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

Dismal Scientists

It is curious that in American politics, "values" issues are always social issues but never economic ones. Yet how the disadvantaged among us are treated is clearly a reflection of who we are as a people. Similarly, how workers are treated on the job -- their safety, their working conditions, their remuneration -- also speaks volumes about our values as a nation. This is also true for child poverty. After reading Is the Market Moral? by Rebecca Blank and William McGurn, a new Brookings Institution book sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, I began to consider how small a role religious, even secular, values play in discussions of economic policies and trends. Of course, economists contend that economics is a science. "Tell me what you want to do and I will tell you the best way to do it" is the economist's usual stance. (Actually, as one economist said, his role is to say, "Tell me what you want and I'll tell you why you can't have it.") Clearly, there's no room for...

Snow Job

In the national debate about economic policy, the central element remains the role of the Bush administration's tax cuts in generating jobs and growth. The administration is suggesting that the economy has been mightily helped by the tax cuts, that the economy is doing swell, and that the future is rosy. Oh, yeah, the administration concedes, there have been some tough times, but that's only because we've been through so much: September 11, the Iraq War, corporate scandals, and the stock bubble bursting. None of this rosy-scenario storytelling is surprising. After all, Ronald Reagan ran for re-election on "morning in America," and Bill Clinton sought a second term with an optimistic "everything's getting better" message. Of course, there was plenty of evidence in 1984 that dawn was nowhere in sight: Since 1980, incomes had fallen, poverty and unemployment were up, and very few people were better off than they had been four years earlier. And, to be fair, Clinton's 1996 claim that the...

Office Space

Worried about outsourcing? Well, you shouldn't be, at least according to the conventional wisdom; the economy will certainly create better jobs as we climb higher up the skills ladder. Consider, for instance, Jagdish Bhagwati, a leading free-trade advocate and Columbia University professor, who offers these comforting words: "The fact is, when jobs disappear in America, it is usually because technical change has destroyed them, not because they have gone anywhere. In the end, Americans' increasing dependence on an ever-widening array of technology will create a flood of high-paying jobs." To follow Bhagwati and others in their bold leap of faith, however, we would have to ignore some exceedingly gloomy facts all around us. The cheerful prognosis flies in the face of 25 years of eroded job quality and poor wage growth among non-college-educated workers (nearly three-fourths of the workforce), not to mention the job problems that have been facing white-collar workers since the early...

Job Lurch

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the February employment numbers. Once again, most economists had forecasted big gains in jobs; once again, their forecasts were way off. The report dashed expectations regarding the arrival of healthy job growth, painting a stark picture of a labor market stuck in neutral. While the government added 21,000 new jobs last month, no private sector jobs were created. Although unemployment remained at 5.6 percent, it did so only because 392,000 people stopped looking for work and left the labor force. To top it off, the persistently weak job market has led to slower wage growth; wages advanced by only 1.6 percent over the last year, tying with the wages of 1986 for the weakest growth rate since 1964. Even with the current low inflation rate of about 2 percent, wages are falling behind inflation. This disappointing report raises concerns beyond the labor market. Despite blather about the “ownership society” -- a reference to the fact that...

Growing Pains

After two and a half years of sluggish growth and persistent employment losses, the nation's overall output of goods and services shot up in the third quarter of 2003; unemployment, meanwhile, has ticked down to just below 6 percent. Accordingly, some analysts have declared that the economy is "fixed" and that we have "turned the corner." Moreover, some commentators are now saying that the economy, which had been expected to drive the 2004 political debate, will not be a major issue, implying that the election is in the bag for the president. And the Bush administration is claiming recent growth affirms that its tax cuts are working. "And now we are seeing the results of the hard work of the American people and the sound policies of this administration," Vice President Dick Cheney said on Jan.13 at a fund-raiser in Oregon, "The figures for the third quarter show the economy grew at an annual rate of 8.2 percent -- the fastest pace in nearly 20 years. Business investment, manufacturing...

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