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  • Author: Derek M. Scissors
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: New data published in the American Enterprise Institute-Heritage Foundation China Global Investment Tracker show that China continues to invest heavily around the world. Outward investment excluding bonds stood at $85 billion in 2013 and is likely to reach $100 billion annually by 2015. Energy, metals, and real estate are the prime targets. The United States in particular received a record of more than $14 billion in Chinese investment in 2013. Although China has shown a pattern of focusing on one region for a time then moving on to the next, the United States could prove to be a viable long-term investment location. The economic benefits of this investment flow are notable, but US policymakers (and those in other countries) should consider national security, the treatment of state-owned enterprises, and reciprocity when deciding to encourage or limit future Chinese investment.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Development, Economics, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Foreign Direct Investment, Sovereign Wealth Funds
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: William C. Greenwalt
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Pentagon has been undergoing major procurement reform since 1984, but hoped-for results have not been achieved. Bipartisan acquisition reform legislation was passed in the 1990s, but these positive changes did not hold. At the heart of the current procurement dilemma is too much faith in central planning and too little faith in the free market. Policymakers must first remedy the incentives underlying reform, and five overarching categories are driving the misplaced incentives: trust in central planning leading to increased bureaucracy, preference for defense-unique versus commercial solutions, distrust of the defense industry and profit motives, fear that the workforce is incapable of exercising discretion, and finally, preoccupation with cost certainty and maintaining low prices over achieving results and value. By reaching out to and incentivizing the private sector, the Pentagon can help reform the procurement system by lowering costs, restoring competition, and delivering taxpayers the best value for their money.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Economics, Markets, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Andrew Shearer
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Like many other Western states, following the Cold War, Australia cut its defense budget, resulting in significant shortfalls in key military capabilities. Since the mid-1990s, successive Australian governments have outlined plans intended to boost the capabilities of Australia's armed forces. However, these strategic ambitions have in recent years been undercut by changes in government spending priorities and shortfalls in the national budget, jeopardizing the long-standing technological advantage Australian forces have enjoyed over other states in the region. As major Asian states such as China continue to grow their economies and modernize their armed forces, Australia must commit sufficient resources to its modernization agenda or risk losing its ability to help shape the Asia-Pacific ­security environment and risk fulfilling its role as a key US partner in America's pivot to Asia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Cold War, Economics, Armed Forces
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, China, Asia, Australia
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The array of postbubble stresses and uncertainties identified in the January 2010 Economic Outlook (“The Year Ahead”) promised that the new year would see plenty of volatility in markets. That is exactly what is playing out as we move through the first quarter. As risks accumulate, it may be that 2010 is shaping up as a mirror image of 2009, reversing last year's down-then-up pattern with an up-then-down pattern this year.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Market conditions in the United States, Japan, China, and Europe portend a weakening global economy. While not dramatic in any one region save an earthquake-burdened Japan, these conditions could accumulate to create a problematic loss of momentum for global growth, especially compared to current upbeat consensus views for the second half of 2011.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Global Recession
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: February always brings with it the president's proposals for taxing and spending in the coming fiscal year. The president's budget proposals are accompanied by congressional and administration estimates of the path deficits and government debt are expected to take in coming years. Last year, those projections, especially a three-year string of actual and projected deficits over a trillion dollars from 2009 through 2011, excited widespread comment and handwringing about runaway deficits and their allegedly damaging effects in the form of lower growth, higher inflation, and higher interest rates.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: We can expect 2010 to be a volatile year. This likelihood is underscored by looking back at 2008 and 2009. Two thousand eight was a highly volatile year leading up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, which was followed by the risk of a total systemic meltdown. That sharp and obvious risk spike prompted massive policy responses that were simply the largest that central banks, with rate cuts and liquidity provision, and governments, with tax cuts and spending increases, could manage. The result—beginning in March 2009—was a linear rise in the prices of risky assets, the result of massive relief once the slip into a global depression had been averted and the acute phase of the crisis in the financial sector had passed.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: On December 16, 2008, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke exercised decisive leadership at a watershed meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). In its official statement after the meeting, the committee pledged to “employ all available tools to promote the resumption of sustainable economic growth and to preserve price stability.” The pledge to preserve price stability was not a commitment to fight inflation, as is typical, but a highly unusual commitment to fight deflation.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The global financial and economic crisis that emerged in August 2007 has entered a dismaying fourth phase. The January 17–18, 2009, weekend edition of the Financial Times, which has been a major chronicler of the crisis and its many aspects, laid out a frightening timeline of an accelerating and intensifying oscillatory cycle of crisis and failed policy response that started just fifteen months ago. Each phase begins with a shock and ends with a seemingly decisive policy measure meant to contain or “fix” the crisis. Each phase is shorter than the previous one and culminates in a much larger policy response. Throughout the crisis, the losses of financial institutions have steadily grown at an accelerating pace as the underlying conditions in the financial sector and, since September 2008, in the underlying global economy deteriorate more rapidly. Such a disturbing pattern must be truncated by a large, coordinated global policy response to arrest the accelerating erosion of the market capitalization of multinational banks and insurance companies that has resulted.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: As the global financial and economic crisis has grown increasingly dire—the deterioration just since the November U.S. election is breathtaking—market participants and policymakers alike have looked to three past crisis models as part of an intensifying search for ways out of the current crisis. First, the Great Depression of the 1930s is being examined ever more closely for possible lessons now that commentators have moved past an under- standable reluctance to mention that experience as relevant to today's situation. Second, the Scandinavian financial crisis of the early 1990s, which included a proactive move toward bank nationalization by the Swedish government, is also widely discussed. Finally, many allusions have been made to the disquieting parallels between today's U.S. experience and that of Japan during its “lost decade” (1991–2001) of recession and deflation, especially after 1998.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: On March 18, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke intensified the important battle against global deflation with a commitment to expand the Fed's balance sheet by an extra $1.15 trillion. With some luck and persistence, that step could boost growth by a percentage point or more and, even more important, substantially reduce the risk of deflation.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: China's economic statistics have become the envy of the world. On July 15, China reported a 7.9 percent growth rate for the second quarter of 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, China's stock markets are on fire, and its property markets are heating up fast as well. Shanghai's two stock markets are up 75 percent and 95 percent respectively so far this year. The more widely traded Hong Kong Index is up 27 percent, a stellar performance compared to largely flat stock markets in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In even stronger contrast, Russia, which is one of China's emerging-market peers, has seen its economy drop by 10.1 percent during the first half of this year, while its stock market has struggled as well.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Japan, China, Europe, Hong Kong
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The recent steps by the Federal Reserve to preempt deflation have—ironically and unexpectedly— prompted a surge in inflation fears both inside the United States and abroad, especially in China. Specifically, the Fed's measures to go beyond the stimulus inherent in a zero percent federal funds rate by purchasing Treasury and mortgage securities has conjured visions—especially in the eyes of major buyers of Treasury securities, China foremost— of massive money printing to underwrite trillions of dollars of additional government borrowing at low interest rates. As markets have shown, if that were the Fed's intention—which it decidedly is not—the effort would fail because excessive money printing—creating a money supply larger than the quantity of money demanded— would push up interest rates as inflation expectations rose.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: More than two years have passed since the U.S. housing bubble burst. That event ushered in a financial crisis that was not only intense but also stunning. So stunning in fact, that in August of last year, just a month before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the global economy was close to a crisis worthy of comparison with the Great Depression, yet neither the markets nor the Federal Reserve had much of an inkling of what was to come. The Standard and Poor's (S) 500 Index had come down to about 1,300 from its October 2007 high of 1,576. Positive growth had just been reported for the U.S. economy during the second quarter of 2008 at an annual rate of 2.8 percent (later revised down to 1.5 percent). Almost one percentage point of that growth came from U.S. consumption, and government spending also contributed. The wave of relief after the Bear Stearns scare in March 2008 had provided a nice boost to the economy and to markets. That boost was further enhanced by the substantial contribution to growth from net exports (2.9 percentage points) thanks to what was, then, continuing strength in the global economy, especially in China, which had reported blistering 10.1 percent year-over-year growth in the second quarter of 2008. These and other positive components more than offset a drag from inventories and residential investment. In short, the real economy had not shown much evidence of damage emanating from the chaos that was churning in the financial sector.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The only thing scarier than the slide of the dollar, which has dropped by 15 percent since March, would be an attempt by the Federal Reserve to stop it. Such an attempt would show that we have learned nothing from the Bank of Japan's disastrous premature exit from a zero-interest policy in August 2000. Closer to home, it would resemble the Fed's premature move to mop up “excess” reserves by doubling reserve requirements in three steps between August 1936 and May 1937, which was followed by the third-worst recession of the twentieth century, from May 1937 to June 1938.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Wall Street is dancing again to the music of a sharp rise in stock prices. The question that remains is whether Main Street, currently languishing in a sad world of job losses, unavailable credit, and weakened balance sheets, will get to join the party. To put the question more precisely, will the “adverse feedback loop” that saw a financial collapse last fall that crushed the real economy work in reverse, so that a financial bounce boosts the real economy in coming quarters? The jury is still out on this important question.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Now that Wall Street and the Federal Reserve have finished congratulating themselves for not having been alarmists—in other words, for failing to recognize that a recession was looming—they are now facing up to the onset of a U.S. recession and a rapidly spreading financial crisis. Having been late to reach that conclusion, they now grudgingly admit that we may have a brief "V-shaped" recession and are apparently hoping that Fed rate cuts and a fiscal stimulus package will quickly solve the economy\'s problems.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Japan experienced a disastrous decade of economic stagnation and deflation from 1991 to 2001 after bubbles in its stock market and land market collapsed. While some economic pain was unavoidable—given a 60 percent plunge in equity prices between late 1989 and August 1992, accompanied by the onset of what ultimately became a 70 percent drop in land values by 2001—the "lost decade" was not an inevitable outcome. It required a series of persistently wrong economic policy decisions that ignored the lessons learned in America's Great Depression of the 1930s and the subsequent research on the causes of that painful period.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, Human Welfare, Humanitarian Aid, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, America, Asia
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In October 1907, J. P. Morgan stemmed a financial panic by coercing other banks to join him in providing credit to Wall Street brokerage firms teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.[1] This year, over the weekend including March 15—the ominous Ides of March—James Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase, was the one to act. With the Federal Reserve squarely behind him and assuming the risk, he prevented a Bear Stearns bankruptcy by agreeing to purchase the firm, providing it with a decent burial, at a price of $2 per share. Bear Stearns's stock had been valued at over $160 per share just a year ago. The $2 price virtually wiped out the value of that stock, one-third of which is owned by its 14,000 employees. This was clearly not a bailout for Bear Stearns shareholders, and whether or not the steps taken by the Fed on March 16 were sufficient to arrest a further collapse of available credit and the economy remains to be seen. As long as house prices keep falling, the underlying problem for credit markets and the economy remains.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The desire to enhance and store wealth has been present ever since income rose above subsistence levels. In ancient times, prior to the creation of symbolic financial claims on wealth, wealth storage was, quite literally, the storage of intrinsically valuable articles in temples, pyramids, or other such formidable structures. Even today in Tibet, which was long a theocracy, a major repository of wealth can be seen in religious statues of solid gold resting in temples.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The bursting of every bubble is followed by statements suggesting that the worst is over and that the real economy will be unharmed. The weeks since mid-March have been such a period in the United States. The underlying problem—a bust in the residential real-estate market—has, however, grown worse, with peak-to-trough estimates of the drop in home prices having gone from 20 to 30 percent in the span of just two months. Meanwhile, the attendant damage to the housing sector and to the balance sheets tied to it has grown worse and spread beyond the subprime subsector.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Fed is in a bind, pulled toward easier monetary policy by a weak economy and fragile credit markets, while simultaneously needing to resist higher inflation. On Monday, June 9, after a weekend of headlines regarding a half-percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke gave a pathbreaking speech entitled "Outstanding Issues in the Analysis of Inflation" at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's fifty-third Annual Economic Conference. In that speech, after suggesting that the risks of a substantial  economic downturn had diminished over the past month and citing further progress in the repair of financial and credit markets, he proceeded to address the problem of rising inflation. In two sentences, he contributed to a sharp, fifty-basis-point rise in two-year bond yields and boosted the market's assessment of the chance of a fifty-basis-point rise in the federal-funds target rate at the September 16 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) from virtually zero to nearly 70 percent.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Megan Davy
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) economies, usually susceptible to international financial turmoil, are especially vulnerable to even minor tremors in U.S. markets. Regional policymakers and entrepreneurs, therefore, have been closely watching the current U.S. subprime credit crisis. Here is the good news: all signs point to relatively minor symptoms in LAC countries—despite a rocky financial history during the 1980s and 1990s—thanks in large part to reforms undertaken in response to previous financial crises, as well as continued high commodity prices that will likely buoy export markets. Although the economic downturn in the United States and other global markets will likely expose lingering weaknesses in the region's economy, this latest crisis can provide an impetus to complete the unfinished business of building more modern, resilient economies.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Emerging Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, South America, Latin America, Central America
  • Author: Andrew G. Biggs
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Until recently, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was surprisingly responsible regarding Social Security, noting the urgency of reform and saying all options should be on the table. But having cornered himself with Democratic activists whose attitudes toward Social Security reform range from demagoguery to denial, his solution to the system's problems has veered leftward. He now plans to fix Social Security exclusively with higher taxes. The new Obama plan would not only fail to resolve the system's long-term problems, but would also impose significant costs on the economy as a whole.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Amity Shlaes, Vincent R. Reinhart, Allan H. Meltzer, John L. Chapman
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: How fragile is our financial system? What are the implications of the Fed's actions on Bear Stearns? Do we need new ways of thinking about the risks the system entails? In recent articles, four AEI scholars have looked closely at the evidence of what went wrong and what is ahead.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Alan D. Viard
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Buried in the 227-page Social Security trustees' report are some dramatic numbers about Social Security's future promises. AEI resident scholar Alan D. Viard tells us that "a typical worker retiring in 2050 has been promised 47 percent more than today's retirees, and one retiring in 2080 has been promised more than double today's benefits." To address the program's financial problems, he says, the rules need to be changed to link future retirees' benefits to inflation. That move, he says, would go a long way toward solving the system's problems.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: N. Gregory Mankiw
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Income inequality is rising, and in this article, AEI visiting scholar N. Gregory Mankiw looks at the statistical evidence and causes. Government policy, he says, is unlikely to be the culprit because inequality has risen in Democratic and Republican administrations--we need to look instead at skills-based technological change and educational attainment. Education, Mankiw says, is key to understanding the broader trends, but it cannot fully explain the incomes of the super-rich.
  • Topic: Economics, Education
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Vincent R. Reinhart
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Senate Banking Committee approved legislation on May 20 that would empower the Federal Housing Administration to provide relief to mortgage borrowers teetering on the brink of default. The House has already passed similar legislation. Only two months ago, mortgage aid was viewed as unlikely, but the odds now favor it becoming law. For this change of fortune, the legislation's chief sponsors, Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.), should thank one person in particular: Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Lawrence B. Lindsey
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: America has not had a nationwide housing crash since the 1930s. At one point during that calamity, an estimated 60 percent of all mortgages were in technical default. The rather primitive housing credit system of the time, which relied on five-year balloon mortgages, certainly exacerbated the problem, but the bulk of the problem was related to the general economic downturn. There have been some regional housing crashes that were short and relatively mild, most notably in California, Texas, and New England in the late 1980s and early1990s. Most of those were caused by declines in key local industries: oil in Texas, aerospace and defense in Southern California and Massachusett.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, California, England
  • Author: Lawrence B. Lindsey
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Two AEI scholars have recently assessed the merits of Senator Barack Obama's approach to fixing the Social Security system's problems. In a March On the Issues, Andrew G. Biggs argued that the senator's plan would not fix the system's long-term problems and would impose significant costs on the economy as a whole. To read Biggs's article, visit www.aei.org/publication27704/. In June, Lawrence B. Lindsey wrote that requiring higher-end workers to pay additional taxes without getting additional benefits linked to their extra contributions would be “a big step toward turning Social Security from a contributory pension scheme into just another welfare program.” Below, Lindsey spells out the details.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The good news about the problems in the financial sector and the larger economy in the United States emanating from the persistent drop in house prices is that they will eventually end, and the underlying resiliency of the U.S. economy will reemerge. The bad news about these problems is that they are going to continue for some time and get worse before they improve. Efforts to address them so far have been ineffective because they have been aimed at containing a subprime credit crisis, not at containing a rapidly spreading primecredit, solvency crisis that is leading the U.S. economy into recession.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Amity Shlaes
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Democratic presidential candidates are invoking the New Deal as a model for addressing infrastructure, economic, and employment problems in the United States. But a careful look at New Deal spending suggests, in the words of Amity Shlaes, “not how much the public works achieved . . . [but] how little.” Advocates for new federal government spending on highways, buildings, and roads should carefully weigh the need against the damage that comes from projects and jobs created for political reasons.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Welfare, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The annual report of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS)—the central bankers' central bank—which appeared in late June, was somewhat schizophrenic. On the one hand, the BIS called for world interest rates to rise in order to deal with a “clear and present threat” from global inflation while, on the other hand, it warned that the global economy may be close to a “tipping point” into a “slowdown severe enough to transform the current period of rising inflation into a period of falling prices.” The simultaneous rise in oil prices and the fall in yields in government securities occurring as the BIS released this ambivalent statement captured well the tensions inherent in the stagflationary crosscurrents facing the global economy. Against this ominous background, the release of the BIS report coincided with the onset of a global bear market in equities.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Oil, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Over the past several months as central banks and treasuries have struggled to manage a financial panic and avoid or diminish its soon-to-appear devastating impact on the global economy, I have often thought about the efforts of two great economists to understand the lessons of the Great Depression. John Maynard Keynes's monumental General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, showed how a failure to understand the nature of the demand for money contributed to the Great Depression. “The importance of money essentially flows from being a link between the present and the future,” Keynes said.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: President-elect Barack Obama faces the most difficult economic challenge confronting an incoming American president since the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt seventy-six years ago in 1932. When he assumes office on January 20, Obama will need to act decisively with heretofore unprecedented fiscal policy steps, in conjunction with measures by the Federal Reserve to increase the money supply and lower long-term interest rates. All of this must be done to help contain and reverse the accelerating global slowdown by halting the rapidly deepening American recession. We can only hope that other national leaders and central banks will follow suit.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: It is important at the outset to define the terms “financial firms” and “too much risk.” By “financial firms,” I mean commercial banks, investment banks, brokerages, and insurance companies that solicit and manage funds for the public. By “too much risk,” I mean actions undertaken by managers of financial firms that result in substantial losses for the shareholders (owners) of such firms. On an aggregate level, I call “systemic risks” those that emerge when regulators and policymakers are forced to choose between either reinforcing (with bailouts) the venturesome investing that created the problem or allowing substantial damage to depositors and shareholders in financial firms, and possibly to the economy as a whole.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Just as Wall Street was celebrating the presumed end of the latest financial crisis by pushing stocks to record highs, proclaiming continued strong earnings growth, and continuing to recite the mantra “slowdown, but no recession,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson provided a vivid reminder that the housing and mortgage crisis is not over. On Monday, October 15, while Citibank was reporting that compared with last year's results its third-quarter earnings had fallen by 57 percent, the Treasury's “super-SIV” plan was revealed. It seems that the Goldman Sachs alumni at Treasury—Paulson and his under secretary for domestic finance, Robert Steel—had become concerned that the offbalance- sheet special investment vehicles (SIVs) held by commercial banks might not be financeable. That would mean that not enough investors could be found to provide the short-term financing necessary to sustain SIVs, the repositories of hardto- value securitized mortgages that continue to plague bank balance sheets.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The global economic and financial picture is changing rapidly. A review of some of the key elements is in order, as the U.S. economy has slowed rapidly and the Federal Reserve has responded aggressively with rate cuts, while the Bank of England's tough policies pushed one of the United Kingdom's largest mortgage lenders, Northern Rock, to the brink of collapse as a bank run on that suddenly beleaguered institution ensued. Meanwhile, Japan, still the world's second-largest economy—though perhaps the least dynamic of the major ones—slipped into negative growth at a 1.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter after having initially reported growth over 2 percent. The rate-boost-obsessed Bank of Japan finally decided to stop raising rates, and, to add to the complexity of the picture, Japan's relatively new prime minister Shinzo Abe resigned, unable to provide the leadership sorely needed in a nation lacking economic and political direction.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, United Kingdom, England
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 09-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: During a 10:00 a.m. conference call on August 17, 2007, Federal Reserve vice chairman Donald Kohn and New York Federal Reserve president Timothy Geithner were urging Citicorp chief executive Chuck Prince and his fellow big bank CEOs to use the Fed's discount window, which is set up to alleviate liquidity pressures on individual banks or on the banking system as a whole. Prince, the head of the world's largest bank (Or is it the second largest? No one really knows since bank balance sheets are so full of securities that cannot be priced.) may have been wishing that he had not chosen to offer a chillingly clear characterization of the global financial system a little more than five weeks earlier in a Financial Times interview on July 9, three weeks before the global credit markets began to seize up.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In a July 9 interview in Tokyo with the Financial Times about the surging, liquidity-driven financial sector, Citigroup chief executive Chuck Prince characterized the situation in global financial markets more insightfully than some investors might have wished: “When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will get complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance. We're still dancing.” Prince elaborated further, saying that (as the article paraphrased it) “the way big Wall Street banks and hedge funds had picked up troubled subprime mortgage lenders was an example of how 'liquidity rushes in' to fill the gap as others spot a buying opportunity.”
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Tokyo
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 07-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The bond “conundrum” that Alan Greenspan spoke of toward the end of his tenure at the Federal Reserve is disappearing. Chairman Greenspan was drawing attention to unusually low longterm interest rates worldwide on bonds.1 More recently, however, in less than a month interest rates on U.S. ten-year notes have risen by 60 basis points with no change in expected inflation. The shift is all the more unusual because of its abruptness and relative magnitude: in statistical terms, it is a rise of three standard deviations in “real” (inflation-adjusted) rates in a market that has been quiet over the past five years. Moreover, the few “surprise” moves since the tech-stock bubble burst in 2000 have mostly been in a downward direction.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The American consumer is a very persistent spending machine. It is American consumption growth running at higher than 4 percent annualized— well above its long-term average—that has kept the economy comfortably out of recession for the past six months as the housing slowdown has subtracted more than a percentage point from growth. Even with a substantial additional drag on the U.S. economy from other areas—inventory liquidation, weakening net exports, and rapidly rising gasoline prices—the American consumer's spending surge has still been enough to keep GDP growth in positive territory.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: On Friday, April 13, the Wall Street Journal's lead story on the unlucky U.S. economy was “Economy Enemy No. 1: Soft Capital Spending.” The nation's leading business newspaper was acknowledging a six-month slowdown in capital spending that has, along with the drag from the housing sector, been lowering U.S. growth.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Top economic policymakers from China and the United States met in Beijing in mid-December 2006 for the first round of what has been called the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED). There is a lot more at stake than the level of China's currency when the world's premier economic sprinter—China—meets with the world's premier economic long-distance runner—America. The fundamental issue at hand is the creation and preservation of wealth of two nations, each of which has much to teach the other. The right outcome from the dialogue would provide a substantial boost to the global economy in coming years, while the wrong outcome would threaten the continuation of global prosperity.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Beijing, Asia
  • Author: Roger F. Noriega
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: "America is addicted to oil," President George W. Bush told the nation in his January 31 State of the Union address, "which is often imported from unstable parts of the world." Spelling out a plan for using technology "to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources," the president set a worthy goal to "make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past." Although the president's long-term vision is of a country less dependent on petroleum, a near-term solution for being less reliant on "unstable" sources of energy can be found in encouraging resource-rich nations in the Western Hemisphere to adopt sound policies for developing their oil and gas industries. Without a concerted effort right now engaging government and industry, however, we may witness some countries with vast potential embrace statist models that squander their natural resources and make them less reliable and less stable partners.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Environment
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: A weak housing sector has accompanied every American recession since 1965, but not every episode of housing weakness has accompanied a recession. An annual drop in the growth rate of residential investment (a good measure of homebuilding activity) of more than 10 percent has coincided with a recession five of the seven times it has occurred since 1965. (In 1967 and in 1995, declines in residential investment occurred without a recession.) A significant drop in residential investment therefore appears to be a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition, for a U.S. recession.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Welfare, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The U.S. economy has slowed to a level below its trend growth rate during the second half of 2006. Trend growth, the rate that can be sustained over time without rising inflation, is probably about 3 percent, having been reduced by a quarter of a percentage point by weaker productivity data. As has often been the case over the past five years, the slowdown itself has set into motion market adjustments that may mitigate or even reverse it. Since August, interest rates on benchmark tenyear treasuries have dropped by about 60 basis points. That reduction, coupled with a stock market that is rising in part because of lower interest rates, has caused an easing of financial conditions equal to nearly 100 basis points since late June on the Goldman Sachs Financial Conditions Index. Meanwhile, since August, the price of oil has dropped by about $18 per barrel—which, if sustained, would be enough to add about 0.7 percentage points to U.S. growth over the next year.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The new Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, is making what cynics would call a serious mistake: he is being honest with the markets. The Fed is uncertain about the future path of U.S. growth and inflation. The most basic tenet of the theory of economic policy is that in circumstances of elevated uncertainty, policymakers should do less. Therefore, in his April 27 testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Bernanke suggested that the Fed might start doing less: Even if in the Committees judgment the risks to its objectives are not entirely balanced, at some point in the future the Committee may decide to take no action at one or more meetings in the interest of allowing more time to receive information relevant to the outlook [emphasis added]. The new Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, is making what cynics would call a serious mistake: he is being honest with the markets. The Fed is uncertain about the future path of U.S. growth and inflation. The most basic tenet of the theory of economic policy is that in circumstances of elevated uncertainty, policymakers should do less. Therefore, in his April 27 testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Bernanke suggested that the Fed might start doing less: Even if in the Committees judgment the risks to its objectives are not entirely balanced, at some point in the future the Committee may decide to take no action at one or more meetings in the interest of allowing more time to receive information relevant to the outlook [emphasis added]. After its May 10 meeting, the Feds Open Market Committee reinforced the message of more uncertainty about the direction of the economy, saying: The Committee judges that some further policy firming may yet be needed to address inflation risks but emphasizes that the extent and timing of any such firming will depend importantly on the evolution of the economic outlook as implied by incoming information [emphasis added]. Chairman Bernanke and virtually all of his colleagues on the Open Market Committee have made it clear, most forcefully in their May 10 statement, that they view the Federal Reserves most important mandated objective as one of maintaining low and stable inflation. A glance at any long-run chart of U.S. growth and inflation data clearly demonstrates the basis for this view. Since the early 1980s, when inflation was reduced and held to low and stable levels, U.S. economic performance has improved markedly. Growth has been higher and steadier; productivity growth picked up especially after 1995 and has remained higher ever since. Virtually all macroeconomic data have stabilized in a way that has reduced the duration and severity of recessions, so that the last recession (in 2001) was barely detectable. The Great Moderation is an often-used term that describes policymakers pride and satisfaction with the beneficial results of bringing down inflation and holding it at low levels.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In their April 21 press release following their spring meeting in Washington, D.C., the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors added an important sentence to their usual bland statement that exchange rates should reflect economic fundamentals: Greater exchange rate flexibility is desirable in emerging economies with large current account surpluses, especially China, for necessary adjustments to occur. In their April 21 press release following their spring meeting in Washington, D.C., the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors added an important sentence to their usual bland statement that exchange rates should reflect economic fundamentals: Greater exchange rate flexibility is desirable in emerging economies with large current account surpluses, especially China, for necessary adjustments to occur. The G7, significantly, also called for an increased role for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help countries, including those in the G7 but also China and others in emerging Asia, meet the macroeconomic and financial policy challenge of globalization. Specifically, the G7 supported the strengthening of IMF surveillance, including through increased emphasis on the consistency of exchange rate policies with domestic policies and a market-based international monetary system and on the spillover effects of domestic policies on other countries. The G7s endorsement of greater exchange-rate flexibility and of an enhanced IMF role in implementing it is important. The IMF, having been founded after World War II to maintain stable exchange rates among major economies, has become an advocate on behalf of the major economies of global exchange-rate flexibility. The lesson regarding the need for G7 currency flexibility was learned after Americas August 1971 abandonment of fixed exchange rates, which was followed by a decade of adjustments to higher oil prices that would have wreaked havoc under fixed exchange rates. The lesson for needed currency flexibility in emerging markets was learned after the disastrous attempt, fostered in part by the IMF, to impose fixed exchange rates during the Asian and Russian crises of 1997 and 1998, which prolonged and exacerbated the market gyrations caused by the crises. Sadly, China response to the G7-IMF call for greater currency flexibility has been both negative and misguided. China's foolishly insouciant attitude, captured in a comment by Zhou Xiao-chuan, governor of the Peoples Bank of China, carries with it serious risks both for China and for the world economy. Zhous remark was quoted on April 24 in the Wall Street Journal: [T]he speed of moving forward (on yuan appreciation) is OK. Its good for China and welcomed by many other countries. China's currency has appreciated only 1.2 percent since its initial 2.1 percent revaluation last July 21. That is less than OK. The total 3.3 percent revaluation against the dollar really represents no adjustment at all in view of the 1 to 2 percent inflation differential (lower in China) that has persisted between the United States and China over the past two years. If China had allowed prices to rise instead of mandating caps on prices of important commodities like gasoline, there would be less pressure for the yuan to rise in value. Both the intervention to cap the yuans appreciation and the capping of domestic prices are building up potentially disruptive inflation pressure inside China, as we shall see below. The most dangerous aspect of China's increased efforts to prevent yuan appreciation, as measured by accelerating reserve accumulation over the past year, is the rising pool of liquidity inside China that has resulted. The level of excess reserves in Chinese banks is now larger, relative to GDP, than the level of excess reserves built up in Japan from 2001 to 2005 during the years of a prolonged, desperate struggle against deflation. China's currency undervaluation, coupled with the massive liquidity buildup in its banking system, has resulted in excessive investment in China's state enterprises that have close traditional ties with the liquidity-sodden banks. The usual Chinese response to excess reserves has been to boost reserve requirements for its banks. But to absorb the huge pool of excess reserves now in place, reserve requirements would have to be boosted by 5 percentage points to 12.5 per-cent, going far beyond previous moves of 0.5 to 1 percentage point, and far beyond what China's shaky, insolvent banks could endure. When the Peoples Bank of China boosted its one-year benchmark lending rate on April 26 by 27 basis points (to 5.85 percent), it took a tiny step that will do little to tighten China's monetary stance.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Washington
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Concerns over deflation have dominated monetary policy during the past several years in Japan, and also in the United States as recently as 2003. As a result, the Bank of Japan and the Federal Reserve have been highly accommodative. In Japan, this took the form of a zero interest rate. In the U.S. context, it was manifest in rates at well below normal yardsticks, such as nominal GDP growth that would call for U.S. policy interest rates close to 6 percent rather than at current levels below 5 percent. Unusually accommodative monetary policies and the substantial liquidity flows they have entailed have boosted asset values and compressed risk spreads. Consequently, demand growth has persisted at high levels for long enough to cause modestly higher inflation. The time has come for tighter monetary policy, and central banks in the United States, Europe, and Japan have all begun to apply it.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, Europe, Israel, East Asia
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: On Tuesday, January 18, the yield on fifty-year inflation-protected U.K. government bonds (what the British call "indexed-linked gilts") dropped to 0.38 percent, about one-seventh the historical average of just over 2.6 percent for such debt instruments. Just a few months earlier, that yield had been over 1 percent, still extraordinarily low by historical standards, and especially low in an economy that has experienced fifty-three consecutive quarters of positive growth. A yield drop from 1 percent to 0.38 percent on a fifty-year bond corresponds to a 30 percent rise in its price over a period of just three months. That is an annual return of over 100 percent, much higher than the 13 percent annual increase in U.S. house prices at midyear and the 20 to 30 percent gains seen in the stock market before the March 2000 crash. The asset bubble has spread to long-term government bonds, especially those with inflation protection. What is going on here?
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Europe
  • Author: Nicholas Eberstadt
  • Publication Date: 09-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Without a clearer understanding of the serious flaws in the government's official measure of poverty, most initiatives aimed at reducing poverty in the United States will be needlessly ineffective. New measures that take into account contemporary lifestyles and the dynamic U.S. economy will be more useful in helping the poor.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Poverty
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Peter J. Wallison
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In December, the London Stock Exchange celebrated a record year for foreign company new issues, with 129 new listings by companies from twenty-nine different countries. In contrast, the New York Stock Exchange registered a net gain of six foreign listings (a gain of nineteen and a loss of thirteen) in 2005, and NASDAQ gained a net of fourteen. According to a press report by the London Stock Exchange on its success, “about 38 per cent of the international companies surveyed said they had considered floating in the United States. Of those, 90 per cent said the onerous demands of the new Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance law had made London listing more attractive.” By now, it is well-known what harm Sarbanes-Oxley has done to the attractiveness of the U.S. securities markets, but what is not well- known is that the lack of resources available to a relatively obscure accounting group—engaged in the development of a technical-sounding disclosure system called XBRL—may also threaten not only the current primacy of the U.S. financial markets, but also the future competitiveness of U.S. companies.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, London
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Japan's stock market, one of the world's strongest this year, is up about 20 percent since spring. It is doing remarkably well for a country whose nominal GDP is still below its 1997 level. By contrast, the U.S. stock market has been drifting lower all year. The S 500 Index is down about 4 percent in the last five months, even more when the highflying energy sector is excluded. This is the case despite U.S. nominal GDP having grown by a cumulative 46 percent since 1997. Clearly, stock markets are looking ahead and seeing a brighter future for Japan than for the United States.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, Israel, East Asia
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The U.S. economy was in recession when the 9/11 terrorist attacks struck New York and Washington, D.C. Yet within a few months, despite fears of a collapse in confidence, consumption growth surged to a fourth-quarter annualized rate of nearly 5 percent, up sharply from a 1 percent rate during the third quarter. That consumption surge was enough to drag the economy out of what turned out to be a mild recession. By the first quarter of 2002, overall growth reached a booming 5 percent rate.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Environment, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, New York, Washington
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Among the more remarkable features of the U.S. economy over the past five years—through a tech-stock collapse (from which we have still not recovered), the 9/11 disaster, and numerous chastening corporate scandals —has been the extraordinary resilience of American consumers. To paraphrase H. L. Mencken, no one has ever gone broke (at least not recently) by overestimating the willingness of Americans to spend money.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The persistence of annualized economic growth of about 3.5 percent—despite crude oil prices between $50 and $60 per barrel—has led many analysts to claim that the U.S. economy has already "absorbed" the shock of $2.35-plus-pergallon prices for self-serve regular gasoline along with a rise in heating oil costs of more than 30 percent over the last year. As if to underscore their insouciance over energy costs, American consumers accelerated the volume of vehicle purchases in June, especially those of light trucks that get only twelve or thirteen miles per gallon.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 06-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Paul Samuelson once quipped elegantly that (falling) stock prices had predicted seven out of the last three recessions. There is indeed wisdom in the suggestion to ignore wiggles in the financial markets as indicators of the behavior of the real economy that produces goods and services.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 05-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Federal Reserve's measured move toward a "neutral" federal funds rate, the short-term rate that keeps the economy growing at about 3.5 percent, is a tricky process. No one knows with certainty what the neutral fed funds rate is, and it changes over time. As long as the Fed keeps raising rates and the economy keeps growing at or above trend, it is reasonable to infer that the neutral fed funds rate is higher than the current rate. The corollary to that proposition is that rates have to be boosted above the neutral rate, inducing an asset market collapse, a real economy slowdown, or both to infer that the neutral rate has been exceeded. It is beginning to appear as though the current rate of 2.75 percent is at or above neutral. If so, that would be about a full percentage point below what many were guessing.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 02-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The average forecast for 2005 U.S. growth is 3.5 percent, with some prognosticators hoping for 4 percent. This forecast is predicated upon the assumption that the economy is on a sustainable expansion path, where consumption will be supported by steady growth of employment and household incomes. The 3.5 percent growth forecast for 2005 is identical to the mean growth rate of the U.S. economy since 1947. However, there is good reason to believe that the consensus forecast is too high. This possibility has important consequences because U.S. growth must be sustained at least at average levels to avoid a sharp drop in global growth. There are no signs of higher growth in Europe and Asia. Growth in Japan is looking weaker, while Chinese growth is moderating.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The pundits who have been predicting higher interest rates based on large U.S. budget and current account deficits have some explaining to do. Beyond the fact that very little systematic empirical evidence exists of a close link between deficits of any kind and interest rates, many high-profile commentators such as Robert Rubin and Pete Peterson, not to mention Pimco's Bill Gross, have consistently warned that long-term interest rates would rise as America's budget and current account deficits rose. Actually, U.S. longterm interest rates have been falling-from 4.8 percent in early June to 4.1 percent at year-end. Despite this stellar performance, Gross has even gone so far as to suggest that U.S. government liabilities should be downgraded from their top rating of AAA to AA.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Richard Vedder
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: As college students begin a new academic year, many parents are reeling from tuition charges. This fall's estimated 8 percent average increase at public universities, added onto double-digit hikes in the two previous years, means tuition at a typical state university is up 36 percent over 2002—at a time when consumer prices in general have risen less than 9 percent. In inflation-adjusted terms, tuition today is roughly triple what it was when parents of today's college students attended school in the 1970s. Tuition charges are rising faster than family incomes, an unsustainable trend in the long run. This holds true even when scholarships and financial aid are considered. One consequence of rising costs is that college enrollments are no longer increasing as much as before. Price-sensitive groups such as low-income students and minorities are missing out. A smaller proportion of Hispanics between eighteen and twenty-four attends college today than in 1976. The United States is beginning to fall below some other industrial nations in population-adjusted college attendance.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Education, Government
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: R. Glenn Hubbard
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Ceremonial gift-giving is an integral part of doing business in China. The value lies not so much in the gift (whose packaging is often more elaborate), but in the possibility of cementing a mutually beneficial relationship. And so it was a few weeks ago with the headline-grabbing announcement that China would revalue the yuan against the U.S. dollar. The modest gesture may make more possible a comprehensive economic dialogue between China and the United States in the interest of both nations. The announcement on July 21 by the People's Bank of China that it would revalue the yuan, abandoning the eleven-year-old peg of 8.28 yuan per U.S. dollar, caught financial markets by surprise. The jolt led market participants to gauge effects of current (and perhaps future) revaluations on currency values and interest rates. And, some U.S. political leaders claimed a victory in the campaign to blame Chinese “market manipulation” for external imbalances facing the United States.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 05-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Although the mistakes of the past two years in relations between the United States and Turkey cannot be undone, Washington and Ankara stand to lose a great deal if relations continue to deteriorate. If differences can be overcome, however, this partnership could help to resolve important regional issues such as the status of Kirkuk and Iraqi constitutional debates, and to ensure Iraqi stability and Turkish security.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Turkey
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 02-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Alarmists who call for American households to save more point to a steady drop in the conventionally measured U.S. saving rate to about 1 per- cent at the end of last year and to a rise in household debt to a level well over 100 percent of personal disposable income. The current account deficit, our external deficit, measures national dis-saving at close to 6 percent of GDP. The federal government's budget deficit contributes about 4 percentage points to national dis-saving and it, too, is the subject of considerable hand-wringing by those who point to a need for higher U.S. saving at both the household and national levels.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 12-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The last big wave of European and Japanese concern about a weak dollar came after the August 1971 breakdown of the Bretton Woods System of fixed exchange rates. At that time European countries feared inflation and, not wanting to support the dollar and thereby import U.S. inflation pressures, they accepted revaluation of their currencies with some misgivings because, as always, a weaker dollar meant more difficulty in competing with vigorous U.S. traded-goods companies.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The U.S. post-bubble economic recovery, which officially began in November 2001 after a recession of just six months, will be three years old by election day. The prior recession had lasted a mere eight months-from July 1990 to March 1991-and was followed by an expansion of ten years, the longest on record. The expansion before that one lasted ninety-two months-from November 1982 through July 1990-following a recession of just sixteen months. The period following November 1982 until the stock market crash of March 2000 witnessed one of the longest and most powerful stock market rallies in U.S. history, accompanied by falling inflation and falling interest rates. The remarkable performance of the last twenty or so years will be difficult to match over the next decade. Indeed, merely sustaining the growth in the current expansion will require some changes to current policy.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: I am not an expert on the price of oil. But many who claim to be have been saying for months that its price should drop back below $25 or $30 per barrel. Meanwhile, the actual price has risen steadily to nearly $50 per barrel as this Outlook goes to press.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Environment
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Old habits die hard. Often, criticism leveled at policymakers is well founded. I certainly have offered up my share. But as 2003 ends and 2004 begins, we find ourselves at a point where the performance of the U.S. economy is about as good as it gets. The stock market is up 20 percent this year, inflation and interest rates are low, productivity growth is high, and U.S. exports are rising strongly. The biggest danger going forward arises from ill-founded criticism aimed at policy measures employed to achieve this excellent outcome and the (fortunately low) chance that policymakers will heed such criticism.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: James Q. Wilson
  • Publication Date: 12-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Contemporary concerns about the influence of religion in U.S. politics tend to ignore the significant contributions made by religion in shaping American democracy. Pluralism of sects explains why religion has been so important in U.S. history and continues to thrive in America.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Nicholas Eberstadt
  • Publication Date: 12-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The United States must develop a new approach to the North Korean nuclear crisis based on the dual realizations that we will not likely talk North Korea out of its nuclear weapons program or see much improvement under the regime of Kim Jong Il.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, North Korea
  • Author: David Frum
  • Publication Date: 11-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Having won an electoral mandate, President George W. Bush now must restore bipartisanship to U.S. foreign policy in order to realize the goal of a Middle East transformed by freedom and democracy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Wars have repeatedly had a decisive influence on Russia's political development, and the present global conflict against fundamentalist Islam is no exception. With the murder of hundreds of Russians at the hands of Chechen terrorists—most notably, the massacre of schoolchildren at Beslan earlier this month—President Vladimir Putin has announced a sweeping overhaul of Russia's political system that would further consolidate power in the Kremlin and damage the country's nascent democracy. The United States and its allies now confront the dual challenge of assisting Russia in its fight against terrorism while simultaneously resisting the erosion of freedom there.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States
  • Author: Nicholas Eberstadt
  • Publication Date: 08-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Sub-replacement fertility rates are becoming the norm throughout much of the world. Specific nations—some poor, some wealthier—are experiencing unusually high mortality rates and unnatural gender imbalances. Almost alone among developed nations, the United States continues to grow.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Irving Kristol
  • Publication Date: 06-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: President Ronald Reagan led the West to victory in the Cold War by defying establishment critics. Ignoring those who advocated détente with the Soviet Union, he rebuilt America's military. In spite of those who scoffed at his economic program, his policies reinvigorated the U.S. economy. Together, these restorations of American strength hastened the Soviet collapse.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Soviet Union
  • Author: Michael Rubin
  • Publication Date: 06-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Iraqis initially greeted U.S. soldiers as liberators, but as the occupation has continued, the paternalistic approach of the Coalition Provisional Authority has bred resentment and stunted the development of responsible local institutions. Democracy in Iraq can only succeed if Iraqi citizens are allowed control over the political process as their country nominally regains sovereignty.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq
  • Author: Thomas Donnelly
  • Publication Date: 05-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Although U.S. forces removed Saddam Hussein's regime in record time, completing regime change in Baghdad and spreading democracy and stability in the greater Middle East will require an open-ended commitment and more political resolve than currently demonstrated within many circles in Washington.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Baghdad
  • Author: Christopher DeMuth
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: War mobilization can lead to incontinent government growth, jeopardizing the economic dynamism upon which a successful war effort ultimately depends. This is a gathering threat to our ability to sustain a "generational commitment" to defeating terrorism.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Frederick M. Hess
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The United States currently spends a good deal more on education per student than most industrialized nations, yet testing shows that achievement has not kept pace with spending. Nevertheless, school administrators continue to press for greater federal spending and claim that reforms cannot be implemented otherwise.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Reuel Marc Gerecht
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: At an alarmingly increasing frequency, westernized Muslims and converted Christians in Western Europe are joining radical Islamic organizations to wage jihad against the United States and its allies. These young Muslim males funnel continental anti-Americanism and the alienation of centuries-old Islamic struggle against the Christian West into full-fledged rage that threatens to divide Western allies who together withstood the advance of the Islamic empires during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Peter J. Wallison
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Some financial analysts worry that high price-earnings ratios reflect unfounded optimism in corporate earnings potential and signal a return to the "bubble" market; however, conventional accounting methods used to determine the value of companies have not kept pace with changes in the U.S. economy and are therefore understating the value of America's most dynamic companies. High price-earnings ratios seem to indicate that investors are wise to that.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Radek Sikorski
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Although the American media seems to focus exclusively on American--and occasionally British--troops in Iraq, the coalition does include soldiers from Central and Eastern European nations, among others. The difficulties of forming ad hoc international coalitions for military operations, however, may lead the United States to rely in the future upon associations like NATO, which are already experienced in coordinating military operations.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, America, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Douglas A. Irwin
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Some critics argue that "outsourcing" of service sector employment to foreign countries will lead to a serious decline in U.S. white-collar jobs. In reality, outsourcing will reshape but not undermine U.S. service sector employment, making companies more efficient. It will also benefit consumers and export businesses.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Joel Schwartz
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Though air quality continues to improve, those gains have come at the cost of a regulatory system that also devotes enormous resources to creating and enforcing administrative requirements, rather than reducing pollution. The National Research Council recently issued a report evaluating U.S. air quality management and recommending reforms. Unfortunately, the report focuses on symptoms and fails to address fundamental problems with air quality law and regulation. The public's interest is in sufficiently clean air achieved at the least possible cost. But getting to this ideal will require overcoming special interests that benefit from a centralized, administratively complex regulatory system.
  • Topic: Economics, Environment, Human Welfare
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The policy stimulants administered in very large doses to the U.S. economy at midyear are wearing off fast. China's boom, while not ending, is cooling. The result of those two facts will be U.S. growth of 3 percent or less in the final quarter of this year and the first quarter of next before tax rebates kick in to provide a lone quarter of 4 percent growth next spring. Then it will be back to 3 percent, plus or minus half a percent, in the second half of 2004 as the boost from tax cuts fades, provided stock markets hold up.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The outlook for the global economy has become clouded since the September annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Dubai. Going into the meetings, views were broadly optimistic, tied to the familiar, reassuring sense of a recovering U.S. economy, the prospect of rising exports, and a firm dollar. America, an oasis of firmer demand growth in a desert of global excess capacity, was back— again, for the second time since the bubble economy burst in March 2000. Only this time, it was for real, not like the false, post-9/11 recovery that fizzled out in the spring of 2002. Or, so it seemed.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Dubai
  • Author: Claude E. Barfield
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: President Bush's decision to revoke tariffs on imported steel products may lead the European Union to challenge other U.S. trade policies. Any such steps are likely to meet with stiff U.S. resistance, however, because the mechanism for resolving such disputes in the World Trade Organization is widely seen in the United States as lacking legitimacy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Frederick M. Hess
  • Publication Date: 12-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Performance-based accountability promises to ensure that every student, regardless of background, masters crucial knowledge and skills. But to realize that promise, accountability needs to be coercive, that is, it must confront failure with real consequences for both educators and students.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Reuel Marc Gerecht
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Real progress has been made in the war on terror-al Qaeda no longer enjoys state-sponsorship, and Iraq is moving toward democracy. But because neither the rogue regimes nor the "holy warriors" in the region can afford to allow the United States to successfully introduce democracy into Iraq, we must expect them to ratchet up the level of violence to prevent that from happening.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Karl Zinsmeister
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Until recently, U.S. policy toward Iraq has been handicapped by a lack of acknowledged support for the United States from the Iraqi people themselves. According to most news and media outlets, Iraqi public opinion toward the United States is negative, but a recent study commissioned by The American Enterprise and conducted by Zogby International, a well-known polling agency, indicates Iraqi support for a continued U.S. presence in the region.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, America, Middle East
  • Author: Peter J. Wallison
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: An array of stimulus factors has failed to generate strong growth in the U.S. economy. That may largely be a consequence of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the stock exchange regulations it has spawned, which have altered the composition and dynamics of corporate boards in ways that discourage risk-taking.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: R. Glenn Hubbard
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Corporate tax reform, which is gaining momentum in Congress, should focus on improving the competitiveness of U.S. firms operating abroad. A key aspect of that objective is to avoid double taxation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Kevin A. Hassett, James K. Glassman
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Critics of globalization and America's dominant economic position fail to recognize that the primary beneficiaries of globalization are developing countries, many of which run substantial trade surpluses with the United States. Far from being a predator in the world economy, America offers an invaluable market to the developing world.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: John E. Calfee
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Congress is considering whether to allow pharmaceuticals exported by American manufacturers to be reimported into the United States. Reimportation would mean importing foreign price controls, which would destroy the pricing structure of the U.S. drug market and have disastrous consequences for future drug research and development.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America