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

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...

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...

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