R.W. Hafer | St. Louis Public Radio

R.W. Hafer

Rik Hafer is a distinguished research professor in the Department of Economics and Finance at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a scholar at the Show-Me Institute.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 30, 2012 - What will you do, what will you do? Whether this reminds you of Karl Malden’s ads for American Express Travelers Cheques or of Mike and the Mechanics, it is an apt question for Chairman Ben Bernanke and the policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Open Market Committee. 

Marinela

Income inequality in the United States is a hot-button political issue in this mid-term election year. Advocates for substantial increases in the minimum wage, for instance, believe that imposing higher wages on employers will reduce poverty and lessen income inequality. The evidence just does not justify this claim. Workers who remain employed after the increase are made better off on the backs of those workers who face reduced hours or unemployment following government-mandated wage hikes.

linder6580 | sxc.hu

“Capitalism is the crisis.” So read a banner hung off of an overpass on eastbound Interstate 44 heading toward downtown St. Louis. But what did it mean?

Capitalism is characterized by private as opposed to government ownership of the capital used in the production and distribution of goods. This is done in the pursuit of profit.

dleafy | sxc.hu

The end of the year is always a time to take stock of what has transpired during the past year and what is likely to happen in the one about to begin.  Let’s do so by considering several key economic measures.

Economic expansion limped along for another year.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP), adjusted for inflation, is the best measure of the economy’s total output. It increased this year, but not nearly as fast as many would hope, especially three years out form the end of the Great Recession.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - The Senate Banking Committee, in a 14-8 vote, recently sent to the full Senate, President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the next chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. With the change in filibuster rules, Janet Yellen’s confirmation is a near certainty.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 28, 2013: Missouri’s budget priorities have long-term consequences and they are not good.

The recent snafu over the fiscal budget, the debt ceiling and the continued funding of Obamacare provides a teachable moment. Spending choices, whether at the federal or state level, have economic consequences.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 30, 2013 - The time for enrolling in health exchanges is now upon us. Recent polls show that the majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the health care law — the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare — enacted in 2010. But how many of us really understand what we can expect and what we will pay for this “affordable” health program? The simple fact is that most of us are just plain bewildered, not knowing how the controversial law will affect us.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The time for enrolling in health exchanges is now upon us. Recent polls show that the majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the health care law — the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare — enacted in 2010. But how many of us really understand what we can expect and what we will pay for this “affordable” health program? The simple fact is that most of us are just plain bewildered, not knowing how the controversial law will affect us.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 16, 2013 - After reading the president’s “Plan to Make College More Affordable” I couldn’t help but recall the scene in the “Wizard of Oz” in which the Wizard awards the stalwart travelers symbols of their true characteristics. The Cowardly Lion receives a medal, for he truly was brave. The Tin Man a heart, for he truly was compassionate. And the Scarecrow gets a diploma because even though he actually was quite intelligent, he just didn’t have the college degree to prove it.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: After reading the president’s “Plan to Make College More Affordable” I couldn’t help but recall the scene in the “Wizard of Oz” in which the Wizard awards the stalwart travelers symbols of their true characteristics. The Cowardly Lion receives a medal, for he truly was brave. The Tin Man a heart, for he truly was compassionate. And the Scarecrow gets a diploma because even though he actually was quite intelligent, he just didn’t have the college degree to prove it.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 20, 2013: The disparity in income between the top 1 percent and the other 99 percent fueled the Occupy Wall Street movement and gave momentum to the ongoing push to raise taxes on the rich. As important as this is both as a social topic and an economic policy issue, there is much confusion that hinders rational debate.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 29, 2013: Other than obeying laws and being generally civil, are you obligated to ensure the economic success of others in society? Put another way, what determines your social responsibility? To answer that question, let’s first consider the issue of social responsibility at the personal level and then reflect on the social responsibility of business.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 18, 2013 - CNBC recently released the 2013 results of its best state to do business in analysis. Its computations put South Dakota at the top and Hawaii at the bottom. As so often happens, Missouri came in right in the middle of the pack with a mediocre ranking of 26.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 25, 2013: Looking at stock prices over the past few months, May 22 stands out. That was the first time Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke “rocked” the markets with his comment that maybe the Fed would reconsider the magnitude and duration of its current buying scheme.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 3, 2013 - The good news is starting to percolate up from a still recovering economy. The Conference Board recently released its May Consumer Confidence Survey and our subjective appraisal of current economic conditions has improved over April, a trend over the past few months. This tentatively rosy outlook is matched by the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which also is on the rise.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The good news is starting to percolate up from a still recovering economy. The Conference Board recently released its May Consumer Confidence Survey and our subjective appraisal of current economic conditions has improved over April, a trend over the past few months. This tentatively rosy outlook is matched by the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, which also is on the rise.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 21, 2013 - Ah, the end of the academic year. Amid all the pomp, it is a good time to reflect on the circumstances surrounding college education. Higher education is under attack from many sides.  Let’s start with student debt.

Many students will graduate with substantial debt accumulated over the past four or five (or six?) years. Surely, they argue, spending upwards of $50,000 annually to attend that elite Midwestern college to get that cross-disciplinary degree (biology and accounting?) entitles them to a high-paying job upon graduation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Ah, the end of the academic year. Amid all the pomp, it is a good time to reflect on the circumstances surrounding college education. Higher education is under attack from many sides.  Let’s start with student debt.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The continuing debate over government austerity programs recalls John Maynard Keynes observation that “madmen in authority … are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 30, 2013 - The continuing debate over government austerity programs recalls John Maynard Keynes observation that “madmen in authority … are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon:The stock market is setting new nominal highs. Gas prices are not going through the roof. And just when you thought it looked as though the recovery would gain steam, some economist comes along to write that things are not as good as we thought.

We are nearing the release date (April 26) for our first glimpse at first-quarter GDP, the measure of goods and services produced in the economy, adjusted for inflation. The mounting evidence indicates that it will not be as quick as previously thought.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 19, 2013 - The stock market is setting new nominal highs. Gas prices are not going through the roof. And just when you thought it looked as though the recovery would gain steam, some economist comes along to write that things are not as good as we thought.

We are nearing the release date (April 26) for our first glimpse at first-quarter GDP, the measure of goods and services produced in the economy, adjusted for inflation. The mounting evidence indicates that it will not be as quick as previously thought.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 2, 2013 - As deep as the recession that ended in 2009 was, history suggests the recovery should not be limping along as it is.  This weakness is not without explanation. You’ve heard that recessions coupled with financial crisis engender prolonged, shallow recoveries. And many of those unemployed during the downturn have not or cannot find work.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As deep as the recession that ended in 2009 was, history suggests the recovery should not be limping along as it is.  This weakness is not without explanation. You’ve heard that recessions coupled with financial crisis engender prolonged, shallow recoveries. And many of those unemployed during the downturn have not or cannot find work.

Or is this slower pace of economic activity, this unemployment rate staying above 7 percent, the new normal?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 25, 2013 - In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the two star-crossed lovers bemoan the fate of having different last names. In response to Juliet’s question “What’s in a name?” modern-day economists have found that the answer is quite a bit.

Having a bias lowers the cost to decision making. With bias, one quickly assigns a preconceived trait, perhaps based on previous experience, to all that fit a specific condition.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 29, 2013 - A firm’s bond rating often reflects future profitability. Bond rating firms, such as Standard & Poor’s or Moody’s, though much maligned in recent years, do a good job measuring a firm’s credit worthiness. Firms that demonstrate the ability to pay their bills and profitably produce a good or service garner the highest of bond ratings, such as S&P’s gold-star AAA. Firms for which bankruptcy is likely get the lowest ratings, commonly referred to as junk.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 9, 2013 - How could our political leaders celebrate legislation that will have little impact on the looming fiscal crisis? What the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 actually accomplished was to feed the maws of the populist groundswell for raising taxes on the wealthy, and surreptitiously raising taxes on almost every worker in the economy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 10, 2012 - The political debate as we approach the fiscal cliff will unfortunately focus on what individuals in the top tiers of income pay in taxes. While it continues to stoke populist indignation, that debate distracts us from the true problem: balancing increasingly demanding entitlement claims against insufficient projected revenues.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 6, 2012 - The College Board has released its most recent survey of the cost of college. As headlined in the New York Times, “Report says college prices, once stable, are up again.” More bad news, right?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 9, 2012 - Immigration policy is a hot button topic, especially in an election year. One aspect of current policy that is not getting much political attention is the fact that our current policy is driving immigrant entrepreneurs away.

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