Larry Samuelson

Yale

Personal Homepage

  • Douglas Melamed Professor of Economics
  • Fellow, Econometric Society
  • Co-Editor, American Economic Review (2010 – present)
  • Co-Editor, Econometrica (2005-2010)

Voting History

Deficits

If the US reduced its fiscal deficit, then its trade deficit would also shrink.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
There are so many variables at work here, including how the deficit is reduced, to be sure of the effect.
Uncertain 5

Infrastructure Spending

Question A: The US should increase spending now on roads, railways, bridges and airports (including new projects, maintenance or both).

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Agree 7

Question B: The advisability of increasing federal spending on roads, railways, bridges and airports is independent of whether the US also enacts tax cuts that substantially lower revenues.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
It would be a superb investment to finance infrastructure with tax revenue, but the investments are imperative regardless of tax policy.
Disagree 6

Baumol’s Cost Disease

Because labor markets across different sectors are connected, rising productivity in manufacturing leads the cost of labor-intensive services — such as education and health care — to rise.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
One sees clear evidence in a variety of labor-intensive services -- education, health care, professional orchestras, and so on.
Agree 8

Tax Reforms

Question A: Since 1980, whenever substantial growth effects have been required to make a tax reform plan revenue neutral, the actual outcome has invariably been a fall in tax revenue as a share of GDP.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
Cutting taxes can stimulate growth, but typically not by enough to increase total revenue collected.
Agree 7

Question B: The tax reform plan proposed by President Trump this week would likely pay for itself through higher economic growth.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Disagree 8
Strongly Disagree 8

Border Adjustment Tax

Question A: Implementing a "destination based cash flow tax (including border adjustment)" of the type advocated by Speaker Ryan would substantially reduce the US trade deficit within the next few years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
There are too many unknowns, including the reactions of other countries, to have any confidence that this would reduce the deficit.
Disagree 4

Question B: Implementing a “destination based cash flow tax (including border adjustment)” of the type advocated by Speaker Ryan would substantially raise prices for US consumers.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Whatever the effect on the deficit, it is likely to have adverse effects on domestic prices.
Disagree 5

The CBO

Question A: Forecasting the effects of complex legislative actions is hard, so even competent, non-ideological and non-partisan projections could differ substantially from outcomes.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Strongly Agree 9

Question B: Adjusting for legal restrictions on what the CBO can assume about future legislation and events, the CBO has historically issued credible forecasts of the effects of both Democratic and Republican legislative proposals.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
Agree 7

High-Skilled Immigrant Visas

Question A: If the US significantly lowers the number of H-1B visas now, expected US tax revenues will rise materially over the next four years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
H-1B visas have such a small and indirect effect on US tax revenues that one cannot be confident of a significant increase in tax revenues.
Disagree 7

Question B: If the US significantly lowers the number of H-1B visas now, employment for American workers will rise materially over the next four years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
H-1B visa holders fill positions that are hard to fill domestically for structural reasons, such as skill mismatches.
Disagree 6

Sports Stadiums

Providing state and local subsidies to build stadiums for professional sports teams is likely to cost the relevant taxpayers more than any local economic benefits that are generated.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Common estimates of the benefits are often wildly inflated, and fail to distinguish total economic activity form net gains in activities.
Agree 5

Trump and Share Prices

Question A: US share prices have risen since Donald Trump’s election victory at least partly because the policies he seems poised to implement are likely to increase US after-tax corporate profits.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
There is too much uncertainty about his policies to know for sure, but they appear to auger well for corporate profits.
Agree 6

Question B: US share prices have risen since Donald Trump’s election victory at least partly because the policies he seems poised to implement are likely to increase US real GDP growth.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
Despite bold claims about growth, the new administration has not described an effective policy to increase GDP growth.
Disagree 5

Economic Policy Advice

The Council of Economic Advisors is likely to give the US president better policy advice if the Chair and Members of the CEA have published peer-reviewed economics research.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Peer reviewed research is not the only source of insight, but it is an essential input, and the CEA is the obvious place to provide it.
Agree 7

100-Day Plan

Question A: If all of the “Seven actions to protect American workers” in President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan (see link) are enacted, it will more likely than not improve the economic prospects of middle-class Americans over the next decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
The proposals are too vague to assess with any confidence, but the seeming isolationist theme is not encouraging.
Strongly Disagree 6

Question B: If all of the “Seven actions to protect American workers” in President-elect Trump’s 100-day plan are enacted, it will more likely than not improve the economic prospects of low-skilled Americans over the next decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
As before, the proposals are too vague to assess with confidence, but have an apparent isolationist theme that is not encouraging.
Strongly Disagree 6

AT&T and Time Warner

A merger of AT&T and Time Warner would likely increase consumer surplus over the ensuing decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
It is not clear what synergies would provide the foundation for increased consumer surplus, nor are the effects on competition clear.
Disagree 4

Taxes and Mandatory Spending

Long run fiscal sustainability in the US will require some combination of cuts in currently promised Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits and/or tax increases that include higher taxes on households with incomes below $250,000.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
Agree 6

Import Duties

Adding new or higher import duties on products such as air conditioners, cars, and cookies — to encourage producers to make them in the US — would be a good idea.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Disagree 8
There are more effective policies to achieve the goals, such as increased employment, typically associated with import duties.
Strongly Disagree 7

Science, Technology and Immigration

Question A: Allowing US-based employers to hire many more immigrants with advanced degrees in science or engineering would lower (at least temporarily) the premium earned by current American workers with similar degrees.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
One would expect a temporary decrease in the premium, but it is not obvious that the effect would be significant or long-lasting.
Agree 6

Question B: Allowing US-based employers to hire many more immigrants with advanced degrees in science or engineering would raise per capita income in the US over time.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
The ability to bring the best and the brightest from throughout the world to our economy is a great resource.
Agree 7

Brexit II

Question A: Because of the Brexit vote's outcome, the UK's real per-capita income level is likely to be lower a decade from now.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
The European Union has various structural problems, but exiting will lead to efficiency losses and to lower per capital income in the UK.
Agree 5

Question B: Because of the Brexit vote's outcome, the rest of the EU's real per-capita income level is likely to be lower a decade from now.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
The effect on the EU will be smaller than that on the UK, unless the European Union unravels further.
Agree 5

Universal Basic Income

Granting every American citizen over 21-years old a universal basic income of $13,000 a year — financed by eliminating all transfer programs (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing subsidies, household welfare payments, and farm and corporate subsidies) — would be a better policy than the status quo.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
There is much to recommend a universal basic income, but specifically a 13k income while ending all other transfers is difficult to assess.
Disagree 6

Inequality and Monetary Policy

The ratio of the 90th to the 10th percentile of the US income distribution has been unaffected by the Federal Reserve's unconventional monetary policies since the financial crisis.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
Fed policy may have had an effect, but this is swamped by the effects of other government policies and structural changes in the economy.
Uncertain 4

Cadillac Tax

The “Cadillac tax” on expensive employer-provided health insurance plans will reduce costly distortions in US health care if it is allowed to take effect as scheduled in 2018.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Even better would be to divorce the provision of health care from employment entirely, but that is probably not a realistic possibility.
Agree 7

Breaking Up Banks

Question A: The four largest domestic US banks currently have around 40% of the industry’s domestic assets (an average of 10% each).  In early 1998, before Glass-Steagall ended and before Citicorp merged with Travelers, they held 13.2% (an average of 3.3% each). Thirty years ago, before interstate branching was fully permitted, that combined share was around 8% (an average of 2% each).
Capping US banks’ size so that no single bank could be larger than 4% of the sector's domestic assets would lower systemic risk in the US.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Other alternatives, such as appropriately regulating reserves and leverage, would also be effective.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The US financial system would contribute more to the average American's welfare if the size of US banks were capped so that none could be larger than 4% of the sector's domestic assets.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Uncertain 4

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Question A: By providing important measures of US economic performance — including employment, consumer prices, wages, job openings, time allocation in households, and productivity — the Bureau of Labor Statistics creates social benefits that exceed its annual cost of roughly $610 million.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
One cannot hope to make effective economic policy without reliable data.
Strongly Agree 8

Question B: Cuts in BLS spending would likely involve net social costs because potential declines in the quality of data, and thus their usefulness to researchers and decision makers, would exceed any budget savings.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Economic policy is often imprecise, but abandoning the data and making policy blindly would be even worse.
Strongly Agree 7

Trade and Toughness

An important reason why many workers in Michigan and Ohio have lost jobs in recent years is because US presidential administrations over the past 30 years have not been tough enough in trade negotiations.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
Toughness in trade negotiations is considerably less important than factors such as skill-biased technical change in manufacturing.
Disagree 6

Primary Voting

Question A: There is no perfect voting system. That is, no voting system can ensure that the winner will be the person who best represents voters’ wishes, including how intensely they favor or disfavor each candidate.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
There is extensive research and impossibility results showing that there is no perfect voting system.
Strongly Agree 8

Question B: One clear defect of a winner-take-all election with 3 or more candidates, and with each voter choosing only one candidate, is that a candidate who is strongly disliked by a majority, but strongly liked by a minority, can beat a candidate who is liked by a majority and disliked by relatively few.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Winner-take-all elections with multiple candidates are fertile ground for generating perverse results.
Agree 8

Oil Price Speculation

Large movements in monthly oil prices, either up or down, are driven primarily by speculators, as opposed to changes in the current (and planned) supply or demand for oil.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
The price appears to fluctuate more vigorously than can be explained simply by changes in fundamentals.
Disagree 7

Brexit

Question A: If the UK opts to withdraw from the European Union, and assuming Scotland stays in the UK, the level of the UK's real per-capita income a decade later will be lower than if it remains part of the EU.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
A decade is long enough, and the economies complicated enough, that anything could happen.
Uncertain 5

Question B: If the UK exits the EU, then it substantially increases the chances that some other current region of the EU will also exit within the following decade.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Once the mindset that exit must be prevented at all costs is broken, others will more readily follow.
Agree 6

China’s Growth

China’s growth model, specifically the unusually high investment rate and low consumption rate, is unsustainable.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
China's growth numbers have long been suspect; it is remarkable that new evidence of their weakness has so much effect on world markets.
Agree 6

Christmas Spending

An annual December spending surge on parties, gift-giving and personal travel delivers net social benefits.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Despite curmudgeonly economics articles, the revealed preference is that people derive gains from these activities.
Agree 6

US Interest Rates

Question A: The Fed should raise its target interest rate when it meets in mid-December.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
The conventional wisdom is that the strong November jobs report clinches a rate increase, and I see no reason to disagree.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The Fed should have raised interest rates sooner, rather than leaving them near zero for this long.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
Inflation has been surprising dormant, so there appear to have been few adverse consequences of prolonged low rates.
Disagree 6

Quarterly Earnings

Question A:

Letting publicly traded US firms report earnings annually rather than quarterly would lead their executives to place more weight on long-term issues in their investments and other decisions.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
A year is still too short of a horizon to be confident that executives would appropriately weight long-term issues, which may span decades.
Uncertain 5

Question B: A switch from quarterly to annual earnings reports would, on net, benefit shareholders.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
The modest push toward better weighting of long-term issues must be balanced against the attendant loss of information and accountability.
Uncertain 5

Standardized Tests

Comparing their students’ average gains on standardized tests over the school year makes it easier to predict which teachers — all else equal — are more likely to improve their student’s long-term life outcomes.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
But testing is just one of many measures, and is a noisy measure, and can induce distortions in behavior.
Agree 5

Poverty and Measurement

Question A: The association between health and economic growth in poor countries primarily involves faster growth generating better health, rather than the other way around.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
In some cases, health outcomes have improved without significant income growth, and it is difficult to say that the causality runs one way.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The decline in the fraction of people with incomes under, say, $1 per day is a good measure of whether well-being is improving among low-income populations.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
There are many other measures that should also be used, but this measure is informative.
Uncertain 5

Health Insurance Subsidies

Question A:

Expanding health insurance to more people through the ACA’s public subsidies and Medicaid expansion will reduce total healthcare spending in the economy.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Health care insurance should provide care more efficiently than the current lack of insurance coupled with reliance on emergency services.
Disagree 6

Question B: Expanding health insurance to more people through the ACA’s public subsidies and Medicaid expansion will generate gains in the health and well-being of the newly insured that exceed the costs.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Basic medical care, especially preventative care, brings gains that are large compared to the costs.
Agree 6

$15 Minimum Wage

Question A: If the federal minimum wage is raised gradually to $15-per-hour by 2020, the employment rate for low-wage US workers will be substantially lower than it would be under the status quo.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
Our elasticity estimates provide only local information about labor demand functions, giving little insight into such a large increase.
Uncertain 5

Question B: Increasing the federal minimum wage gradually to $15-per-hour by 2020 would substantially increase aggregate output in the US economy.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
Disagree 5

Greece’s Referendum

The median Greek citizen will be better off if there is a “yes” vote in the July 5 referendum on whether to accept the terms of the bailout package offered by Greece's creditors.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
Voting no as a bargaining chip is not promising. There should be mutual gains from keeping Greece in the euro, if the will can be found.
Uncertain 5

Currency Manipulation

Question A: Economic analysis can identify whether countries are using their exchange rates to benefit their own people at the expense of their trading partners’ welfare.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
This is a difficult inference problem.
Uncertain 5

Question B: Bank of Japan monetary policies that result in a weaker yen make Americans generally worse off.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
The weak yen gives rise to winners and losers in the US; it is not clear that the net effect (even if we could measure it) is negative.
Disagree 5

Nash Equilibrium

Behavior in many complex and seemingly intractable strategic settings can be understood more clearly by working out what each party in the game will choose to do if they realize that the other parties will be solving the same problem. This insight has helped us understand behavior as diverse as military conflicts, price setting by competing firms and penalty kicking in soccer.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
But one must be careful not to apply such equilibrium analysis in setting where it is not warranted.
Strongly Agree 8

US Median Income

The 9% cumulative increase in real US median household income since 1980 substantially understates how much better off people in the median American household are now economically, compared with 35 years ago.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Yes, because it misses many innovations, but at the same time the upper end of the income distribution is extraordinarily better off.
Agree 7

California’s Drought

Californians would be better off on average if all final users in the state paid the same price for water — adjusted for quality, place and time — even if, as a result, some food prices rose sharply and some farms failed.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
"On average" hides some serious adverse consequences for some people, but rationalizing water prices would be a great step forward.
Agree 7

Raising Interest Rates

The Fed should wait until its preferred measure of inflation (Core PCE) is clearly rising — and not just forecast to rise — before it begins hiking interest rates.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
Other factors, such as unemployment and participation rates, should also enter the Fed's decision.
Uncertain 5

Local Tax Incentives

Question A: Giving tax incentives to specific firms to locate operations in a city or state typically generates local benefits that outweigh the costs to the city and/or state providing the incentives.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 5
Benefits are wildly exaggerated in the popular press, and we lack definitive scientific evidence either way.
Uncertain 5

Question B: The US as a whole benefits when cities or states compete with each other by giving tax incentives to firms to locate operations in their jurisdictions.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 8
Such competitive does enhance allocative efficiency, but its primary effect is to transfer surplus from other taxpayers to firms.
Disagree 5

Vaccines

Question A:

Declining to be vaccinated against contagious diseases such as measles imposes costs on other people, which is a negative externality.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Strongly Agree 9

Question B: Considering the costs of restricting free choice, and the share of people in the US who choose not to vaccinate their children for measles, the social benefit of mandating measles vaccines for all Americans (except those with compelling medical reasons) would exceed the social cost.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
But it would be quite reasonable to limit the negative externality imposed by the unvaccinated by, e.g., excluding them from public schools.
Agree 7

Greece

In 10 years, per capita purchasing power in Greece will be higher if — rather than continuing to service its debts over the next decade and complying with the budget rules currently in place — it refuses to accept a continuation of its current troika program and explicitly defaults on its debt held by the official sector.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 3
Greek economic institutions are notoriously ineffective; the troika program may provide the commitment needed to build working institutions.
Uncertain 5

Dynamic Scoring

Question A: Changing federal income tax rates, or the income bases to which those rates apply, can affect federal tax revenues partly by altering people’s behavior, and thus their actual or reported incomes.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Strongly Agree 9

Question B: To the extent that a given tax change might affect revenues partly by affecting national-income growth, existing research provides enough guidance to generate informative bounds on the size of any growth-driven revenue effect.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
It's always difficult to turn qualitative predictions into precise estimates, but existing research can surely be helpful.
Uncertain 6

Question C: For large proposed changes in tax rates or the tax base, official revenue forecasts provided to Congress would probably be more accurate if the CBO and JCT tried to estimate fully how the proposed tax changes would affect growth-driven revenue.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Behavioral responses will be most important for large changes, but the effects of large changes are particularly difficult to estimate.
Uncertain 5

Textbook Prices

Question A: Most college professors who assign textbooks would not be able to guess, within 10% of the actual figure, the retail price that their students pay for new copies of those books.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
Agree 5

Question B: Since students can resell college textbooks or rent electronic versions, the net burden on students is substantially lower than retail prices for new textbook purchases would suggest.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
The net burden is lower than the retail price, but still scandalously high.
Agree 7

Question C:
Even though the professors who select textbooks are different form the people who pay for them, the price of new edition college textbooks reflect classic forces of supply and demand.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 10
There are too many imperfections and frictions in this market to model it simply in terms of demand and supply.
Disagree 5

Oil Prices

The recent decline in oil prices will promote higher real GDP in the US over the next couple of years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
The decline in price is less significant than the technological progress in resource extraction it reflects, which should promote growth.
Agree 7

Economists and Conventions

A US city hosting a big convention will enjoy a higher boost to incremental spending — holding the number of visitors and their average incomes fixed — if those visitors are auto dealers rather than economists.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 9
We hate to be called the dismal science, but I fear we can be a dismal lot - or perhaps we work so hard there is no time to spend money.
Agree 6

Trade Balances

A typical country can increase its citizens’ welfare by enacting policies that would increase its trade surplus (or decrease its trade deficit).

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
A surplus is often taken to indicate a healthy economy, but it is not obvious how producing more than it consume makes a country better off.
Disagree 6

Repatriated Profits

Question A: Lowering the effective marginal tax rate on US corporations’ repatriated profits for a year would boost US capital investment significantly.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
"Significantly" is always a difficult word.
Disagree 5

Question B: Permanently lowering the effective marginal tax rate on US corporations’ repatriated profits, such as by moving to a territorial-based tax system, would boost US capital investment significantly.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Even better would be to have no corporate income tax and to have a sufficiently progressive consumption tax, but that's wishful thinking.
Uncertain 5

Fast-Track Authority

Question A: By lowering bargaining costs, fast-track negotiating authority for the president makes it more likely that the U.S. can conclude major trade deals.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Without something like fast track, trade deals are notoriously difficult.
Agree 7

Question B: Past major trade deals have benefited most Americans.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Unfortunately, benefitting most still leaves ample room for adverse effects for some.
Agree 7

Amazon and Market Power

Question A: Amazon has monopsony power in the market for books that is significantly reducing the supply of books.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
Compared to no electronic market, Amazon has probably increased supply. Compared to a "competitive electronic market," probably not.
Disagree 5

Question B:
Amazon has sufficient monopsony power that regulatory intervention is likely to make consumers of books better off, taking into account implementation costs and the effect of intervention on incentives.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Electronic markets are full of network externalities, which should be recognized as a form of natural monopoly.
Disagree 5

Piketty on Inequality

The most powerful force pushing towards greater wealth inequality in the US since the 1970s is the gap between the after-tax return on capital and the economic growth rate.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
Many forces at work, both economic, social and political, making it difficult to identify one as most important.
Disagree 6

Taxi Competition

Letting car services such as Uber or Lyft compete with taxi firms on equal footing regarding genuine safety and insurance requirements, but without restrictions on prices or routes, raises consumer welfare.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Consumer welfare may rise (though difficult to measure), but it will not be a Pareto improvement for consumers, making evaluation difficult.
Strongly Agree 8

Scottish Independence

Although there are many issues for Scotland’s voters to consider, one consequence of separating from the rest of the UK would be greater macroeconomic instability for Scotland for many years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
This is unclear - pegging the Scottish to the English pound might essentially replicate the current state of affairs.
Agree 5

Infrastructure (revisited)

Question A: Because the US has underspent on new projects, maintenance, or both, the federal government has an opportunity to increase average incomes by spending more on roads, railways, bridges and airports. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on May 23, 2013. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
It would increase welfare; income is more difficult to assess.
Agree 6

Question B: Past experience of public spending and political economy suggests that if the government spent more on roads, railways, bridges and airports, many of the projects would have low or negative returns. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on May 23, 2013. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
Uncertain 5

U.S. State Budgets (revisited)

Question A: By discounting pension liabilities at high interest rates under government accounting standards, many U.S. state and local governments understate their pension liabilities and the costs of providing pensions to public-sector workers. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on October 1, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 10
Unfortunately, current spending appears to trump properly funded pensions when it comes to seeking reelection.
Agree 7

Question B: During the next two decades some U.S. states, unless they substantially increase taxes, cut spending, and/or change public-sector pensions, will require a combination of severe austerity budgets, a federal bailout, and/or default. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on October 1, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Hope springs eternal, but the alternatives look bleak.
Agree 6

Fracking (revisited)

New technology for fracking natural gas, by lowering energy costs in the United States, will make US industrial firms more cost competitive and thus significantly stimulate the growth of US merchandise exports. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on May 23, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Absent frictions, prices would fall world wide. We can expect US firms to gain from some frictions, though the magnitude is hard to assess.
Uncertain 5

Economic Stimulus (revisited)

Question A: Because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus bill. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on February 15, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 7
Agree 7

Question B: Taking into account all of the ARRA’s economic consequences — including the economic costs of raising taxes to pay for the spending, its effects on future spending, and any other likely future effects — the benefits of the stimulus will end up exceeding its costs. (The experts panel previously voted on this question on February 15, 2012. Those earlier results can be found here.)

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
This is too complicated a cost-benefit problem to assess. I think the ARRA was a good idea, but this reflects faith rather than analysis.
Agree 6

Congress and Monetary Policy

Legislation introduced in Congress would require the Federal Reserve to "submit to the appropriate congressional committees…a Directive Policy Rule", which shall "describe the strategy or rule of the Federal Open Market Committee for the systematic quantitative adjustment of the Policy Instrument Target to respond to a change in the Intermediate Policy Inputs." Should the Fed deviate from the rule, the Fed Chair would have to "testify before the appropriate congressional committees as to why the [rule]…is not in compliance." Enacting this provision would improve monetary policy outcomes in the U.S.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 8
The essence of the Fed is to be independent. Congressional meddling is not a set forward.
Disagree 7

Patents

Question A: All else equal, Patent Assertion Entities — which specialize in acquiring and asserting patents and are popularly known as “patent trolls" — promote innovation in the U.S.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 8
Conclusive evidence is difficult to come by, but there appears to be no evidence that they have a positive effect.
Disagree 5

Question B: Within the software industry, the US patent system makes consumers better off than they would be in the absence of patents.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 6
Open source is at least a viable alternative. Patents have advantages, but their net effect is unclear.
Uncertain 6

Liquidity

There is a social value to having institutions that issue liquid liabilities that are backed by illiquid assets.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Such institutions can also impose social costs. If done well, the benefits outweigh the costs. The trick is to ensure this is the case.
Agree 8

Gary Becker

Question A: Employers that discriminate in hiring will be at a competitive disadvantage, if their customers do not care about their mix of employees, compared with firms that do not discriminate.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 9
It is an empirical question whether this disadvantage will overcome taste for discrimination, and whether markets will eliminate such firms.
Agree 6

Question B: Rising market wages are an important reason — over and above any changes in medical technology, social norms or preferences — why family sizes have fallen over the past century in rich countries.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 5
Agree 6

Net Neutrality II

Considering both distributional effects and changes in efficiency, it is a good idea to let companies that send video or other content to consumers pay more to Internet service providers for the right to send that traffic using faster or higher quality service.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 5
This would be a great idea if the market for service provision was competitive, but is less obvious with our current market.
Uncertain 5

European Debt

The recent oversubscribed debt issues of Greece and Portugal suggest that sovereign default by any euro area country is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
Default looks less likely, but structural problems in the euro zone remain, and much has yet to transpire before default is truly unlikely.
Uncertain 6

College Athletes

If the NCAA let colleges pay athletes with more than scholarships (which currently may cover tuition, books, room and board), then top colleges in men’s basketball and football would pay most athletes substantial sums beyond full scholarships.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 1
One would surely expect the athletes to capture some of surplus, just as baseball players did when the reserve clause was eliminated.
Agree 7

Russia Sanctions

Past experience suggests that economic sanctions do little to deter the target countries from their course of action.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 6
We have evidence both ways - sanctions of Myanmar and North Korea have accomplished little, while sanctions on Iran may be useful.
Uncertain 5

Supplying Kidneys

A market that allows payment for human kidneys should be established on a trial basis to help extend the lives of patients with kidney disease.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 6
We need to rationalize our organ allocation mechanism, but a market is not the only way, and is not obviously the best way.
Uncertain 7

Robots

Question A: Advancing automation has not historically reduced employment in the United States.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Automation can cause significant displacement and can require costly adjustments, but has not reduced long-run employment.
Agree 7

Question B: Information technology and automation are a central reason why median wages have been stagnant in the US over the past decade, despite rising productivity.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
Uncertain 6

Innovation and Growth

Future innovations worldwide will not be transformational enough to promote sustained per-capita economic growth rates in the U.S. and western Europe over the next century as high as those over the past 150 years.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Disagree 8
Unimagined innovations have revolutionized life in the past, and I suspect they will continue to do so.
Uncertain 6

Chairman Bernanke

Informed postmortems of Ben Bernanke’s Fed chairmanship will judge favorably the Fed's creative and aggressive policy initiatives from autumn 2008 through early 2009.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Agree 8
We'll never know the counterfactual, but there is reason to believe that Ben Bernanke helped avert disaster, despite an ineffective Congress
Agree 7

Surge Pricing

Using surge pricing to allocate transportation services — such as Uber does with its cars — raises consumer welfare through various potential channels, such as increasing the supply of those services, allocating them to people who desire them the most, and reducing search and queuing costs.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Surge pricing enhances efficiency, for the reasons listed. Efficiency is not the only goal; anti-gouging laws reflect other worthy goals.
Agree 8

Bah, Humbug

Giving specific presents as holiday gifts is inefficient, because recipients could satisfy their preferences much better with cash.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Strongly Disagree 10
Gift giving is a form of communication. Comparing the gift to what the recepient would purchase with cash misses the esssence of gifts.
Disagree 7

Low-Skilled Immigrants

Question A: The average US citizen would be better off if a larger number of low-skilled foreign workers were legally allowed to enter the US each year.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Uncertain 1
There will be gains and losses of various types to various people; it is difficult to reduce these to a net effect on an average citizen.
Agree 5

Question B: Unless they were compensated by others, many low-skilled American workers would be substantially worse off if a larger number of low-skilled foreign workers were legally allowed to enter the US each year.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 6
These are the most likely candidates for people who will be adversely affected.
Agree 6

Diversification

In general, absent any inside information, an equity investor can expect to do better by choosing a well-diversified, low-cost index fund than by picking a few stocks.

Vote Confidence Comments Median Survey Vote Median Survey Confidence
Agree 8
Picking a few stocks makes sense only if one has better information than the market, which is unlikely without inside information.
Strongly Agree 9

10 New Economic Experts join the IGM Panel


For the past two years, our expert panelists have been informing the public about the extent to which economists agree or disagree on important public policy issues. This week, we are delighted to announce that we are expanding the IGM Economic Experts Panel to add ten new distinguished economists. Like our other experts, these new panelists have impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters, and their names will be familiar to other economists and the media.

To give the public a broad sense of their views on policy issues, each new expert has responded to a selection of 16 statements that our panel had previously addressed. We chose these 16 statements, which cover a wide range of important policy areas, because the original panelists' responses to them were analyzed in a paper comparing the views of our economic experts with those of the American public. You can find that paper, by Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, here. The paper, along with other analyses of the experts' views, was discussed during the American Economic Association annual meetings, and the video can be found here.

The new panelists' responses to these statements can be seen on their individual voting history pages. Our ten new economic experts are:

Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Markus K. Brunnermeier (Princeton)
Liran Einav (Stanford)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Oliver Hart (Harvard)
Hilary Hoynes (Berkeley)
Steven N. Kaplan (Chicago)
Larry Samuelson (Yale)
Carl Shapiro (Berkeley)
Robert Shimer (Chicago)


Please note that, for the 16 previous topics on which these new panelists have voted, we left the charts showing the distribution of responses unchanged. Those charts reflect the responses that our original panelists gave at the time, and we have not altered them to reflect the views of the new experts.

We have also taken this opportunity to ask our original panelists whether they would vote differently on any of the statements we have asked about in the past. Several experts chose to highlight statements to which they would currently respond differently. In such cases, you will see this "revote" below the panelist's original vote. We think you will enjoy seeing examples of statements on which some experts have reconsidered.

As with the 16 previous statements voted on by new panelists, these "revote" responses are not reflected in the chart that we display showing the distribution of views for that topic: all the charts for previous questions reflect the distribution of views that the experts expressed when the statement was originally posed.

About the IGM Economic Experts Panel

This panel explores the extent to which economists agree or disagree on major public policy issues. To assess such beliefs we assembled this panel of expert economists. Statistics teaches that a sample of (say) 40 opinions will be adequate to reflect a broader population if the sample is representative of that population.

To that end, our panel was chosen to include distinguished experts with a keen interest in public policy from the major areas of economics, to be geographically diverse, and to include Democrats, Republicans and Independents as well as older and younger scholars. The panel members are all senior faculty at the most elite research universities in the United States. The panel includes Nobel Laureates, John Bates Clark Medalists, fellows of the Econometric society, past Presidents of both the American Economics Association and American Finance Association, past Democratic and Republican members of the President's Council of Economics, and past and current editors of the leading journals in the profession. This selection process has the advantage of not only providing a set of panelists whose names will be familiar to other economists and the media, but also delivers a group with impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters.

Finally, it is important to explain one aspect of our voting process. In some instances a panelist may neither agree nor disagree with a statement, and there can be two very different reasons for this. One case occurs when an economist is an expert on a topic and yet sees the evidence on the exact claim at hand as ambiguous. In such cases our panelists vote "uncertain". A second case relates to statements on topics so far removed from the economist's expertise that he or she feels unqualified to vote. In this case, our panelists vote "no opinion".

The Economic Experts Panel questions are emailed individually to the members of the panel, and each responds electronically at his or her convenience. Panelists may consult whatever resources they like before answering.

Members of the public are free to suggest questions (see link below), and the panelists suggest many themselves. Members of the IGM faculty are responsible for deciding the final version of each week’s question. We usually send a draft of the question to the panel in advance, and invite them to point out problems with the wording if they see any. In response, we typically receive a handful of suggested clarifications from individual experts. This process helps us to spot inconsistencies, and to reduce vagueness or problems of interpretation.

The panel data are copyrighted by the Initiative on Global Markets and are being analyzed for an article to appear in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

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