President Obama is expected to propose a mortgage relief program (WSJ) that would allow homeowners who are current on their payments to refinance into federally backed loans with lower interest rates. The move, which is expected to face congressional opposition, aims to reinvigorate the nation’s weak housing market and aid borrowers who may owe more than their home is worth.
GOP Introduces $260B Highway Bill
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica introduced a bill Tuesday that seeks to allocate $260 billion over a five-year period on road and transit projects (The Hill). Republicans are touting the bill as a job creator, but it includes provisions that are unlikely to win favor with Democrats. The Senate Democratic version of the bill seeks to allocate $109 billion per year and relies on a gas tax to fund the projects. The House bill is funded with increased oil and gas drilling, including opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which has long been opposed by environmental groups.
Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging infrastructure is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.
Education and Human Capital
Report Indicates Poor Science Curricula across Country
A Thomas B. Fordham Institute report (Education Week) released Tuesday indicates falling science standards in schools across the country. In the majority of states, science standards are vague and lack rigor, with some states undermining teaching evolution and scientific inquiry.
The Fordham report issues an A-F grading scale, with only California and the District of Columbia earning an A, and four other states earning A-minuses. Over half of states received grades of D or F, with 10 states failing altogether.
Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.
Corporate Regulation and Taxation
Obama Pushes Tax Breaks for Small Businesses
President Obama is striving to give small businesses tax breaks and assist start-ups (The Fiscal Times), making it easier for small firms to grow and create jobs. The plan, mentioned in last week’s State of the Union address, will be featured in the president’s 2013 budget this month.
Corporate regulation and taxation. Read more from top economists and business experts on solutions for addressing corporate tax reform.
Debt and Deficits
CBO: Tax Hikes and Spending Cuts Will Slow Economic Growth
The Congressional Budget Office predicts reduced economic growth (FT) as the Bush tax cuts expire and the 2 percent payroll tax holiday and spending cuts come to an end. CBO estimates economic growth will be reduced to 1.1 percent in 2013 and indicates a higher ten-year deficit projection from 2012-2021 than its August estimates, though the deficit is projected to shrink from $1.3 trillion to $1.1 trillion in 2012.
CFR’s Ted Alden examines the various tax and spending assumptions in the CBO report– including baseline and alternative fiscal scenarios– and discusses the potential for Congressional action.
Debt and deficits. Read more from experts on the challenges in reducing U.S. debt.