Dean Baker

The speed of economic recovery depends on how soon we control the virus

There have been a number of pieces in major news outlets telling us what the recovery will look like from this recession. Most have been pretty negative. The important thing to know about these forecasts is that the people making these forecasts don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

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A bold plan to strengthen and improve Social Security is what America needs

The Social Security 2100 Act proposed by Connecticut Representative John Larson is getting closer to being passed by the House of Representatives. It now has more than 200 co-sponsors. If it were to be approved and become law, it would both improve the program’s benefit structure and its financial picture.

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The corporate media is boosting Trump's myths about trade. Here's the truth.

The New York Times (8/10/19) ran an article this month with a headline saying that the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders faced a major problem: “How to Be Tougher on Trade Than Trump.” Serious readers might have struggled with the idea of getting “tough on trade.” After all, trade is a tool, like a shovel.  How is it possible to get tough on a shovel?

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Why aren’t Democrats talking about ending patent-financed drug research?

Many of the leading Democratic candidates, especially Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have been putting forward bold progressive plans in a wide variety of areas. Sanders and Warren have both supported a quick transition to a universal Medicare program, with no premiums, co-pays, or deductibles. Several candidates have supported a Green New Deal, which in some versions would guarantee every worker in the country a decent paying job.

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This is what's really happening in US-China negotiations

Readers of this NYT piece on Robert Lighthizer, United States trade representative, and his negotiations with China may have missed this point. The piece said that one of Lighthizer’s main goals was to stop China’s practice of requiring that companies like Boeing and GE, who set up operations in China, take Chinese companies as business partners.

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Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post Tells You Not to Worry About Those Billionaires

Just when you thought economic commentary in the Washington Post couldn’t get any more insipid, Roger Lowenstein proves otherwise. In a business section “perspective” (7/20/18), he tells readers:

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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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Are We in the Midst of Another Housing Bubble?

There has been much greater concern about the danger of asset bubbles ever since the collapse of the housing bubble sank the economy. While it is good that people in policy positions now recognize that bubbles can pose a real danger, it is unfortunate that there still seems very little understanding of the nature of the problem.

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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 Team Resurrects Voodoo Economics Pushing Tax Cuts and Ludicrous Growth Projections

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had a Wall Street Journal column highlighting the benefits of "MAGAnomics." The piece can best be described as a combination of Groundhog Day and outright lies.

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Why Does the Washington Post Want Disabled People to Suffer More?

At a time when an ever-larger share of national income is going to the richest 1 percent, and large segments of the working class population are seeing rising mortality rates, the Washington Post naturally turns to the country’s most pressing problem: the number of people receiving disability payments from the government.

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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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Blaming the Boomers for Growing Poverty in America Is Just a Media Distraction in Service of the 1%

The main economic story of the last four decades is the massive upward redistribution of income that has taken place. The top 1 percent’s share of national income has more than doubled over this period, from roughly 10 percent in the late 1970s to over 20 percent today. And this is primarily a before-tax income story: The rich have used their control over the levers of economic power to ensure that an ever-larger share of the country’s wealth goes into their pockets. (Yes, this is the topic of my book, Rigged.) (It’s free.)

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Why the NY Times Is Chiefly Responsible for the Mass Ignorance About the U.S. Budget

Paul Krugman criticized the Trump administration for its budget, which would cut or eliminate many programs that benefit low and moderate income people. In his piece, Krugman points out that the public is incredibly ignorant on the budget, with most people having virtually no idea of where most spending goes.

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New York Times Gets Federal Budget Story About Looming Trump-Ryan Clash Almost Completely Wrong

Apparently the paper is confused on this issue since it headlined a front page piece on the budget, "Trump budget sets up clash over ideology within G.O.P." The article lays out this case in the fourth paragraph:

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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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The Economists Who Didn't See the Big Crash of 2008 Coming Still Don't Understand What Happened or How to Fix It

Last week marked the eighth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the huge Wall Street investment bank. This bankruptcy sent financial markets into a panic with the remaining investment banks, like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, set to soon topple. The largest commercial banks, like Citigroup and Bank of America, were not far behind on the death watch.

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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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Why Shorter Workweeks Would Wipe Out the Much-Hyped Threat of Robots Stealing Our Jobs

More than eight years after the start of the Great Recession, our labor market is far from recovering by most measures. At 5 percent, the current unemployment rate is not very different from its pre-recession level, but the main reason it is so low is that millions of people have given up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. These people are no longer counted as being unemployed.

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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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After DC's Centrists Failed to Shred Safety Nets, Thomas Friedman Calls for Centrist Revival

Thomas Friedman really is a gift to the world. As a long established New York Times columnist and author of many widely touted books, he is a great source of insight into establishment thinking. He comes through brilliantly in his column on Wednesday.

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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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The Washington Post Says Doctors Without Borders Is Silly to Worry About the Impact of the TPP on Drug Prices

The humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders, along with many other NGOs involved in providing health care to people in the developing world, have come out in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over concerns that the deal will make it more difficult to provide drugs to people in the developing world. Their argument is that it will raise drug prices by making patent protection stronger and longer and by making it more difficult for countries to scale back protections that they may come to view as excessive and wasteful.

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