and disease in the developing world.
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.
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."
On April 18, 2008, Reich endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States.
On April 3, 2009, Reich commented that published U6 employment figures indicate that the United States is in a depression.
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.
On February 26, 2016, he endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. After Sanders ended his campaign, Reich urged Sanders' supporters to back eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
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.
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.'"
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 over 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.
Since shortly after the 2017 inauguration, on most weeknights, Reich has been producing 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 like YouTube.
Reich was married to Clare Dalton from 1973 to 2012 when they divorced.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
U.S. Secretary of Labor
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
Board Chair, Common Cause, Washington, D.C.
Advisory Board, General Accountability Office, Washington, D.C.
Contributing editor and co-founder, The American Prospect
Board of Directors and co-founder, Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C. ).
Advisory Board, Blum Center
2015: Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few ISBN 978-0385350570
2012: Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It ISBN 978-0345804372
2010: Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future ISBN 978-0-307-59281-1 (updated edition 2013)
2007: Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life ISBN 0-307-26561-7
2004: Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America ISBN 1-4000-7660-9
2002: I'll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society ISBN 0-8070-4340-0
2000: The Future of Success: Working and Living in the New Economy ISBN 0-375-72512-1
1997: Locked in the Cabinet ISBN 0-375-70061-7
1991: The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism ISBN 0-679-73615-8
1990: Public Management in a Democratic Society ISBN 0-13-738881-0
1990: The Power of Public Ideas (editor) ISBN 0-674-69590-9
1989: The Resurgent Liberal: And Other Unfashionable Prophecies ISBN 0-8129-1833-9
1987: Tales of a New America: The Anxious Liberal's Guide to the Future ISBN 0-394-75706-8
1985: New Deals: The Chrysler Revival and the American System (with writer John Donahue) ISBN 0-14-008983-7
1983: The Next American Frontier ISBN 0-8129-1067-2
1982: Minding America's Business: The Decline and Rise of the American Economy (with Ira Magaziner) ISBN 0-394-71538-1
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)
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.