Christopher Howard

Christopher Howard is the Pamela C. Harriman Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William & Mary.

Recent Articles

Deficit-Attention Disorder

What voters really think about deficits, debts, and economic recovery

Care to hear a politician -- a Democratic congressional leader, in fact -- getting it wrong on the deficit? Listen to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer addressing a Third Way event in Washington at the end of June: This month, a Gallup poll asked Americans to name the greatest threats facing our country. Two answers tied for the top choice. One was terrorism. The other was debt. This is a remarkable moment in political history -- a time when our creeping fiscal danger of our $9 trillion of publicly held debt troubles Americans as much as the prospect of the most brutal attacks on our country. More than ever, Americans understand the danger of debt: a stagnant economy, a hobbled government, and a weak national defense. *** Appearing on a Sunday-morning talk show on July 18, after Sen. Mitch McConnell attacked the Democrats for "an incredible spending spree," Hoyer sounded the same theme but claimed that Democrats are working to cut the deficit. Meanwhile, in early July, David Axelrod,...

Happy Returns: How the Working Poor Got Tax Relief

Left and right agree on one way to spell relief: EITC. But how much relief?

Once an obscure tax loophole, the Earned Income Tax Credit has achieved policy stardom in recent years. While many programs for the poor have been ravaged over the last decade in the name of political and fiscal temperance, the EITC has prospered. Its annual cost rose from $2 billion to $12 billion between 1980 and 1992. And the 1993 budget agreement expands the program by some $20 billion over five years—:even as it cuts billions of dollars from middle-class programs like Medicare and federal employee pensions. The EITC has ardent supporters across the political spectrum, and both Democrats and Republicans have claimed it as their own. The most obvious reason for the EITC's bipartisan popularity is its consistency with basic American values. Because benefits go only to people who work for wages, the EITC reinforces the work ethic. Moreover, it appears consistent with the ideal of limited government; there is no need for social service bureaucracies since individuals determine their...