CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Morning Brief: Strategies to Keep Good Teachers

by Renewing America Staff Tuesday, July 31, 2012
A teacher reads to first grade students (gibsonsgolfer/flickr). A teacher reads to first grade students (gibsonsgolfer/flickr).

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a report indicating that many public school leaders are failing to find and support good teachers (Education Week). The study found that both the most and least successful teachers leave at the same rate. In one school district, only one fifth of the lowest performing teachers were encouraged to leave, while over one third were encouraged to stay. The report recommends making retention of “irreplaceable” teachers a priority, and reinforcing the teaching profession through higher expectations. TNTP was founded in 1997 by Michelle Rhee, who went on to become chancellor of public schools in Washington, DC. Read more »

Rising to the Challenge: The National Academies and Innovation Policy

by Edward Alden Monday, July 30, 2012
The National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC (SwedishCarina/flickr). The National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC (SwedishCarina/flickr).

Congressional leaders united in outrage earlier this month when they learned that the uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team had been made in China. They would have done better to save their breath and instead spend some time reading the new report from the National Academy of Sciences, “Rising to the Challenge: U.S. Innovation Policy for the Global Economy.” While it was a symbolic affront to see Olympic gear carrying a “Made in China” label, the future of the U.S. economy is not in Ralph Lauren’s hands. But if America loses its position as a leader in technological innovation, the report rightly notes, it will jeopardize “the foundation of its economic vitality and military power.” Read more »

Morning Brief: Spending Cuts May Slow Economic Growth

by Renewing America Staff Monday, July 30, 2012
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta briefs the media on budget cuts announced by the Pentagon in January 2012 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta briefs the media on budget cuts announced by the Pentagon in January 2012 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

As policymakers debate the “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect at the end of the year, slowing federal spending is already hampering economic growth (WSJ). Reduced federal spending and tax increases can be beneficial in the long run by closing the yawning federal deficit, but the 3.3 percent decrease in spending and elimination of over 52,000 federal government jobs in the past year may imperil growth in the short run. “It’s unbelievable how much the economy is getting hurt already by the sharp drop in federal spending,” said the chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank. Read more »

Policy Initiative Spotlight: Manhattan Micro Apartments

by Jonathan Masters Friday, July 27, 2012
Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan (Courtesy Wikimedia). Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan (Courtesy Wikimedia).

It may come as somewhat of a surprise that in a city of roughly 8 million residents–many of whom are already crammed into shoebox apartments–that there’s now a competition to bring the walls in even closer on some of them. But that’s exactly what Mayor Michael Bloomberg is challenging developers to do with adAPT NYC. Read more »

PBS’s “Homeland”: A Must-Watch on Immigration Policy

by Edward Alden Thursday, July 26, 2012
Children line up to perform in a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Beardstown, Illinois (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters). Children line up to perform in a Cinco de Mayo celebration in Beardstown, Illinois (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters).

In a presidential election year, it’s almost impossible to find any balanced and nuanced analysis on an issue as volatile as immigration. So it’s tremendously refreshing to watch the new, three-hour PBS documentary series, “Homeland: Immigration in America,” which begins airing across much of the country this week. The episodes will also be available on a website created for the program, at www.explorehomeland.org. Read more »

Morning Brief: Amtrak’s $7 Billion Revamp Plan for DC’s Union Station

by Renewing America Staff Thursday, July 26, 2012
Travelers walk through Union Station in Washington (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). Travelers walk through Union Station in Washington (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Amtrak proposed a $7 billion project to revamp Union Station (WashPost). The Washington, DC station that opened in 1907 is the train service’s second busiest, and its overcrowded tracks prevent further expansion of train capacity. The long term plan runs through 2030 and includes the addition of six tracks for high speed rail service. Construction plans for the next five years are relatively modest, up to $300 million. The strategy for financing the project has not been determined. Read more »

Morning Brief: The Economics of Higher Education

by Renewing America Staff Wednesday, July 25, 2012
A graduating senior waves as she arrives at the 2009 Barnard College commencement (Chip East/Courtesy Reuters). A graduating senior waves as she arrives at the 2009 Barnard College commencement (Chip East/Courtesy Reuters).

Noted bond and stock analyst A. Gary Shilling wrote a pair of opinion pieces discussing the economics of higher education for Bloomberg. In the first, he described the income benefit a college degree confers, escalating tuition costs, and the current financing model, which relies heavily on alumni donations and federal programs. His second article looks at the effect of the recession on college graduates’ job prospects and loan balances as well as university financing. Read more »

The Dodd-Frank Act

by Edward Alden Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke and Chairman of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board Paul Volcker (R) testify before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2010 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke and Chairman of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board Paul Volcker (R) testify before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2010 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act was one of the most significant financial regulatory reform measures since the Great Depression.  In the wake of the financial crisis, it sought to give regulators new tools to limit risky behavior and address systemic risk.  After two years, its implementation is still ongoing; many major rules have not yet been written. Read more »

Morning Brief: Poverty Rate Expected to Reach Highest Level Since 1965

by Renewing America Staff Tuesday, July 24, 2012
A homeless man begs for money in the Financial District in San Francisco, California (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters). A homeless man begs for money in the Financial District in San Francisco, California (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters).

The Associated Press reports that the poverty rate is expected to rise from its 2010 level of 15.1 percent; an increase as small as 0.1 percent would be the highest level since 1965. Joblessness plays an important role. While the unemployment rate fell from 9.6 to 8.9 percent from 2010 to 2011, the ratio of workers to the general population was largely unchanged, suggesting more discouraged workers have stopped looking for a job. Read more »

Caterpillar, Unions, and the Falling Middle Class

by Edward Alden Monday, July 23, 2012
Caterpillar workers on strike outside the plant's gate in Joliet, Illinois in May 2012 (peoplesworld/flickr). Caterpillar workers on strike outside the plant's gate in Joliet, Illinois in May 2012 (peoplesworld/flickr).

Why is Caterpillar, a company that made a record profit of $4.9 billion last year, demanding that unionized workers in its Joliet, Illinois factory agree to a six-year wage and pension benefits freeze? Quite simply, because it can.

That underscores the enormous challenge facing those who are trying to figure out how, as Francis Fukuyama put it in last Friday’s Financial Times, to “stem the loss of rich-world middle class jobs and incomes through forms of redistribution that do not undermine economic growth or long-term fiscal health.” Caterpillar, General Electric, and others are among the big multinational companies that are currently expanding employment in the United States, which is a good thing. But the new jobs they are creating are usually modestly paid (often in the range of $12 to $15 an hour), and the companies are determined to keep a tight lid on future wages and benefits. Read more »