Politics, Moderate



How health care controls us

WASHINGTON -- If we learned anything from the bitter debate over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) -- which seems doubtful -- it is that we cannot discuss health care in a way that is at once compassionate and rational. This is a significant failure, because providing and financing health care has become, over the past half-century, the ...Read more

Deficits forever?

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans, who are now deliberating the government's 2018 budget, pledge to eliminate deficits within a decade. Well, good luck with that. It must be obvious that chronic deficits reflect a basic political impasse that can be broken only if majorities in Congress do things they've refused to do: trim Social Security ...Read more

Who's hoarding the American Dream?

WASHINGTON -- To hear Richard Reeves tell it, the upper middle class is fast becoming the bane of American society. Its members have entrenched themselves just below the top 1 percent and protect their privileged position through public policy and private behavior. Americans cherish the belief that they live in a mobile society, where hard work ...Read more

Why robots won't steal all our jobs

WASHINGTON -- Don't worry, the robots won't destroy all our jobs. History suggests just the opposite -- that new technologies inspire new jobs. So concludes a study from leading labor economists. It's a useful antidote to widespread fears that robots and "artificial intelligence" will displace millions of workers and lead to permanently high ...Read more

Trump's trade trap

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's foreign policy, such as it is, rests on a massive and apparently indestructible contradiction. Trump wants the United States to remain the "essential" nation, the best embodiment of Western ideals of freedom and democracy, while at the same time deliberately alienating many of our traditional "allies," whose support ...Read more

Mad at everyone

WASHINGTON -- This is the summer of our discontent. As Americans celebrate July 4, they are mad at their leaders, mad at their government and mad at each other. A recent Pew poll finds that "public trust in government remains near historic lows." Just 20 percent of Americans trust the government to "do the right thing just about always or most ...Read more

Postponing the next recession?

WASHINGTON -- This is not your father's inflation -- and that's good news. Business cycles often end when higher inflation causes a country's central bank (the Federal Reserve in the United States) to raise interest rates, slowing the economy and, perhaps, triggering a recession. The good news: The next recession may be delayed, because the ...Read more

Is the labor shortage here?

WASHINGTON -- Do we have a worker shortage? Maybe.

For months, I've planned to write a column on the future of the U.S. labor market. Stacked on my desk are reports on "the gig economy," "independent workers," "contingent workers," "freelancers" and the like. All signify a new, less secure labor market. Workers won't have long-lasting career ...Read more

The perils of over-lending

WASHINGTON -- Among the many things it does, the federal government is one of the nation's largest lenders. It lends to farmers, homeowners, students, small businesses, exporters and rural electric utilities, among others. Altogether, there are more than 100 loan programs administered by 20 agencies overseeing lending worth $3.4 trillion in ...Read more

America's postindustrial blues

WASHINGTON -- Ever since Donald Trump's election, a cottage industry of politicians, journalists, scholars and commentators has sought to understand what motivates Trump supporters. Theories have ranged from globalization to a rebellion against Washington elitism to racism. But the true cause may have been overlooked: the "postindustrial ...Read more

Trump's NAFTA delusion

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration is determined to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) -- which created a single market from Mexico's southern border to the Yukon -- but the main political appeal of this policy rests on a popular myth: that "fair" trade requires the United States to have a surplus or balanced trade ...Read more

Trump isn't destiny

WASHINGTON -- It's time to take a brief break from Donald Trump. Whatever you think of him, there's no denying that he dominates the news cycle. We seem to assume that the nation's future depends on Trump's fate, for better or worse. The reality is otherwise: The nation's future also hangs on larger economic and social trends that no president ...Read more

What really happened to coal?

WASHINGTON -- The coal-mining jobs that President Trump thinks were destroyed by government regulation -- adopted to combat air pollution and global warming -- were actually lost to old-fashioned competition from other American firms and workers. Eastern coal mines lost market share to Western coal, which was cheaper. And natural gas grew at ...Read more

The messy reality of global warming

WASHINGTON -- There was no need for President Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement to achieve his goal of overturning the Obama administration's global warming policy. This had already occurred through court rulings and executive orders, which effectively halted higher vehicle fuel economy standards (up to 54.5 ...Read more

Preparing for the next panic -- or not

WASHINGTON -- When the next financial crisis hits -- an event that may be years or decades away -- we will learn whether this Congress and the president drew the right lessons from the 2008-09 financial crisis. Congress is arguing over whether government can avoid "bailouts" of large financial institutions and still prevent a full-blown crisis. ...Read more

The road to impeachment?

WASHINGTON -- I am not a big or even a little fan of President Donald Trump. Many of his policies strike me as undesirable, some in the extreme. His background and temperament have not prepared him for the presidency. He is largely ignorant of many issues he must face. And yet, for all this, the idea of impeaching him and removing him from ...Read more

America's internet delusion

WASHINGTON -- The United States may have escaped most digital damage from the global "ransomware" virus, though cyber experts fear more attacks. One possible explanation is that the malicious software ("malware") harms older versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, which most Americans have replaced. Perhaps many users in other ...Read more

"Monetarist" economist Allan Meltzer carried much influence on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON -- The death on May 8 of Allan Meltzer, 89, deprives the country of one of its most influential economists in the past half-century. A professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh since 1957, Meltzer played a crucial role in convincing much of the economics profession to abandon policies that led to rising inflation in the ...Read more

Globalization's false sins

WASHINGTON -- Globalization has gotten a bad rap. The Trump White House associates it with all manner of economic evil, especially job loss. The administration has made undoing the damage a central part of its economic strategy. This will almost certainly fail and disappoint, because globalization's ill-effects have been wildly exaggerated.

A ...Read more

Trump's low-growth trap

WASHINGTON -- We are defining prosperity down -- or, more accurately, prosperity is defining itself down. We are eight years into the recovery from the Great Recession, the unemployment rate has dropped to 4.4 percent, the stock market is pushing record highs, and consumer confidence seems robust. And yet, the economy doesn't feel as good as it ...Read more

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Lisa Benson Steve Breen Bob Gorrell Gary Markstein Mike Luckovich Ken Catalino