Presidents Have Less Power Over the Economy Than You Might Think

Neil Irwin: “…presidents have far less control over the economy than you might imagine. Presidential economic records are highly dependent on the dumb luck of where the nation is in the economic cycle. And the White House has no control over the demographic and technological forces that influence the economy.”

“We all have a tendency to think that a president whose policies we disagree with will be bad for the economy and the stock market. But looking at markets in such starkly political terms can lead to bad decisions. Ask a conservative who refused to invest in stocks while they notched a 182 percent gain during the Obama presidency — or a liberal who shorted stocks after Donald J. Trump won in November.”

Proposals for a New U.S. Electoral System

“There are several remedies. Perhaps in order of increasing chance of adoption, they are: (1) to elect the president by the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College; (2) to choose the winner in the general election according to the preferences of a majority of voters rather than a mere plurality, either nationally or by state; and, easiest of all, (3) to substitute majority for plurality rule in state primaries,” Harvard professors Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen write for The New York Review of Books.

Democrats Can’t Win Until They Recognize How Bad Obama’s Financial Policies Were

“…the past eight years of policymaking have damaged Democrats at all levels. Recovering Democratic strength will require the party’s leaders to come to terms with what it has become — and the role Obama played in bringing it to this point,” Matt Stoller argues in The Washington Post.

“Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration’s pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump.”

Data Show the “American Dream” Is a Fallacy and Americans Still Don’t Realize It

Quartz: “Economists at Harvard University recently published research on actual and perceived economic mobility in the United States and four European countries. They found an American public in denial. The data show that Americans believe the chance that a person who is born into the bottom 20% of households in income in the US can reach the top 20% in adulthood is more than 50% higher than in reality.”

“The researchers also discovered that, within the US, an overly optimistic outlook about economic mobility is concentrated in the parts of the country where actual mobility is lowest.”

An ObamaCare Compromise That Republicans and Democrats Can Both Love

James Pethokoukis: “The most obvious compromise is to fix and stabilize ObamaCare — such as deregulating the insurance exchanges — not repeal and replace it with something brand new.”

“But that’s just a start. Republicans should go even farther than reforming ObamaCare. They should expand it.”

“Imagine an America where ObamaCare was so robust, where the exchanges were such a crackling hotbed of free-market activity and competition, that everyone purchased insurance this way, and no longer counted on their employers (or the government) for health coverage.”

How Clearing Criminal Records Puts People to Work

CityLab: “There are nearly 70 million Americans with a prior arrest or conviction. The mark on their record follows them around, sometimes for 30 or 40 years.”

“Enter expungement, sealing, and set-aside. These legal terms sometimes refer to different processes state to state, but they end with the same result: prior offenses not showing up on background checks for employment. Depending on the state, a criminal record can effectively remove every right a citizen has—like the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, or even travel internationally. Going through expungement restores those rights.”

“A recent study put the national cost of the employment penalty for former prisoners and those convicted of felonies at $78 to $87 billion annually.”

The U.S. Media’s Problems Are Much Bigger than Fake News and Filter Bubbles

“The media did exactly what it was designed to do, given the incentives that govern it. It’s not that the media sets out to be sensationalist; its business model leads it in that direction. Charges of bias don’t make the bias real; it often lies in the eye of the beholder. Fake news and cyberattacks are triggers, not causes. The issues that confront us are structural,” Bharat N. Anand writes for Harvard Business Review.

How to Prevent Gun Deaths? Where Experts and the Public Agree

New York Times: “The academics in our panel — many of the country’s best empirical researchers on gun policy — were far more likely than the general public to support gun control. But nearly all of the policies that experts think could work have widespread support from the general public.”

“While Americans remain sharply divided in their overall view of the tension between gun control and gun rights, individual proposals are widely favored. The most popular measures in our survey — policies like universal background checks and keeping guns from convicted stalkers — were supported by more than 85 percent of registered voters. Even the least popular idea, a law that would limit gun sales to people who had to demonstrate a ‘genuine need’ for the weapon, was favored by nearly 50 percent.”

“Public support, of course, doesn’t always translate into legislative action. The Republican Congress, like Mr. Trump, has shown little appetite for measures that would curb gun rights.”