Politics, Moderate



The New Battlefield

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

Why Fannie and Freddie Survived

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

The War Against ExxonMobil

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

The Coming Middle-Class Tax Increase

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

Grading the Budget Deal

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

Dump the Debt Ceiling

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

Are We No. 1? It Depends

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

The Flight From Reality

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

The Coming Cyber Wars?

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

The Bernanke File

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

The Mysterious Investment Bust

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

Economic Magicians Wanted

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

A Global Recession?

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

A Safety Net -- Not a Gravy Train

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

The Weakened Fed

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

A Scarcity of Economic Growth

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

Will China Crash?

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

Is The Wage-Price Spiral Dead?

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

Globalization at Warp Speed

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

Behind the Crash -- The Commodities Bubble

WASHINGTON -- First was the dot-com bubble, then the housing bubble. Now comes the commodities bubble. We don't fully understand the stock market's current turmoil, but we do know it's driven at least in part by a bubble of raw material prices. Their collapse weighs on world stock markets through fears of slower economic growth and large ...Read more

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