Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein is an economist and senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He was formerly chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Barack Obama’s economics team.

 

Recent Articles

Children of the Great Collapse

AP Photo/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise, Bill Hughes
AP Photo/Kin Cheung Here’s a piece of good news of which you might not be aware: The U.S. safety net performed a lot better than you thought during the recent downturn, which was the deepest since the Depression. Thanks to expansions to the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and unemployment insurance—all beefed up by the $840 billion Recovery Act—the safety net almost wholly mitigated the rise in child poverty. Even middle-income households saw most of their income losses substantially offset by tax and transfer policies that sharply ramped up to help them. That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of the Recovery Act’s outlays have now been spent, and pressure to reduce deficits leaves other spending on children and families under assault. While the safety net performed well during the worst phase of the downturn, other trends have been troubling. Families lost trillions of dollars in home equity, the largest source of wealth for working- and middle-...

What Is McCain's Economic Agenda?

The man who famously admitted that economics is not his strong suit wants to fundamentally alter the government's role in the economy by deeply cutting non-defense spending, from discretionary programs to entitlements.

Next time you catch a John McCain interview, watch for what, at least to my ears and eyes, is a fascinating, albeit subtle, shift. When he's talking about almost anything other than the economy -- foreign policy, the war, Congress, immigration -- he exudes the typical confidence of a veteran Washington player. He deftly shifts the question to his turf, he ardently hits his message points ... just about what you'd expect, actually. But when the topic turns to the economy, his whole demeanor changes. His body language becomes uncomfortable; he almost seems to shrink a little. His edgy smile becomes forced, his words a bit -- sometimes more than a bit -- hesitant. Putting aside your views on his positions and evaluating his performance on form only, when he's on the other topics, he's a basketball player driving the lane. On the economy, he's looking to pass ASAP. In economic discussions, he makes mistakes, both small and not so small. He famously admitted that economics is not his...

The Economic State of the Union

In last night's State of the Union, Bush danced around the very real economic concerns faced by Americans. Of course, this is nothing new.

It’s no picnic for a president to present the State of the Union address when the economy is teetering on recession. In normal economic times, standard procedure is to tout the great economy and his role in its success. Though Bush can spin the economy with the best of them, even he, to his credit, didn’t do much of that last night (there was, of course, some spin, exposed below). Early on, he cited wage stagnation, slowing job growth, and "concern about our economic future" taking place "at kitchen tables across our country." These were all presented in gilded phrases ("Wages are up, but so are prices for food and gas," which is one way to say real wages are down; they fell about 1 percent for most workers last year). But for once, Bush recognized that the extent of economic anxiety among American families was high enough that he could not fall back on platitudes about "strong fundamentals." To address the shaky economy, the president stressed bipartisan efforts by his team and House...

Which Kind of Economics?

Economist Bryan Caplan confuses reality with ideology, to unfortunate effect; economist Richard Freeman calls for open-source unions, which might just point the way to a revival of the labor movement.

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies by Bryan Caplan (Princeton University Press, 276 pages, $29.95) America Works: Critical Thoughts on the Exceptional U.S. Labor Market by Richard B. Freeman (Russell Sage Foundation, 191 pages, $19.95) Economic analysis can con-strict our imagination and choices, or it can allow us to evaluate choices with greater clarity and insight and help us to achieve the goals of a prosperous and decent society. The two books under review here show contemporary economics in its most dismal and luminous forms. Both argue that public policy is seriously off track, but the similarity ends there. One writer assumes that economists always know best, and he provides a misleading and constricted view of America's economic alternatives. The other has a deep respect for market forces as well as an appreciation of their limits, and he provides a far more useful guide to some of the critical economic choices that the country faces today. In...

Is Education the Cure for Poverty?

Economists may disagree a lot on policy, but we all agree on the "education premium" -- the earnings boost associated with more education. But what role can education play in a realistic antipoverty policy agenda? And what are the limits of that role? First, it depends on whether you're talking about children or adults, and schooling versus job training. And second, the extent to which education is rewarded depends on what else is going on in the economy. As Greg J. Duncan's companion piece (page A20) suggests, investment in early childhood has immense benefits. And at the other end of the schooling spectrum, college graduates' wage advantage over those with only a high-school diploma went up dramatically in the 1980s and early '90s. But the premium that high-school graduates enjoy over dropouts has been flat for decades. In 1973, high-school grads earned about 15.7 percent more per hour than dropouts, 15.9 percent in 1989, 16.1 percent in 2000, and 15.5 percent last year. And for...

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