Robert J. Samuelson

IS HOUSING A NEW BUBBLE?

If every silver lining comes wrapped in a dark cloud, housing could be the economy's next big head-ache. Just recently, the Labor Department reported a hefty 308,000 increase in payroll employment for March and also revised upward previous figures so that monthly job gains have averaged 108,000 since September.

THE AFFLICTIONS OF AFFLUENCE

It may seem a bit unnatural, but more and more of our social problems and complaints stem from our affluence, not our poverty. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson made that point last week--unintentionally, to be sure--when he announced that obesity now rivals smoking as the largest cause of premature death.

PROTECTING THE WELFARE STATE

One great project of the late 20th century was the construction of vast welfare states in wealthy nations to protect people against the insecurities of the business cycle and the injustices of unfettered capitalism.

PRESIDENTIAL SCOREKEEPING

In 1962, Emmet John Hughes published a memoir of the Eisenhower presidency titled "The Ordeal of Power." Hughes, a prominent journalist who had served Eisenhower as a speechwriter, admired the president as a person and for his role as the commanding general in Europe during World War II.

OUR KIDS WILL PAY THE BILL

Just for the record, the congressional Budget Office recently issued a report telling us what everyone already knows: the federal budget is drifting into a future of unprecedented tax in-creases, huge deficits or both.

A Global Glut Of Greenbacks

The Saddam rally was a bust. If you expected the tyrant's capture to boost stocks or the dollar, you were disappointed--and therein lies a story. A great drama is now unfolding in the world's money markets.

Revenge Of The Old Economy

Judging from the statistics, the New Economy is back. Once American companies figured out how to use all that technology they bought in the late 1990s, the dividends have been huge, or so it seems.

Greenspan's Finest Hour?

It may ultimately be said of Alan Greenspan that he enjoyed his finest hour just when the public admired him least. Let's recall that only a few months ago, the shaky economic outlook inspired fears of deflation--a general decline in prices caused by too much supply (of unemployed workers, unused fiber optics and lots more) chasing too little demand.

Medicare As Pork Barrel

Given all the excitement, you'd think that passing a Medicare drug benefit would solve one of the nation's pressing social problems. It won't. But you wouldn't know that from politicians or the press.

Bush, Nixon And History

George W. Bush's quest to overcome a weak economy and win a second term offers some interesting parallels with previous presidents. The most obvious is with his father, who lost reelection in 1992 because he seemed indifferent to a stumbling economy.

The Limits Of Media Power

In my business, you receive a lot of unsolicited advice and abuse. Some years ago a reader proposed that I "drop dead." Another well-wisher later suggested that "the best thing you could say is nothing at all." One of these tirades arrived last week.

Fixing Fannie And Freddie

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant mortgage companies, ain't broke--but they ought to be fixed. They have grown so large that if they ever experience serious financial problems, they would almost certainly have to be rescued by the government at a vast cost.

A CRACKUP FOR WORLD TRADE?

The global trading system is in trouble--mainly because it became overdependent on big U.S. trade deficits. From 1996 to 2002, the American trade deficit jumped from $191 billion to $485 billion.

A Renegade's Wise Lessons

The economist Charles Kindleberger died the other day at 92, just when the world most needs his panoramic vision. Kindleberger was a cheerful skeptic of all the mathematical models that define modern economics and have, not incidentally, disconnected it from the real world.

The Bad News From Boeing

Suppose you had asked, say 15 years ago, this question: what American company is most dominant in its global industry? The answer would not have been Microsoft (1988 worldwide sales: $591 million), Dell Computer (founded 1984) or even IBM.

The Blinders Of Politics

One obstacle to economic understanding is that politics gets in the way of thinking. If you dislike a politician's policies, you squeal about how stupid, shortsighted and self-interested they are--a formula for ruin.

The Bogeyman Of Deflation

[T]he probability of an unwelcome substantial fall in inflation, though minor, exceeds that of a pickup in inflation from its already low level. --STATEMENT OF THE FEDERAL OPEN MARKET COMMITTEE (FOMC), MAY 6, 2003Well, we face a new danger: deflation.

Ask Tip Sheet

HOW DOES THE FED ATTEMPT TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY BY LOWERING INTEREST RATES AND, CONVERSELY, SLOW IT DOWN BY RAISING RATES? -PETER PANDA, NEW HAVEN, CONN.

Welfare For Capitalists

The scandal of CEO pay is not that it ascended to stratospheric levels or that--despite some restraint--it's still unreasonably high. No, the genuine scandal is that few CEOs have publicly raised their voices in criticism and rebuke.

Victory Is No Panacea

We all want to believe in the economics of victory: that military triumph will trigger economic revival. The theory seems plausible enough. War traumatized the economy.

War Meets The Welfare State

The war in Iraq is, in at least one respect, rewriting history. Few relationships are more established than the connection between war and debt. The first organized government borrowing dates to the 12th century, when Italian city-states (Venice, Genoa, Florence, Milan) needed to defend themselves.

Productivity's False Facade

"Importantly, the favorable underlying trends in productivity have continued... [providing] support of household incomes."--Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, in congressional testimony, Feb. 11, 2003We go through these fads--these fixations with certain economic statistics, which are imbued with immense significance--and productivity remains one of them.

The Telecoms In Purgatory

We all know that the telecommunications industry is an economic mess. Since 2000, the equipment firms (the Lucents and Nortels) have cut 500,000 jobs, says Matthew Flanigan of the Telecommunications Industry Association, because capital investment by their customers--the Verizons and Sprints--has dropped 56 percent.

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