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

Waging Inequality

President Bush recently indicated that additional taxation of top wage earners is “on the table” in future negotiations to address Social Security's financial shortfall. The ensuing public discussion should also focus on the dramatic growth over the last two decades of wages at the top, while middle-class wages have been relatively stagnant. The consequences are extraordinary inequalities and the undermining of Social Security's financing. Many people apparently are unaware that the payroll tax is not assessed on all earnings. In 2005, current law exempts all earnings over the cap of $90,000 from taxation, meaning someone with a $1 million annual salary pays the same tax as someone earning $90,000 a year. Eliminating this cap on taxes would virtually eliminate the projected Social Security shortfall over the next 75 years, so this is no small matter. (See my colleague Josh Bivens' recent analysis , which shows the effect of eliminating the tax cap and allowing high earners to receive...

Torts Flim-Flam

In an era of great economic flimflams, “tort reform” is one of the greatest. “Lawsuit abuse” has become one of just a handful of issues that the Bush administration and its business allies say must be addressed in order to generate more growth and jobs. Yet, it turns out, there's not a shred of evidence anywhere that the proposed changes in the tort system have anything to do with either economic growth or job creation. Let me be clear about what I can and cannot tell you. I have no expertise to judge whether our tort system could be reformed so as to reduce frivolous lawsuits -- while still preserving strong incentives for companies and others to avoid non-frivolous lawsuits -- and to reduce the cost of compensating victims of wrongful actions. Likewise with respect to the utility of various medical malpractice reforms. What I can tell you is that this entire hullabaloo about litigation has very little to do with our economic future. Let's go back to the sales pitch. President George...

Schoolhouse Schlock

The dustup over charter schools reached the big time a few weeks back when it landed on the front page of The New York Times under the headline “Charter Schools Trail in Results, U.S. Data Reveals.” The story, which centered on a study by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), led this way: “The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.” Reaction was swift. As Chester Finn Jr., a leading right-wing education-policy expert, described it on his blog, “Charter supporters rushed to the barricades after last week's AFT-coordinated blast in The New York Times . On Aug. 25, 31 policy types and number crunchers ran a full-page ad in the Times rebutting some of the claims.” The statement concludes that the AFT “study does not meet professional research standards. As a result, it tells us nothing about whether charter schools are...

Excuses, Excuses

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says the economy has hit a "soft patch." The recent flurry of bad news makes that pronouncement feel like quite an understatement. First, the 4-percent-plus growth we enjoyed for four straight quarters dropped to only 3 percent in the second quarter (April to June). Then came the news that only 32,000 jobs were created in July -- more than 100,000 less than we need just to keep up with population growth. Obviously, this news doesn't jibe with the White House message that "America's economy is strong and getting stronger." Just as obviously, the president will not take responsibility for the economy's poor performance or the policy choices that got us here. Instead, we can expect more excuse-making. The question is, are the excuses valid? The president says, "We've overcome a lot." For a while now, he's talked about "four hurdles" that have stood in the way of economic rebound: the stock-market collapse, September 11, corporate scandals, and the...

Tax Man

The Bush administration has a mantra that we hear whenever some jobs are created: "The tax cuts are working." But are they? Mark Zandi , president of Economy.com and a highly respected economic forecaster, gave us the answer in a new report analyzing the factors in the past three years of growth; the administration's tax cuts, principally for the rich, have had very little to do with it. Increased government spending (particularly on defense) and tax cuts for middle- and lower-income people each contributed more to growth than tax cuts for higher-income people. The heaviest lifting by far in response to the recession and sluggish recovery has come from lower interest rates. But what the Bush policies failed to fix is only half of this story. Zandi makes the point that better policies could have given us 2.6 percent higher GDP in 2003 and two million more jobs in 2004. Economic performance that vigorous would have, in turn, cut our current fiscal deficit in half. As an engine of growth...

Pages