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

Populist Persuasion

Stephen Rose, Lawrence Mishel, and others are debating the economic politics of the middle class this week. Here is Mishel's opening salvo. Steve Rose has been my friend and intellectual colleague for many years and I hold him in the highest regard. But I strongly disagree with his recent piece for the Progressive Policy Institute and the earlier version posted on Donkey Rising. Rose does not believe a populist economic agenda is warranted or is useful for attracting middle-class voters to the Democrats. In his view, economic policies should seek to generate overall growth, assist the poor, and provide educational assistance to middle-income families in their role as "free agents," but otherwise leave them happily "on their own" within the broader economy. That's a shame. The vast working and middle classes in America have not fared well over the last six years and, in fact, have not fared well since 1973 (excepting about five years in the 1990s). Moreover, there are public policies...

School Daze

Charter schools, as their supporters promised, can give parents and students more options. But “more” doesn't automatically mean “better.” In addition, charter schools are no more accountable than regular public schools. The research on charters, as reviewed in a book I recently co-authored, shows that they will not solve the most important problems facing public education. What has amazed me is that even though the “facts” about charter schools are not much in debate, the charter-school advocates' response has been vicious and consisted primarily of name-calling (see here , here , and here ). This may be because many leading charter-school advocates argued that public education was failing because of stifling bureaucracy and restrictive teacher union contracts. If specially chartered schools were created without these bureaucratic and union burdens, they said, student performance would markedly improve. In the vision they offered, regular public schools would even get better, spurred...

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...

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