TCF fellow Harold Pollack provided commentary on Vivek Murthy, the recently confirmed U.S. Surgeon General. After countless deliberations over his nomination for the post, with considerable criticism from those that refuse to acknowledge any link between public health and gun policy, Murthy stepped in and put some critics at ease by announcing that his focus will be on obesity prevention. Nevertheless, Pollack says that its impossible to pretend that gun violence and mental illness are two entirely separate issues.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health 85 percent of gun-related suicides are successful, compared to only 3 percent of drug related suicides. States with more gun ownership have higher rates of gun-related suicide. “It’s not a question of Second Amendment anything,” Pollack said. “It’s an issue of how do we talk to patients about threats to their health."
Read the rest of Pollack's comments via Bloomberg Politics.
Delays on Amtrak passenger trains have been a regular issue over the past few years, but instead of natural delays, TCF policy associate Jacob Anbinder says this issue may actually be linked to freight fraud. Freight railroads own over 97 percent of the track that it shares with Amtrak, which may be responsible for the recurrent untimely departures and arrivals. Anbinder suggests that these delays may work to the agency's advantage because it serves as a constant reminder that the agency demands reform. One potential solution to restore riders' faith in the train system that is slowly being pursued is a reduction of long-distance routes and an increase in shorter state-supported ones.
On one Norfolk Southern-owned stretch of track in Indiana, for example, Amtrak trains bound for Michigan are typically delayed almost seven minutes for every 10 miles they travel. Those delays represent an impediment to Amtrak’s future success, since potential customers will choose to drive if they know there’s a significant chance their train will be delayed.
Here's Anbinder's full article from US News.
TCF fellow Mark Thoma says we need to reexamine the fiscal policies employed during the Great Recession to see what worked and what did not. He offers some insight into what we should be considering for future financial crisis solutions. This insight includes: 1) policies must be temporary, crises are not the time to push ideological change; 2) call for an improved culture in the financial industry; and 3) create an independent, Fed style committee in charge of making recommendations for fiscal policy during recessions.
In the end, it’s very frustrating and discouraging. Temporary, timely, and targeted fiscal policy in deep recessions could help so many people. It could make a huge difference for those who are struggling to make ends meet, and it could help the economy recover faster. But Congress seems unable to find its way past ideological gridlock even when people are in so much need, and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to solve that problem.
Check out Thoma's full article here.
TCF policy associate Jacob Anbinder discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union's latest infrastructure initiative called European Fund for Strategic Investments or "EFSI." He says that the funds being allocated are not actually new spending but ones that are redirected from the EU's "budget margin." The main issue is getting private-sector parties on board to fund part of the infrastructure, since this is not a project that will turn a profit. Anbinder explains:
Given its heavy reliance on private-sector involvement, EFSI may ultimately function better as a financial tool than as a social one. That is, rather than proactively prioritizing construction of the continent's most vital infrastructure projects, it may instead merely lend money on a first-come, first-served basis to public-private partnerships that would have happened anyway.
Access the full article here.
TCF fellow Mark Thoma suggests some potential misinterpretations of the Great Recession and its subsequent recovery. He looks critically at inflation, long-term growth and underlying or unspecified causes of the recession.
The next time a recession hits, we should err on the side of doing too much, and do it as soon as possible, instead of dragging our feet and not doing enough like we did this time, and in some cases making the recession even worse.
Read Thoma's full piece here.
TCF fellow and economist Mark Thomas says that economic recovery and unemployment are on a better track than most Americans think. Aside from certain part-time exceptions, the overall trend is going in the right direction at its highest speed since the Great Recession.
Although the U.S. economy is slowly healing, millions of Americans have dropped out of the labor market, perhaps demoralized by a sense that good jobs -- or any job -- are nowhere to be found. Contributing to that view is the widely shared notion that in recent years the labor market has produced mostly low-paying part-time and temporary jobs.
But idea turns out to be false.
Read the full article.
In recent decades, and especially since 2000, the richest Americans have enjoyed soaring income and wealth while the rest of the population's living standards have stagnated. The Century Foundation was one of the first institutions to raise serious concerns about these trends and propose ideas for improving economic conditions for all Americans- not just the fortunate few.
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