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Morning Brief: Obama’s SOTU To-Do List

by Jonathan Masters
January 24, 2012

As President Obama prepares for his State of the Union tonight, eight budget and public policy experts discuss the most important objectives the president must accomplish with his address (Fiscal Times). Among several recommendations, they call for promoting job creation and the benefits of the stimulus, discussing deficit reduction and specific entitlement reforms, and taking credit for his foreign policy accomplishments.

Debt and Deficits

Summers Calls for Government Action

With world economic leaders meeting in Davos this week, President Obama’s former National Economic Council chief Lawrence Summers says governments should be working directly to increase demand and enhance business confidence in their efforts to sustain economic recovery (FT).

This CFR analysis brief discusses the growing apprehension among some of a U.S. sovereign debt crisis akin to what is facing some eurozone economies. While fears may be overblown, a large deficit poses serious challenges for policymakers struggling to balance short-term economic recovery with longer term debt reduction.

Debt and deficits. America’s debt is rising at an unprecedented rate and the response will require tackling some of the thorniest issues in U.S. politics –taxes and entitlement spending. Leading experts assess the challenges in reducing U.S. debt.

Infrastructure

Long Term FAA Funding Possible

The U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to consider legislation that would fund the Federal Aviation Administration (WSJ) in the short-term, a move that industry insiders say could set the stage for longer term agency funding. Progress on the issue comes as lawmakers were able to reach a compromise last week on controversial labor provisions.

A report from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (PDF) says federal intelligence agencies are still not providing adequate information to the country’s eighteen private critical infrastructure sectors. The report recommends the Department of Homeland Security help facilitate infrastructure protection capabilities at the seventy-two state and regional fusion centers around the country.

Infrastructure. Upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems as well as infrastructure related to energy security is seen as essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness. Experts at the forefront of policy discussions recommend how to pay for this.

Education and Human Capital

Flaws in “No Child Left Behind”

In Time magazine, Kayla Webley exposes some of the flaws in “No Child Left Behind” and how some excellent schools are perceived as failing under the act. She says that, despite some progress, there are growing calls for scrapping the unrealistic performance goals set by the legislation.

Education and human capital. An education system beset by low student performance and a flawed immigration system threaten U.S. capacity to develop a competitive workforce. Experts spell out ways of improving education and immigration policies.

International Trade and Investment

State Capitalism and U.S. Competitiveness

The rise of “state capitalism” in emerging markets like China and Brazil has generated much debate over the sustainability of the model and whether the United States can compete effectively. This article from the Economist looks at the trend (state-backed firms represented one-third of the emerging world’s FDI in 2003-10) and its implications for the world.

International trade and investment. Some policymakers say trade deals offer unfair advantages to foreign firms but others see free trade as a way to spur economic growth and job creation. Leading analysts examine the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

The Renewing America morning brief presents daily news and analysis on the major domestic challenges facing the United States that have significant consequences for national security and foreign policy. Topics include the debt and deficit, infrastructure, education, innovation, trade, and corporate regulation and corporate regulation and taxes.

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