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Policy Insights

Policy Insights answers important policy questions by pulling together relevant op-eds, books, podcasts, and videos from Hoover fellows. Readers are given a one stop shop that guides them through big issues and points them in the direction of more Hoover resources.

The year 2020 will not be remembered as a year of progress. But we shouldn’t forget that people in the 21st century are wealthier and freer than at any other time in history. As we approach the holiday season, let’s explore the many reasons we should be thankful, even in 2020.

Whether they’re overlooking skyrocketing federal debt or unfunded state pension obligations, lawmakers continue to make short-run budget decisions that will disproportionately burden future generations. How big are these problems, and are there any good solutions?

How does this uniquely American institution work? And does its existence still make sense in the modern world?

While many Americans take free speech for granted, the tradition is far from universal. Many developed nations restrict speech that is deemed hurtful or offensive. And in the United States, there is increasing sentiment that some speech is not worth protecting. Is it time to reconsider the nation’s free-speech orthodoxy?

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the US economy, it is easy to be pessimistic about the future job market. The unemployment rate is in double digits and millions of households are now relying on federal unemployment benefits to survive. Nevertheless, the United States is particularly well-equipped to overcome these changes. Its economy is exceptional, and this is especially true when it comes to the US workforce.  

American infrastructure is need of an overhaul. But, as we learned in the last edition of Policy Insights, government-funded projects often fail to live up to their lofty goals. The problem isn’t that dollars aren’t being spent on infrastructure. Instead, it is that the money is being spent poorly.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the economy, some in Congress are proposing a large increase in infrastructure spending. Supporters claim that increased spending will boost the economy while ensuring future generations will benefit from improved transportation, power, and communication systems. But will increased federal spending on infrastructure deliver on these promises, or are there reasons to be skeptical?

Across much of the world, national governments have responded to the coronavirus pandemic by ordering nonessential businesses to close and residents to shelter in place. In the United States, in contrast, the orders did not originate from the national government; instead, local and state governments took charge.

Health care is not the only industry where regulations often do more harm than good. From state and local policies on housing and labor rules to federal environment and banking laws, misguided regulations can hurt the economy, reduce opportunities for workers, and limit choices for consumers.

Over the last quarter century, the United States has experienced a dramatic transformation. With little fanfare, an energy revolution has occurred that has profoundly altered the nation’s economy, its national security, and its environment.

Nearly everyone has an opinion about taxes. For many, tax debates are mainly about who should pay more and who should pay less. These distributional questions matter. But there is another important dimension of tax policy that is often overlooked: how do taxes affect the economy?

Whether it is climate change, polluted oceans, or smoggy skies, we owe it to future generations—not to mention our current well-being—to improve our environment. But finding the right answer isn’t always easy. Some proposed solutions would have large negative effects on the economy. Other ideas sound good but don’t have a significant positive effect on the environment. How can we find the best solution?

American politics feels more divided than ever. Are we at an unprecedented point in history? Are there lessons to be learned from prior periods in American politics?

Over the last decade, there have been countless reports warning about growing economic inequality in the United States. Incomes appear to have stagnated among the middle class while households in the top 1% are flourishing. Proposals to reduce inequality—from a 70 percent tax rate on top earners to a federal wealth tax—have garnered significant support. 

But a close study of inequality research tells a more complicated story.

Advocates of single-payer health care often underestimate the costly trade-offs that come from longer wait times, reduced access to drugs and procedures, and lower quality of care.

The federal government spends trillions of dollars each year on social safety net programs that take many different forms. Some provide cash assistance, and others provide health care, food, or housing. With so much money being spent on so many programs, it can be difficult to comprehend the extent of the US social safety net, its effectiveness, and its shortcomings. 

Public pension funds around the country have failed to set aside sufficient money to honor the pension promises they’ve made to workers in the public sector.

The federal government is borrowing at unprecedented rates. Spending regularly exceeds revenue, and this shortfall is predicted to grow dramatically in the near future. The result is a large and growing federal debt that threatens future Americans’ prosperity and security. What are the consequences of this higher federal debt and what can we do about it?

Although education policy has national implications on economic growth, innovation, poverty, and the labor force, responsibility ultimately rests at the state and local level. Improving education is genuinely in all of our interests. And that requires a public education sector designed intentionally to innovate and improve student outcomes.

Immigration is a contentious topic. Reforms should focus on adequately responding to work force demands, discouraging illegal immigration, and streamlining existing barriers to immigration.

After a generation of trade liberalizations, many Americans—on the left and the right—are having second thoughts.

Health insurance helps many Americans purchase health care. So why is it so expensive, and how can we make it more affordable?

Why did Congress pass the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, and why were they focused on reducing the corporate tax rate?

America’s economy may seem stable at first glance but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s doing well. While many believe that our economy is at its best under the circumstances, history shows a different picture.