John F. Cogan

Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow
Awards and Honors:
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.

John Cogan’s 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 (2017) is the recipient of the 2018 Hayek Prize.  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 under President Ronald Reagan as assistant secretary for policy in the U.S. Department of Labor from 1981 to 1983, as associate director in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from 1983 to 1985, and as Deputy (OMB) Director in 1988-89.  His responsibilities included developing and reviewing Reagan Administration policies in the areas of health care, Social Security, disability, welfare, and employment training.

Cogan has served on numerous congressional, presidential, and California state advisory commissions. At the federal level, 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. He has also served on the California State Commission on the 21st Century Economy and the California Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission.  

Cogan is a member of the Board of Directors of Gilead Sciences where he is the Lead Independent Director and a member of 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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Recent Commentary

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.

The 1996 House Elections: Reaffirming the Conservative Trend

by John F. Cogan, David Bradyvia Analysis
Saturday, March 1, 1997

Before last November's election, the conventional wisdom was that Republicans would experience large losses in Congress. The party of Newt Gingrich had supposedly put its majority at risk by pursuing an aggressive legislative agenda that was too extreme for mainstream America. Many pundits argued that the Republican majority would suffer the same as its predecessors in 1948 and 1954: two years and out.
 

But the electorate confounded the experts by reelecting a GOP House majority for the first time since 1930. How did conventional wisdom miss the mark so badly? This essay provides an assessment of the November House elections.
 

Republicans in the 104th Congress had the most conservative voting record of any Congress in the post-World War II era. Its record for conservative voting shattered the previous record set by Republicans in 1949. Voters registered their overwhelming approval of this agenda by returning 92 percent of the incumbent House Republicans to office. Our statistical analysis reveals no evidence that House Republicans who did lose were defeated because of their support for conservative votes. In fact, Republican winners had slightly more conservative voting records than losers. This holds even when the analysis is confined to Republicans in moderate-to-liberal congressional districts. Likewise, there is no evidence that voting for the Contract with America harmed reelection prospects of Republicans from moderate-to-liberal districts. Finally, there is no statistical evidence that organized labor' s $35 million campaign had any impact on election outcomes involving Republican freshmen.
 

Continued conservative dominance of Congress seems likely for the remainder of this century. In every off-year presidential election since the Civil War, except one, the party of the president has lost seats in the House. Republicans continue to run well in southern and border states and are in a position to continue to gain seats in these regions. Democratic members are expected to continue to retire at higher rates than Republican members.

How the Budget Would Have Balanced

by John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, January 30, 1997

Hoover fellow John F. Cogan does the arithmetic.

The Minimum Wage Was High in the First Place

by Thomas E. MaCurdy, John F. Coganvia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, April 30, 1996

Hoover fellows John F. Cogan and Thomas E. MaCurdy argue that when Congress and the president hiked the minimum wage last summer, they were making a dumb mistake. The hike hurt those it was intended to help and helped those who didn't need it. And the effective minimum wage rate was already at a historic high in the first place.

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