Hard Times And Polarized Politics

Economist Benjamin Friedman on how hard times feed polarized politics.

Fog obscures the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Fog obscures the Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Why are American politics and American policy so stuck?  So stuck that what should be a dynamic economy is now seen as maybe the biggest threat to the world economy… because of Washington.

Economist Benjamin Friedman says we’re in a trap.  A bad economy is prompting bad policy from Washington, he says.  Good times, good policy.  Bad times, bad policy.  And we’re in a world of bad right now.

We need to break the cycle.  But how?  Up next On Point:  economist Benjamin Friedman on how hard times feed bad politics.

-Tom Ashbrook


Benjamin Friedman, economist and professor of political economy at Harvard University. Author of “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.” You can read an excerpt here.

Jonathan Miller, co-founder of No Labels, a political non-profit made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, dedicated to problem solving. Former state treasurer of Kentucky. (@recoveringpol)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “We typically blame Washington for not doing more to help the economy grow. But what if we have it backward: What if it is the weak economy that is driving the failures in Washington? That is what Benjamin Friedman, a Harvard economist who has studied the way slow growth frays societies and strains politics, thinks.”

Columbia Dispatch “Why was it so difficult to avoid the fiscal cliff? Especially when, in the end, Congress couldn’t salvage a grand bargain a la Simpson-Bowles, but instead settled for a quick fix? In a word, it’s polarization — the complete inability of our elected officials to work together for our general welfare. The deeper question is where does polarization originate and what perpetuates it at a time when constituents want Congress to compromise?”


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