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The Economics Profession Doesn’t Understand How The Economy Works
  21 Feb 2014     12:02 am

In the 1980s, a couple of ambitious young economists thought ski lift operators weren’t very smart. The economists assumed that if the business owners charged more on busy days, they could make more money. As recounted in “Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations” by David Warsh, the economists saw long lines on busy days as “prima facie evidence of market failure.”

After study, Robert Barro and Paul Romer concluded that they were wrong and that the people running the business were right. On crowded days, skiers waited longer in line and …

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Getting a Grip on Realities of the Federal Budget
  14 Feb 2014     12:02 am

The big story about the federal budget this week was the Republican Party’s struggle to deal with raising the debt ceiling. Last year’s big budget story was President Barack Obama and the Democrats coming to grips with the so-called sequester, a policy gimmick that modestly slowed the growth of federal spending.

Neither of these storylines came anywhere close to dealing with reality. The two teams of Washington insiders get hung up on these side issues because they’re better at symbolism than substance.
For substance, start with the fact that the federal government …

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Civil Disobedience May Cure HealthCare.Gov
  7 Feb 2014     12:02 am

The biggest threat to President Barack Obama’s health care law doesn’t come from Republicans in Congress but from people like Stacie Brown.

As reported in The New York Times, Brown owns a pottery shop in Georgia and is eligible for some federal health insurance subsidies. However, she has consciously decided not to purchase health care as required by law. She did so because she is a loving mother.
The plans available to Brown and her family are too expensive and have very high deductibles. Even worse, her son’s pediatrician is not covered …

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The Numbers Show DC Theory Colliding With Reality in America
  31 Jan 2014     12:02 am

A theoretical listing of the best states put together by a publication for Washington insiders rates New Hampshire as the best state in the union, and finds that nine of the 10 worst states are in the American South.

However, if you look at Census Bureau data showing where Americans move to and from, five of the top seven states are from the South, and the worst states are New York, Illinois and California. Nine of the 10 worst states by this measure come from either the Northeast or Midwest.
No matter …

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Obama Weakness Makes GOP Early Favorite for 2016
  24 Jan 2014     12:02 am

The conventional wisdom in Washington was succinctly expressed in a recent Washington Post article, “The GOP’s Uphill Path to 270 in 2016.” The Electoral College, claims Dan Balz, now gives the Democrats a decided advantage that will be hard for the GOP to overcome. He correctly noted that many formerly Republican-leaning states have shifted to the Democratic column.

On one level, Balz is correct. There has been a massive shift in the state-by-state leanings over the past two decades. From 1968 to 1988, the Republican candidate carried an amazing 34 states …

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Time for Washington to Speak the Language of the American People
  17 Jan 2014     12:02 am

Like toddlers who believe they are the center of the universe, many in official Washington whine about the fact the American people don’t devote more time to studying politics and talking about the things that matter in our capital city.

This view has it backwards. Instead, Washington needs to deal with the things that matter in America.
Nancy Duarte, an expert in the art of persuasive communication, argues that the failure to connect always lies with the presenter of information, not the audience. In her book “Resonate,” she puts it this way: …

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To Reform Health Care, Give Power to the People
  10 Jan 2014     12:02 am

Before President Barack Obama’s health care law was passed, Americans were frustrated that insurance companies had too much control over the medical care they received. Now, Americans are frustrated that the government has too much control.

The vast majority of Americans don’t want insurance companies and government making health-related decisions for them; they want to make such decisions for themselves. Three straightforward but significant modifications to the health care law could make that possible.
First, relax the individual mandate so that everyone who buys major medical insurance coverage is exempt. Obama has …

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Finding The Right Balance Between Washington And America
  27 Dec 2013     12:02 am

During the holiday season, many reflect on finding the right balance in their lives. As a nation, we’re in a season of searching for the right balance between individual freedoms and the role of government.

The clearest indication that things are out of balance nationally is that the median household income in our capital city is 73 percent higher than it is in America. This reality was reflected and exaggerated in “The Hunger Games,” where the capital city lived in lavish excess at the expense of those living horribly in the …

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Washington Post Says Disapproving of Congress Means You’re a ‘Hater’
  20 Dec 2013     12:02 am

Journalist Michael Kinsley once defined a political gaffe as when someone “accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head.” In other words, a gaffe is when a political player accidentally tells the truth. This appears to be what happened in a recent Washington Post story.

Tens of millions of Americans disapprove of the way both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are doing their jobs. According to the hometown paper for America’s political class, this makes them “Haters.”
You read that right.
According to the Post’s view of …

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The Federal Government Isn’t As Important as the Politicians Believe
  13 Dec 2013     12:02 am

Entering the world of official Washington is a bit like the mythical trip Alice took through the looking glass. Everything is upside-down and nonsensical.
This was highlighted most recently in a Wall Street Journal article about how the American people have “a deepening distaste for all Washington institutions” and “angst over Washington dysfunction.”

At the same time, the reporter noted that Americans were “surprisingly upbeat about their own lives.” Solid majorities were happy with their personal finances and “more optimistic about the economy.”
This disconnect is surprising only to those who have gone …

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Health Care Law Maintains Conspiracy to Keep Prices High
  6 Dec 2013     12:02 am

For all the confusion it is causing, President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment did not fundamentally change the health care industry. Both before and after the law passed, the business of providing medical care in America could best be described as a conspiracy by government, insurance companies and medical care providers to keep prices high.

One example of how this works can be found in a provision of the president’s law requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care. It sounds like it’s designed to …

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Health Care Fix Will Come from Outside Washington
  22 Nov 2013     12:02 am

The health care rollout is an enormous political gift that may lead the Republican Party to win control of the Senate in 2014. But as President Barack Obama’s health care law collapses, the GOP should avoid the temptation to promote its own top-down solution as an alternative.

A better approach would be for both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to recognize the solutions will not be found in Washington. They’ll be found only when consumers are given choices that put them in charge of their health insurance decision-making.
Fortunately, we do not …

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Pragmatic Americans Focus on Reality, not Rhetoric
  15 Nov 2013     12:02 am

Americans are pragmatic, not ideological.
That simple fact explains the growth of federal power following World War II. It also explains why President Obama’s health care law will spur a reversal of that trend.

The growth in federal power got started in the New Deal era, but the decisive event took place on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
“Never before or since has America been so unified,” according to historian Craig Shirley. “There were virtually no Americans against their country getting into World War II after the unprovoked attack by the Japanese …

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A One-Size-Fits-All Government Cannot Survive in the iPad Era
  8 Nov 2013     12:02 am

Washington’s political class fundamentally misunderstands the role of politics and government in American society. They act as if government is the central force in American life and that its decisions guide the course of the nation. In historical reality, societal trends embrace new technology and the deep currents of public opinion lead the way. Government follows along a decade or two behind.

A quick review of our nation’s history shows that the first 200 years were characterized by changing technology and expectations moving us to a more centralized nation.
In the transportation …

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Health Law Forcing Millions to Buy More Insurance than They Need
  1 Nov 2013     12:02 am

Many news stories have noted the importance of getting young, healthy people to sign up for insurance on the exchanges created by President Obama’s health care law. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein reported that the White House considers this the single most important factor in making the law work.

Klein is a huge fan of the law. To his credit, he has also honestly reported on the disastrous rollout of the exchanges and HealthCare.gov. Like many other fans, he worries that the website problems will discourage the young and healthy from …

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Health Care and Shutdown Debacles are Mere Symptoms
  25 Oct 2013     12:02 am

Many reporters caught up in the bizarre world of official Washington have written extensively on political tactics and implications of the so-called government shutdown and disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Typical was a New York Times headline that blared “Republicans, Sensing Weakness in Health Law Rollout, Switch Tactics.”

But there’s been precious little analysis about the underlying realities that led us to this point. Perhaps that’s because neither political party wants to face up to those realities. So, instead of substance, D.C. journalists cover politics like junior high school students trying to …

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Democrats May Lose By Winning
  18 Oct 2013     12:02 am

Shortly after the end of World War II, a pair of allergists gave some medication to a patient suffering from hives. Surprisingly, the patient reported her lifelong battle with carsickness had disappeared. After follow-up testing, Dramamine quickly became standard issue for fighting motion sickness.

This is one of many unexpected discoveries highlighted in “Happy Accidents,” a fascinating book by Morton Meyers, M.D.
But the world of medical care is not the only place where the outcomes often baffle the careful planners.
In the 1920s, Republicans controlled all branches of the government and passed …

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No Good Options for Obama
  11 Oct 2013     12:02 am

Not long ago, the conventional wisdom in official Washington held that the so-called sequester spending cuts would be a disaster for the Republican Party. They were expected to rise up in vehement protest once the “cuts” went into effect.

Instead, nobody outside of Washington noticed.
Today, the conventional wisdom suggests that the so-called government shutdown is a big time loser for the GOP. But, once again, few Americans other than federal workers have really noticed any difference.
That’s a big problem for the president. Nothing can be more frightening to liberal politicians than …

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In Budget Fight, Congress Consumed By Symbolism and Deception
  4 Oct 2013     12:02 am

The political stalemate leading to the so-called shutdown of the federal government has shown with devastating clarity how official Washington is consumed with symbolism over substance.

The symbolism begins with the word shutdown itself. Despite the noise and fury in Washington, the vast majority of Americans haven’t noticed any change in their daily lives because most of the federal government has not shut down. It is functioning as normal. Social Security checks go out, and the military is still on duty.
So, to hype the limited impact, the political theater revolves around …

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The President’s Health Care Law Will Soon Be Irrelevant
  27 Sep 2013     12:01 am

The debate in Washington this week was allegedly about the president’s health care law, but it quickly became all about Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Texas Republican objected the law by speaking on the Senate floor for 21 straight hours. The effort made him a hero to some, a fool to others, and it ultimately had no legislative impact.
Along the way, millions of political junkies cheered for or against Cruz, while reporters enjoyed commenting on the spectacle. Hardly anyone in the political world seemed to realize how the entire process confirmed the …

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