Commentary

In Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Deep Thought informs Loonquawl that the meaning of life is 42. Loonquawl exclaims, “Is that all you've got to show for seven and a half million years' work?" Deep Thought replies, “I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is." In much the same way, Americans talk about GDP growth without ever wondering what GDP actually measures. We all know the answer, but most of us don’t know the question.

When it comes to boosting economic opportunity, President Obama isn’t going to wait for Congress anymore.  

In his State of the Union Address last night, the President made a powerful statement about employers’ obligation to reward work -- starting with his own obligation as the executive in charge of millions of federal contracts. 

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Just three days before Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to run the fiscally strapped city, filed thelargest municipal bankruptcy case in history, he signed a forbearance agreement with UBS and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch establishing a process to settle possible claims on default of $800 million of interest rate swaps.

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Conventional wisdom among some liberals, conservatives, and moderates is that a "polarized Congress" will never update the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act bill introduced today in Congress (summary here, bill text here), however, shows that a bipartisan update is possible.

Monday is the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary ofCitizens United, the case that dramatically widened the flood of big money in elections. Their confluence is opportune, for while each seems to invite reflection on a different core social problem—respectively racial inequality and the power of concentrated wealth—each teaches lessons relevant to the other.

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Over the last three years, anyone who has followed the pitched battle over letting eligible American citizens vote or not should be familiar with the political dynamic behind it. Following the 2010 midterm elections when Republicans made major gains across the country, a tsunami of bills were introduced that were clearly designed to throw up obstacles to voting for traditionally Democratic constituencies: African Americans, low income people, immigrants, among others.

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Something is horribly wrong with both America's employment situation and with the way we measure it. In case you missed the news, the economy generated just 74,000 payroll jobs in December, but the unemployment rate dropped by three tenths of a percentage point, from7.0 percent to 6.7 percent.

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Almost every culture has some variation on the saying, “rags to rags in three generations.” Whether it’s “clogs to clogs” or “rice paddy to rice paddy,” the message is essentially the same: Starting with nothing, the first generation builds a successful enterprise, which its profligate offspring then manage poorly, so that by the time the grandchildren take over, little value remains.

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