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Robert Reich
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Tuesday 5 March 2013
In short, the President must reframe the public debate around the future of the country and the investments we must make together in that future.

What Obama Should Do Now

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What should the President do now? Push to repeal the sequester (a reconciliation bill in the Senate would allow repeal with 51 votes, thereby putting pressure on House Republicans), and replace it with a “Build America’s Future” Act that would close tax loopholes used by the wealthy, end corporate welfare, impose a small (1/10 of 1%) tax on financial transactions, and reduce the size of the military.

Half the revenues would be used for deficit reduction, the other half for investments in our future through education (from early-childhood through affordable higher ed), infrastructure, and basic R&D.

Also included in that bill — in order to make sure our future isn’t jeopardized by another meltdown of Wall Street — would be a resurrection of Glass-Steagall and a limit on the size of the biggest banks. I’d make clear to the American people that they made a choice in 2012 but that right-wing House Republicans have been blocking that choice, and the only way to implement that choice is for Congress to pass the Build America’s Future Act.

If House Republicans still block it, I’d make 2014 a referendum on it and them, and do whatever I could to take back the House. In short, the President must reframe the public debate around the future of the country and the investments we must make together in that future, rather than austerity economics. And focus on good jobs and broad-based prosperity rather than prosperity for a few and declining wages and insecurity for the many.

This article was originally posted on Robert Reich's blog.

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ABOUT Robert Reich


ROBERT B. REICH, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at Robert Reich's new film, "Inequality for All" is available on DVD
and blu-ray, and on Netflix in February.

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21 comments on "What Obama Should Do Now"


March 06, 2013 7:58am

O. has shown over and over that he will not work for the people but for his handlers


March 05, 2013 6:57pm

Based on what we've seen in the past four years the one thing that's guaranteed not to happen is anything that is genuinely good advice for Obama and is directly presented as being so.


March 05, 2013 7:42pm

It's good to see that our group is enlightened. I'm sure ol Bobby boy
may get a kick out of our comments. Not sure if he would approve of our new society and gov't. though

Social and economic justice for the many not the few requires right NOW
that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Maybe in the past when we were much less enlightened we could have just changed the water But now we really have been pushed so far into enlightenment that what is really in question is not the salvaging of this antiquated system but the transformation and revolutionizing it into a totally new consensus oriented
Public good/ public welfare for the many and not the few.

We have sort of begun this process in small pockets around the nation
but these coops and groups will ultimately meet their lord of the manor
at some not too distant future and as we know will be forced to abide by their jailers tax laws and rules. So I say lets go big the sooner the better


March 05, 2013 2:28pm



March 05, 2013 1:17pm

Follow-up from my last post: Yes, I appreciate that Robert Reich's term "Build American's Future Act" does not happen to include health care, even though he avidly supports universal health care. But it should. How can one leave out what will have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the physical and financial health of hundreds of thousands (actually all) of Americans?
-- Bob the Health and Health Care Advocate


March 05, 2013 1:00pm

I do not find the word "single" as in single-payer. I do not find "Medicare", as in "Improved Medicare for All". I do not find "health care" as in "universal health care." ... even though implementing the best universal health care in the world (H.R. 676) would save us somewhere in the vicinity of $400 billion per year (Himmelstein et all) and over $600 billion per year (G. Friedman's more recent input on the topic). Incredible.
-- Bob the Health and Health Care Advocate


March 05, 2013 12:43pm

Sounds like a great idea - the only thing I would add is to tax investment income at normal income rates.

Gary Reber

March 05, 2013 12:40pm

Robert Reich continues to avoid addressing outright the issue of CONCENTRATED OWNERSHIP of productive capital wealth assets and the job destroying and devaluing that tectonic shifts in the technologies of production are having and will continue to have on a global scale. As I previously replied, if I were President Obama I would convene a national discussion using the national media and social media, and our educational institutions, to open up a discussion on EVERY CITIZEN AN OWNER opportunity. He needs to educate at this time because academia, the media, and our so-called leaders are not addressing how people make money and the significance of OWNING income-producing productive capital assets. He needs to get people to understand that without system reform as with today, in the FUTURE we will continue to experience the exponential disassociation of production and consumption, which is the reason that ordinary citizens must gain access to productive capital ownership to improve their economic well-being. This is a crucial understanding because at present for the 99 percent of the nation a JOB is the ONLY source of income to support themselves and their families. He needs to introduce a government policy focus on OWNERSHIP CREATION, not JOB CREATION, which will result and naturally follow as the economy revs up to double-digit GDP growth and fully applies technological innovation and invention to shift from unnecessary labor toil to human-intelligent machines, super-automation, robotics, and digital computerized operations. President Obama should call on the Federal Reserve to stop monetizing unproductive debt, and begin creating an asset-backed currency that could enable every child, woman and man to establish a Capital Homestead Account or "CHA" (a super-IRA or asset tax-shelter for citizens) at their local bank to acquire a growing dividend-bearing stock portfolio to supplement their incomes from work and all other sources of income. Steadily over time this will create a robust economy with millions of "customers with money" to purchase the products and services that are needed and wanted.

Reich's term "Build America's Future Act" is a good title for the massive investment in technological economic growth that is necessary to compete globally. But along with this is the necessity for President Obama to raise the consciousness of the America people and introduce a National Right To Capital Ownership Bill that restores the American dream of property ownership as a primary source of personal wealth. Economic growth investment without broadened private ownership of FUTURE productive capital wealth assets will just further CONCENTRATE OWNERSHIP and leave the majority of people insecure and more dependent on taxpayer-supported government welfare, open and concealed and paid for by tax extraction and national debt.

Providing a way of legitimately getting capital ownership into the hands of the people who now don’t have it is the solution to America's economic decline in wealth and income inequality, which will result in double-digit economic growth and cause EVERY American's income to significantly grow, providing the means to support themselves and their families with an affluent lifestyle. The Just Third Way Master Plan for America's future is published at

I would like to see Reich critique this master plan and if he does not agree state why and what he would change.

Support the Capital Homestead Act at and


March 05, 2013 12:22pm

One other point: from March 1 on, I propose that congress and the president should not be paid. Not a dime. They're not doing what they were hired to do: the business of our country. Then we need a constitutional amendment that limits federal terms...


March 05, 2013 12:19pm

Actually, I think this article "What Obama Should do Now" - could have been covered in one word: listen. That's what Mr. Obama should do now. Not to himself. Not to the "yes" people who seem to surround him. To us. The 99% - and his base. But he doesn't. Not now, not for the first 4 years. He is NOT a leader. He lies to the public and insults our intelligence because he thinks we don't see the "fiscal cliff" dramas for what they are - him talking the talk while Biden gives away billions in corporate subsidies and makes Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. Same performances over and over. His arrogance is breathtaking... and I voted for him. Hope springs eternal.


March 05, 2013 12:18pm

This is exactly right, except the tax on financial transactions should be more than a tenth of 1 percent- probably 3 tenths, and put it into infrastructure (rail) and debt reduction. Bravo.


March 05, 2013 12:15pm

Reich is a nest-feathering elite and shill for Obama, whose strategy is to give speeches that ring a bit to the left of center while pursuing a course to the right of center for the sake of the wealthy elite he is now one of. The sequestor was Obama's idea, and it was Obama who put cuts to the safety net on the table. Everything Obama does is designed to appease the masses with too little too late, so that the transfer of wealth from the many to the few may continue, as it does now and surely will with Obama's duplicitous help.

I strongly agree with commenters KOKUANI and ProfessorEmeritusPB, and regret that N of C continues to regularly publish Reich's shill articles on Obama's behalf.


March 05, 2013 12:12pm

I love the referendum idea. I have written about it several times We agree on what he "SHOULD DO" but it is unlikely that he will. He seems not to care or know what the RIGHT thing to do is, he does what his handlers tell him just as Bush did. If there were no Rothchilds, or Rockfellers, or Soros, we would have a president who cares about our people, unfortunately we have a president who appears to be amoral, and is bent more, far more on destruction and carnage then on making things right again. He was not the answer to G. W. Bush, he is the continuation of Cheney.


March 05, 2013 12:02pm

I watched the Debate last night of Paul Krugman vs. Joe Scarborough. Neither one really could be declared a winner,but I was rooting for Paul. The conservatives resist paying higher taxes, but fail to realize, that the working class is unable to pay more, in fact the tax laws don't require taxes on low income.
So what's to be done? The wealthy keep making more, with manufacturing in low wage countries, along with their corporate offices, where taxes are low. Who is going to pay for the 8 trillion dollars spent on military equipment? Who will pay for the billion dollar import of foreign oil, Who will pay for the infrastructure required to keep the U.S. strong? Revise the tax laws, work together on a plan that places equality for all above high profit for the rich!


March 05, 2013 11:42am

I like what you´re saying, Mr. Reich. I enjoy your columns and have a very high opinion of your writing and ideas. But you ARE talking about President Obama, aren´t you?


March 05, 2013 11:45am

Oh, Professor Reich, don't you GET it: Obama doesn't WANT to do this. He welcomes the sequester and the cover it provides him for cutting "entitlements" and other elements of the safety net.

Have you heard Obama out on the hustings decrying the cuts -- like the ones you mentioned to home heating aid and early childhood education -- that the sequester will effect? Has he been out there howling about the wastefulness of the latest non-working, problem-plagued Defense Department toy? Of course not.

Has he done anything, ANYTHING to identify to the American public what THEY could do to voice their opposition to these cuts and support for higher taxes on the wealthy? I didn't think so.

$85 billion per month is what the Fed is spending on Quantitative Easing, to bail out banks by removing toxic assets from their books. Could the US economy get in line for a similar bailout, which is the amount being floated as necessitating the sequester?

Puleeze, Obama is neither stupid nor incompetent. He's got the economy, the public and the Congress exactly where he and the Koch brothers want them: demoralized, tired, inept, and willing to accept the "solution" that he just "has" to take: "austerity," which is working SO well in Europe right now.

Cynthia C. Henderson

March 05, 2013 1:12pm

Agree. I voted for him twice now and it seems like he's just saying what he knows he's supposed to say without any real heartfelt passion for who he's supposed to be working for: Us, not the 1%. Sure, he's a whole lot better than Romney would ever have been, but not the progressive I was hoping for. Maybe Robert Reich should run!!


March 05, 2013 12:26pm

I love the referendum idea, O have written about it several times We agree on what he "SHOULD DO" but it is unlikely that he will. He seems not to care or know what the RIGHT thing to do is, he does what his handlers tell him just as Bush did. If there were no Rothchilds, or Rockfellers, or Soros, we would have a president who cares about our people, unfortunately we have a president who appears to be amoral, and is bent more, far more on destruction and carnage then on making things right again. He was not the answer to G. W. Bush, he is the continuation of Cheney.

And the reality is that Bernanke intentionally mistranslated Milton Freidman's creation, QE.
I written a text book full of articles about what Freidman said in creating QE, it was, as I have been saying for years" "Drop the money out of helicopters on the people, NOT on the banks…” The money would then be re-circulated by those people. The $40 Billions to $85 billions each month sent to the bankers just sits there as do the $385 billions a year which would be produced and into the market as 5% interest on savings, thus creating jobs a thing the president has not mentioned since the election.

An excise tax on JOBS-Outsourcing of 5% - 10% above the retail and wholesale price of goods manufactured here in the 50 states would recreate the 31 million jobs lost since 1980 and then some.

But he does not want to, he wants population reduction of from 60% - 90% as his handlers are dictating. He is not the Mafia Boss, they are the mind twisted people who have engineered his career.

Old Hat

March 05, 2013 11:59am

I just hope against hope that you are not right.

Dave Moff

March 05, 2013 11:03am

A fine idea. He might want to add: "I will not face another election. You will. I have nothing to lose. You do. Therefore, until you will work with me, I will not work for you. Do not send me any more legislation until you have approved mine. Let the people have the last word".

If I was President right now, I would go on vacation and await a callback.


March 05, 2013 11:01am

A wonderful, workable, inexpensively implementable idea... Let's hope someone in the administration is reading it and pass to Mr. O. Thanks,