Politics, Moderate

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Politics

The expanding millionaire class

WASHINGTON -- Call them the new millionaires. Once upon a time -- certainly within living memory -- becoming a millionaire was a big deal. It was a badge of economic distinction, enjoyed by a tiny elite.

No more.

By 2016, slightly more than 9 million U.S. households had a net worth of $1 million or more, according to new calculations by ...Read more

Does the Fed need a new playbook?

WASHINGTON -- The record of economists, including those at the Federal Reserve, over the past half century has been discouraging. The two greatest blunders are well-known: policies that fed double-digit inflation in the 1970s, reaching a peak of 13.5 percent in 1980; and the more recent failure to prevent the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great ...Read more

Build the wall (cont'd)

WASHINGTON -- I repeat myself.

For years, I have advocated a wall along our Southern border, which would (I believe) discourage illegal immigration without stopping it altogether. But let's face it: Whatever the virtues or vices of a wall, it has largely become a political symbol. President Trump and Republicans love it; Democrats and ...Read more

Will the economy save Trump?

WASHINGTON -- For President Trump, a lot is riding on the economy in 2018. If it continues to do well, it should bolster his popularity and his claim that he understands it better than his critics. But if it slows or drops into a recession, it would weaken that claim -- perhaps his strongest selling point.

So, what's the economic prognosis?

...Read more

In search of progress

WASHINGTON -- As we begin a new year, it's worth reflecting on the paradoxical and frustrating nature of progress. Progress is often disappointing, because even when it indisputably occurs (as it often does), it spawns new problems or reveals that old problems were underestimated in their complexity or inertia.

Gains are forgotten and taken for...Read more

The Top 10 Stats of 2017

WASHINGTON -- Let us now praise Ben Beach, a Washington writer and longtime friend. Like me, Ben is a confirmed statistics buff. Unlike me, he's disciplined. All through the year, he collects interesting stats with the intent of naming the 10 best at year's end. So I happily outsource my last column of 2017 to Ben's list, which is in no ...Read more

Trump's $1.5 trillion bribe

WASHINGTON -- What I most dislike about the Trump/Republican tax plan is the shameless cynicism with which it has been peddled. Recall how it works: The government borrows $1.5 trillion over a decade and instantly uses that money to cut taxes for major constituencies -- workers, families, small businesses and big companies.

The handouts aim to ...Read more

Yellen's legacy

WASHINGTON -- One of Washington's permanent parlor games is how much credit or blame a president deserves for the state of the economy. Inevitably, then, the question being asked now is whether Donald Trump or Barack Obama created today's strong economy. The correct answer is: neither. To the extent that personal responsibility can be assigned, ...Read more

The true tax gap: How about $12 trillion!

WASHINGTON -- When historians examine President Trump's tax program, they will surely be struck by a large and momentous contradiction. Although the nation faces endless budget deficits -- and although the president purports to speak about the future -- his tax program does little or nothing to curb long-term deficits and, arguably, might make ...Read more

Why we must raise defense spending

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon and the welfare state have been locked in brutal combat for decades, and the Pentagon has gotten clobbered. Protecting the country was once the first obligation of government. No more. Welfare programs -- Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other benefits -- dwarf defense spending. As a result, we have become ...Read more

The aging monster

WASHINGTON -- No one can say we weren't warned. For years, scholars of all shapes and sizes -- demographers, economists, political scientists -- have cautioned that the populations of most advanced countries are gradually getting older, with dramatic consequences for economics and politics. But we haven't taken heed by preparing for an ...Read more

Beware an economic boom!

WASHINGTON -- We don't need an economic boom, but that's what we may be getting. Since the 2016 election, the stock market is up roughly 24 percent, reports Wilshire Associates. The price of the cybercurrency bitcoin soared more than 1,000 percent before retreating. The unemployment rate of 4.1 percent is the lowest since 2000. The economy's ...Read more

Kill the tax bill

WASHINGTON -- What the Republicans are offering on taxes is a bad bargain for America's future. They would borrow -- roughly $1.5 trillion over a decade -- to finance tax cuts that are pleasing for the present. Future Americans would pay the bill. There are at least three reasons why the Senate should reject its version of this self-serving deal...Read more

Trump trade: A dead end?

WASHINGTON -- Most Americans likely think that our trade policies have been largely the same since the Republic's earliest days. The assumptions are that we're free traders now and always have been; also, that we've long been a manufacturing power, boosting exports. If we sometimes lose in global competition, the main cause is that other ...Read more

Are tax breaks immortal?

WASHINGTON -- If you want to understand why the tax code is so hard to overhaul, consider the case of the mortgage interest deduction. The issue is so sensitive that the House and Senate are dealing with it in completely opposite ways.

To its many defenders and beneficiaries, the mortgage interest deduction symbolizes and subsidizes the ...Read more

Under-taxed America

WASHINGTON -- We Americans are having the wrong debate. Almost all the arguing over the Trump administration's proposed tax cut centers on two issues. Will the tax reduction stimulate faster economic growth? And is the proposal too generous toward the wealthy and too stingy toward the middle class and poor?

Interesting questions, to be sure -- ...Read more

Welcome to the Powell Fed

WASHIINGTON -- It will be Powell's Fed.

Assuming he's confirmed by the Senate, Jerome ("Jay") Powell will become the 16th chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in early 2018. Almost by definition, he instantly becomes the most important economic policy-maker in the world. But who is he? Outside economic circles, hardly anyone knows.

So let's ...Read more

The future of health care?

WASHINGTON -- The big news in health care last week was the disclosure that CVS Health Corp. -- owner of a vast network of drug stores -- is considering buying Aetna Inc., one of the nation's largest health insurers, for roughly $66 billion. It's undeniably important, but why?

Clearly, economic concentration in health care is growing. The ...Read more

Tax cuts and economic growth

"Do we have any historical evidence that lowering tax rates, particularly among the richest strata, generates economic growth, as the Republicans always predict? Has this ever worked?"

-- a reader

WASHINGTON -- The answer is "no." As Congress tackles "tax reform," we really don't have conclusive historical evidence of the relationship ...Read more

A NAFTA showdown?

WASHINGTON -- The NAFTA war is heating up. It's a confusing conflict because perceptions are driven by political rhetoric, not economic reality.

NAFTA, of course, stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has eliminated most tariffs among the United States, Mexico and Canada. During the campaign, candidate Donald Trump denounced...Read more

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