“If you had told me 10 years ago that one of the few things that could get done in Washington is trade policy, my head would have exploded. But it seems to be the case that trade is actually something we can get done.”
Ed Gerwin, Senior Fellow at Third Way, on the surprising likelihood that major trade legislation could pass through Congress this year.
Follow Ed @EdGerwin for more on trade and global economic policy.
Ideology won’t solve our debt problem. It will require practical policies that can give the nation the vibrant economic growth, middle class living standards, and secure safety net for the aged and vulnerable that we have come to expect. Read more in: Growth, Not Greece: A Growth-Focused Deficit Reduction Agenda.
It isn’t just airports that are getting squeezed by the automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration. This chart illustrates the consequences of these cuts across a variety of industries. Read more in our recent report.
When any large group of Americans seems to be moving backward over a sustained period of time, it’s cause for concern. In Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor Markets and Education, a report written for Third Way, David Autor and Melanie Wasserman point out: “Over the last three decades, the labor market trajectory of males in the U.S. has turned downward along four dimensions: skills acquisition; employment rates; occupational stature; and real wage levels.” Moreover, Autor and Wasserman argue that these patterns are intertwined through mechanisms that involve marriage decisions and family structure.*
Educational achievement for men went backward for a time, and has only recently been recovering back toward the levels of the 1960s. Here’s a figure showing the pattern for the share of 35 year-olds who have completed a four-year college degree, but similar patterns arise if one looks at completing high school, or completing some college, or other measures of education.
Employment rates for both white men and black men have been sagging since the 1970s, although they took an additional drop during the Great Recession.
By the Editorial Board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Cleaver Family of Mayfield. Missing and presumed lost.
There are so many unsettling ideas in David Autor and Melanie Wasserman’s “Wayward Sons” that it is difficult to know where to start. But let’s try this:
“[G]rowing up in a single-parent home appears to significantly decrease the probability of college attendance for boys, yet has no similar effect for girls. Putting these pieces together, we tentatively conclude that boys perform less well academically than girls when fathers are not present in the home and, additionally, benefit less from high levels of maternal education when either the father is absent or is not highly educated.”
Thus, in a nation where one in every three children is being raised by a single parent — four out of five of them single mothers — boys quickly get behind the educational curve. One possible factor, say Mr. Autor and Ms. Wasserman, is that single mothers tend to interact with their sons an hour a day less each week than they do with daughters. This is not always the moms’ fault.
Problems quickly snowball. These boys are more likely than girls raised in similar circumstances to do poorly in school and get in trouble in high school. They for sure don’t want to “talk about it.” They are less likely to attend college or graduate if they happen to get there. Increasingly they can’t find decent jobs without a college education, which makes them less desirable mates for better educated, more ambitious women.
These women may choose to raise children on their own, risking putting more boys behind the curve. Or men drift in and out of short-term relationships with less discriminating women, fathering more children whom they are not likely to stay around to raise. And the cycle gets more vicious.
Studies showed this cycle began shortly after World War II. Over the past 20 years, it has begun to reach crisis proportions, and not just among male children in low-income families. Males from affluent families and good schools tend to do well. Those from less fortunate backgrounds tend not to. The income gap widens.
I think I’m going to start labeling certain posts WBI, for Wonky But Important. I’ll try to make these posts relatively brief, but they’ll all elucidate a policy point that I think we all should know in order to have an intelligent conversation.
Our first WBI is built around a March 8 CBO report brought to my attention this morning by Congressman Chris van Hollen—my very own Montgomery County Md. representative, I am happy to say—finding that half of this year’s expected budget deficit of around $800 billion—half!—can be laid at the door of the struggling economy.
In other words: When the economy is revved up, it reduces the deficit, because there are more tax revenues from all those employed people and businesses working to capacity (and, concomitantly, fewer government expenditures—there’s no need for stimulus spending or lots of unemployment benefits during a humming economy). They measure this in terms of what they call “automatic stabilizers”—the reductions in revenues and increases in outlays that are the result of the weak economy.
Congress adopted and then modified the sequestration. This timeline from our new primer, “Defense Spending and Sequestration” shows the major milestones in the two laws that congress has passed: The Budget Control Act (BCA) and the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), as well as key external events that affected the course of legislation.
As the sequester blame game hits fever pitch this week, Republicans’ stance on taxes is simply indefensible, falling hundreds of billions short of even their own prior positions. But as Democrats, we also share a large portion of responsibility for the coming cuts to domestic discretionary spending, as the party has decided in both action and rhetoric that meaningful fixes to the major entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are off-limits.
Think about it. Over the past three years, from debt ceiling deals to the supercommittee and the fiscal cliff, social insurance programs have escaped virtually unscathed while every other category of spending took some hit and revenue grew. And because of the sheer enormousness of the Big 3 entitlements, Democrats face a serious new crisis that is closer to home and will linger long past the sequester: There is now barely a farthing left in the budget for any new investments.
Over the past century, Democrats can boast two major economic legacies. The first is the safety net programs of the New Deal and the Great Society — successful programs that lifted the elderly and vulnerable out of poverty. The second is the New Frontier investment programs defined and expanded under President John F. Kennedy. These investments in science, space, defense, education, as well as highways, rails, ports and medical breakthroughs helped power the U.S. economy during the latter half of the 20th century.
For the past 50 years, these two Democratic legacies have been on a collision course. In the mid-1960s, federal spending on investments outpaced those of entitlements by 3-to-1. By the mid-1970s, we spent one dollar on investments for every dollar that went to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Last year, it was one dollar for investments for every three in entitlements. In 10 years, the ratio will be 1-to-5.