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Hopes and Fears for Policy in 2017

Since yesterday’s column was a look back on the good and bad things of 2016, let’s now look forward and speculate about the good and bad things that may happen in 2017. I’m not pretending any of this is a forecast, particularly since economists have a miserable track record in that regard. Instead, the following […]

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Trump, Entitlements, and America’s Potential Greek Future

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (or like Donald Sutherland in Animal House), I’m going to repeat myself for the umpteenth time and state that the United States has a big long-run problem. To be specific, the burden of government spending will inexorably climb in the absence of big reforms. This isn’t […]

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What’s Responsible for Ever-Growing Government, Entitlements or Defense?

When I give speeches on fiscal policy, I commonly get some variation of this question (and you can choose one of more of the options). Isn’t our fiscal problem largely the result of the wars/intervention/Iraq/Afghanistan/Libya/Syria launched by Bush/Hillary/neocons/Blackwater/Pentagon? I generally respond by first confessing my lack of expertise on military and foreign affairs, but then […]

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Donald Trump, the Medicaid Monster, and Entitlement “Cuts”

I’m a fiscal policy wonk, so I freely acknowledge that I sometimes look at the world through green-eyeshade-colored lenses. But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that expanding entitlements, changing demographics, and increasing dependency are the main long-run threats to the American economy. And this is why the concerns I had about a […]

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The Ticking Time Bomb of Medicaid

The burden of government spending is already excessive. But the numbers will get worse with the passage of time if policy is left on autopilot. The main culprits are the so-called mandatory programs. Entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, and Obamacare that automatically dispense money to various constituencies are consuming an ever-larger chunk […]

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Hillary’s Statist Agenda

I’ve been accused of making supposedly inconsistent arguments against Hillary Clinton. Make up your mind, these critics say. Is she corrupt or is she a doctrinaire leftist? I always respond with the simple observation that she’s both. Not that this should come as a surprise. Proponents of bigger government have long track records of expanding […]

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The Entitlement Disaster that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Are Ignoring

I’m like a broken record when it comes to entitlement spending. I’ve explained, ad nauseam, that programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and Social Security must be reformed. In part, genuine entitlement reform is a good idea because you get better economic performance when you replace tax-and-transfer schemes with private savings and competitive markets. But […]

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Social Security’s Gargantuan Fiscal Shortfall

The Social Security Administration has released the 2016 Trustees Report, which shines a spotlight on the overall fiscal condition of the program. In previous years (2012, 2013, 2014), I’ve used this opportunity to play Paul Revere. But instead of warning that the British are coming, I sound the alarm about a future fiscal crisis resulting […]

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Demographics, Insufficient Reform, and the Grim Outlook for Eastern Europe

Changing demographics is one of the most powerful arguments for genuine entitlement reform. When programs such as Social Security and Medicare (and equivalent systems in other nations) were first created, there were lots of young people and comparatively few old people. And so long as a “population pyramid” was the norm, reasonably sized welfare states […]

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Will “Mind-Blowing” Demographic Change Lead to Fiscal Disaster?

Maybe future events will require a reassessment, but right now the biggest danger to the western world isn’t terrorism. Nor is it climate change. Or Zika. Or even Donald Trump. The real threat is demographic change. America’s population profile already has changed, but the future shift will be even more dramatic. But demographics changes are […]

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A Laffer-Curve Relationship between Welfare Spending and Poverty

The welfare state is bad news. It’s bad for taxpayers and it’s bad for recipients. It’s also bad for the economy since prosperity is in part a function of the quantity of labor that is productively employed. As such, government programs that lure people into dependency obviously reduce national economic output. We can get a […]

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Demographics + Entitlements = Europe’s Doom

The most depressing data about America’s economy is not the top tax rate, the regulatory burden, or the level of wasteful of government spending. Those numbers certainly are grim, but I think they’re not nearly as depressing as America’s demographic outlook. As you can see from this sobering image, America’s population pyramid is turning into […]

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How Private Social Security Is Helping Hong Kong Deal with Major Demographic Challenges

I’m in Hong Kong for series of meeting and briefings on various economic and policy issues. As you can imagine, I’m a huge fan of the jurisdiction’s simple 15 percent flat tax. It’s basically about as close to a pure flat tax as anyplace in the world. There is zero double taxation of income that […]

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Time for some Optimism on Entitlement Reform

If pessimism was an Olympic event, I used to think I might be favored to win a medal. After all, growing levels of dependency outside of Washington and rampant corruption inside of Washington sometimes lead me to conclude that America is doomed to a Greek fiscal future. But compared to some people, maybe I’m just […]

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Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Payroll Taxes, and the Value-Added Tax

My views on the value-added tax are very simple and straightforward. If we completely eliminated all income-based taxes, I would be willing to accept a VAT (or even a national sales tax) as a revenue source for government. But unless that happens, I’m unalterably opposed because it’s far too risky to give politicians two major […]

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The Best and Worst Developments of 2015

What were the most noteworthy events from 2015? Regarding bad news, there’s unfortunately a lot of competition. But if I’m forced to pick the very worst developments, here’s my list. Resuscitation of the Export-Import Bank – I did a premature victory dance last year when I celebrated the expiration of the Export-Import Bank’s authority.  I […]

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The Personal and National Case for Genuine Social Security Reform

Because of the budgetary implications, I think it’s more important to deal with Medicaid and Medicare than it is to address Social Security. If left on autopilot, Social Security will eventually consume an additional 2 percent of the private economy. That’s not good news, but Medicaid (which now includes a big chunk of Obamacare) and […]

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Instead of Fighting to Protect Taxpayers, Politicians Are Enabling Medicare Fraud

Yesterday, I shared several stories that exposed the festering corruption of Washington. Today, let’s look at one issue that symbolizes the pervasive waste of Washington. Medicare is the federal government’s one-size-fits-all health program for the elderly. Because of its poor design, it bears considerable responsibility for two massive problems. It contributes to the systemic third-party […]

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The Left’s Dream Is a Value-Added Tax on the Middle Class, so Why Are Advocates of Small Government Helping to Advance that Awful Levy?

Some honest statists understand and acknowledge that you can’t have bigger government unless you target middle-income taxpayers. The New York Times endorsed higher taxes on the middle class in 2010. The then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also gave a green light that year to higher taxes on the middle class. In 2012, MIT professor and former IMF official […]

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The Fiscal Nightmare of Changing Demographics Combined with Poorly Designed Entitlement Programs

In my speeches, I routinely argue that an aging population is one of the reasons why we need genuine entitlement reform. A modest-sized welfare state may be feasible if a country has a “population pyramid,” I explain, but it’s a recipe for fiscal chaos when changing demographics result in fewer and fewer people pulling the […]

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