Richard Leone

Richard C. Leone is president of the Century Foundation, and co-editor of Beyond the Basics: Social Security Reform.

Recent Articles

Why Boomers Don't Spell Bust

We could afford the dependent baby boomer generation once--during its childhood. We can do it again when the boomers retire.

W ith the election behind us, brace yourself for the real debate about the future of Social Security and Medicare. The alarmists in this fight have a simple central argument: Many baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) will live to a ripe old age, making the country a poorer place for everyone, especially those still in the workforce. In the most extreme formulation, pessimists project that, in the next century, we'll be taxing wages at an 80 percent rate to pay for entitlements. (I leave it to others to explain how, in this era of strong antitax sentiment, such statements get someone labeled "refreshingly realistic" whereas proposals to refinance Social Security with a 1 or 2 percentage point increase in the payroll tax are considered politically crazy.) The aging of the boomers does pose serious public policy questions, but much of the concern, especially with regard to Social Security, is overwrought. The doomsday scenario is based on the ratio of dependent aged people to...

The Great Carjacking

Public outrage about auto insurance costs -- which almost derailed Christine Todd Whitman's re-election in New Jersey -- is symptomatic of a deeper problem that reforms typically fail to confront.

When New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman finally signed a long-promised auto insurance reform bill last May 19, she hoped that it would put to rest an issue that had almost cost her re-election just six months earlier. Whitman's opponent had made much of the fact that while auto insurance premiums nationwide have been rising at double the general inflation rate during the 1990s, New Jersey's rates are more than 40 percent higher than the national average. The new law mandates a 15 percent rate cut paid for by a crackdown on insurance fraud and limitations on the judgments that drivers can win in liability suits. Insurance companies predict the savings will be more like 3 percent, and they threaten to sue the state. New Jersey's recent experience -- and Whitman's narrow escape from election defeat in 1997 -- demonstrated not only the political potency of the auto insurance issue but also why interest group politics make the issue so difficult to deal with effectively. The $5...

The Savings Lottery

Perhaps millions of Americans play state lotteries because they are dreamers or, more prosaically, just mathematically challenged. A good libertarian might argue that policy makers should simply shrug and let people spend money as they choose. It's a free country, after all. The rich have portfolios, stockbrokers, and shrinks; the middle class have stocks, computers, and online day-trading. Why can't the poor have lottery tickets, forecasters, and fortune-tellers? Maybe, but there are three realities about lotteries that policy makers must address. First, the odds are dismal. Second, the poor spend disproportionately. And third, the sponsor and beneficiary of lottery sales is the state itself. Our elected officials make the rules for these games, advertise them lavishly, and attract players with promises of great riches while government keeps nearly half of every bet. Government-sponsored gambling would be a dirty little secret—if it were little. But state-run lotteries have become a...

Alexander Hamilton, American and Duel

On the Mount Rushmore of our collective memory, the faces of many of the nation's founders loom as large weathered archetypes--unchanging men of granite who shaped the American Revolution and the new republic. In reality, of course, these individuals were complicated and sometimes less than admirable. Gore Vidal, in his novel Burr , famously capitalized on the shock value of portraying them as flesh-and-blood politicians. He brought them to life as figures who would be familiar to any modern statehouse reporter in, say, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or Little Rock, Arkansas. If Vidal parodied our esteemed founders a bit, well, he was probably closer to the truth than the more familiar versions of them as Olympians who temporarily graced us with their presence and whose every utterance should be viewed as a permanent guide to the future. Political leaders over the past 200 years have not been bashful about appropriating, reinterpreting, and even reinventing aspects of the founders'...

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