AEI » Latest Content http://www.aei.org American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:17:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A costly lesson paid for by Pakistan’s childrenhttp://www.aei.org/publication/costly-lesson-paid-pakistans-children/ http://www.aei.org/publication/costly-lesson-paid-pakistans-children/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:20:58 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825261 Can Pakistan learn from tragedy? As horrific details continue to emerge of Tuesday’s massacre in a Peshawar army-run school—at least 148 persons killed, 132 of them children—this is the central question facing the troubled country.

If Pakistan’s powerful generals use this moment to rethink their long-standing support for Islamist militancy, then the country has a hope of emerging as a better place for its 180 million people. But if the generals view the atrocity as merely an excuse for vengeance against the Pakistan Taliban, then the country will likely continue sinking into a violent morass of its own making.

In a narrow sense, the Pakistani army is battling a particularly virulent strain of Islamist terrorism under the banner of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), a group that operates apart from the better-known Afghan Taliban but shares its desire to implement Shariah law. In June the army launched an assault on the TTP’s stronghold in North Waziristan, a so-called tribal area bordering Afghanistan. The TTP spokesman who claimed credit for Tuesday’s attack called it retaliation for losses suffered by its fighters’ families in army operations. He also promised that the violence was “just the trailer” for more to come.

The full text of this article will be posted to AEI.org on Monday, December 22, 2014. 

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The pension mailbaghttp://www.aei.org/publication/pension-mailbag/ http://www.aei.org/publication/pension-mailbag/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:20:17 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825248 In a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, Hank Kim of the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems responds to my recent Journal article arguing that state and local government pensions are taking excessive investment risk. His points, which surely will become a standard response in the pension community, are worth dissecting. Kim’s letter is quoted below, followed by my comments.

“The vast majority of American workers have little or no investment savvy—a big minus for the effectiveness of 401(k) plans—while pension-plan investments are professionally managed and overseen by boards of trustees under the jurisdiction of state and local governments.”

Kim is right that many individuals aren’t good investors. But he ignores changes to 401(k) plans that address this problem. Today, 41% of employees invest their 401(k) plans in “target date” funds, more than double the rate of 2006. Target date funds handle asset allocation automatically, by shifting from stocks to bonds as the worker nears retirement. And a recent study from Vanguard showed that, for the 5-year period ending in 2012, individual investors holding target date funds earned the same return as public plans.

“The administrative costs of pension plans are minuscule compared with the hidden costs individuals must pay with 401(k) plan investments.”

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, state and local pension have an average administrative cost of 0.43% of assets, or 43 “basis points.” According to a recent study by the Investment Company Institute based on federal regulatory data, large 401(k) plans have an average administrative cost of just 28 basis points. There is no reason a defined contribution plan cannot compete on costs.

“We aren’t sure how Mr. Biggs arrived at 62 for the typical age of a Calpers participant. Taking school employees as an example, the median age for active participants is about 45. Even applying Mr. Biggs’s outdated, debunked ’100 minus your age’ rule, Calpers’ asset allocation appears just about right.”

Kim forgets that pensions invest on behalf both of active employees and retired workers. For CalPERS, the average age of all participants is about 62. So I properly based my asset allocation guidelines on that age.

But let’s break things apart to look at active employees alone. CalPERS has stated that an appropriate investment portfolio for retired workers is about 60% bonds and 40% stocks and other risky assets. Let’s assume that CalPERS invests that way on behalf of its retired employees. What does this imply about CalPERS’s remaining investments for its active employees, who are about age 45? The answer (which involves data on how CalPERS total liabilities are split between active employees and retirees, plus a little algebra) is that CalPERS implicit portfolio for active workers consists of about 125% stocks and negative 25% bonds, which is like buying stocks on margin. Now, some rules of thumb for individuals recommend more stocks than the 100-minus-age rule, others recommend less. As I said in the Journal, it’s a rough guideline. But no investment rule, or any other rational theory, recommends the kinds of risks public pensions are taking.

“The truth is that the vast majority of public pensions are well funded and are growing stronger as the economy continues to recover.”

The typical public plan today is around 73% funded, using accounting rules that are far more lax than are required of private sector pensions or of public employee plans in other countries. Using accounting standards that most economists believe make sense, including those at the CBO, Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, most public pensions aren’t well-funded.

And yet, while one would expect that pension funding would be growing stronger as the economy recovers – it is, after all seven years since the financial crisis – that doesn’t appear to be the case. According to Wilshire Consulting, the average pension funding ratio of 73% in 2013 was down from 74% in 2012, 76% in 2011, 77% in 2010 and – well, you get the drift.

“Calpers, for example, has higher assets today than it did in 2007, a year before the Great Recession devastated the economy and the markets.”

Yes, public pensions today have higher assets than in 2007. About 5% higher, according to Federal Reserve data. Unfortunately, pension liabilities today are about 42% higher than in 2007, according to the Fed. So assets have still got a long way to go. The much-maligned 401(k) plans, by contrast, today hold 37% more assets than their pre-recession peak. You be the judge.

“The biggest challenge public pensions face is receiving the timely and full payments of annual required contributions by state and local governments. The public pension plans in trouble today are typically the plans whose legislatures have failed to fund them, even in boom economic times.”

Kim is right in one sense: as I showed in this recent Journal of Retirement article, a plan that always receives its full contribution has almost no chance of going broke. But, as I showed in the Journal last year, the combination of larger plans and riskier investments means that full required contributions can be larger and more volatile today than in the past. In other words, a big reason state and local governments don’t make their full pension contributions is that they can’t make their full pension contributions, and one reason they can’t is that plans are taking much more investment risk today than in the past.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.

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Obama moves to normalize Cuba relations: Noriega on CNBC’s ‘Squawk on the Street’http://www.aei.org/press/obama-moves-normalize-cuba-relations-noriega-cnbcs-squawk-street/ http://www.aei.org/press/obama-moves-normalize-cuba-relations-noriega-cnbcs-squawk-street/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:07:53 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=press&p=825244 http://www.aei.org/press/obama-moves-normalize-cuba-relations-noriega-cnbcs-squawk-street/feed/ 0 The Ukrainian revolution, one year later: A conversation with US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nulandhttp://www.aei.org/events/ukrainian-revolution-one-year-later-conversation-us-assistant-secretary-state-european-eurasian-affairs-victoria-nuland/ http://www.aei.org/events/ukrainian-revolution-one-year-later-conversation-us-assistant-secretary-state-european-eurasian-affairs-victoria-nuland/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:51:18 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=event&p=821326 ...]]]> Event Summary

According to Victoria Nuland, US secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, it is in America’s best interests that Ukraine succeed in becoming democratic, more prosperous, more unified, and more European and beat the “cancer of corruption” that has plagued it for so long. On Wednesday, AEI’s Leon Aron discussed with Nuland key issues affecting US foreign policy in her region of focus.

Nuland first dispelled rumors circulated by Russian propaganda outlets that she was somehow orchestrating Ukrainian domestic politics, but reiterated that the United States has a keen interest in providing Ukraine with the support it needs to defend its sovereign territory, reform its economy, and progress on a path toward European integration. She added that the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which Congress unanimously passed last week, illustrates the depth of bipartisan support for Ukraine in the United States.

Turning to US-Russian relations, she acknowledged the role of Western sanctions in contributing to Russia’s current economic crisis, but argued that the country’s central economic problem lies in the political regime’s failure to lessen the economy’s reliance on hydrocarbons. Finally, she stressed that the US diplomatic position toward Russia has not changed, but emphasized that if Russia were to fully implement the terms of the Minsk agreement, then sanctions could be quickly lifted. She implored Russian leadership to prioritize the well-being of its people over its imperial ambition.
–Joe Gates

Event Description

On November 21, 2013, protests erupted in Kiev’s Independence Square against then–Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to effectively block his country’s path toward European integration. One year later, Yanukovych has fled the country, and the Ukrainian people have replaced him with moderate, pro-Europe parties in the October 26 parliamentary elections. What does the future hold for the Ukrainian revolution?

Please join us at AEI for a conversation with Victoria Nuland, US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, on what the United States should do to help consolidate and defend a Europe-bound, democratic Ukraine in the face of a severe economic crisis and the renewed threat of Russian military aggression.

We welcome you to follow the speech and comment on Twitter with #NulandatAEI.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

If you have trouble registering, please contact conferences@aei.org.

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Chinese carbon emissions factshttp://www.aei.org/publication/china-carbon-emissions-facts/ http://www.aei.org/publication/china-carbon-emissions-facts/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:25:27 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825200 You may be tired of reading commentary on the US-China climate deal struck last month. We thankfully didn’t hear as much about a minor international agreement reached in Peru a couple of days ago. And all this is prelude to what is supposed to be the culminating global meeting in Paris in 2015.

It may be surprising that there are facts available about Chinese behavior, not just endless assertions. The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which seems like it should be a fairly unbiased source, just released its 2013 carbon emissions estimates. Here’s what they say (the numbers are also close to those from the Global Carbon Project):

China carbon emissions

Chinese emissions are now 95% higher than American. Except for 2007, the pattern in Chinese emissions data shows a one-year lag from official GDP growth. First, official GDP changes speed, then emissions change speed a year later.

There are many possible data problems here but it will surprise no one that economic trends are what drive Chinese emissions. Emissions growth has come down recently because the Chinese economy has been weakening.

This makes Chinese commitments to slowing and eventually zero emissions growth much more credible. Beijing has rushed to adopt the phrase “the new normal” in describing the economic trajectory. Translation of the new normal: considerably slower. So the Chinese side of the Sino-American climate trade is to assent to something happening already and likely to continue.

There are, of course, still problems. China is far from rich and understandably still seeks fast economic gains. Better policies could sustain or accelerate expansion past the time — “around 2030” – when the PRC promises to cap emissions. It is not reasonable to expect China to sacrifice economic growth, if such is achievable, for the sake of a non-binding agreement.

Another hitch is highlighted by the new data:  whose figures will be used to evaluate PRC and US compliance? Will China get to present its own emissions levels, the way it would like to present its own pollution levels? What about coal, where Chinese data has been unreliable? What are President Obama’s successors to do if Chinese and international numbers clash?

The bilateral agreement is somewhat silly. However, it is likely that the Chinese economy will evidence more slowing in 2014 and 2015. This could cut, a year later, annual emissions growth to close to 2% (and coal consumption growth to near-zero). These are the facts for American policy-makers to consider over the next few years.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.

 

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Banter #166: Claude Barfield on the ‘right to be forgotten’http://www.aei.org/publication/banter-166-claude-barfield-right-forgotten/ http://www.aei.org/publication/banter-166-claude-barfield-right-forgotten/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:07:13 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825215 We’re joined this week by AEI Scholar Claude Barfield to the discuss the idea of “right to be forgotten.” Claude explain what the idea behind it is and then gives us some insight into why the misbegotten regulation is a bad idea for tech companies. We also spend some time discussing whether or not the US has the right to access data stored in foreign countries and why Microsoft, Apple, and Google are joining together to fight it.  Enjoy!

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Holiday shopping? Consider the most economically efficient gift of all: cash, and avoid the deadweight loss of Christmashttp://www.aei.org/publication/holiday-shopping-consider-economically-efficient-gift-cash-avoid-deadweight-loss-christmas/ http://www.aei.org/publication/holiday-shopping-consider-economically-efficient-gift-cash-avoid-deadweight-loss-christmas/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:54:53 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825203 ...]]]> Although that strategy didn’t work out so well for Jerry Seinfeld….

It’s that time of year for my annual post on the “deadweight loss of Christmas gift giving.”

1. Economist Steven Landsburg writing in his book the “Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Experience“:

 I am not sure why people give each other store-bought gifts instead of cash, which is never the wrong size or color. Some say that we give gifts because it shows that we took the time to shop. But we could accomplish the same thing by giving the cash value of our shopping time, showing that we took the time to earn the money.

2. In a 1993 American Economic Review article “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” Yale economist Joel Waldfogel concluded that holiday gift-giving destroys a significant portion of the retail value of the gifts given. Reason? The best outcome that gift-givers can achieve is to duplicate the choices that the gift-recipient would have made on his or her own with the cash-equivalent of the gift. In reality, it’s highly certain that many gifts given will not perfectly match the recipient’s own preferences. In those cases, the recipient will be worse off with the sub-optimal gift selected by the gift-giver than if the recipient was given cash and allowed to choose his or her own gift. Because many Christmas gifts are mismatched with the preferences of the recipients, the Waldfogel concludes that holiday gift-giving generates a significant economic “deadweight loss” of between one-tenth and one-third of the retail value of the gifts purchased.

3. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $617 billion this year during the holiday season. If the deadweight loss estimates of Professor Waldfogel are accurate, that would mean that between $62 billion and $206 billion of the spending on gifts this holiday season will be wasted.

4. In the Seinfeld episode above, Jerry thinks like an economist and tries to avoid the deadweight loss by giving his close friend Elaine a beautifully gift-wrapped package that contains $182 in cash for her birthday. Watch as Jerry’s economic thinking about giving cash backfires, suggesting that there might be a cost to giving cash as a gift that Professor Waldfogel’s model didn’t consider.

Happy Holidays!

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Sen. Sanders blamed speculators for the $7.50/barrel increase in oil prices from Jan-June; Do they now get credit for the $43/barrel drop in oil prices since July?http://www.aei.org/publication/sen-sanders-blamed-speculators-7-50barrel-increase-oil-prices-jan-june-now-get-credit-43barrel-drop-oil-prices-since-july/ http://www.aei.org/publication/sen-sanders-blamed-speculators-7-50barrel-increase-oil-prices-jan-june-now-get-credit-43barrel-drop-oil-prices-since-july/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 03:12:21 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825170 ...]]]> Last summer when oil prices rose by 5% during a three-week period in June partly due to instability in Iraq, Sen. Bernie Sanders once again blamed greedy energy-market traders for the rise in prices and introduced legislation in the first week of July that would allow the government to intervene in the futures markets to curb speculation on oil prices. Now that oil prices have plummeted by almost 60% since Sen. Sanders introduced his bill (see chart above), I’ll have some more editing fun below of a July news report on Sen. Sanders’s legislation (see some previous editing fun from a few months ago here):

Iraqi Violence Oil Glut Has Restarted Bernie Sanders’s Gas-Price Fight With Wall Street

Sen. Bernie Sanders is taking aim at energy-market traders he blames for sharply driving up down gas and oil prices by exploiting Iraqi instability, the current oversupply of oil, introducing legislation that would compel the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission to intervene.

Sanders is part of a growing and diverse coalition of market watchers who believe speculators are partly responsible for the rising falling oil and gas prices over the last six months. The argument is a long-standing contention and of populists, feedsing a narrative of Wall Street insiders making life more difficult for Main Street consumers hundreds of independent oil and gas companies. For example, the shares of oil and gas producer Continental Resources have fallen by 60 percent since September, and the shares of Anadarko, another independent producer, have dropped by 35 percent.

Energy speculators bet on future prices for oil and purchase contracts. The process can raise huge profits for oil companies and investment banks that can buy and sell hundreds of millions of barrels a day, leading to critics like Sanders claiming that Wall Street is unfairly taking advantage of the commodities market and cheating American consumers. independent oil and gas companies out of profits. But bankers and traders argue that speculation protects them from potential price shocks, and further regulations from the CFTC would burden legitimate hedging.

Sanders, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, cites the 5 30 percent crude oil price rise drop in the last three weeks since June12 November 25 —when hostilities intensified in several Iraqi cities—as evidence for malpractice. In the longer term, Sanders notes that oil prices have increased decreased by 53 percent over the past five four years.

“I am getting tired of big oil companies and Wall Street speculators using Iraq using the glut of crude oil as an excuse to pump up drive down oil and gas prices,” Sanders said in a statement. “The fact is that high low gasoline prices have less to do with supply and demand and more to do with Wall Street speculators driving prices up down in the energy futures market.”

“We now know that speculators artificially drove up electricity prices on the West Coast in 2000; propane prices in 2004; and natural gas prices in 2006,” Sanders said. “Why would anyone believe that speculators at this very minute are not manipulating the price of oil lower when supply is high and demand is low?”

MP: Here are some questions for Sen. Sanders and the 17 fellow Democratic co-sponsors of his bill:

1. If greedy speculators were to blame for the $7.50 per barrel (and 10.6%) increase in oil prices during the first half of this year that motivated your anti-speculation bill in early July, do oil speculators now get any of the credit for the $43.60 (and 41%) drop per barrel in oil prices during the last half of 2014?

2. Is it your position that falling gas and oil prices over the last six months have less to do with supply and demand and more to do with Wall Street speculators driving prices down in the energy futures markets?

3. Is it your position that market forces are the primary reason that oil and gas prices fall, but speculation and energy market manipulation are the primary reasons that oil and gas prices rise?

4. Are energy traders now unfairly taking advantage of the commodities markets by speculating on the significant decline in oil prices?

5. Are greedy speculators unfairly cheating oil and gas companies out of the fair profits they deserve for their risky capital investments in oil and gas exploration and drilling?

6. Will you be calling for Congressional hearings to investigate the role of energy-market speculation in the significant decline in oil and gas prices?

7. Is it possible that greedy speculators are only responsible for rising oil and gas prices but blameless for falling commodity prices? Do they disappear somewhere when oil prices are falling, but suddenly reappear periodically to destabilize energy markets by causing spikes?

Bottom Line: Realistically, Sen. Sanders and his Democratic co-sponsors can’t have it both ways. If greedy speculators are to blame for rising oil prices, they have to also get some credit for falling prices. In that case, we and Congress should be celebrating and thanking the speculators for the recent drop in oil and gas prices that will save consumers collectively more than $100 billion over the next year.

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Don’t believe the NYT hype. Rouhani’s critics don’t threaten a nuclear dealhttp://www.aei.org/publication/dont-believe-hype/ http://www.aei.org/publication/dont-believe-hype/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:32:10 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825164 On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech at the Central Bank of Iran to shore up confidence in the government’s efforts to end sanctions, restore financial stability, and tackle public corruption. In reporting the story, The New York Times picked up on Rouhani apparently calling out his critics in the leadership who oppose a nuclear deal:

Some people may not like to see the sanctions lifted. Their numbers are few, and they want to muddy the waters…The people will achieve their rights. You should also prepare for interaction with the world. You should know that in the near future many investors will come to our country…The overwhelming majority of our nation — intellectuals, academics, theologians, the greats and the leadership — are in favor of getting the sanctions removed.

The Times claimed Rouhani was pledging to face down his opponents and that he and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, had staked their political careers on getting a deal. Is the hype in the story warranted?

Not really. The reality is that Rouhani’s supposed “hardline” enemies are not driving the regime’s decision making about the nuclear negotiations. As I have argued before, the idea that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given Rouhani only a short window to reach an agreement–and that the president is very politically vulnerable if there is not a nuclear deal–is something of a red herring.

Over the past 15 months we have seen the opposite. Rouhani is right. The vast majority of the nation and the Iranian leadership want a deal with the world powers. The regime is largely unified on this point. Khamenei continues to express his strong support for the president and the talks, even after the most recent extension in November.

Rouhani’s comments at the Central Bank were really intended to bolster flagging optimism in domestic and foreign financial circles for a deal. The Iranian markets have not responded well to the failure to reach an agreement last month, with both the rial and the Tehran Stock Exchange plunging. Oil prices continue to drop, further exacerbating Rouhani’s budgetary pain. The need for Iran to find a way out from the nuclear sanctions regime has never been more pressing and the leadership understands that. Rouhani has little to fear from his critics right now.

As opposed to President Obama’s and Secretary of State Kerry’s combative and self-defeating approaches to Republican and Democratic skeptics in Congress, Rouhani and Zarif have used the bogeyman of hardline saboteurs to gain sympathy in the West and leverage in the talks, while discouraging any tightening of the economic and military pressure on Tehran. Maybe one day we will stop falling for this bedtime story.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.

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How not to mess up tax reformhttp://www.aei.org/publication/mess-tax-reform/ http://www.aei.org/publication/mess-tax-reform/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 21:33:13 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=825165 I am skeptical of the chances for tax reform happening in the next Congress. Still, trying to be positive. Anyway, center-right reformers typically call for lowering the top marginal rate and broadening the tax base by eliminating or curtailing various tax breaks. If only it were that simple. From a 2011 AEI report from Alex Brill and Alan Viard:

Lowering statutory tax rates while broadening the income tax base generally does not reduce work disincentives because it leaves the relevant effective tax rates unchanged. Such reforms may promote economic efficiency by providing neutral tax treatment that allows market forces to allocate resources across different economic sectors. Some types of base broadening, however, may actually move the tax system away from neutrality, impeding economic efficiency. Income tax base broadening does not remove, and may even reinforce, the income tax’s central distortion: its penalty on saving.

In other words, work incentives depend on effective marginal tax rates rather than statutory tax rates. And revenue-neutral base broadening can leave the effective tax rate unchanged even though the statutory rate might be lower. So even though 1986 tax reform — much cited as the proper way to do pro-growth reform — sharply reduced statutory tax rates, including the top rate from 50 to 28%, some analysis suggests effective tax rates and thus work incentives were left unchanged overall.

There is also  tricky bit that specifically applies to corporate tax reform. Cutting the corporate tax rate is a good idea because it the tax penalty on reduces the investment penalty by letting companies keep a bigger fraction of the payoffs from their investments. Viard:

But that doesn’t work if the rate cut is accompanied by a slow-down in depreciation deductions … If depreciation is slowed down enough to offset the full revenue loss from the rate cut, then there’s no reduction in the investment penalty, on balance.  … In fact, the policy makes the tax penalty on new investments bigger. To see why, let’s separate out the old capital now in place – past investments that are still producing output – from new investments. For old capital, a rate cut paid for with slower depreciation is a big win. All of its future payoffs get taxed at the lower rate. Yet, it’s spared from the depreciation slow-down – the longstanding rule is that depreciation changes apply only to new investments.

If the overall reform package is revenue-neutral and old capital comes out ahead, then new investments have to pick up the slack. For new investments, the loss from the depreciation slow-down must outweigh the benefits of the rate cut, amplifying the tax penalty. That means we end up with the worst of both worlds. First, we shower windfalls on investments that have already been made by giving companies tax savings that they were never promised. This reward for past investment is senseless – we can’t change the past. Then, we turn around and raise the tax penalty on new investments, which can still be changed. And they will be changed – the stiffer penalty will discourage investment and slow economic growth.

Yes, let’s cut the corporate tax rate. But, let’s not slow down depreciation to pay for it. Let’s phase in the rate cut gradually, to trim the revenue loss and diminish the windfall to old capital. Let’s recoup some revenue by cutting back on corporate deductions for interest payments, a measure that will also reduce the tax bias in favor of borrowing. And, let’s extend the reform to individual taxes and craft a comprehensive revenue-neutral package. Although the details of corporate tax reform may sound technical, the stakes are high. We can’t afford to give windfalls for investments made in the past. Instead, we should reward the new investments that will help move us towards a prosperous future.

With US debt high, we need to be very cagey about cutting taxes and using those dollars wisely. One idea:  Changes that encourage new investment (via the immediate expensing of new business investment) and startups (via phaseout of capital gains taxes for long-term investments).

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Japan after the election: Can Abe salvage his reform policies?http://www.aei.org/events/japan-election-can-abe-salvage-reform-policies/ http://www.aei.org/events/japan-election-can-abe-salvage-reform-policies/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:52:56 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=event&p=824095 Japan, arguably America’s foremost ally in East Asia, has experienced two decades of economic stagnation.  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe took office in December 2012 with an ambitious reform agenda aimed at reversing Japan’s economic decline.  Last month, Japan’s economy slid into recession, which has led to a decline in Abe’s approval ratings and cast doubt on the effectiveness of Abenomics.

In an attempt to renew his mandate for economic reform, Abe has called for parliamentary elections on December 14.  Can he garner enough political will to implement the necessary structural reforms to jumpstart the Japanese economy?

We welcome you to tune in to a Google Hangout discussion after Japan’s snap election, during which AEI experts Michael Auslin and Derek Scissors will discuss how the results will impact Abenomics and Japan’s political outlook.

To join the Hangout, click here  on December 16 at 4:00 PM ET. Registration is not required.

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What does the American Dream mean?http://www.aei.org/publication/american-dream-mean/ http://www.aei.org/publication/american-dream-mean/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:09:22 +0000 http://www.aei.org/?post_type=publication&p=823390 For more information on public opinion on the American Dream, see AEI’s ebook Is the American Dream Alive? Examining Americans’ Attitudes here.

Do Americans believe the American Dream is endangered? The December issue of AEI’s Political Report distills public opinion on what Americans think the dream means and how close they are to it and looks at how opinion about this perennial topic has changed over time.

  • Defining the dream: What constitutes the dream has stayed constant since pollsters started asking about it years ago. Education, freedom, and homeownership are core elements — being wealthy is not.
  • Harder than in the past: In 2014, 70 percent of adults ages 34 or older told Pew pollsters that young adults today face more challenges than they did when starting out. In surveys taken years ago, people also agreed it would be harder for young people than it was for themselves.
  • Opportunity for average Joe: Forty-three percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters in 1998 that there was more opportunity for the average person to get ahead than there used to be. In 2013, 12 percent gave that response, while 58 percent said less and 28 percent said about the same (Gallup).
  • Does hard work pay off? It depends. Twenty years ago, 68 percent of those surveyed by Pew said most people could make it if they worked hard. In 2014, 65 percent gave that response. But Americans are less satisfied now (54 percent) than they were in 2001 (76 percent) about the opportunities America offers to get ahead by hard work (Gallup).
  • Achieving the dream, eventually: Most Americans surveyed feel they will eventually achieve the dream, if they haven’t already. Thirty percent of Hispanics feel as if they have achieved the American Dream, while 56 percent feel they will eventually. Twenty-one percent of African Americans say they have achieved the dream, while 60 percent feel they will eventually (Harvard School of Public Health/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/NPR).
  • Millennials believe in the dream — for themselves: A third say they now earn enough to lead the kind of life they want, and another 53 percent say they will eventually (Pew). Millennials are less confident about “their generation.”
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