Yes, Tom’s work is empirical, neither full of equations of theory or econometrics. (Though Knowledge and Decisions is an excellent piece of theory.) Tom writes books. Well, maybe it’s time to celebrate persuasive fact-based books as well as the more standard approaches, as you also have done in the past.
While Tom is hardy, he is 91. None of us last forever. Nor does your opportunity to recognize one of the most important economists of our time. This is the year.
Included in the bipartisan package are broadband-deployment subsidies. Mr. Biden asked for $100 billion. The Republicans and Democrats compromised at $65 billion in the “Infrastructure 1” package. Most of that, $42 billion, is slotted for subsidies to rural communications networks, promising to conquer the “digital divide.”
This is doubtful. The government has already expended at least $200 billion (in 2021 dollars) on the “universal service fund” established by the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Most of the money was meant to extend networks that serve rural areas, but some was also allocated to schools and libraries, health-care facilities and low-income mobile-phone users.
This money had little impact on network infrastructure. In 2011 the Federal Communications Commission found that 19 million people, living in seven million households, couldn’t get state-of-the-art broadband service. Ten years later, despite another more than $50 billion in subsidies for high-cost networks, the number in underserved areas was as many as 30 million, according to Mr. Biden.
Scott Winship looks a new evidence on the costs and benefits of expanding the child tax credit. Here’s his conclusion:
In truth, almost everyone involved in anti-poverty debates has good intentions. No one favors increasing child poverty as a policy goal. We should all rely on evidence as best we can to guide our policy positions, but evidence is almost always more ambiguous than the staunchest advocates of safety net expansions believe. Ambiguity calls for caution and for the kind of experimentation that informed welfare reform. Jumping hastily into a dramatic transformation of the safety net without worrying about unintended consequences may be soft-hearted, but researchers and policymakers must take care to be hard-headed as well — because we are trying to help today’s and tomorrow’s children.