Robert J. Samuelson

Hitting The Economy

We're getting a painful lesson in economic geography. What Wall Street is to money, or Hollywood is to entertainment, the Gulf Coast is to energy. It's a vast assemblage of refineries, production platforms, storage tanks and pipelines--and the petroleum engineers, energy consultants and roustabouts who make them run.

OUR VANISHING SAVINGS RATE

Every so often the government spits out some factoid that seems crammed with special significance. The Commerce Department did just that recently when it reported that Americans' personal savings rate had dropped to zero.

THE WORLD IS STILL ROUND

One of the unheralded contrasts of our time is this: everywhere we see the increasingly powerful effects of globalization; and yet, the single most important reality for the economic well-being of most people is their nationality.

TIME TO TOSS THE TEXTBOOK

If economics were a boat, it would be a leaky tub. The pumps would be straining, and the captain would be trying to prevent it from capsizing. Which is to say: our ideas for explaining trends in output, employment and living standards--what we call "macroeconomics"--are in a state of disarray.

THE HARD TRUTH OF IMMIGRATION

Immigration is crawling its way back onto the national agenda--and not just as a footnote to keeping terrorists out. Earlier this year, Congress enacted a law intended to prevent illegal aliens from getting state drivers' licenses; the volunteer "minutemen" who recently patrolled the porous Arizona border with Mexico attracted huge attention, and members of Congress from both parties are now crafting proposals to deal with illegal immigration.

IT'S SPUTNIK TIME AGAIN

Americans are having another sputnik moment: one of those periodic alarms about some foreign economic menace. It was the Soviets in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Germans and the Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, and now it's the Chinese and the Indians.

THE GLOBAL SAVINGS GLUT

We are all taught that saving is good--indeed, Americans are often chided for spending too much and saving too little. But what if the problem of today's global economy is that people elsewhere, in Europe, Asia and Latin America, are saving too much and spending too little?

THE DAWN OF A NEW OIL ERA?

The interesting question about the advent of $50-a-barrel oil is whether it signals a new era in the economics and politics of energy. To sharpen the question: have we entered a period when, owing to consistently strong demand and chronically scarce supplies, prices have moved permanently higher?

COMPETITION'S QUIET VICTORY

What do AT&T, the civil aeronautics Board, steelworkers and Kmart have in common? Answer: all are victims of competition. Over the past four decades, the American economy has become vastly more competitive.

NO FREE LAUNCH

The United States and Europe are edging toward their biggest trade dispute ever--and Washington shouldn't blink. The dispute involves competition between Boeing and Airbus, which has toppled Boeing as the world's largest producer of commercial jets.

NOT SO SUPER ANYMORE

The United States is the world's leading economic power--but perhaps no longer the world's economic leader. There's a difference. No one doubts the singular wealth or position of the American economy.

THE REPUBLIC OF TURMOIL

Picture yourself in the mid-1840s. It's an exciting time. Fifteen years earlier, railroads barely existed. In 1830 there were only 23 miles of track. By 1840, there were 2,818; by 1850, 9,021.

THE CHANGING FACE OF POVERTY

The Census Bureau's annual figures on family incomes and poverty were bound to become familiar factoids in the Bush-Kerry combat. The numbers seem to confirm what many people feel: the middle class is squeezed; poverty's worsening.

REAL ISSUES, NOT RHETORIC

There may be lots of reasons to vote for John Kerry over George Bush, but "job quality" isn't one of them. Kerry has been telling crowds that the country is "shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with jobs that pay you less than the jobs you have today." Ergo, job quality is going to the dogs.

Bush's Jobs Albatross

As Republicans gather in New York, the lackluster job market must dishearten President Bush. He had hoped that a strong economic recovery would favor his re-election, and in some ways, he's gotten his wish.

A MARKETING REVOLUTION

We all descended on Boston last week--Democratic delegates, party consultants, political junkies and journalists--for what often seemed more a sales convention than a political convention.

IN PRAISE OF RANKINGS

A Harvard degree isn't the status symbol it used to be--and that goes for Yale and Princeton, too. It seems impossible. After all, the crush to get into elite schools has never been greater, and in general the number of slots hasn't risen.

BY THE SEAT OF HIS PANTS

It's Alan Greenspan's swan song. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week, as expected. The overnight Fed funds rate went from 1 percent, the lowest since the late 1950s, to 1.25 percent.

PICKING SIDES FOR THE NEWS

We in the news business think we're impartial seekers of truth, but most Americans think otherwise. They view us as sloppy, biased and self-serving. In 1985, 56 percent of the public felt news organizations usually got their facts straight, says the Pew Research Center.

SHARING THE WEALTH

Wham! bam! now come two intellectual heavyweights, armed with statistics and studies, determined to prove once and for all that globalization is not just an economic necessity but also a moral imperative--leading to greater social justice, freedom and democracy.

The World's Powerhouse

The question about china's economy is no longer what it will do to China but what it will do to the rest of the world. It may invigorate the global economy--or destabilize it.

The Price Of Democracy

Eugene Steuerle is one of Washington's ranking policy wonks--a term used here with respect. He's forgotten more about taxes in the last 15 seconds than most of us will ever know.

Keeping U.S. Jobs At Home

John Kerry recently made an interesting proposal that--if nothing else--illustrates the wide gap between political rhetoric and economic reality. Given the obsession with jobs and overseas "outsourcing," Kerry suggests that government policy should encourage U.S. companies to invest here, not abroad.

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