CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Morning Brief: Foreign Investment Revives Indiana Steel Mill

by Renewing America Staff Monday, May 21, 2012
An aerial shot from August 2007 of the ArcelorMittal Steel Mill in East Chicago, a few miles from the Burns Harbor site. (John Gress/Courtesy Reuters) An aerial shot from August 2007 of the ArcelorMittal Steel Mill in East Chicago, a few miles from the Burns Harbor site. (John Gress/Courtesy Reuters)

Foreign investment and productivity improvements revived an Indiana steel mill (WSJ). In 2008, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal “twinned” the Burns Harbor plant with one in Ghent, Belgium. Burns Harbor engineers and managers went to Ghent to learn how the similar plant produced more efficiently; $150 million investments in plant automation and computerization brought productivity to record levels. The plant is hiring more workers with computer and engineering degrees, according to the union representative: “Steel working used to be 80 percent back and 20 percent brain, now it’s the other way around.” Read more »

Policy Initiative Spotlight: Gambling Your Way out of Debt

by Jonathan Masters Friday, May 18, 2012
A row of slot machines. (Courtesy / Flickr) A row of slot machines. (Courtesy / Flickr)

Thirty U.S. states projected budget shortfalls for FY 2013, and the options for bridging these gaps without major cuts to services such as education or transportation are dwindling. Dollars from the federal Recovery Act, which provided some fiscal relief for state treasuries over the past few years, largely ran dry at the end of 2011. Read more »

Visas, the Economy, and 9/11: Will Evidence Trump Fear?

by Edward Alden Friday, May 18, 2012
9/11 Commission Chairman Governor Thomas Kean and Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton at a press conference at the close of the final hearing of the Commission in Washington on June 17, 2004. (Shaun Heasley/Courtesy Reuters) 9/11 Commission Chairman Governor Thomas Kean and Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton at a press conference at the close of the final hearing of the Commission in Washington on June 17, 2004. (Shaun Heasley/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Congress finally act to solve some of the problems with visa issuance that have plagued the United States over the past decade, keeping out tourists, students, and business travelers and driving away foreign investment? I testified yesterday to the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration enforcement, which was considering H.R. 3039, the “Welcoming Business Travelers and Tourists to America Act” introduced by Republican Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV). Read more »

Morning Brief: Facebook Holds Largest U.S. IPO

by Renewing America Staff Friday, May 18, 2012
A man in New York holds a pamphlet of information on investing in Facebook's IPO. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters). A man in New York holds a pamphlet of information on investing in Facebook's IPO. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

Facebook successfully completed its initial public offering (IPO) raising $16 billion with a total initial market capitalization of $104 billion, the largest for a U.S. IPO (Bloomberg). That valuation is expected to rise today; IPOs are usually priced low so share prices “pop” on the first day (BusinessWeek). Potential Facebook investors are encouraged by its stickiness (LA Times) but wary of GM’s move to end paid advertising (Reuters). Read more »

Morning Brief: Debt Ceiling Battle Looms

by Renewing America Staff Thursday, May 17, 2012
President Obama, Speaker John Boehner, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi meet to discuss the debt ceiling in July 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) President Obama, Speaker John Boehner, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi meet to discuss the debt ceiling in July 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Reuters discusses yesterday’s White House meeting, where President Obama and Speaker Boehner argued over what provisions could be attached to the next debt limit increase, expected in early 2013. Boehner wants spending cuts and reforms larger than the amount of the debt ceiling hike, while Obama wants to separate the debt limit from the budget. The Washington Post summarizes the political considerations and how automatic actions such as the spending cuts from the last debt ceiling vote and the expiration of the Bush-era tax rates would reduce the deficit. Read more »

Business, Immigration, and Political Dysfunction

by Edward Alden Wednesday, May 16, 2012
CFR's Edward Alden, former Senator Chuck Hagel, and UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm speak at the Hamilton Project event "U.S. Immigration Policy: The Border Between Reform and the Economy" at the Brookings Institution on May 15, 2012. (Paul Morigi/Paul Morigi Photography) CFR's Edward Alden, former Senator Chuck Hagel, and UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm speak at the Hamilton Project event "U.S. Immigration Policy: The Border Between Reform and the Economy" at the Brookings Institution on May 15, 2012. (Paul Morigi/Paul Morigi Photography)

I had not intended it this way, but this will be my second item in just a week on political dysfunction in Washington.

I participated yesterday in a superb forum on the prospects for immigration reform, hosted by former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and organized by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. The presentation featured an extremely thoughtful presentation by economist Giovanni Peri proposing a pilot project for a scheme to auction visas, which has the potential to regulate more effectively demand and supply for new immigrant workers, and to raise extra revenue from the companies that benefit. It deserves serious attention. Read more »

Morning Brief: New Education Advocacy Groups Shape Debate

by Renewing America Staff Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst and former chancellor of DC public schools, speaks at the "Educated Workforce" session of an economic forum in 2009. (Hyungwon Kang/Courtesy Reuters) Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst and former chancellor of DC public schools, speaks at the "Educated Workforce" session of an economic forum in 2009. (Hyungwon Kang/Courtesy Reuters)

Since the 1960s, teacher unions have been the primary lobbyists on education policy, but new advocacy groups are emerging (Education Week). These single-issue groups are gaining traction on Capitol Hill and in state governments. While they have found common cause with teacher unions on some issues, they are often in opposition. Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of DC public schools, created StudentsFirst and explained: “I think unions and textbook manufacturers are all doing what they’re supposed to [in advocating for their interests].” She added “We wanted to start an organized national interest group constantly pushing for the interest of kids.” Read more »

Morning Brief: SpaceX Shoots for ISS on Saturday

by Renewing America Staff Tuesday, May 15, 2012
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule lifts off from Cape Canaveral for a test flight in 2010. (Scott Audette/Courtesy Reuters) SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule lifts off from Cape Canaveral for a test flight in 2010. (Scott Audette/Courtesy Reuters)

Space commercialization may take a small step forward on Saturday (NYT). SpaceX is planning to launch the first commercial capsule to the International Space Station (ISS). If successful, SpaceX’s Dragon will ferry cargo to ISS, and validate a reusable spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk—who also co-founded Paypal and Tesla Motors—vowed his company will send humans to Mars within twenty years. Closer to Earth, several startups are receiving research and development funds from NASA to develop equipment to reach earth orbit. Read more »

Morning Brief: California Budget Deficit Escalates

by Renewing America Staff Monday, May 14, 2012
California Governor Jerry Brown speaks in front of a California flag in Long Beach, California on March 14, 2012. (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters) California Governor Jerry Brown speaks in front of a California flag in Long Beach, California on March 14, 2012. (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters)

California is expected to record a $16 billion deficit this year (LATimes). Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown submitted a state budget with a deficit of $9.2 billion. Since that time, tax receipts have fallen below estimates, courts have invalidated proposed cuts to healthcare, and the legislature has not aggressively pursued further cuts. At a press conference today, Brown is expected to call for deeper cuts and continue to support a ballot initiative to raise taxes (Reuters). Read more »

Policy Initiative Spotlight: Can Elite Education Be Free?

by Edward Alden Friday, May 11, 2012
A man at home on his laptop. (eyeliam/Flickr) A man at home on his laptop. (eyeliam/Flickr)

Congress this week has been debating the growing debt burden faced by American college students. Today’s “Policy Initiative Spotlight” examines the recent expansion of free, online university education led by several elite institutions. Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich examines some of the newest endeavors, which could multiply the impact of America’s universities and help to control costs for students. Read more »