June 26, 2014
Is independent political speech the linchpin of our democracy or its Achilles' heel? For democracy to work, some say, citizens (and corporations, and unions, and media outlets, and other voluntary organizations) must be allowed to express their views on the issues, candidates, and elections of the day. This proposition, they say, is exactly why the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and of the press. On this view, restrictions on independent political speech undermine and subvert our constitutional structure. But others take a different view: If everyone can spend as much money as they like to express their political views, then some voices will be amplified, magnified and enhanced — while others will be all but drowned out. On this view, it is this inequality of influence that subverts our constitutional structure — and restrictions that level the playing field actually enhance rather than abridge the freedom of speech.
October 30, 2013
If we value a free market in goods and free movement of capital, should we embrace the free movement of labor? Reciprocal treaties would allow citizens of the U.S. and other countries to work legally across borders. Would the elimination of barriers in the labor market depress wages and flood the marketplace with workers? Or would the benefits of a flexible labor supply be a boon to our economy, all while raising the standard of living for anyone willing to work?
October 16, 2013
To prevent the collapse of the global financial system in 2008, Treasury committed 245 billion in taxpayer dollars to stabilize America’s banking institutions. Today, banks that were once “too big to fail” have only grown bigger, with JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs holding assets equal to over 50% of the U.S. economy. Were size and complexity at the root of the financial crisis, or do calls to break up the big banks ignore real benefits that only economies of scale can pass on to customers and investors?
April 03, 2013
The first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage, a part of 1933’s sweeping National Industrial Recovery Act, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935. But in 1938, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a minimum hourly wage of 25 cents—$4.07 in today’s dollars. Three-quarters of a century later, we are still debating the merits of this cornerstone of the New Deal. Do we need government to ensure a decent paycheck, or would low-wage workers and the economy be better off without its intervention?
March 13, 2013
It’s often taken for granted that America needs a strong dollar. When the value of the U.S. dollar is strong relative to other currencies, it becomes attractive to investors and allows Americans to buy foreign goods and services cheaply. But in times of recession, are we better off with a weak dollar that stimulates U.S. manufacturing by making our goods cheaper and more competitive? Or will the loss of purchasing power and currency manipulation abroad, offset the potential gains?
October 23, 2012
How do we fix the economy? The U.S. government's budget deficit is nearing a trillion dollars for the fourth straight year and unemployment remains high. With the Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of 2012, what is the best move for continued economic recovery? President Obama says we should raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 to reduce the deficit. Others say that the richest 1% already pay more than a quarter of all federal taxes and higher taxes for job creators would slow economic growth. Are the nation's wealthiest not paying their "fair share," or should tax breaks be extended for everyone in the name of job creation?
January 13, 2009
Debate description coming soon.
March 17, 2009
Debate description coming soon.
September 21, 2009
Any project funded by February’s $789 billion stimulus package is meant to use only US made steel and manufactured goods. Any financial institution receiving bail out funds must give preference to citizens. Will these policies backfire? Opponents say these policies will have little direct impact on job creation, and could have very harmful repercussions by triggering a global trade war in which each country seeks to “beggar its neighbor” in a vicious cycle of economic decline. Proponents argue that these policies focus taxpayer money to yield the biggest benefit for American families, they help American business to compete with cheap foreign labor, and that governments the world over already favor their domestic industries. Are we subsidizing the inefficient, or sparking a much needed boost to the economy?
November 16, 2009
Signs of economic recovery are everywhere. Housing prices have bottomed out; the stock market has rallied; and capital markets are operating normally. Today, economists are debating whether or not the recession is over. When Obama took office, the debate was whether a sharp decline in economic activity would trigger more bank failures in a vicious cycle, culminating in a full scale depression. His policies have restored confidence and that is the most important thing. Others argue that his policies will seriously undermine the long-term growth of the US economy. Our fiscal outlook is so poor that inflation is likely, undermining faith in the dollar as a global reserve asset. Cap and trade legislation will make US industry less globally competitive; his health care proposals will leave us both poorer and less healthy; and the dramatic increase in taxes needed to pay for all this will discourage risk-taking and investing.
January 19, 2010
California tried. And then it failed. Uniquely charged by its constitution to guarantee the “happiness” of its residents – the state empowered its people to demand by referendum whatever they wanted to spend money on – from better schools to bigger prisons and to refuse by referendum to pay the bills. A legislature paralyzed by the absence of a workable middle – and a requirement for a 2/3 vote to impose taxes – combined finally to dig the state into a possibly inescapable hole. Having now earned the lowest bond rating of any of the 50 states, the rates it pays to borrow keep getting higher. Yet borrowing seems to be all California can do to get through from day to day. That is what is known as The Road to Bankruptcy. “Happiness” thus engineered is doomed to collapse. The question is whether California is a special case–with a uniquely dysfunctional political culture–or a bellwether of failure soon to come to other high-spending states near you.
October 26, 2010
Just about everyone has a reason to question how the size of our government affects America’s financial and political future. Is government intervention in everything from economic policy to health care rewarding the “takers,” and not the “makers,” stifling innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners? Or has government done too little to support the growing poor and rapidly shrinking middle class?
May 16, 2007
Debate description coming soon.
March 08, 2011
To drag our economy out of the biggest crisis since the Great Depression, America needs another moon shot. Can the investment of billions into the clean energy sector trigger the creation of millions of jobs and innovation? Or would we simply be pumping dollars into the myth of a green economy?
October 04, 2011
Commitments made to seniors decades ago failed to foresee the harsh economic realities of the present. Do entitlements saddle our children with unmanageable debt, asking them to sacrifice their future for the sake of the elderly? Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid were created to provide a social safety net. But if we cut these programs, are we balancing the budget on the backs of the aged and sick, leaving behind society’s most vulnerable?
October 25, 2011
For many Americans, unemployment is at the top of that list. In the face of a double-dip recession and an unprecedented long-term unemployment rate, President Obama unveiled the American Jobs Act before Congress. His plan? Lower the unemployment rate and stimulate the economy with $447 billion in employer tax breaks, jobless reintegration, state aid, and infrastructure projects, to be paid for with taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Will this plan bring a fast, effective boost to the job market, or will higher taxes punish job creators and sink us further into debt?
March 13, 2012
For all appearances, China has emerged unscathed from the global economic crisis, in stark contrast to its biggest debtor, America. China’s admirers point to its ability to mobilize state resources, quick decision-making and business-friendly environment as reasons for its economic ascendency. But can its brand of state-directed capitalism overcome rampant corruption and the threat of growing inequality, or will the American model of innovation and free markets prevail?