CEPR

Amazon's Jeff Bezos Is on a Quest to Find America's Stupidest Mayor

With the Super Bowl now behind us, America eagerly awaits the next big event: the announcement of the winner in Jeff Bezos’ contest to determine which combination of state and local governments is prepared to give him the most money to be home to Amazon’s new headquarters.

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Early Reviews of Trump Tax Cut Are Not Good: Capital Goods Orders Fall in December

The centerpiece of the Republican tax cut was a big reduction in the corporate tax rate, lowering it from 35 percent to 21 percent. While critics argued this was just a handout to shareholders, who are overwhelmingly wealthy, the counter was the tax cut would lead to a surge in growth, which would benefit everyone.

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The Democratic Party Must Part Ways with Wall St

Doug Schoen, a former consultant to Bill Clinton, argued the case that the Democrats should keep their ties to Wall Street in a NYT column this morning. While he does advance his argument with some red-baiting and bad logic, he uses tradition as a starting point.

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Welfare For Wall Street: Fees On Retirement Accounts

Most of us are willing to help out those who are less well off. Whether it comes from religious belief or a sense of basic decency we feel are an obligation to provide the basic necessities of life for the poor. But how would we feel about being taxed $1,000 a year to provide six figure salaries to people in the financial sector? Although no candidate to my knowledge has ever run on this platform, this is the nature of the retirement system the federal government has constructed for us.

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Trump and Paul Ryan Are Engaged in a Footrace to Destroy Our Federal Government

The budget proposal put forward by the Trump administration has been widely attacked on a variety of grounds. It is clearly making ridiculous assumptions on tax revenue, which don't make sense even with its implausible assumptions on economic growth. It also calls for large cuts to a variety of programs on which low and moderate income families depend like food stamps and Medicaid.

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What Does Donald Trump Actually Intend to Do About America's Trade Problems?

Shortly after Donald Trump enters the White House, we should get an answer to a key question from his campaign: What does he actually intend to do about trade? Trade was one of his main issues when he campaigned in the key industrial states that he won in November.

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Will Donald Trump Turn His Presidency Into One Massive Insider Trading Scam?

Actually, I don’t know that Donald Trump will take advantage of the inside information he will have access to as president, but no one knows that he won’t. And the president has access to a massive amount of inside information.

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The Trade Deal Crusaders: Can They Never Learn?

One certain outcome of the 2016 election is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead, for the moment. The qualification is necessary because the proponents of the TPP and similar trade pacts refuse to accept that the country is not interested in further trade agreements along the same lines as past pacts.

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The Republican Deficit Hawks Abandon Their Religion

Remember all those times the Republicans in Congress shut down the government and threatened to default on the debt? The ostensible cause was the out-of-control deficit. Back in the day when President Obama was drafting the budget, these Republicans were arguing that the national debt threatened the well-being of our children and grandchildren. They claimed to view deficit reduction as a sacred cause.

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Trumponomics: It’s Not All Crazy

It looks like we will have to get used to the idea of Donald Trump being president for the next four years. In his campaign he pushed many outlandish proposals, like banning Muslim immigrants and deporting 11 million immigrants without documentation. We will have to do whatever we can to block such flagrantly inhumane measures.

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Contrary to What AP Tells You, Social Security Is NOT a Main Driver of the Country's Long-term Budget Problem

The NYT ran a short AP piece on Social Security and "why it matters." The piece wrongly told readers that Social Security is "a main driver of the government's long-term budget problems." This is not true. Under the law, Social Security can only spend money that is in its trust fund. If the trust fund is depleted then full benefits cannot be paid. The law would have to be changed to allow Social Security to spend money other than the funds designated for the program and in that way contribute to the deficit.

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Brazil's Political and Economic Crisis Threatens Its Democracy

On April 17, the Brazilian lower house of Congress voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, who was elected in 2010 and reelected at the end of 2014. It was a garish spectacle, with one right-wing deputy dedicating his vote to the colonel who headed a torture unit during the dictatorship. One of its torture victims was the president herself.

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Andrew Ross Sorkin Doesn't Like Glass-Steagall, So Is He Making Things Up to Push His Case?

That's the question millions are asking after reading his column noting that both the Democratic and Republican platforms call for re-instating Glass-Steagall. (It is important to note that the Democrats refer to the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren. This measure would also address some of the problems created by the shadow banking system by changing rules on repayment in bankruptcy. This would put a check on the ability of troubled institutions to have access to credit markets.) Sorkin indicates that he doesn't approve of Glass-Steagall.

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The United States Loses When Former Prisoners Can't Re-Enter the Labor Market

Despite modest declines in recent years, the large and decades-long blossoming of the prison population ensure that it will take many years before the United States sees a corresponding decrease in the number of former prisoners. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), this report estimates that there were between 14 and 15.8 million working-age people with felony convictions in 2014, of whom between 6.1 and 6.9 million were former prisoners.

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Why Does the NYT Feel the Need to Tell Readers Things That Are Untrue About Trade and Manufacturing Jobs?

It is bizarre how many people feel the need to claim that a large trade deficit in manufactured goods does not cost manufacturing jobs. You can argue all sorts of things about the merits of trade, and even make a story about how a trade deficit is good (pretty hard, when we're below full employment), but it is almost impossible to tell a story that the explosion of the trade deficit between 1997 and 2006 did not cost manufacturing jobs.

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President Obama Pushes a Weak Case on TPP

President Obama continued the administration’s boasting about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will eliminate Vietnam’s tariff on exports of U.S. whale meat. You may have missed it, but this tariff, along with Malaysia’s tariff on U.S. exports of shark fins, and Japan’s tariff on our ivory exports, are among the 18,000 tariffs that President Obama said would be eliminated by the TPP in a Washington Post column today.

This 18,000 tariff figure was intended to sound very impressive, but according to Public Citizen the United States doesn’t export at all in more than half of the categories and in almost all the ones in which it does export the tariffs are already low. One important exception is tobacco. Several of the countries in the TPP have high tariffs on U.S. tobacco exports, so the TPP will be making cigarettes cheaper for kids in Vietnam, Malaysia, and elsewhere.

President Obama framed the TPP as an anti-China measure, warning readers:

“As we speak, China is negotiating a trade deal that would carve up some of the fastest-growing markets in the world at our expense, putting American jobs, businesses and goods at risk.”

Actually this is not the way the economy works. If China reduces trade barriers with other countries in Asia, allowing the region to grow more rapidly, then it should also make the United States more prosperous. The region would be a bigger source of demand for U.S. exports and a more efficient provider of goods and services to the United States. That was exactly the logic of the Marshall Plan that helped to rebuild West Europe after World War II. Greater economic integration in the region, even if engineered in part by China, is something that the United States should applaud, not fear.

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Wisconsin’s 'Right to Work Law' Has Been Ruled Unconstitutional

A trial court in Wisconsin has ruled that the state’s new law banning union contracts that make every employee the union represents pay his fair share of the costs of representation is unconstitutional.

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Washington Post Publishes Another Anti-Sanders Hit Piece - Still Gets it Wrong

The Washington Post again went after Senator Bernie Sanders in its lead editorial, telling readers that the Senator's proposals were "facile." It might be advisable for a paper that described President Bush's case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as "irrefutable" to be cautious about going ad hominem, but this is the Washington Post.

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Can Socialism Survive in Venezuela?

Venezuela's opposition has won a large majority of the country's congress, or National Assembly for the first time in 16 years. Many observers in Washington see this as a tipping point not only for Venezuela, but for the region, where about half of the people are currently living under left governments.

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How Big Pharma Is Price-Gouging You

The United States stands out among wealthy countries in that we give drug companies patent monopolies on drugs that are essential for people’s health or lives and then allow them to charge whatever they want. Every other wealthy country has some system of price controls or negotiated prices where the government limits the extent to which drug companies can exploit the monopoly it has given them. The result is that we pay roughly twice as much for our drugs as the average for other wealthy countries. This additional cost is not associated with better care; we are just paying more for the same drugs.

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Obama Should Put an End to Extreme Austerity in Jamaica

The international media isn’t paying much attention to President Barack Obama’s trip to Jamaica this week, but maybe they should. The country has become a terrible example of what can happen when creditors — led by the International Monetary Fund — are able to impose harsh austerity on a small nation in an attempt to collect on an uncollectable debt. Because the U.S. Treasury Department decides what the IMF does in the Western Hemisphere, President Obama himself can claim responsibility for this crushing economic failure.

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Greece Has a Big Opportunity to Smash the Politics of Austerity

Here we go again. There is talk of Greece exiting the euro, and the German government has tried to say that it would be no big deal for Europe, then apparently walked back from that position. At the same time, the German government appears to be trying to influence the Greek election scheduled for January 25 by saying that if the left party Syriza wins, a Greek exit will follow.

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Americans Clearly Aren't Buying into the Dems' Empty Economic Promises

It looks like the Democrats will take another shellacking in the congressional elections this week. Part of this is due to factors like the normal falloff in voting in a non-presidential year and the weariness with a president after six years in office, which tends to cause the electorate to support the opposing party.

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Unemployment Dropped Below 6% -- So What's the Bad News?

The jobs report on Friday showed the economy created 248,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate fell below 6.0 percent for the first time since the early days of the recession. This is good news for workers. While we are still far from anything resembling full employment, it is getting easier for people to find jobs.

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Larry Summers and Jeff Bezos Get Virtually No Scrutiny by the Media, Just Awe and Praise

The news in the last couple of weeks has had endless references to two people who we have been repeatedly told are brilliant: former Treasury Secretary and top Obama advisor Larry Summers and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The paeans to the genius of both men say a great deal about the quality of public debate in elite circles.

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How Many Wrong Statements Can You Find in Tom Friedman's Latest Column?

It's always fun when Thomas Friedman writes a piece on economics. He likes to play a game with readers. He slips a number of false assertions into the column and readers are supposed to find them. (He probably does this with his columns on foreign policy also, but I don't have time to read through those columns.)

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Hugo Chavez Got Re-Elected Because His Programs Are Popular

Hugo Chávez was re-elected president of Venezuela on Sunday, by a margin of 11 percentage points.  For most people who have heard or read about Chávez in the international media, this might be puzzling.  Almost all of the news we hear about Venezuela is bad:  Chávez is cantankerous and picks fights with the United States and sides with “enemies” such as Iran; he is a “dictator” or “strongman” who has squandered the nation’s oil wealth; the economy is plagued by shortages and is usually on the brink of collapse.

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