Matt Miller

Author, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
Columnist, The Washington Post
Host of public radio's popular week in review, Left, Right & Center
Senior fellow, Center for American Progress

Leading political and business thinker with new ways to unleash a new prosperity.

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Named one of journalism’s "most original thinkers" by The McLaughlin Group, Matt Miller brings agenda-setting ideas and creative, practical solutions to America’s most urgent social and political concerns. He is the author of two books.

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity warns about old ideas that are holding us back and identifies new ways of thinking that are controversial today but are destined to shape our business lives and political lives in the future.

His previous book, a Los Angeles Times bestseller, was The 2% Solution: Fixing America’s Problems In Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love. The 2% Solution offered eminently practical solutions for the crisis of imagination that often plagues discussions of American domestic policy.

Matt Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an award-winning contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly and other national magazines. Matt writes a weekly column for The Washington Post and hosts public radio's popular week-in-review program Left, Right & Center. His podcast, This Is...Interesting, features deeper encounters with the people and ideas that are shaping our world. He is also a guest host on The Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC. Matt consults to corporations, governments and nonprofits.

Matt has a gift for astute observations and a lively, humorous style that appeals to a broad range of audiences. He is an excellent event and panel moderator.

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
A preview of "tomorrow's destined ideas" — ideas that can reinvigorate our economy, our politics, and our day-to-day lives.

The greatest threat to our economic future are the things we think we know — but don't.

America is at a crossroads. In the face of global competition, rapid technological change, and recurring financial crisis, our economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a century. Yet our leaders have failed to prepare us for what lies ahead because they are in the grip of a set of "dead ideas" about how a modern economy should work. They wrongly believe that

  • our kids will earn more than we do
  • free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
  • employers should be responsible for health coverage
  • taxes hurt the economy
  • schools are a local matter
  • money follows merit

These ways of thinking — dubious at best and often dead wrong — are on a collision course with economic developments that are irreversible. Only by breaking the tyranny of dead ideas can we move beyond the limits of today's obsolete debates and reinvent American capitalism and democracy for the twenty-first century.

Strategic Advisor
Matt is a Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Company, advising on projects in the firm’s health care, public sector, nonprofit and related practices, and to the McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey’s in-house economics think-tank.

He served as Senior Advisor to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and was a White House Fellow, serving as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Matt is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Screen Actors Guild (thanks to a cameo appearance in the thriller, The Siege).


  • Columnist, The Washington Post
  • Author, The 2% Solution and The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
  • Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
  • Board Member, Brighter (healthcare marketplace startup)
  • Member, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Member, Pacific Council on International Policy
  • Member, Screen Actors Guild (cameo in The Siege)
  • Former columnist, Fortune magazine
  • Former Senior Advisor, OMB
  • Former White House Fellow
  • Law degree, Columbia Law School; James Kent Scholar


The Tyranny of Dead Ideas

Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity

Matt Miller

A leading political and business thinker identifies the greatest threat to our economic future: the things we think we know—but don’t

America is at a crossroads. In the face of global competition and rapid technological change, our economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a century — one that will make the recent turmoil in the financial system look like a modest setback by comparison. Yet our leaders have failed to prepare us for what lies ahead because they are in the grip of a set of "dead ideas" about how a modern economy should work. They wrongly believe that

  • Our kids will earn more than we do
  • Free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
  • Employers should be responsible for health coverage
  • Taxes hurt the economy
  • Schools are a local matter
  • Money follows merit

These ways of thinking — dubious at best and often dead wrong — are on a collision course with economic developments that are irre-versible.

In The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Matt Miller offers a unique blend of insights from history, psychology, and economics to illuminate where today’s destructive conventional wisdom came from and how it holds our country back. He also introduces us to a new way of thinking — what he calls "tomorrow’s destined ideas" — that can reinvigorate our economy, our politics, and our day-to-day lives. These destined ideas may seem counterintuitive now, but they will coalesce in the coming years in ways that will transform America.

A strikingly original assessment of our current dilemma and an indispensable guide to our future, Miller’s provocative and path-breaking book reveals why it is urgent that we break the tyranny of dead ideas, for it is only by doing so that we can move beyond the limits of today’s obsolete debates and reinvent American capitalism and democracy for the twenty-first century.

Times Books; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)

The Two Percent Solution

Fixing America's Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love

Matt Miller

Los Angeles Times Bestseller

Suppose someone told you that for just two cents on the national dollar we could have a country where everyone had health insurance, full-time workers earned a living wage, poor children had great teachers in fixed-up schools, and politicians no longer had to grovel to wealthy donors. And suppose that when we were done, government would still be smaller than it was when Ronald Reagan was president. If you're like most people, you'd probably think that for two cents on the dollar this sounds like an intriguing deal. But two percent of America's GDP is more than $200 billion a year — way beyond what politicians in Washington think is possible.

Between our proper intuition that 2 percent is a small amount, and the Washington consensus that a 2 percent shift in priorities is beyond imagining, lies the opportunity to transform American politics. In this book, Matthew Miller challenges our country (and those who would lead it) to rethink our public responsibilities before the baby boomers' retirement siphons all the money out of the system.

PublicAffairs (February 1, 2005)


"A welcome return to political thinking on a big-canvas agenda."
Washington Post Book World

"provocative proposal."
New York Times Book Review


Matt tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Ten Trends Destined to Shape Our Economy

  1. The Shift of Power to the East
    The loss of American economic preeminence as China and others rise.
  2. White Collar Anxiety
    Competition from China, India and other rising nations will put increasing wage pressure on jobs higher up the income scale, jobs previously thought immune to foreign competition. Part of broader threat to US living standards. Political implications.
  3. The Rush for The Exits
    Corporate America’s desire to get out fo the health and pension business of soaring costs. The increase in risk for individual economic security that results.
  4. The Gray Boomer Fiscal Squeeze
    Meaning the way the aging baby boom will shortly send government’s health and pension costs through the roof. The result, at current levels of taxation, is that even “big” government will be strapped, with little cash to devote to the other public purposes we expect government to support, from border security to schools to basic scientific research.
  5. The Rise of Extreme Inequality
    The very top of the wealth and income scale is pulling away at levels never before seen. Yet it’s clear that many of the winners are not simply reaping the rewards of the “free market,” but of clubby, manipulated schemes that are as likely to reward failure as success. At what point does the ubiquity of the undeserving rich become so corrosive in a democracy that it sparks a backlash that wrongly discredits capitalism altogether?
  6. The Inevitability of Higher Taxes (No Matter Which Party Is In Power)
    A matter of math, not ideology. $50 trillion in unfunded promises already in Social Security, Medicare and related retirement programs. We can’t borrow the entire boomers retirement from China. How to fix our tax system in ways that help growth even as taxes rise.
  7. The New Federal Role
    In health, pensions, education and more.
  8. The Turn to Business To Fix Health Care and Education
    Only business brings the entrepre- neurial drive and innovation that can lower costs and boost quality in these radically inefficient sectors. The opportunity. Early, promising examples.
  9. The Revolt of The Lower Upper Class
    The resentful “bottom of the top” will become a force to restore balance and proportion to an ultra rich class run amok.
  10. The End of American Parochialism
    As we realize that only lessons from abroad can save American ideals.

Fixing American Health Care

Matt Miller was a top aide in the Clinton White House budget office when health reform failed last time. Today he consults to corporate America (including the health care industry), and is viewed as one of the nation’s most creative public affairs thinkers via his books, radio commentary and frequent columns. With these experiences and angles of vision, Miller is uniquely equipped to offer insights on the health care debate, and to explain its stakes for individual industries and the economy as a whole. Miller’s perspectives are shared in the lively, witty style honed from years of hosting Left, Right & Center, public radio’s popular weekly political roundtable.

Miller’s book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go Of The Old Ways of Thinking To Unleash A New Prosperity, explains how outdated ways of thinking on health care, schools, trade, taxes and more threaten to stop us from finding our way past today’s economic crisis to a durable prosperity—and it shows how America can flourish with a few simple changes in our mental model of the world. The book has been featured on The Colbert Report, NPR’s Morning Edition, and Real Time With Bill Maher; its ideas and analysis have been praised by The New York Times, The Washington Post and many others. Joe Klein, political columnist for TIME, says Miller’s book “offers the most plausible way to renovate our political and policy thinking to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.” The US Chamber of Commerce just put The Tyranny of Dead Ideas atop its list of books “Driving The Debate” in 2009 that business leaders should read.

Although a Democrat (Miller is also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington’s leading Democratic think tank), Miller is respected by leaders in both parties as a nonideological, “outside the box” problem-solver. He’s known for cutting through the charades peddled by both sides and pointing toward commonsense solutions that harness market forces for pubic purposes. At a moment when spin is coming from every corner in the polarizing health debate, Miller can be the indispensable, trustworthy guide to help your group grasp what really matters.

In his health care talks, which he’ll tailor to your group’s interests after speaking with event planners, Miller typically covers:

  • The nature of the health system problems we need to solve — why they matter to the country, why they’ve proved so intractable, what the experience of other countries suggests, why current trends are unsustainable for business and for individuals.
  • Why the stars are aligned for first time in 15 years for meaningful action.
  • The politics of the debate — the myths being peddled by both sides.
  • The deep confusion corporate America brings to this debate (see Miller’s column “Will Business Kill Health Care?” on his web site; also the health care chapter of Miller’s new book).
  • President Obama’s political and policy strategy; the Republican strategy.
  • The elements of successful reform — and why a bipartisan deal should be possible.
  • The long term cost crisis — what no one will admit about what we don’t know, and how to think about this in the current context.
  • What to look for in the endgame being negotiated.
  • What your industry should do to be positioned to thrive.

Because Miller doesn’t spout the typical party lines, audiences find his talks peppered with illuminating insights they can’t find anywhere else.

2% Solution

Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love

Matthew Miller has an intriguing, totally workable program for fixing America’s most serious domestic problems for just two cents on the national dollar. This topic will help set the agenda for the 2004 elections and perhaps for the next decade. He proposes to give everyone health insurance, full-time workers a living wage, all children good teachers in fixed-up schools, and create a political landscape in which politicians no longer have to grovel to wealthy donors. All it takes is 2% of America’s GDP; that’s $200 billion a year.

In this presentation, based on his book The 2% Solution: Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love (PublicAffairs, August, 2003), Miller challenges the country and its leaders — and would-be leaders — to take responsibility for social change while we still can, before the baby boomers’ retirement siphons all the money out of the system. This unprecedented fiscal collision will force us to rethink what we expect from government and how we pay for it, and he has some common sense answers ready to consider.

Miller can present on a number of topics related to this theme:

  • The Overall 2% Concept — an analysis of the problems we face, the obstacles to solving them, the urgency forced on us by baby boomer retirement, plus the outline for The 2% Solution. All audiences.
  • Health Care — insuring everybody and lowering costs over the long term and how these issues will reorder traditional political categories and stereotypes.
  • Education — why the shortage of quality teachers in poor schools is the single most urgent problem we face, and how to solve it.
  • Business and the Living Wage — the benefits to society of people working exceed the wages that companies are willing to pay unskilled workers for their productivity; that makes paying the difference worth it. Business audiences.
  • Campaign Finance — give every registered voter a $50 voucher that he or she can spend to support candidates or political organizations in federal elections. Politics and policy audiences.
  • The Press — stenography shapes our news coverage, not ideology as many conservatives (and liberals claim), and we can fix that.


Change We Can Believe In — Tyranny of Dead Ideas


A nonprofit organization of public officials heading departments of education:
Our members benefited greatly from your knowledge and expertise....Your presentation set the tone for our meeting, and your remarks were referenced again and again in the sessions that followed.

A nonpartisan nonprofit for policy to better children’s lives:
We had a spectacular turnout for the event (more than 400 people) and his comments really had people talking! Matt was so easy to work with, extremely accessible to the audience before and after the event, and his comments were well-received by lawmakers and citizens from both sides of aisle.

Please pass on our regards:

"Matt — Hope you had a safe trip home. I just wanted to thank you, on behalf of all of us at [our event], for a fantastic event today. We have received such rave reviews all afternoon! We appreciate the opportunity to have brought you to Kansas, and to have celebrated our 30th Anniversary in a way that brought together lawmakers and citizens – from both sides of the aisle – to start thinking outside the box."

A non-profit federation of affiliated state health organizations:
Dear Matt — I wanted to take a moment and personally thank you for speaking at [. . .] "[group] CEO Breakfast" meeting in Chicago last week; you were a "hit" with our group.

I thought your observations of those unrelated and unanticipated political factors that are influencing the development of Congress’ work on health care reform were right on target. Although your audience is a highly-sophisticated group of business people, it was good for them to hear your perspectives on what can make the wheels of our democracy really turn.

You really endeared yourself to the audience when one of them described to you, one of the many nursing home quality rating programs currently in effect. Your response of, “really?” said in a tone of genuine and sincere disbelief made your presentation a highlight of our meeting.

An education conference:
Matt — Thank you so much for the incredible energy and vision you provided to our audience in Chicago during our 2009 conference. Simply put – you were fantastic. Without question the thoughts you shared strengthened education grantmakers’ resolve to continue their efforts and to do so with fresh eyes.

What an extraordinary opener — it set the tone for three days of debate and exchange. Many thanks for joining us and sharing your insights!

A non-profit working for affordable housing:
Our online program evaluations are rolling in and the response to your keynote address has been very positive. I thought you might appreciate a few comments:

  • Great speaker, wish he sold his book, but I am sure I will read it!
  • His speech was inspirational, and did well to tie together the different focus areas.
  • Provocative and intriguing perspective of collaboration and the need for change.
  • Really interesting ideas — very thought provoking. He's a good entertainer and speaker in addition to having good ideas.
  • I appreciated having speakers talk about issues that are not directly about affordable housing. We need to think of ourselves as one leg of a community solving the needs of low income citizens.

A non-profit organization working to prevent homelessness:
Dear Matt — On behalf of the board and staff of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, we thank you for being a part of CHIP’s 10th Anniversary Celebration. It was an honor and a pleasure to have you with us for this significant occasion.

We also thank you for staying afterwards to sign books and for attending our dinner following the reception. Being able to invite our top donors and other honored guests to an intimate dinner with you following the reception was a unique and very special way for us to express our thanks to those who are important to us. Thank you for this opportunity.

Your presentation was a perfect fit for our evening. As is apparent from the comments we have heard since the event and from the number of books that were sold that evening, you were a big hit with our audience. The ideas you presented were thought-provoking and have begun to spark discussions among those present that evening.

Thank you for lending your talent to our special event. We wish you continued success as you continue the promotion of astute observations and original solutions.

An institute supporting entrepreneurship:
Matt — Thank you again for your appearing at our forum yesterday. You were terrific, did a great job of keeping the audience attentive and interested, and also managed to sell quite a few books. All-in-all, a fine afternoon's work. As we discussed, we would be delighted if you could moderate a panel at our [...] Conference, which would have prominent individuals from the right and left focusing on some or all of the issues raised in your book. We would also love to have you moderate our workforce development panel at our [...] Conference.

A regional nonprofit:
Matt — Your presentation was outstanding and EXACTLY what I had hoped folks would hear. Thank you for your professionalism, doing your homework and providing our attendees with a meaningful, thoughtful presentation. We pride ourself on quality materials and information and you certainly helped us live up to that promise.


— The Washington Post
— The Washington Post