CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Morning Brief: GE’s American Made Appliances

by Renewing America Staff Monday, July 23, 2012
GE plans to add a second production shift of 380 workers to its French door bottom freezer line at its Appliance Park facility in Louisville, KY (Company Handout). GE plans to add a second production shift of 380 workers to its French door bottom freezer line at its Appliance Park facility in Louisville, KY (Company Handout).

After decades of outsourcing home appliance assembly work, General Electric has invested $800 million to bring production lines to Louisville, KY (Pittsburgh Tribune Review).  Lean manufacturing techniques have allowed GE to efficiently produce in the United States and take advantage of the falling gap between U.S. production costs and those overseas. GE is also taking advantage of significant tax breaks offered by state and local authorities, a common approach to attract business investment that one analyst described as a “zero-sum game.” Read more »

Morning Brief: Simpson and Bowles Campaign to Fix the Debt

by Renewing America Staff Thursday, July 19, 2012
Alan Simpson (L) and Erskine Bowles (R), co-founders of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, speak at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce "Jobs for America Summit 2010" in Washington, July 14, 2010 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). Alan Simpson (L) and Erskine Bowles (R), co-founders of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, speak at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce "Jobs for America Summit 2010" in Washington, July 14, 2010 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have founded a non-partisan organization to advocate for budgetary reform, the Campaign to Fix the Debt. The organization will focus on policy development and education, as well as outreach and coalition building. It has already attracted former politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Judd Gregg (former Republican senator and governor of New Hampshire) and Ed Rendell (former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania) who will serve as co-chairmen. Read more »

Tradable Prosperity

by Michael Spence Wednesday, July 18, 2012
A truck is driven at a yard where cars are parked before being exported at a port in Incheon, Korea (Choi Dae-woong/Courtesy Reuters). A truck is driven at a yard where cars are parked before being exported at a port in Incheon, Korea (Choi Dae-woong/Courtesy Reuters).

MILAN – The global economy is experiencing a major growth challenge. Many advanced countries are attempting to revive sustainable growth in the face of a decelerating global economy. But the challenges across countries are not the same. In particular, the tradable and non-tradable parts of a range of economies differ in important ways. Read more »

Morning Brief: Budget Crisis Bears Down on States and Cities

by Renewing America Staff Wednesday, July 18, 2012
A local newspaper headline announces bankruptcy in Stockton, California on June 27, 2012 (Kevin Bartram/Courtesy Reuters). A local newspaper headline announces bankruptcy in Stockton, California on June 27, 2012 (Kevin Bartram/Courtesy Reuters).

The State Budget Crisis Task Force examined the fiscal difficulties faced by six heavily-populated states (NYT). The report pointed to an array of escalating costs: Medicaid, retiree healthcare, and underfunded pensions. Revenues are not keeping pace; income taxes have become more volatile, sales tax is increasingly avoided, and gasoline taxes are falling, all while the federal government decreases aid. The authors recommend several measures to improve state budgeting and planning. Of the six states studied, three had the lowest bond ratings of the fifty states. Many municipalities face similar stresses; the city of Compton, California, may declare bankruptcy by September (Reuters). Read more »

Reviving the Economy of America’s Small Towns: Is It Possible?

by Edward Alden Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Davis, West Virginia (jmd41280/flickr). Davis, West Virginia (jmd41280/flickr).

DAVIS, WV — Can American small towns be revived? And is this something governments should even try to be doing? I’ve been pondering these questions on a brief working escape from this year’s especially oppressive summer heat in Washington, DC.

The decline of small towns has been an inexorable, century-long trend. The mechanization of agriculture emptied out most of the small towns in the Midwest. The exhaustion of natural resources like timber, minerals, and coal spelled the death of others in the west and the Appalachians. The small manufacturing towns of the Northeast declined as factory jobs first moved south and later overseas. And big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco have often put out of business what little remained of the old downtown retail cores. Read more »

Morning Brief: Major Research Universities Join With Coursera

by Renewing America Staff Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller speaks at TED Global in Edinburgh on June 26, 2012 (TEDConference/flickr). Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller speaks at TED Global in Edinburgh on June 26, 2012 (TEDConference/flickr).

Coursera, a year-old online learning company co-founded by two Stanford computer scientists, will announce today that twelve additional major research universities will join the project, including the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Rice University, Johns Hopkins University, and others (NYT). Coursera will offer one hundred or more free massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the fall, and the company expects millions to register from around the globe. This program mirrors similar initiatives by Harvard and MIT, which recently launched the joint online learning program edX. Read more »

Morning Brief: Georgia Considers New Taxes to Fund Infrastructure

by Renewing America Staff Monday, July 16, 2012
The Atlanta skyline at night (James Rintamaki/Flickr). The Atlanta skyline at night (James Rintamaki/Flickr).

When Georgia voters head to the polls on July 31, they will vote on whether to adopt an additional penny sales tax to fund infrastructure projects (Stateline). If a county enacts the new sales tax, then it will begin to fund its pre-selected projects. The vote in Atlanta will be watched closely. If passed, the measure would fund an additional $7.2 billion in projects in the Atlanta metro area. Read more »

Policy Initiative Spotlight: Subways That Leave the Driving to No One

by Edward Alden Thursday, July 12, 2012
A new metro subway train arrives at the newly opened metro system in Algiers on October 31, 2011 (Ramzi Boudina/Courtesy Reuters). A new metro subway train arrives at the newly opened metro system in Algiers on October 31, 2011 (Ramzi Boudina/Courtesy Reuters).

In this Policy Initiative Spotlight, Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich looks at the implementation of driverless cars in subways, a trend that has seen growing  popularity in recent years. He highlights the costs and benefits of this alternative, and argues that the United States could gain long-term by implementing this system that has been keeping subway costs and wait times down around world for decades. Read more »

Morning Brief: Californian Cities Confront Cash Crunches

by Renewing America Staff Thursday, July 12, 2012
James Penman, city attorney general of San Bernardino who has called into question the validity of the city’s last sixteen annual budgets, spoke at the city council chambers yesterday (Alex Gallardo/Courtesy Reuters). James Penman, city attorney general of San Bernardino who has called into question the validity of the city’s last sixteen annual budgets, spoke at the city council chambers yesterday (Alex Gallardo/Courtesy Reuters).

On Tuesday, San Bernardino’s city council voted to become the third Californian city to file for bankruptcy in the last month (LAT). While Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino each faced unique circumstances, other Californian cities have budget problems from rising costs and a struggling economy. Escalating pension costs have been particularly burdensome; pension spending grew an average of 11.4 percent annually from 1999 to 2010 in the largest Californian cities and counties. Cities wishing to avoid bankruptcy’s stigma and legal costs are cutting services and workforces while seeking concessions from employees, but may also face higher borrowing costs as investors grow wary of bonds from the Golden State. Read more »

Morning Brief: Amtrak’s High Speed Plans for the Northeast

by Renewing America Staff Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A northbound Amtrak high speed Acela train rolls through the Claymont station near Wilmington, Delaware (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters). A northbound Amtrak high speed Acela train rolls through the Claymont station near Wilmington, Delaware (Tim Shaffer/Courtesy Reuters).

Amtrak announced a $151 billion improvement plan for its northeast corridor (NEC) for high-speed trains by 2040 (Reuters). Quicker “NextGen” trains would begin rolling in the 2020s, and eventually travel times would decline by about half. Amtrak is also considering adding new links to major airports. In its report, Amtrak acknowledged a current lack of federal support, but the administrator of the federal agency that oversees Amtrak offered: “The vision we will shape with the Northeastern states, Amtrak and all of our stakeholders will outlast the vagaries of politics, budgets and critics.” Read more »