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Pundits feed destructive passivity on economy

If you were shocked by Friday's job report, if you thought we were doing well and were taken aback by the bad news, you haven't been paying attention. The fact is, the U.S. economy has been stuck in a rut for a year and a half.

July 12, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Policies that boost corporate cash won't create jobs

Watching the evolution of economic discussion in Washington over the past couple of years has been a disheartening experience. Month by month, the discourse has gotten more primitive; with stunning speed, the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis have been forgotten, and the very ideas that g…

July 06, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

On debt ceiling, Obama must face down extortionists

In about a month, if nothing is done, the federal government will hit its legal debt limit. There will be dire consequences if this limit isn't raised. At best, we'll suffer an economic slowdown; at worst we'll plunge back into the depths of the 2008-09 crisis.

July 05, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Medicare actually saves money vs. private route

Every once in a while a politician comes up with an idea that's so bad, so wrongheaded, that you're almost grateful. For really bad ideas can help illustrate the extent to which policy discourse has gone off the rails.

June 14, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Let's tell the truth on GOP plan to end Medicare

What's in a name? A lot, the National Republican Congressional Committee obviously believes. Last week, the committee sent a letter demanding that a TV station stop running an ad declaring that the House Republican budget plan would "end Medicare." This, the letter insisted, was a false clai…

June 07, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Europe foolishly in grip of the austerity fantasy

I often complain, with reason, about the state of economic discussion in the United States. And the irresponsibility of certain politicians - like those Republicans claiming that defaulting on U.S. debt would be no big deal - is scary.

May 24, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Tea Party GOP holding economy hostage on debt

Six months ago President Obama faced a hostage situation. Republicans threatened to block an extension of middle-class tax cuts unless Obama gave in and extended tax cuts for the rich too. And the president essentially folded, giving the GOP everything it wanted.

May 17, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Elites, not general public, caused economic crisis

The past three years have been a disaster for most Western economies. The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europe's single currency is coming apart at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?

May 10, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Only one budget plan calls for shared sacrifice

When I listen to discussions of the federal budget, the message I hear sounds like this: We must take drastic action immediately! And we must keep taxes low, if not actually cut them further!

April 26, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Civility irrelevant when sides are so far apart

Last week, President Obama offered a spirited defense of his party's values - in effect, of the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. Immediately thereafter, as always happens when Democrats take a stand, the civility police came out in force. The president, we were told, was being t…

April 19, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Nation needs a president willing to take a stand

What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland guy who doesn't seem to stand for anything?

April 12, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Cynical careerism may hinder solving climate change

So the joke begins like this: An economist, a lawyer and a professor of marketing walk into a room. What's the punch line? They were three of the five "expert witnesses" Republicans called for last week's congressional hearing on climate science.

April 05, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

GOP selling bad ideas that Dems don't bother to fight

"Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate." That, according to Herbert Hoover, was the advice he received from Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary, as America plunged into depression. To be fair, there's some question about whether Mellon actually said that.

April 02, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Threat of GOP smear campaigns chills research

Recently William Cronon, a historian at the University of Wisconsin, started a blog, "Scholar as Citizen," devoted to his state's political turmoil. His first post explored the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the stat…

March 29, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Attacks on Warren aim to protect bankers' agenda

Last week, at a House hearing, Republicans lined up to grill and attack Elizabeth Warren, the law professor who is in charge of setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Ostensibly, they believed that Warren had overstepped her legal authority by helping state attorneys genera…

March 22, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Mortgage settlement is the least bankers can do

Count me among those who were glad to see the documentary "Inside Job" win an Oscar. The film reminded us that the financial crisis of 2008, whose aftereffects are still blighting the lives of millions of Americans, was made possible by bad behavior by bankers, regulators and, yes, economists.

March 15, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Education won't assure middle-class security

It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. That's why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that "if we want more good news on the jobs front then we've got to make more investments in education."

March 08, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Texas solving its budget gap by hurting its children

Will 2011 be the year of fiscal austerity? At the federal level, it's still not clear: Republicans are demanding draconian spending cuts, but we don't yet know how far they're willing to go in a showdown with President Obama. At the state and local level, however, there's no doubt about it: …

March 01, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Wis. union-busting about not budget, but power

Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin's new union-busting governor, Scott Walker - demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday - Rep. Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: "It's like Cairo has moved to Madison."

February 22, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

GOP's plan to cut spending: sacrifice the future

On Friday, House Republicans unveiled their proposal for immediate cuts in federal spending. Uncharacteristically, they failed to accompany the release with a catchy slogan. So I'd like to propose one: Eat the Future.

February 15, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Attack warming, or food prices will only go higher

We're in the midst of a global food crisis - the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in prices for wheat, corn, sugar and oils. This had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but it's having …

February 08, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Fed, EU need to resist pressure to raise interest rates

Last Saturday, The Financial Times reported, some of the world's most powerful financial executives were going to hold a private meeting with finance ministers in Davos, Switzerland, the site of the World Economic Forum. The principal demand of the executives, the newspaper suggested, would …

February 01, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

GOP's Ryan clueless about European debt crises

President Obama's State of the Union address was a ho-hum affair. But the official Republican response, from Rep. Paul Ryan, was really interesting. And I don't mean that in a good way.

January 29, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Obama's 'competitiveness' theme misses problem

Meet the new buzzword, same as the old buzzword. In advance of the State of the Union, President Obama has telegraphed his main theme: competitiveness. The president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board has been renamed the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. And in his Saturday r…

January 25, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

GOP's health-care 'analysis' ushers in war on logic

My wife and I were thinking of going out for an inexpensive dinner tonight. But John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says that no matter how cheap the meal may seem, it will cost thousands of dollars once you take our monthly mortgage payments into account.

January 18, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Fundamental divisions dampen hope for dialogue

On Wednesday in Tucson, President Obama called on Americans to "expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together." Those were beautiful words; they spoke t…

January 15, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

There's a difference between insults, incitement

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

January 11, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Jobless rate should temper optimism over economy

If there's one piece of economic wisdom I hope people will grasp this year, it's this: Even though we may finally have stopped digging, we're still near the bottom of a very deep hole.

January 04, 2011 12:00 amLoading…

Commodity price increases reflect growing demand

Oil is back above $90 a barrel. Copper and cotton have hit record highs. Wheat and corn prices are way up. Overall, world commodity prices have risen by a quarter in the past six months.

December 28, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Obama has opened doors to zombie economic ideas

When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most, I believe, is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything - yet they now dominate the political scene.

December 21, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Obama-GOP tax deal unlikely to give sustained boost

Like it or not - and I don't - the Obama-McConnell tax-cut deal, with its mixture of very bad stuff and sort-of-kind-of good stuff, is likely to pass Congress. Then what?

December 14, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Tax deal could return to bite Obama in 2012

I've spent the past couple of days trying to make my peace with the Obama-McConnell tax-cut deal. President Obama did, after all, extract more concessions than most of us expected.

December 12, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Obama should call GOP blackmail on tax cuts

Back in 2001, President George W. Bush pulled a fast one. He wanted to enact an irresponsible tax cut, largely for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans. But there were Senate rules in place designed to prevent that kind of irresponsibility. So Bush evaded the rules by making the tax cut t…

December 07, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Trapped Spanish economy a contrast to US' flexibility

The best thing about the Irish right now is that there are so few of them. By itself, Ireland can't do all that much damage to Europe's prospects. The same can be said of Greece and of Portugal, which is widely regarded as the next potential domino.

November 30, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

GOP shows little interest in making gov't work

Former Sen. Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be - after all, President Obama appointed him co-chairman of a special commission on deficit reduction.

November 23, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Obama can do uplift, but needs to take a stand

On Wednesday, David Axelrod, President Obama's top political adviser, appeared to signal that the White House was ready to cave on tax cuts - to give in to Republican demands that tax cuts be extended for the wealthy as well as the middle class. "We have to deal with the world as we find it,…

November 16, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Diluting plans to rescue economy guarantees failure

Eight years ago Ben Bernanke, already a governor at the Federal Reserve although not yet chairman, spoke at a conference honoring Milton Friedman. He closed his talk by addressing Friedman's famous claim that the Fed was responsible for the Great Depression, because it failed to do what was …

November 09, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Moralizers win out on spending, so slump goes on

"How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?" That's the question CNBC's Rick Santelli famously asked in 2009, in a rant widely credited with giving birth to the tea party movement.

November 02, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Inadequate stimulus about to take political toll

This is what happens when you need to leap over an economic chasm - but either can't or won't jump far enough, so that you only get part of the way across.

October 26, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

China too willing to resort to economic warfare

Last month a Chinese trawler operating in Japanese-controlled waters collided with two vessels of Japan's coast guard. Japan detained the trawler's captain; China responded by cutting off Japan's access to crucial raw materials.

October 19, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Despite claims, gov't hasn't expanded under Obama

Here's the narrative you hear everywhere: President Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can't create jobs.

October 12, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

GOP presidential candidates on Fox News payroll

A note to tea party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you're starring in "The Birth of a Nation," but you're actually just extras in a remake of "Citizen Kane."

October 05, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

'Structural' unemployment isn't the problem

What can be done about mass unemployment? All the wise heads agree: There are no quick or easy answers. There is work to be done, but workers aren't ready to do it - they're in the wrong places, or they have the wrong skills. Our problems are "structural" and will take many years to solve.

September 28, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

US needs to tax Chinese imports that depress jobs

Last week Japan's minister of finance declared that he and his colleagues wanted a discussion with China about the latter's purchases of Japanese bonds, to "examine its intention" - diplomat-speak for "Stop it right now." The news made me want to bang my head against the wall.

September 14, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

It is necessary for US to spend its way out of debt

Here's the situation: The U.S. economy has been crippled by a financial crisis. The president's policies have limited the damage, but they were too cautious, and unemployment remains disastrously high. More action is needed. Yet the public has soured on government activism, and seems poised …

September 07, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Data show that US needs another stimulus round

This week, President Obama is scheduled to propose new measures to boost the economy. I hope they're bold and substantive, since the Republicans will oppose him regardless - if he came out for motherhood, the GOP would oppose that. So he should put them on the spot for standing in the way.

September 05, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Moderate GOP leaders silent as partisans overstep

The last time a Democrat sat in the White House, he faced a nonstop witch hunt by his political opponents. Prominent figures on the right accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of everything from drug smuggling to murder. And once Republicans took control of Congress, they subjected the Clinton ad…

August 31, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Effort to keep tax cuts for rich is rooted in corruption

We need to pinch pennies these days. Don't you know we have a budget deficit? For months, that has been the word from Republicans and conservative Democrats, who have rejected every suggestion that we do more to avoid deep cuts in public services and help the ailing economy.

August 24, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Myths about waste, low taxes for rich wear US away

The lights are going out all over America - literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno.

August 10, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

Officials should not accept joblessness as normal

I'm starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers - but not, or not entirely, for the reasons you might think.

August 03, 2010 12:00 amLoading…

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