Robert Reich stepped down from his post as Labor Secretary in 1996 to spend more time with his teenage sons, Adam, now a sociology professor at Columbia University, and Sam, a writer and director who heads the video department at the popular comedy site CollegeHumor.com. (Reich and Clare Dalton divorced in 2012; he has since remarried.) Resuming the academic career he had embarked on in 1980 as a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, he took a position at Brandeis University and published a well-received serio-comic memoir about his years in the Clinton administration, Locked in the Cabinet.
Other than an unsuccessful run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he has spent most of the past two decades as a de facto Economic Educator in Chief for millions of Americans. Reich, who co-founded the American Prospect magazine,
It’s two weeks before Thanksgiving, and a crowd of 500 people has filled the Silicon Valley Commonwealth Club to hear former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich discuss a decidedly less than festive topic: How the economy is leaving most Americans behind. The subject, which inspired Reich’s latest book, Saving Capitalism, hits particularly close to home here, where uber-rich tech titans coexist with legions of low-wage workers, even as the middle class is increasingly squeezed out of nearby communities like Redwood City and Milpitas by ever-rising housing prices.
But Reich has no intention of bludgeoning his audience with bleak statistics and grim predictions. “As you can see, the economy has worn me down,” says the 4-foot-11-inch Reich, pausing as laughter spreads across the room. “Really, before the Great Recession I was, you know, 6 foot 2.”