It may be time to move beyond pessimism. Ever since the financial crisis, Americans have wallowed in fear and anxiety. Understandably. Although a recovery — as defined by academic economists — started about two years ago, it hasn’t felt like one.
When House Speaker John Boehner calls for trillions of dollars of spending cuts, the message is clear. Any deal to raise the federal debt ceiling must include significant savings in Social Security and Medicare benefits. Subsidizing the elderly is the biggest piece of federal spending (more than two-fifths of the total), but trimming benefits for well-off seniors isn’t just budget arithmetic. It’s also the right thing to do.
Almost everyone considers the housing collapse a disaster, and it is. Since 2007, roughly 8 million homes have gone into foreclosure. If you’re a homeowner, the steep fall in prices is calamitous. But if you’re a future buyer, it’s a godsend. What we’re seeing is a massive wealth transfer from today’s older homeowners to tomorrow’s younger homeowners.
If you’ve wondered why it’s so hard to subdue budget deficits, you should consult a new study from the Congressional Budget Office called “Reducing the Deficit: Spending and Revenue Options” (free at www.cbo.gov). You’ll learn from its 240 pages that the deficits definitely can be curbed. The CBO presents 105 policies (it doesn’t endorse them) that would shrink deficits by trillions of dollars over the next decade. You’ll also learn — surprise! — that most choices are political poison....
Philanthropist, triumphant entrepreneur, government servant and steward of journalism, Sidney Harman, executive chairman of The Newsweek Daily Beast Co., died last night. Jonathan Alter on the remarkable 92 years of a true polymath who built one of America's great companies. Plus, the Harman family statement.