CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Why Don’t U.S. Exports Create More Jobs?

by Edward Alden Tuesday, November 27, 2012
President Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law on December 8, 1993 (Mike Theiler/Courtesy Reuters). President Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law on December 8, 1993 (Mike Theiler/Courtesy Reuters).

When President Bill Clinton was trying to persuade Congress to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, administration officials frequently made the claim that each additional $1 billion in exports would produce 17,000 new jobs in the United States. Implicit in the claim was the idea that NAFTA and other free trade agreements would trigger a big growth in exports, and that exports would be an engine of job creation. Read more »

Policy Initiative Spotlight: Trying to Depolarize Congress

by Steven J. Markovich Friday, November 16, 2012
Stickers stating "I Voted" in several languages are affixed to a ballot intake machine during the 2012 national election (Fred Prouser/Courtesy Reuters). Stickers stating "I Voted" in several languages are affixed to a ballot intake machine during the 2012 national election in Los Angeles (Fred Prouser/Courtesy Reuters).

Congressional polarization has steadily increased over the last twenty-five years, according to research by political scientists Howard Rosenthal and Keith Poole. Their analysis indicates that the U.S. House and Senate are more polarized today than at any other time since the end of Reconstruction. The 2012 election continued this trend. Read more »

Obama’s New Cabinet: Time for a Strong Commerce Secretary

by Edward Alden Thursday, November 15, 2012
The U.S. Commerce Department (ncindc/Flickr). The U.S. Commerce Department (ncindc/Flickr).

As President Obama mulls over the appointments for his second term cabinet, there’s one job that deserves a much higher priority than it’s had in the recent past: the Commerce Secretary. Commerce secretaries have normally been almost an afterthought in presidential appointments, and rarely leave a lasting mark. But there is no position in the government that plays a bigger role in what the president has identified as his top second-term goal: reviving a stronger middle class in the United States. Read more »

What Is the Fiscal Cliff?

by Jonathan Masters Wednesday, November 14, 2012
The dome of the U.S. Capitol is lit up in Washington, DC (Brian Snyder/Reuters). The dome of the U.S. Capitol is lit up in Washington, DC (Brian Snyder/Reuters).

Without timely action from Congress, the United States faces a drastic set of tax hikes and spending cuts at year’s end that could derail the nation’s fragile recovery and spill over into the global economy. The budget measures, known collectively as the “fiscal cliff,” would automatically slash the federal deficit by $503 billion between FY 2012 and FY 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In addition, Treasury is likely to reach its capacity to borrow—the federal debt ceiling—early next year. Read more »

Underinvesting in Resilience

by Michael Spence Friday, November 9, 2012
The skyline of lower Manhattan is seen mostly in darkness, except for the Goldman Sachs building, after a preventive power outage caused by Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters). The skyline of lower Manhattan is seen mostly in darkness, except for the Goldman Sachs building, after a preventive power outage caused by Hurricane Sandy on October 30, 2012 (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters).

NEW YORK, NY – The hurricane on America’s eastern seaboard last week (which I experienced in lower Manhattan) adds to a growing collection of extreme weather events from which lessons should be drawn. Climate experts have long argued that the frequency and magnitude of such events are increasing, and evidence of this should certainly influence precautionary steps – and cause us to review such measures regularly. Read more »

Promoting Innovation Through R&D

by Steven J. Markovich Wednesday, November 7, 2012
A scientist uses a microscope to check cultures for signs of the H1N1 swine flu virus and other respiratory diseases at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). A scientist uses a microscope to check cultures for signs of the H1N1 swine flu virus and other respiratory diseases at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Experts agree that research and development (R&D) is the backbone of a globally competitive, knowledge-driven economy. R&D investment helps develop new products and services that drive growth, create jobs, and improve national welfare. For decades the U.S. government and private sector have spent more than any other nation on R&D. But that advantage is eroding as other nations increase public and private R&D investments at a faster rate, causing the global U.S. share of this critical investment to decline. Read more »

Obama or Romney Must Govern Without a Mandate

by Edward Alden Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Voters cast their ballots during the U.S. presidential election at a polling station in the Staten Island Borough of New York on November 6, 2012 (Keith Bedford/Courtesy Reuters). Voters cast their ballots during the U.S. presidential election at a polling station in the Staten Island Borough of New York on November 6, 2012 (Keith Bedford/Courtesy Reuters).

There is an idea that is dear to the hearts of every candidate that ought to be discarded, at least until the U.S. electoral map shifts dramatically from what it has been in recent years: that the victor walks away with a “mandate” for action. The reality is that presidential and congressional elections no longer produce a mandate for much of anything. The sooner we drop that notion, the sooner our elected officials can get on with the messy business of actually governing a divided country. Read more »

Policy Initiative Spotlight: The Israeli R&D Model

by Jonathan Masters Friday, November 2, 2012
A museum guide imitates a humanoid robot at the Robotic World exhibition in Haifa (Courtesy Reuters). A museum guide imitates a humanoid robot at the Robotic World exhibition in Haifa (Courtesy Reuters).

The innovations that will drive a knowledge-based economy and employ the next generation of high-skilled workers require a national commitment to research and development, and no nation has made this a higher priority than Israel. The country of 8 million invests more money in R&D per GDP than any other. And while the United States still leads the world in total R&D spending, it ranks ninth when economies are weighted. Read more »