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Politics

To heck with profits!

WASHINGTON -- We've been here before: one of those portentous moments when corporate America promises to be more socially "responsible." These episodes are, it seems, a permanent feature of modern capitalism.

Just this week, the Business Roundtable, a group representing the leaders of major corporations, issued a "statement on the purpose of a ...Read more

Learning from the great depression

WASHINGTON -- What is striking about the latest bouts of financial turmoil -- the recent wild swings in global stock and bond markets -- is that they provide a sobering reminder of the potential hazards of economic instability. There are parallels between the present tumultuous situation and past episodes of economic disruption, including the ...Read more

Here's why we may be underspending on defense

WASHINGTON -- I've written several columns this year on military spending, contending -- against conventional wisdom -- that we don't spend more than the next eight countries combined, including China and Russia. That startling claim is often made, and if it's untrue, we've been deluding ourselves for years.

Rather than overspending on defense,...Read more

Is the economy turning against Trump?

WASHINGTON -- To have a recession or not -- that is the question.

It also encompassed last week's most important political news, notwithstanding all the public attention understandably focused on the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. There is growing evidence of a possible recession. If one materializes, President Trump could lose his most ...Read more

The Fed's jobs machine

WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has not been shy about saying what he's trying to do: prolong the economy's expansion so that it creates more jobs for those who, in the past, have often felt left out. The Fed increasingly sees itself as a social agency dedicated to job creation. That -- more than the effect on stock prices -...Read more

The indestructible welfare state

WASHINGTON -- It seems unavoidable. Like it or not, the U.S. welfare system is bound to play a big role in the 2020 election. The recent Democratic debate on health care is just a prelude to a broader discussion.

The battle lines are clearly drawn. Democrats deplore rising inequality. They see a revitalized welfare state -- with universal ...Read more

Are we shortchanging the military?

WASHINGTON -- The military-industrial complex isn't bankrupting us -- though some on the left still cling nostalgically to the belief that it is. It's fiction. We need to be clear about this. As I've written before, one of the great uncovered stories in Washington is the defense budget versus the welfare state. Defense is getting drubbed, ...Read more

The Fed's dreary choices

WASHINGTON -- It's a done deal. Almost everyone, or so it seems, believes the Federal Reserve will cut short-term interest rates next week when its main decision-making body meets. President Trump favors lower rates. So do many economists, including some fierce Trump critics. Similarly, Fed Chairman Jerome "Jay" Powell says the Fed wants to ...Read more

Here's how the internet attacked me

WASHINGTON -- I got hacked. It was scary.

In this age of cybereverything, we all live in dread that we're going to be somehow attacked by the internet. Nearly everyone seems vulnerable. The internet is changing how we work, play, socialize, shop -- and what we love and fear. We're all exposed to its excesses, eccentricities, pleasures and pains...Read more

Will the global debt bomb explode again?

WASHINGTON -- Debt is the crux of the matter. If you want to understand what makes the world vulnerable to a global recession or, possibly, something much worse, you've got to come to grips with the worldwide debt buildup. It's not the only candidate for calamity, but it ranks first among the possibilities.

At the end of March, worldwide debt ...Read more

America has an enduring cycle of disappointment

WASHINGTON -- The late Alice Rivlin, a longtime scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank, enjoyed an unusually constructive career.

Over more than four decades, Rivlin -- who died recently at 88 -- served as the first director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the deputy director and then director of the Office of Management and ...Read more

It's the economy, stupid. Again.

WASHINGTON -- The conventional wisdom holds -- with good reason -- that the economy may well settle the 2020 election. If it remains strong, President Trump stands a good chance of winning re-election. If it weakens, Trump might well be the underdog.

Click on the table above, which is drawn from the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. It ...Read more

Ambition on display -- but what else?

WASHINGTON -- What struck me about the first debates among 20 candidates for the Democratic nomination for president was how much they resembled a gaggle of graduate students. All seemed articulate and intelligent. All had a good grasp of the classroom material -- in this case, the programs they were advocating or opposing. All were palpably ...Read more

Can Trump beat the economy?

WASHINGTON -- We are now passing a significant milestone. The current economic expansion has become the longest in U.S. history. Previously, the record was the decade from March 1991 to March 2001 (120 months). When the present recovery enters July, it will mark the 121st month of expansion. Just how much longer it will last is anyone's guess, ...Read more

Tear-up the (economic) textbooks -- and start over!

WASHINGTON -- Harvard professor N. Gregory Mankiw is one of the most influential economists in the United States. But the 61-year-old's authority does not stem from advancing an arcane scholarly finding. Nor has Mankiw coined some catchy phrase that captured the popular imagination (see, for example, "The Affluent Society" by the late John ...Read more

Sanders is a refugee from the 1930s

WASHINGTON -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, is a man from the 1930s. If you didn't believe that before, you certainly should believe it now. Sanders last week gave a powerful speech at George Washington University defending his identity as a "democratic socialist" and endorsing ...Read more

The fate of Japan -- and everyone else

WASHINGTON -- If you want a peek at the future, try looking at Japan. It's a sobering exercise. Here's how economist Timothy Taylor, managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, describes the country's outlook:

"[Japan] is facing a situation of a declining population and workforce, and the share of the population that is elderly is ...Read more

The Democrats are running a fairy-tale campaign

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech, Jan. 20, 1961

WASHINGTON -- Watching the Democrats' presidential campaigns, it's hard not to be struck by the huge gap that has opened up between Kennedy's goal and what ordinary Americans ...Read more

Trump's Mexico tariffs are nasty, restless

WASHINGTON -- President Trump's latest foray into trade policy is notable for its economic recklessness (it could tip Mexico into a recession, followed perhaps by the United States), its gratuitous insults of a close ally (Mexico) and its rank opportunism (it would shift power to the White House from Congress).

For anyone who missed Trump's ...Read more

The brave new world of trading blocs

WASHINGTON -- We may be on the cusp of an upheaval in global trade. Since World War II, the international trading system has operated on the premise of "most favored nation (MFN)," meaning that concessions granted to one country must be extended to all countries in the system. The trade standoff between the United States and China suggests that ...Read more

 

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