ARTICLES

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Parting thoughts on Indiana's strengths, weaknesses

The nice thing about economics is that we never really figure anything out. That hasn't stopped folks like me from writing about economics and papers like this one from printing what we have to say. As I often have said to those who have remarked on these writings, nature abhors a vacuum. Someone else will be filling that vacuum next week, because this is my last column-for Indiana readers, at least. I am happy to leave you in the capable...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: State economy began year with an impressive spurt

The economy constantly is serving up complex puzzles for us to solve. Have energy prices peaked? How much longer will mortgage markets continue to bleed? How will the dollar's decline affect the low prices for imported goods? These are complex issues, and some of us actually earn a living trying to sort them all out. But sometimes we need to step away and address the simpler questions-such as: How does the economy grow? Of course, some might say "not at...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: How tax reform could fix ailing health care system

Will a new president and the next Congress finally take meaningful action to address the financial storm looming for health care? Perhaps. In the meantime, the pressures created by rising health care costs have been too strong for everyone else to wait. Businesses have been adapting to rising premiums for employer-provided coverage in predictable ways. And beginning with Massachusetts, states are responding to rising Medicaid costs by crafting solutions of their own. But much of the solution, whatever shape that...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: The link between taxes and high health care costs

"Things that can't go on forever don't." If those famous words of the otherwise obscure Nixon-era economic adviser Herbert Stein apply to anything, it is health care spending. Most of us recognize that health care is expensive, breaking the budgets of many households, pressuring businesses and even challenging the spending capacity of giant federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid. What is less clear is why this is so, and what can, or should, be done about it. We spent more...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Band-Aid approaches won't resolve property-tax fiasco

Well into my career as an economist, I used to have a recurring conversation with my now-departed father, who had wanted me to become a doctor. What would you have to do, he would say, if you decided today that you wanted to be an MD? Somehow, the list of actions I would tick off-quitting my job, taking several years of chemistry and biology, years of medical school and internships-never seemed to faze him, and he was always eager for...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Big Three carmakers' slide will not be easy to reverse

The last writings of the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut portrayed the Americans of today as "drunk" on fossil fuels. Of course, that's only partly true. What we're really addicted to are the machines we pour the fuel into, especially the automobile. We have more registered vehicles in this country than we have drivers. In 2005, we collectively drove more than 3 trillion miles in our vehicles-15,000 miles for each of the nation's 199 million drivers. And the numbers go up...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Long spoiled by low rates, nation now faces increase

It wasn't long ago that writing an economic analysis column meant-surprise-that you analyzed the ups and downs of the economy. And if you came of age in the 1960s and '70s, there were plenty of ups and downs to keep track of. Volatility in just about everything was higher then, with strikes, inflation and more frequent recessions the order of the day. And even though that environment has changed remarkably since the mid-'80s, the habit of peering at the data...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: What's your favorite economic indicator?

If you like to hear news about the economy, the information age has been a boon. Leave your television set on one of the financial networks, and you'll see tickers, graphs and animations whizzing by as talking heads digest and dissect every morsel of market and economic information. Tell your computer to alert you to any news about a company, a country or an industry and it will pop up with tidbits all day long. And for a few bucks,...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Will state's job growth always trail nation's?

You usually have to swallow your pride when it comes time to forecast the growth of the Indiana economy. That's because no matter what your heart says, your head tells you what the best forecast will be. That is the one that pulls up well short of growth in the rest of the country. There are a lot of talented people working hard around the state trying to change that. And if the full truth be told, most of our...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Focusing on factory jobs misses the big picture

There's been something peculiar going on in the business media in Indiana over the last few weeks. We've been beating ourselves up because the state is losing manufacturing jobs. Headlines about the decline are popping up, and state and local development officials are facing the bright light of media scrutiny. The chatter on Internet "talk-back" forums serves up plenty of people to blame-the governor, the unions, the Chinese and even our neighbors who buy imported goods. But if I could...
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