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Morning Brief: Congress Strikes Transportation Deal

by Renewing America Staff
June 28, 2012

The southern portion of the 18-Mile Stretch, a facet of U.S. Highway 1 that connects South Florida with the Florida Keys, September 2011 (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). The southern portion of the 18-Mile Stretch, a facet of U.S. Highway 1 that connects South Florida with the Florida Keys, September 2011 (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Congressional leaders announced that a deal has been struck to pass a new transportation bill (WashPost). The final deal is based upon a two-year bill passed by the Senate. In the final compromise, Republicans gave up demands for congressional approval for the Keystone oil pipeline and a rollback of new coal restrictions.

Democrats agreed to cut $1.4 billion in conservation funding and allow states greater spending discretion. The deal does not address the gap between spending and revenue from the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax, last changed in 1993. The measure will likely be combined with a renewal of the temporary cut to Stafford student loan interest rates (The Hill).

The first Renewing America Progress Report and Infographic Scorecard, released last week, assesses the current state of U.S. transportation infrastructure policy. The report concluded that, even with passage of the bill, “the United States will struggle simply to maintain, much less improve, its transportation infrastructure.”

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

Education and Human Capital

Half of Workforce Growth from Immigration

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its International Migration Outlook 2012. The free summary for the United States indicates immigration produced 47 percent of the increase in the U.S. workforce from 2000 to 2010, less than the proportions in Canada (98 percent), and Europe (70 percent). The report argues permanent migration flows in the United States are less linked to employment than in many OECD countries, with relatively little change from 2007 to 2010. U.S. immigrants face an unemployment rate similar to that of native-born workers, which is not the case in most OECD countries.

CFR’s 2009 Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy, chaired by Jeb Bush and Thomas F. McLarty III, recommends policies with three goals: reform of legal immigration to improve efficiency and U.S. competitiveness; effective enforcement of immigration laws; and a fair, humane, and orderly way to deal with migrants illegally living in the United States.

Ranks of Older Workers Grow

More Americans aged sixty five and older are working causing greater competition for jobs and retarding wage growth (Bloomberg). Nearly 17 percent of those aged sixty five and older are employed, a 46-year high. Many are in part-time, temporary, and/or low-wage roles requiring little experience or skills; competition from seniors for these roles may partially explain why joblessness among sixteen to twenty-four year olds is 16 percent. This trend is likely to accelerate. A recent survey found 74 percent of U.S. workers plan to work after they turn sixty five, with over half citing financial need.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

International Trade and Investment

Airbus Expected to Announce Alabama Assembly Line

Europe’s Airbus is expected to announce plans to build a commercial jet assembly line in Mobile, Alabama (Bloomberg). In 2005, Mobile was the intended location for Airbus’s parent, EADS, to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force, but that contract was lost to Boeing (NYT). An aviation consultant observed that “Airbus is trying to do the smart thing, which is to bring production to places that are closer to customers. Another advantage is that Americans in general are lower paid, so you can get cheap labor in the U.S.”

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Innovation

Tracking RIM’s Stark Decline

In 2008, Canada’s Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, controlled over half of the U.S. smartphone market, and had an $80 billion market capitalization. However, the company, in a stark change of fortunes, is expected to report an operating loss today (WSJ). Analysts say RIM became overly confident in its own products and its hold over customers. With tension between co-CEOs over how to respond to competition from the iPhone and Android-based smartphones that offered increased functionality, RIM—like Nokia—was slow to respond to competitors’ innovations.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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