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  • 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: Charles Murray
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In January, W. H. Brady Scholar Charles Murray stepped back from current education debates about reauthorization of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act and education funding in the president's budget to ask more fundamental questions about the goals that should shape American education in the future. This On the Issues is adapted from essays published in the Wall Street Journal on January 16, 17, and 18, 2007.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Kenneth P. Green, Steven F. Hayward
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: On February 2, an AEI research project on climate-change policy that we have been organizing was the target of a journalistic hit piece in Britain's largest left-wing newspaper, the Guardian. The article's allegation—that we tried to bribe scientists to criticize the work of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—is easy to refute. More troubling than the article is the growing worldwide effort to silence anyone with doubts about the catastrophic warming scenario that Al Gore and other climate extremists are putting forth.
  • Topic: International Relations, Environment, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Britain, United States
  • Author: Thomas Donnelly, Colin Monaghan
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The White House has recently taken important steps to ensure that the tenets of the Bush Doctrine endure beyond the end of President George W. Bush's administration, including a new strategy in Iraq and an increase in the size of U.S. land forces. But as time grows short, the president needs to attend closely to three matters. The first of these—a surge in U.S. efforts in Afghanistan—was discussed in the February 2007 edition of National Security Outlook, is a need as obvious and pressing as Iraq and an important factor in the urgency of rebuilding land forces, especially the Army. The second and third factors are less frequently discussed but essential for the long-term viability of the Bush Doctrine and the continuation of the Pax Americana: articulating a strategy for the “Long War” in the greater Middle East and devising a genuinely global response to the rise of China. This issue of National Security Outlook is devoted to the second factor, the strategy for winning the Long War in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Government, National Security, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, China, Iraq, America, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Thomas Donnelly
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: With the recent announcements of a new strategy for Iraq and a commitment to begin increasing the size of U.S. land forces, the White House has taken two important steps to ensure that the tenets of the Bush Doctrine endure beyond the end of President George W. Bush's administration. Since 9/11 and indeed since the beginning of this administration, strategy has been made by an odd combination of ad hoc improvisation and expansive rhetoric. The day-to-day business of fitting means to ends and filling in the policy blanks has either been delegated to subordinates, left to the bureaucracy, or put in the “too hard” box. As time grows short, Bush needs to attend closely to three further matters. The first is as obvious and pressing as Iraq and an important factor in the need to rebuild land forces, especially the Army: a surge in U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. The second and third factors are less frequently discussed but essential for the long-term viability of the Bush Doctrine and the continuity of the Pax Americana: articulate a strategy for the “long war” in the greater Middle East and devise a genuinely global response to the rise of China. This issue of National Security Outlook begins a series devoted to these three measures of the enduring meaning of the Bush Doctrine.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, National Security
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, China, Iraq, America, 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: Dan Blumenthal, Gary J. Schmitt
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The recent election of Shinzo Abe to the premiership of Japan has raised a host of issues about the direction in which Japan is headed. Conventional wisdom holds that Abe will lead the country in an increasingly nationalistic course, but Abe's nationalism is democratic, and one that should be welcomed by the United States.
  • Topic: International Relations, Nationalism, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, Israel
  • 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: James Q. Wilson
  • Publication Date: 08-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: When President George W. Bush said that America hopes to spread democracy to all the world, he was echoing a sentiment many people support. Though Americans do not put “extending democracy” near the top of their list of foreign policy objectives (preventing terrorism is their chief goal), few would deny that if popular rule is extended it would improve lives around the world. Democracy, of course, means rule by the people. But the devil is in the details. By one count, the number of democracies quintupled in the second half of the twentieth century, but there are freedom- loving and freedom-disdaining democracies. Fareed Zakaria calls the latter “illiberal democracies.” Among them are Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Venezuela
  • Author: James Q. Wilson
  • Publication Date: 08-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Federal district court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor has ruled that the warrantless interception of telephone and Internet calls between a foreign agent and American persons is illegal and unconstitutional. It is possible that she is right about the illegality, but she is almost surely wrong that it is unconstitutional. The government has appealed this decision to the Sixth Circuit. No one can say what it will decide, although other appeals courts have tolerated such surveillance. Ultimately the Supreme Court will have to decide the matter. The Constitutional arguments against the surveillance are unpersuasive. A Washington Post editorial dismissed them as “throat clearing.” Judge Taylor refers to the free speech provision of the First Amendment but fails to explain how listening to a conversation or reading e-mail abridges anyone's right to speak. Taken literally, a Constitutional ban on intercepts would make it impossible to overhear the mafia plotting murders or business executives fixing prices.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington
  • Author: Vance Serchuk
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: When rioting sparked by a fatal traffic accident involving the U.S. military suddenly broke out in Kabul in May, most in the city were taken by surprise. Less shocking was the response of the Afghan National Police (ANP) to the unrest. Rather than dispersing the mobs and restoring order, Kabul's cops were reported fleeing their posts and, in some cases, joining the looters. “The reaction of our police was really shameful,” acknowledged Jawed Ludin, chief of staff to President Hamid Karzai. Unfortunately, the sorry performance of the ANP was not an isolated event, but a reflection of a much bigger problem. Nearly five years since the ouster of the Taliban and more than three since the fall of Saddam, the Bush administration has repeatedly stumbled in its efforts to create effective foreign police forces. In marked contrast to the army-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have begun to yield encouraging results, the indigenous police in both countries appear stuck in a transition to nowhere, slaughtered by insurgents and infiltrated by militias and warlords.
  • Topic: Government, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Taliban, Kabul
  • 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