WASHINGTON -- Maybe the middle class isn't quite so stressed any more.
We in the media are rightly criticized for a pessimistic bias. We cover the unfortunate, the grim and the tragic. News is what people don't know and, as often as not, is sad or shocking. Our prism on the world distorts reality, because reality is often predictable and ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- How many times have you heard that Americans' wages have stagnated? Countless commentators (including me) have repeated this complaint. Naturally, politicians of both parties -- Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- deplore it. It's conventional wisdom that wage stagnation has contributed to the sluggish recovery and the downcast ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Could online lending cause the next financial crisis? While the odds seem overwhelmingly against it, the recent turmoil at LendingClub -- a leading online lender -- makes it hard not to ask the question. There are some disquieting parallels with subprime mortgages, which seemed beneficial until sloppy and fraudulent lending ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Brazil can't seem to catch a break. It's suffering the worst economic slump in decades; its president may be thrown out of office; it's contending with the zika virus. Now, to add to these indignities, come the huge subsidies to pay for this summer's Olympics. The costs exceed $10 billion, with only a fraction to be covered by ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- It's time to cut the GDP some slack. Overhauling the GDP -- as some critics would -- threatens to politicize one of our most useful economic indicators. It could be twisted to advance or retard political agendas. This is a bad idea.
First, some background.
GDP stands for "gross domestic product," and it's our standard measure of ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Can Americans work longer? Or, are we so broken down by our 60s that extending work life would be cruel? These questions stalk the debate over Social Security and Medicare. Critics of current policy, including me, have long urged that eligibility ages slowly rise to reflect longer life expectancy. Not so fast, counter others. Just ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- American consumers aren't what they used to be -- and that helps explain the plodding economic recovery. It gets no respect despite creating 14 million jobs and lasting almost seven years. The great gripe is that economic growth has been held to about 2 percent a year, well below historical standards. This sluggishness reflects a ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service has just released its latest estimate of the "tax gap" -- the difference between what Americans pay in taxes and what they actually owe. For the years 2008 to 2010 (the IRS's latest data), the annual gap averaged a huge $458 billion. It's surely higher now.
If everyone religiously paid every ...Read more
I, Alexandra (A Legacy of Stehle's Door)William M. O'Brien Jr.
It began very incidentally. One odd occurrence after another. Then came the dreams. And then the apparitions. Alexandra and Stephanie had figured something was wrong early on. Then, one bright Saturday morning, Johanna appeared. Chased into her apartment and hiding in a...
WASHINGTON -- Countries usually don't knowingly commit economic suicide, but in Britain millions seem ready to give it a try. On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote to decide whether to quit the European Union, the 28-nation economic bloc with a population of 508 million and a gross domestic product of almost $17 trillion. Let's not be coy: ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Harriet Tubman is in; President Andrew Jackson is out.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew's decision to replace Jackson on the front of the $20 bill with abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Tubman has been widely praised. It honors women's role in American history and, indirectly, disparages slave-owner Jackson, who moves to...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The gender pay gap is back in the news -- and may become a major issue in the presidential campaign. It seems an open-and-shut case of job discrimination. Women earn only 79 percent of men's average hourly earnings. Who could favor that? Actually, the comparison is bogus. A more accurate ratio, after adjusting for differences in ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has a new economic worry: competition or, allegedly, the lack of it. America's businesses, the indictment goes, merge too often, innovate too little and bilk consumers too much. The open question is whether this argument is shrewd politics, shrewd economics -- or both.
No doubt, the politics are enticing. ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Almost everyone agrees that America's income tax is too complex. Considering this, you might expect that simplifying the income tax would be a slam dunk. Sure enough, the various presidential candidates have proposed sweeping overhauls. But any agreement is mostly rhetorical. The odds that the next president -- whoever it be -- ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Among the world's major economies, America's is "the least ugly," as Adam Posen, head of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, puts it. So it is. The American economy is plodding along at about a 2 percent annual growth rate, which is much slower than most past periods, but compared with most other economies, looks ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Woe is Brazil. As the summer Olympics approach in August, Latin America's largest country -- with a population of 206 million and an economy that is 40 percent of the region's total -- is caught in a harsh slump and faces a political crisis that could result in its president being impeached. How did this happen? What does it mean? ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- A paradox of our time concerns productivity. We are awash in transformative technologies -- smartphones, tablets, big data -- and yet the growth in labor productivity, which should benefit from all the technology, is dismal. This matters. Productivity is economic lingo for efficiency, and it's the wellspring of higher living ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- We are a very wealthy society, and we shouldn't forget it. Donald Trump apparently has -- along with many other people. Visiting recently with The Washington Post editorial board, here's how Trump explained his suggestion that the United States limit its overseas military commitments, including support for NATO, founded in 1949:
WASHINGTON -- It's a big story that has stayed beneath the radar of most American media. Somehow, cyber criminals stole $81 million from Bangladesh's central bank (its Federal Reserve). The theft surely qualifies as one of the biggest cyber heists ever. It's also a reminder that the world's financial systems remain vulnerable to cyberattacks ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- In this bitter campaign, one area of agreement unites the major candidates: trade. Bernie Sanders brags that he's opposed all recent trade agreements; Hillary Clinton now rejects the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), President Obama's signature trade success that she once supported; and Donald Trump blames incompetent U.S. trade ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Surprise: America's discouraged workers are finding jobs -- or so it seems. Unanticipated by many economists, this is good news for the country (and, assuming it continues, probably for Democrats this fall).
Ever since the Great Recession, economists have worried that the severity and length of the slump would forever consign many...Read more