WASHINGTON -- An enduring puzzle of our politics is why there isn't more generational conflict. By all rights, younger Americans should be resentful. Not only have they been tossed into the worst economy since the 1930s, but there's an informal consensus that the government, whatever else it does, should protect every cent of Social Security and...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The horrific massacre in Paris reminds us of the Achilles' heel of American foreign policy. Ever since World War II, our foreign policy has rested on an oft-silent presumption that shared prosperity is a powerful and benevolent force for social stability, peace and (often) democracy. All the emphasis on free trade and globalization...Read more
WASHINGTON -- One of the most interesting and uncovered stories these days is the survival of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- the giant housing entities created by the government and known collectively as the GSEs (for Government-Sponsored Enterprises). On Sept. 6, 2008, nine days before the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, Treasury Secretary Henry ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- If you care about free speech, you should pay attention to the campaign now being waged against ExxonMobil. More than 50 environmental and civil rights groups have written Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging her to open a "federal probe" of the giant energy firm. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have also joined the chorus. The...Read more
WASHINGTON -- There is no tooth fairy. Republicans and Democrats take note.
Taxes will surely continue to play a big role in the presidential campaign. The Republicans contend that cutting rates will do the trick; the pickup in economic growth will generate additional tax revenues. Democrats retort that raising taxes on the rich will provide ...Read more
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WASHINGTON -- Give it a B-minus.
The budget deal reached by congressional leaders has much to recommend it. Its biggest virtue, assuming it's passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, is that it will end the threat of a national default. The federal debt ceiling -- limiting the Treasury's ability to borrow -- will be waived ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- By now, it must be obvious to almost everyone that the federal debt ceiling has outlived whatever usefulness it once had. It does not discipline government spending in any predictable way. On the contrary, it creates artificial crises with possibly calamitous economic consequences and -- just as bad -- discredits both political ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Americans have long been fascinated with global rankings. Where do we stand? How do we compare with other nations? We like to imagine ourselves as No. 1: the national equivalent of the racing halfback who raises his forefinger as he crosses the goal line. Common sense says otherwise. We excel in some things and not in others. The ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- We have all manner of policy proposals from the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, but there's a sobering disconnect between what they're advocating and the large problems the country actually faces. The candidates seem caught in a time warp. Democrats plug new entitlements (college subsidies, paid family leave). ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- We journalists often have mixed feelings about what we report and write. Naturally, we like to see our reporting vindicated by events or other reporting. This makes us feel prescient. Still, we often feel bad, because what we've reported harms some group or society as a whole. That's how I felt when I read a recent story in The ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Reading former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's new memoir of the financial crisis -- "The Courage to Act" -- you are reminded how lucky we are. Despite a disappointingly slow economic recovery, it could have been much, much worse. The conventional wisdom is that we have dodged a second Great Depression, when the ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- In a fascinating talk recently, Jason Furman -- the White House's chief economist -- took a crack at solving a great puzzle of the lackluster recovery: weak business investment. The explanation takes on added urgency after the latest disappointing job report. Although September's unemployment rate remained at 5.1 percent, the ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- It's no secret that although the U.S. economy is near "full employment" (September's jobless rate: 5.1 percent), its rate of growth of about 2 percent annually has been maddeningly weak. Since World War II, growth has averaged 3 percent to 4 percent. In an $18 trillion economy, these apparently small differences quickly add up to ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- It's beginning to look like the economic game of 2016 will be a tug of war, defined by a simple question. Will the plodding but steady U.S. recovery be derailed by the weakness of so-called "emerging market" economies, led by China, Brazil and others? The betting (so far) is that the American recovery will survive, but it's hardly ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- And now comes the life-expectancy gap. It may change the national conversation over Social Security and an aging society -- for the worse.
We all know that America is aging, but probably few of us know how skewed the process is in favor of the middle and upper-middle classes. Among men, life expectancy has improved substantially ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- These are worrying days for the Federal Reserve, America's central bank. Surrounded by critics on the left and right, it can hardly do anything without being second-guessed or denounced. Last week, the Fed decided not to raise its target "fed funds" rate, a move that was praised by some economists but was greeted by steep drops in ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Amid all the new government programs and tax cuts that have been proposed by the various presidential candidates -- or will be as the campaign unfolds -- there lurks a nasty statistic that suggests how difficult they will be to achieve.
The statistic is 0.5 percent.
That's how much U.S. productivity increased in 2014, reports the...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The questions that now face China are whether it can maintain its own internal stability and contribute to the vitality of the wider global economy. Like many economic juggernauts before it -- Japan springs to mind -- China seemed unstoppable. Its economy hummed along at the almost unimaginable annual growth rate of about 10 ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- The wage-price spiral is dead -- or at least dormant. As the Federal Reserve debates when to raise short-term interest rates, this is good news.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has indicated she'd like to begin the rate increases sometime in 2015, though she says that weak economic data (and presumably the recent stock market turmoil) ...Read more
WASHINGTON -- Globalization lives.
A fascinating but little-noted aspect of the recent financial turmoil is how much it's been an international event. It started with doubts about China's economy, symbolized by a tumbling stock market and a surprise devaluation of the renminbi (RMB). But the worry quickly spread to all major stock markets, ...Read more