Most federal agencies are required to conduct benefit-cost analyses for their largest regulations. Benefit-cost analysis is intended to objectively inform decision makers about the myriad effects of a range of potential alternatives. For many regulations, benefit-cost analyses depend on health risk assessment. It is well established that a clear conceptual distinction must be established and maintained between (positive) risk assessment and (normative) risk management. Decision makers cannot ensure that regulatory choices conform with their intentions if they cannot discern where the science in an analysis ends and value judgments begin.
For most of Social Security’s history, bipartisan support remained for FDR’s self-financing principle, both to ensure fiscal discipline and to ensure benefits enjoyed special political protection from near-term pressures arising elsewhere in the federal budget. It remains to be seen what lasting policy effects will arise from lawmakers having waived the longstanding requirement that payroll tax assessments be sufficient to finance benefit payments.
This special Mercatus Center edition of my Economic Situation report focuses on what I call the stumbling U.S. economy. In the report, I seek to explain how and why the economy is performing so poorly. I do this by assessing some of the economy’s major features. The first assessment involves an examination of the economy’s uneven pulse beat, best seen in GDP growth data. I then turn to state unemployment and state GDP growth data and present another picture of uneven growth. After discussing federal budgets and deficits, I turn to labor markets and then to an assessment of the Federal Reserve Board’s efforts to stimulate the economy using quantitative easing. I conclude this special report with a brief review of what has happened to income distribution and a short summary of what I expect we will see across the rest of 2012 and in 2013.
The question of who pays a tax has a discernible answer that need not be shrouded in technical mystery. This paper offers those who have little or no formal exposure to economics a tutorial in the economics of tax incidence.
As the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Federal Reserve Act approaches, we assess whether the nation’s experiment with the Federal Reserve has been a success or a failure. Drawing on a wide range of recent empirical research, we ﬁnd the following: (1) The Fed’s full history (1914 to present) has been characterized by more rather than fewer symptoms of monetary and macroeconomic instability than the decades leading to the Fed’s establishment. (2) While the Fed’s performance has undoubtedly improved since World War II, even its postwar performance has not clearly surpassed that of its undoubtedly ﬂawed predecessor, the National Banking system, before World War I. (3) Some proposed alternative arrangements might plausibly do better than the Fed as presently constituted. We conclude that the need for a systematic exploration of alternatives to the established monetary system is as pressing today as it was a century ago.
The available evidence indicates that U.S. international competitiveness has deteriorated by certain measures and suggests that future—and potentially more economically significant—declines may be anticipated. Evidence also identifies deterioration in the U.S. regulatory environment relative to other developed economies.
The U.S. economy has not been healthy since 2001 when 9/11 pushed the country into a recession. As the accompanying data tell us, real GDP growth has risen to meet the long-term average of 3.11 percent just once since 2001, and that was in 2004. The combination of wars, financial collapse, natural disasters, and political games has taken a heavy toll on economic growth. No one is talking about 3 percent or better growth anytime in the foreseeable future. But it’s not just about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about something deep in the economy.
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on 29 August 2005, leaving a great deal of destruction, pain, and uncertainty in its wake. Post-disaster community rebound is a collective action problem where every individual’s decision to rebuild is impacted by the likelihood that others in the community will rebuild.
This paper compares the quality and use of regulatory analysis accompanying economically significant regulations proposed by US executive branch agencies in 2008, 2009, and 2010. We find that the quality of regulatory analysis is generally low, but varies widely.
The more power the government has over the economy, the more allocation of resources will depend on political connections. The way to eliminate cronyism is to have free markets and little government control. As we shall see, cronyism has been around for a long time and is a bipartisan problem that has thrived under Democratic and Republican presidents and congresses. Cronyism not only picks winners based on political connections rather than on the extent to which they serve consumers, but also is destructive of wealth, sometimes highly so.