Lawrence Mishel

Lawrence Mishel is president of the Economic Policy Institute, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States and around the world. EPI's mission is to inform people and empower them to seek solutions that will ensure broadly shared prosperity and opportunity.

Recent Articles

What Obama Should -- and Shouldn't -- Say in State of the Union Address

While he's taken steps to improve Americans' wages, there's still more the president can do. 

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama delivering his 2011 State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared at the website of the Economic Policy Institute . T onight President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address, which gives him an opportunity to lay out his priorities and set an agenda for the year ahead. At the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), we have argued that raising wages is the central economic challenge . It is terrific news that the president will address wage stagnation in his speech. After a year of strong job creation but continued stagnant wage growth, many economists and commentators—not to mention the American people—are beginning to focus on wages. Even the new GOP-controlled Congress is paying lip service to the middle class squeeze (but is offering no program to address these challenges). So we are now entering into a great debate about what can be done...

Why Your Wages Are Idling in Neutral

Low-wage Americans are not the only workers affected by stagnant wages and rising inequality.

(Photo: © WillSelarep/iStock)
This article was originally published by the Economic Policy Institute as part of its " Raising America's Pay " initative. O ver the last 35 years (with the exception of the late 1990s), hourly wages of the vast majority have lagged far behind economy-wide productivity. This failure of wages to grow and rising wage inequality is the primary explanation for the rise of family income stagnation and income inequality over the past generation. Additionally, progress in closing gender and racial wage gaps throughout this period has been either nonexistent (for racial gaps) or disappointingly slow (for gender gaps). Low-wage Americans are not the only workers affected by stagnant wages and rising inequality. The middle class has also experienced stagnating hourly wages over the last generation, and even those with college degrees have seen no pay growth over the last 10 years. Since the late 1970s, wages for the bottom 70 percent of earners have been essentially stagnant, and between 2009...

The Overselling of Education

We need a better-educated citizenry, but the cure for increasing inequality lies elsewhere.

(Flickr/Jeff Ozvold)
In discussing rising inequality in the United States, Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke recently said, "It's a very bad development. ... It's creating two societies. And it's based very much, I think, on educational differences." A better-educated workforce is widely touted as the panacea for every economic problem. Education is said to be the cure both for unemployment and income inequality. To hear leaders of the financial sector talk, the underlying problem with the economy has not been a runaway financial sector but an unqualified workforce. In a recent Reuters special report on the U.S. economy, Diane Swonk, an oft-quoted financial-sector economist, said, "The recession merely revealed a reality that has been with us for a long time. We faced a growing gap in education and skills that we tried to fill with debt and credit, which gave us the illusion of growth." Or consider the statement of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank president, Narayana Kocherlakota, which removes...

Time to Take Action on the Recession

Reasonable people can debate the details, but first we need to agree on the principles for an anti-recession plan: create more jobs, start immediately, increase fiscal deficits in the immediate future, invest in infrastructure, and cut taxes.

The warning signs are everywhere: Unemployment is increasing, the housing market collapsing, new construction declining, retail sales disappointing, manufacturing stalling, and credit markets convulsing. Rightly enough the nation's political leaders are considering how to contain the damage from a recession many observers believe has already started. In many ways, the discussion reflects the debates that have shaped economic policies for the past three decades. The Bush administration and its conservative allies are arguing for more of the same policies that helped get the economy into the condition it's in: long-term tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy that reduce the revenues of the federal, state, and local governments and make it more difficult to address the nation's needs. Progressives are calling for a different focus – on creating good-paying jobs, increasing the purchasing power of working Americans, and investing in urgent national priorities, such as repairing crumbling...

Schools as Scapegoats

Our increasing inequality and our competitiveness problems are huge -- but they can't be laid at the door of our education system.

Education is the answer. but, what's the question? Simple: What's the cure for any adverse economic condition? Is your pay stagnant or declining? Quick, get more education. Are workers failing to share in economic growth? Too bad, they should have gained more skills. Are you worried about jobs offshored to low-wage countries? Blame schools for workers' lack of creativity. Is the nation failing to compete globally? Raise education standards across the board. Education as the cure-all is everywhere around us. But this contention exaggerates the role of schools in the economy, and it conflates two issues: First, how can American firms increase productivity to improve their ability to compete in the world? And second, how have the fruits of U.S. productivity growth been distributed, and what explains rising inequality? Education can help in the first area, although it is far from a silver bullet. As to the second, education deficits have had very little to do with the changes in the...

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