John F. Cogan

Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow
Biography: 

John F. Cogan is the Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a faculty member in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University.

Cogan is an expert in domestic policy.  His current research is focused on U.S. budget and fiscal policy, federal entitlement programs, and health care.  He has published widely in professional journals in both economics and political science.  His latest book, The High Cost of Good Intentions: A History of U.S. Federal Entitlement Programs was published in September 2017.  The book traces the history of U.S. federal entitlement programs from the Revolutionary War to modern times.  His previous books include Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Five Steps to a Better Health Care System, coauthored with Glenn Hubbard and Daniel Kessler, and The Budget Puzzle, (with Timothy Muris and Allen Schick).

At Stanford, he has served on faculty advisory boards for the Stanford-in-Washington campus and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. He is a recipient of the Stanford-in-Government's Distinguished Service Award.

Cogan has devoted a considerable part of his career to public service. He served as assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Labor from 1981 to 1983. From 1983 to 1985, he served as associate director in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and was appointed Deputy Director in 1988. His responsibilities included developing and reviewing all health, housing, education, and employment training programs and policies.

Cogan has served on numerous congressional, presidential, and California state advisory commissions. He served on the California State Commission on the 21st Century Economy and the California Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission.  He has served on President George W. Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, the U.S. Bipartisan Commission on Health Care (the Pepper Commission), the Social Security Notch Commission, and the National Academy of Sciences' Panel on Poverty and Family Assistance.

Cogan serves on the board of directors of Gilead Sciences where he is the Lead Independent Director and on the board of trustees of the Charles Schwab Family of Funds where he is Chairman of the Governance Committee.

Cogan received his A.B. in 1969 and his Ph.D. in 1976 from the University of California at Los Angeles, both in economics.  He received his M.A. in Economics from California State University at Long Beach in 1970.  He was an associate economist at the RAND Corporation from 1975 to 1980. In 1979, Cogan was appointed a national fellow at the Hoover Institution; in 1980 he was appointed a senior research fellow; and in 1984 he became a senior fellow.

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Putting Money in a Safe Place—Our Pockets

by John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, April 30, 2005

Why personal retirement accounts represent “an essential ingredient in any plan to fix Social Security’s financial problem.” By John F. Cogan.

PAY IT FORWARD: Social Security Reform

with John F. Cogan, Alan Auerbachvia Uncommon Knowledge
Friday, April 15, 2005

In making Social Security reform a top priority of his second term, President George W. Bush has emphasized two points: first, that, without changes, our Social Security system will be bankrupt by 2042 and, second, that a key element of reform must be creating private accounts to allow workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds. Is the president right on both counts? Peter Robinson speaks with John Cogan and Alan Auerbach.

A HEALTHY DEBATE: Health Care Reform

with John F. Cogan, Alain Enthovenvia Uncommon Knowledge
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The United States leads the developed world in spending on health care, at nearly 15 percent of our GDP. But based on measures such as life expectancy at birth, Americans receive a lower level of care than do the citizens of many countries that spend less. What's wrong with health care in America? And how should we fix it? Peter Robinson speaks with John F. Cogan and Alain Enthoven.

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

by Daniel P. Kessler, John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Friday, July 30, 2004

The American health care system is broken. Here’s how to fix it. By John F. Cogan, R. Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel P. Kessler.

A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM: Social Security Reform

with John F. Cogan, Alan Auerbachvia Uncommon Knowledge
Monday, June 23, 2003

In 2001 President Bush established a bipartisan commission to study and report recommendations for restoring fiscal soundness to the current Social Security program. All three of the commission's models for reforming the system included the creation of individually controlled retirement accounts—a process commonly referred to as "privatizing Social Security." Some critics of the proposals argue that Social Security is not in as much trouble as the president's commission would have us believe and that major reform is unnecessary. Other critics say that creating private accounts will compound Social Security's problems rather than solve them. Who's right, the president's commission or its critics?

What We Should Have Learned by Now

by John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Friday, April 30, 1999

Hoover fellow John F. Cogan looks at sixty years of Social Security—and explains how not to save the system.

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A Social Security Reserve Fund? Don’t Bet Your Retirement on It

by John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 30, 1998

Proposals now in Congress call for the creation of a large reserve fund to keep the Social Security system solvent. A reserve fund? Could Congress be trusted not to spend it? Hoover fellow John F. Cogan has his doubts.

The Congressional Response to Social Security Surpluses, 1935-1994

by John F. Coganvia Analysis
Saturday, August 1, 1998

Congress has before it more than two dozen proposals for reforming Social Security. Many proposals call for the creation of a large reserve fund within the federal budget. This fund is necessary, proponents argue, to keep the Social Security program solvent when the baby boom generation retires and begins to draw its benefits.

This essay presents a historical examination of the federal government's policy toward Social Security reserves. The historical review casts doubt on the viability of sustaining a large reserve policy. From time to time throughout the program's history, policy decisions, wartime economic conditions, and business-cycle expansions have created large reserves or projections thereof. Those reserves have generated pressures for greater spending. Congress has invariably responded by raising benefits or expanding eligibility.

These results contain an important implication for Social Security reform. Unless a method can be found for altering congressional behavior from its sixty-year norm, any attempt to ensure Social Security's solvency by building a large trust fund reserve will likely prove futile. A large reserve will lead to higher spending. In doing so, it will add to the burden of government borne by both current and future generations of taxpayers.

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Social Security and Abracadabras

by John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, July 30, 1998

President Clinton stated two years ago that the era of “big government” is over. Unfortunately, no one seems to have told his budget director. Hoover fellow John F. Cogan takes a closer look at the latest budget—and doesn’t like what he sees.

Why House Republicans Are Right to Be Right

by John F. Cogan, David Brady, Douglas Riversvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, April 30, 1997

The Contract with America was so far to the right that it only hurt House Republicans, right? Wrong. Hoover fellows David Brady, John F. Cogan, and Douglas Rivers join together for an analysis of the 1996 election results.

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