Robert Reich: Economic Analysis & Proposals

I met Robert Reich in Lowell in 1981. Anyone who attended the annual Lowell Conference on Industrial History (LCIH) that year, when he was invited to comment on one of the scholarly papers, remembers how he stole the show with his brilliant, insightful, brief remarks about the relationship of government and industry, which was the conference topic. He was one of two persons who commented on University of New Mexico professor Gerald D. Nash’s paper titled “The Managerial State: Government and Business Since 1940.”  He was not a public figure at the time. Who is this smart, short man, we wondered? After the conference at the O’Leary Library at the then-University of Lowell, we reconvened at Oliver’s Restaurant on Dutton Street (I think it was), which is now Cobblestones. I wound up sitting at the same table as Reich, who was on his own. He was affiliated with the Federal Trade Commission and Harvard’s Kennedy School at the time. He was great company. Little did we know he would go on to become so well known and then President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor for a time. He’s teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, these days. For years, Bob Weible, the former historian of Lowell National Historical Park, raved about the “Robert Reich moment” at the LCIH.

When Nash’s paper was published by the conference organizers with the rest of the proceedings, he added an untypical note at the end in appreciation of the “cogent and incisive” remarks by commentators Reich and Arthur W. Johnson of the University of Maine. He wrote: “Both of them pointed out that foreign crises and international competition have been significant influences on industry-government relations after 1958, and that they deserve greater emphasis than I attributed to them in this paper.”

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In the NYT today, Reich offers his concise analysis of what’s going on with the economy and how we got in this situation, along with some concrete proposals, short- and long-term, for extracting ourselves from the economic quicksand holding us down. Read his opinions here, and consider buying the NYTimes if you appreciate the thinking. To read more from Robert Reich, check his blog at

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