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Politics

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

A budget primer -- for Trump and everyone else

WASHINGTON -- I have been writing for some time -- not years, but decades - that we are slowly turning the federal government into an old-age and health care agency. The relentless rise in the costs of Social Security, Medicare and other health programs is slowly draining funds from other areas, from defense to education. Still, it's hard for ...Read more

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

 

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