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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Hillary – The Stealth Candidate

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column for National Review Online looking at where the leading Republican 2016 candidates stand on key economic issues. This week, I took a look at Hillary Clinton. Admittedly, it is very early. Few candidates have laid out a truly detailed platform. For the most part, at this stage, we are still dealing with bromides and crowd pleasing generalities. (As I write that, I realize things may not change a whole lot throughout the campaign). But Hillary seems to be taking non-specificity to a whole new level. Beyond the fact that she is a woman–and a grandmother—it is pretty hard to figure out why she wants to be president.


My Next Book — You Can Pre-order


My next book, Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis, will be released June 7.  It is a look at our growing $18 trillion national debt and the skyrocketing growth of entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare that underlies it.

Former CBO Director, Doulglas Holtz-Eakin says about the book:

“Michael Tanner has produced a must-read book on America’s fiscal future: clear, compelling, and … terrifying. At the same time, he charts the path toward a real solution: a social safety net we can both be proud of and afford.”

You can pre-order it now on Amazon:


My thoughts on King v. Burwell

On March 4, just two weeks from today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell, which supporters of Obamacare have called an “existential threat” to the health care law. It is probably not quite that, but it could force congress and the president to the negotiating table to find a new and better alternative. My colleague, Michael Cannon, is the real expert on this case, but for what it’s worth, my column this week for National Review Online offers my analysis.

The GOP candidates on Debt, Spending, and Entitlement Reform

Throughout the coming months, I will be looking at where the various would-be presidential candidates stand on the vital issues of the day. Today, in my weekly column for National Review Online, I look at how they would cut spending, reduce the debt, and reform entitlements. As I point out, it is very early in the campaign, and most candidates have now yet laid out detailed proposals. So, mostly this is an exercise in tea leaf reading, based on congressional votes or state budget performance, plus a statement here or there. Still, at this point, it seems reasonable to say that it looks like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are the biggest fiscal hawks, trailed to some degree by Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker, with other candidates bringing up the rear.


The Libertarian Mind


Anyone wanting to know more about libertarianism, or why I consider myself a libertarian, need look no further than David Boaz’s new book, The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.


Boaz masterfully explains the philosophical underpinnings of libertarianism, in easy, accessible language, and applies that philosophy to contemporary policy issues in very practical ways.

Simply put, a must read, not just for libertarians, but for policy junkies everywhere.

Unhappy Anniversary, Social Security

For the historians among you, this week marks the 75th anniversary of the delivery of the first Social Security check. The program became law in 1935, began collecting taxes in 1937, and started delivering benefits in 1940. The recipient of that first Social Security check was Ida Mae Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont. Social Security turned out to be a very good deal for Ida Mae. Social security taxes were very low (a maximum of $60 per year) and she only worked for 3 years after the payroll tax began. She ended up paying just $24.75 in taxes. Even better, she lived to be 100, ultimately collecting $22,888 in benefits. That’s a heck of a return!
Unfortunately, the program will not be such a good deal for today’s young workers, who will be lucky to get back what they pay in, let alone a big return. Certainly, they will get back far less than they could earn from investing that money privately.
Moreover, Social Security, and its $24.9 trillion in unfunded liabilities, is, along with Medicare, one of the biggest drivers of our future debt. Young people will be paying that off too. Let’s put it bluntly, unless Congress does something to fix Social Security (and Medicare), young people are screwed.
To celebrate this unhappy anniversary, I published two columns this week. The first for Vice News:
and the other for Reason.com

Rescheduled–My conference on the War on Poverty

Last month my conference on “Can We End Poverty,” at Columbia University was snowed out.  It has now been rescheduled for March 26.

We will be looking at the failures of the War on Poverty and nongovernmental alternatives.

Speakers will include, in addition to me, John Allison, President, Cato Institute; John McWhorter, Center for American Studies, Columbia University; Ron Haskins, Co-Director, Center on Children and Families, Budgeting for National Priorities Project; Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, PolicyLink; Christopher Wimer, Co-Director, Center on Poverty and Social Policy, Columbia University; Jo Kwong, Director of Economic Opportunity Programs, Philanthropy Roundtable; Harriet Karr-McDonald, Executive Vice President, Doe Fund; Robert Woodson, Founder and President, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise; David Beito, Professor of American History, University of Alabama; Eloise Anderson, Wisconsin Secretary of Children and Families; and Tess Reynolds, CEO of New Door ventures in San Francisco.

I hope that you can join us.  To register, go to:


Mindless Austerity? Where?

One of my pet peeves with the Left (I have a whole different set with the Right) is there constant refrain that we have been experiencing some sort of “austerity” both here and abroad for the last several years. Paul Krugman seems to right a column to that effect every other day. Most recently, President Obama took that line in announcing his latest budget proposal, saying that it was finally time to end “mindless austerity.” Austerity? Mindless or otherwise. Where?

I have further thoughts and discussion in this week’s column for National Review Online: