Copyright 2023

Voter Vitals

In Voter Vitals, Brookings experts provide non-partisan, fact-based explanations on the issues that shaped the 2020 election.

Production of Brookings’s Voter Vitals was made possible thanks to editorial guidance from Senior Fellows David Wessel, who also serves as Director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, and Elaine Kamarck, who also serves as Founding Director of the Center for Effective Public Management.

Taxes and the economy

voter vital

Did the 2017 tax cut—the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—pay for itself?

William Gale disproves a popular mischaracterization of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

voter vital

What are capital gains taxes and how could they be reformed?

Grace Enda and William Gale detail the problems with how the U.S. currently taxes capital gains and present four potential options for reform.

voter vital

How worried should you be about the federal deficit and debt?

David Wessel explains why the federal debt is on an unsustainable course and the potential consequences on the way.

voter vital

Who are the rich and how might we tax them more?

David Wessel presents the pros and cons of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

voter vital

What are tax expenditures and loopholes?

William Gale explains how tax reforms could simplify taxes, address income inequality, and raise government revenue.

voter vital

Whose wages are rising and why?

Ryan Nunn and Jay Shambaugh explain whose wages are rising and why many Americans are experiencing weak wage growth.

voter vital

Should government directly support certain industries?

Ted Gayer compares the industrial policy approaches of President Trump and leading Democratic presidential candidates.

voter vital

What is a financial transaction tax?

Many Democratic presidential candidates have advocated for using a financial transaction tax (FTT). Aaron Klein explains what an FTT would apply to, the range of proposals, and how they compare to current policy.

Aaron Klein

Health care and public health

voter vital

Current debates in health care policy: A brief overview

Matthew Fiedler and Christen Linke Young provide an overview of what are among the most prominent issues in 2020 the election: health care coverage and health care costs.

voter vital

What would the 2020 candidates’ proposals mean for health care coverage?

Christen Linke Young and Matthew Fiedler provide an overview on the state of healthcare coverage and explain how popular proposals would change current arrangements.

voter vital

What is surprise billing for medical care?

Experts from the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy explain the reasons for surprise medical billing, the consequences such billings have on healthcare premiums, and solutions for policymakers interested in ending the practice.

voter vital

How do we tackle the opioid crisis?

Christen Linke Young and Abigail Durak assess the severity of the opioid crisis and present policies for preventing opioid abuse and treating the currently addicted.

voter vital

Understanding the role of despair in America’s opioid crisis

Carol Graham discusses the causes and consequences of the opioid crisis and what policymakers can do to address it.

voter vital

What are the challenges to adopting a federal paid family leave program?

Isabel Sawhill and Sarah Nzau explain the current state of paid family leave legislation in the United States.


voter vital

How many undocumented immigrants are in the United States and who are they?

Elaine Kamarck and Christine Stenglein outline recent trends in illegal immigration to the U.S. and explain why accurately determining the size of the America’s undocumented population is so difficult.

voter vital

What do we need to know about the border wall?

Elaine Kamarck and Christine Stenglein explain both the challenges the Trump administration faces when trying to construct a wall across the U.S. southern border and what progress they have made.

Foreign policy and global development

voter vital

Who are America’s allies and are they paying their fair share of defense?

Lindsey Ford and James Goldgeier provide important background on how America’s alliances were formed and what the United States gains from those relationships.

voter vital

Why has China become such a big political issue?

Ryan Hass unpacks what led China to become a more prominent political issue in the U.S. and the likelihood it drives the national conversation in 2020.

voter vital

What every American should know about US foreign aid

George Ingram discusses foreign aid—what it is, what percentage of the federal budget it makes up, its efficiency, and who supports it.

voter vital

Is US defense spending too high, too low, or just right?

Michael O’Hanlon explains why context rather than size helps us make sense of the defense budget.

voter vital

Why are US-Russia relations so challenging?

Angela Stent explains the current state of the U.S-Russia relationship and why it’s important for the two countries to find balance between cooperation and competition.

Angela Stent
voter vital

Did Trump’s tariffs benefit American workers and national security?

Geoffrey Gertz explains who pays for American tariffs and how they affect workers and national security.


voter vital

What are charter schools and do they deliver?

Jon Valant explains the controversies around charter schools and why it’s difficult to reach consensus on their efficiency.

voter vital

Who owes all that student debt? And who’d benefit if it were forgiven?

Adam Looney, David Wessel, and Kadija Yilla explain the severity of America’s student loan challenge, the rate of default, and candidates’ proposals for forgiving those debts.


voter vital

How can government make housing more affordable?

Jenny Schuetz explains the current housing affordability crisis and how the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are proposing to fix it.

voter vital

How are communities making housing more affordable for middle-income families?

Jenny Schuetz and Tiffany Ford discuss the rationale for housing subsidies targeted to middle-income families and discuss the political and economic implications of those policies.


voter vital

What to do about climate change and why?

Samantha Gross discusses effective policies to combat climate change given the widespread dependence on fossil fuels in the American and global economies.

voter vital

What is the Trump administration’s track record on the environment?

Samantha Gross compares the Trump administration’s record on environmental regulation to proposals laid out by Joe Biden.

Samantha Gross


voter vital

What is the Senate filibuster, and what would it take to eliminate it?

Molly Reynolds explains the history of the Senate filibuster and the possible, but politically unlikely, ways to reform or eliminate it.

voter vital

What is a brokered convention? What is a contested convention?

Elaine Kamarck explains what happens at a brokered convention, and at a contested convention.

voter vital

Should we restructure the Supreme Court?

Russell Wheeler explains the contemporary proposals to alter the size and structure of the Supreme Court.

voter vital

Public service and the federal government

Fiona Hill details the role of public servants in the federal government.

Fiona Hill
voter vital

How does vote-by-mail work and does it increase election fraud?

Darrell West explains the different vote-by-mail systems and addresses fears over the political consequences of mail voting and potential for fraud.

Darrell M. West
voter vital

How can we enhance police accountability in the United States?

Rashawn Ray explains how standard processes for holding police officers accountable have contributed to the entrenchment of racism and police brutality.