Politics, Moderate



The bumpy road to adulthood

WASHINGTON -- Growing up isn’t what it used to be. There’s a yawning gap between the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood: a period when millions of 20-somethings and 30-somethings have many adult freedoms without all the responsibilities. Social scientists have tried -- so far in vain -- to name this new life-stage, but no one ...Read more

Trump’s stock boom -- illusion or reality?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We will send an update to this column after the markets close at 4 p.m. Friday if there is a significant change.

WASHINGTON -- The last thing President Trump now needs is for the stock market to go south on him. After all, he’s got worries aplenty: abroad, North Korea, Syria, Russia and Brexit; at home, the stalled effort to ...Read more

Who loves free trade? We do -- sometimes

WASHINGTON -- Everyone “knows” that Americans have soured on free trade and globalization, as President Trump keeps saying. But don’t tell the folks at Gallup. They’ve asked the same survey question since 1993: Do people see trade as an “opportunity” or as a “threat”? The latest poll, conducted in February, found that 72 percent ...Read more

How to Fix Airline Overbooking

EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall that Samuelson will not be filing his regular Monday column. Consider this a partial substitute. It is for immediate release.

WASHINGTON -- There are lots of public policy problems that, even with the best of political goodwill, cannot be easily solved. They’re just inherently tough. Fixing airline overbooking is not ...Read more

Are Living Standards Truly Stagnant?

WASHINGTON -- It may turn out that the widespread belief that most Americans’ incomes have stagnated for years is, well, false or at least overstated.

Say what?

No doubt, many Americans feel that, except for the rich and segments of the upper middle class, they’ve been treading water economically for years. To take a prominent piece of ...Read more

Taxes -- the Great Uniter?

WASHINGTON -- As Tax Day -- April 18 this year -- approaches, we are confronted once again with the apparently enduring reality that Americans hate to pay taxes. Few political generalizations seem so indestructible. Gallup has long asked Americans whether their federal income taxes are too high. About 50 percent to 60 percent regularly say “...Read more

America’s Parliamentary Disaster

WASHINGTON -- America’s Congress is quietly becoming a European-style parliament -- and the transformation isn’t for the good. Congress is fanning, not defusing, conflict. Although I have written about this before, the issue is worth revisiting, because its significance is underappreciated and it helps explain the brutal bitterness of today�...Read more

Is the American Dream Killing Us?

WASHINGTON -- It isn’t often that economics raises the most profound questions of human existence, but recent work of economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton (husband and wife, both of Princeton University) comes close. You may recall that a few years ago, Case and Deaton reported the startling finding that the death rates of non-Hispanic whites...Read more

The National Slush Fund

WASHINGTON -- There was bound to be a political commotion when the Trump administration released its 2018 budget. After all, it isn’t every day that the White House proposes deep cuts in agency spending: for 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency would be down 31 percent; the State Department, 29 percent; the Department of Education, 14 ...Read more

Making Medicaid Great

WASHINGTON -- It’s time to take control of Medicaid before it takes control of us. Unless we act -- and there is little evidence that we will -- Medicaid increasingly becomes another mechanism by which government skews spending toward the old and away from the young. In the raging debate over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), this is a ...Read more

The ‘Trumpcare’ Trap

WASHINGTON -- What we learned from the latest “score” by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of Obamacare and the Trump administration’s “repeal and replace” plan is what we should have known all along.

To wit:

If people have health insurance, they will use more health services -- visits to doctors’ offices, more tests, ...Read more

Should the Fed Run the Economy ‘Hot’?

WASHINGTON -- Toward the end of 1942, Winston Churchill, in announcing a rare victory over the German army, uttered one of his more memorable phrases: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” The same might be said today of the American economic recovery. Progress, though ...Read more

Why Economists Can’t Forecast

WASHINGTON -- You knew it all along: Economists can’t forecast the economy worth a hoot. And now we have a scholarly study that confirms it. Better yet, the corroboration comes from an impeccable source: the Federal Reserve.

The study compared predictions of important economic indicators -- unemployment, inflation, interest rates, gross ...Read more

Who’s Afraid of the ‘Administrative State’?

WASHINGTON -- Just what White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon meant when he recently suggested “deconstructing the administrative state” is unclear. To critics, he would gut the whole superstructure of social and environmental safeguards, starting with the Environmental Protection Agency (which, say news reports, may face a staff cut ...Read more

Has America Gone Complacent?

”We have met the enemy and he is us.”

-- the comic-strip character Pogo by Walt Kelly, 1970

WASHINGTON -- The same may be true of the economy. So says Tyler Cowen, author of the new book “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.”

Although we’ve recovered from the Great Recession, there are ...Read more

The Age of Disbelief

WASHINGTON -- We live in an age of disbelief. Many of the ideas and institutions that have underpinned Americans’ thinking since the early years after World War II are besieged. There is an intellectual and political vacuum into which rush new figures (Donald Trump) and different ideas (America First). These new ideas and leaders may be no ...Read more

Why Trump Loves to Hate the Media

WASHINGTON -- There was a brief moment after Donald Trump’s election when it was conceivable to ask whether he would strive to be a “uniter” or a “divider.” The moment passed quickly as Trump made it clear that he does not intend to abandon the style of politics -- insulting and divisive -- that got him elected. His declaration last ...Read more

Two Cheers for a Carbon Tax

WASHINGTON -- By all means, let’s have a carbon tax. It’s the best way to deal with global climate change. It would require Republicans and Democrats to compromise -- a good thing -- and would provide revenues for a government that desperately needs more revenue. Fine. But let’s not pretend that a carbon tax is a panacea for either climate...Read more

The TPP Lives -- Maybe!

WASHINGTON -- The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is dead, but could it have an afterlife?


Among President Donald Trump’s first acts was an order withdrawing from the TPP. This fulfilled Trump’s campaign promise to torpedo the high-profile agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, led by Japan and ...Read more

Is Corporate ‘Short-Termism’ a Myth?

WASHINGTON -- You’ve heard the criticism. Too many American corporate managers are addicted to “short-termism.” They postpone investments and other costs, sacrificing future performance for present profitability. Either they’re pressured by “activist investors” or want to inflate the value of their stock options. If true, it could ...Read more

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