Articles

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: It’s time to get realistic about the federal deficit

Most of us know that the dollar figures used to describe the national economy are awfully large. That includes the dollar totals that pertain to the operations of the federal government as well. We’re a big country, with a population nearly 300 million strong. We have the world’s largest economy, and, yes, the world’s largest government. And every newly elected congressman or congresswoman soon gets comfortable tossing around multibillion-dollar spending commitments as if they were salt and pepper shakers at…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Does the economy care who wins in November?

If you ever visit Indiana’s past through the eyes of our state’s excellent historians, you uncover many amazing facts. To me, one of the most remarkable is this: In the 19th century, before the age of the automobile, mass communication and high school basketball, the voter turnout among Hoosiers in national elections approached, and sometimes surpassed, 90 percent. When you think about the sacrifice it took to get to a polling place in those days, that’s an incredible achievement. Of…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Productivity is going up, but what’s the cause?

It’s all quite clear as economists draw it up on their blackboards. Growth in productivity-defined as the output produced per person-hour of labor-is what ultimately allows us all to enjoy a higher standard of living. When we collectively produce more, we earn more. Or, to put it another way, we can afford to pay ourselves more without provoking inflation. And since the midpoint of the last decade, the measures of economy-wide productivity produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Strong economy draws out plethora of spending plans

If you ever want to satisfy your curiosity about recessions and business cycles, travel over to the Web site of the National Bureau of Economic Research. It has recorded and documented every downturn and uptick in the U.S. economy since 1857. And over that century and a half, the bureau has noticed certain regularities to the boom and bust of the economy around us. In the first stages of recovery from a recession, for example, it is quite common for…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: State employment growth is weaker than you think

There’s a real buzz about job growth in Indiana these days. Announcements of job creation, big and small, are echoing through the business media, and many economic development officials tell us their phones are ringing with calls from new prospects at a rate they haven’t seen in years. Yet the data used by most of us to track job growth tell a slightly more sobering story. The 2.94 million workers on Indiana payrolls in July, as reported by the Department…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Simplistic ideas get in way of efforts to increase wages

To the small cadre of economists who have worked their entire professional lives trying to understand the complexities of how and why the labor market rewards some skills, occupations and people more than others, the popularity of the idea of a government-mandated minimum wage must be depressing. But it shouldn’t be surprising. The notion that complex market outcomes can be explained by simplistic notions like greed or discrimination-solvable by the stroke of a lawmaker’s pen-will probably always have a superficial…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Politics sometimes fuels destructive public policy

If you called someone a royalist these days, you’d probably just get a blank stare. But 200 years ago, you would have started a heated discussion and perhaps even a deadly duel. The accusation was often leveled toward those who managed the economy in those days, perhaps for good reason. Then, as now, bankers, financiers and the other moguls trusted with responsibility for national money matters were not always a democratic lot. While politically incorrect then as well as now,…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: U.S. economy slowing, but still showing vitality

By the demanding standards of recent history, the justcompleted second quarter was a tough one for the U.S. economy. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported an annualized growth rate of just 2.5 percent in the overall economy in the April-June period, significantly lower than historical trends and well below the blistering growth of the preceding three months. In addition, there was unwelcome inflation news, causing some analysts to dust off an old word that hasn’t been used since the early…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Impact from small biz smaller than we think?

The images are out there, reinforced almost every day. Big business is bad, led by overpaid executives who are out of touch and hire lobbyists to get laws changed in their favor. Or, worse yet, they drive smaller companies out of business. Small business, in contrast, is noble, led by energetic people following their dream, facing special challenges and deserving of our support. Nobody, it seems, is rooting for Wal-Mart to get bigger, and no one ever made a movie…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Education does matter in today’s labor market

Here’s an update from the American labor market: Paying attention in school really does matter. Getting good grades and going to college is a big deal. What you study and what you learn will affect the rest of your life. Parents have been telling their kids that for a long time, and some of us even listened. But the message above isn’t from a speech or a lecture. It comes from evidence provided by the U.S. economy, in particular the…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Will telecom reform bring cell service to remote areas?

Those of us who spend a lot of time in airports get an effective education in the economics of competition by observing-and paying-the fares charged by airlines. It’s really quite simple. Fly a route served by several airlines, especially if one of them is a low-cost, no-frills carrier such as Southwest, and fares will be reasonably low. But if you are unlucky enough to fly to or from a smaller city, or even a large one where a single carrier…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: State’s ‘circuit breaker’ law worsens flawed tax system

Fifty years ago, economist Charles Tiebout expressed a vision of how freeing local governments to pursue their own unique strategies for setting taxes and providing services could produce an efficient outcome much like the private marketplace. He called it “voting with your feet.” The idea was simple-by moving, people could sort themselves out and live in communities that came closest to providing the tax and expenditure combinations they valued most. Reality is quite a bit more complicated. When people move…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Health care cost ‘solutions’ only worsen the problems

As an economic forecaster, I am almost always optimistic. But that’s not a personality trait. It’s the nature of the business. The economy around us is doing amazingly well. We’ve had much longer economic expansions, steady job and income growth, and less frequent recessions for more than two decades now. So when you deliver an optimistic forecast these days, you stand a pretty good chance of being right. But if there’s one area where my optimism vanishes, it is this-how…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: We want to count jobs, but what’s the best way?

Americans like to keep score on things. And in the realm of economics, there are plenty of things to keep score on. But the economy is a huge, often unwieldy beast, and the data we use to track it are often quite a bit fuzzier than the rows of hardlooking numbers in the graphs and statistical reports we digest would make it seem. In fact, as the old joke goes, we economists like to present growth rates out to two…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Motor-vehicle jobs: a path to the future?

Would landing a new Honda plant be a plus for the Indiana economy? You bet it would. In fact, it’s hard to think of any similar-size investment that holds the same immediate potential for supporting additional jobs beyond those inside the plant walls. The project scores well on just about every objective measure you can come up with to assess its attractiveness. It draws on skills and occupations Indiana already has. Its activities hold great promise for new business for…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Beware of battles brewing among health care giants

Coming up with simple metaphors and images that faithfully represent the issues involved in the way we pay for health care in our country is a challenge. But one keeps coming to my mind: the kitsch Japanese sci-fi classic “Godzilla vs. Rodan,” where two giant monsters duke it out breathing fire and smashing buildings as the residents of Tokyo quake in fear, waiting to see who will win. Some similarly big battles are brewing in the health care business these…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Wanted: a broader view on public-policy issues

There’s nothing wrong with self-interest in politics. We elect representatives to look out for our interests, after all. So when legislation and policies affect things that matter to us-especially if it’s a matter of financial interest-many of us squawk, scream or otherwise throw a fit. And we hope to get noticed. But in policy debates in Indiana in recent years, we’ve been getting lazy. It’s easy enough to defend your interests, of course, but it’s much harder to convince those…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Good transportation paves the way for strong economy

“Like it or not,” noted author Richard Florida opined as he looked out over a crowd that recently gathered in Indianapolis to discuss economic development issues in central Indiana, “you are all part of the greater Chicago region.” That might come as news to you who pay taxes, follow sports, or subscribe to a newspaper. But the point is well made. In the larger scheme of things-the so-called Shanghai perspective one would take in looking at our economy from the…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Improving state’s economy requires a team approach

More than 50 years ago, the famous economist Joseph Schumpeter told a simple story that perfectly captured the essence of market capitalism. It’s a turn-of-the-century tale of a railroad being built in a part of the country where none had existed. The new investment rapidly upsets the order of everything-once ideally situated towns are left high and dry, while others move up in stature as they exploit newfound advantages. It’s messy and it’s painful, but the result is for the…

Read More

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: A primer on understanding the mystery of gas prices

You usually don’t get a lot of space when you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. So when I’ve read those despairing cries of outrage and mystification at the behavior of gas prices recently, I have managed to resist the urge to respond in kind. Explaining energy prices-or any price, for that matter-isn’t quite as hard as hitting a curve ball in baseball, but both explanations take more than the 3 or 4 inches of column…

Read More
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.