CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Policy Initiative Spotlight: New Paths to a Diploma

by Steven J. Markovich Friday, March 29, 2013
A student reads on the campus of Columbia University in New York (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters). A student reads on the campus of Columbia University in New York (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

To most Americans, the typical college experience involves learning from a professor in a lecture hall and spending a set duration of time in class over several semesters. But that could soon change. Almost ten percent of last year’s graduates of Thomas Edison State College (TESC) earned their degree without setting foot on campus or even taking a course offered by the college, because the school uses a competency-based education model. Read more »

It’s the Perfect Time to Fix Our Roads and Bridges

by Renewing America Staff Thursday, March 28, 2013

With low borrowing costs and elevated unemployment, Washington should seize the moment to invest in fixing the nation’s decaying infrastructure, writes CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag.

“First, we need to couple immediate federal spending on public assets with substantial, credible deficit-reduction measures that are scheduled to take effect later on. Such a ‘barbell’ approach to fiscal policy would require that Republicans acknowledge the value of additional stimulus while the unemployment rate is high, and that Democrats see how Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security could be preserved and strengthened through certain cost-saving measures over time,” he says. Read more »

The Sales Tax: The New Way to Fund Transportation?

by Rebecca Strauss Monday, March 25, 2013
Cars wait in a traffic jam in New York City (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters). Cars wait in a traffic jam in New York City (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

Engineers have been browbeating U.S. policymakers about the dire state of the country’s infrastructure for years. This year is no different. Last week the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure a barely passing grade of D+ and warned that “it’s time to stop duct-taping this problem.” Much of the problem has to do with how the country pays for its infrastructure, which does not raise enough revenue to keep up with the costs of needed repairs and improvements. But the engineers may finally have the ear of policymakers in one state, Virginia, who are making real changes about how the state funds its highways and roads. Read more »

The Rising Tide: A New Look at Trade, Jobs, and Wages

by Edward Alden Thursday, March 21, 2013
A man rides his motorcycle past shipping containers at the Port of Shanghai (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters). A man rides his motorcycle past shipping containers at the Port of Shanghai (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

In the Council on Foreign Relations 2011 Independent Task Force on U.S. Trade and Investment Policy, we noted that many economists had begun to worry that growing U.S. trade with developing countries like China and India was holding down wage earnings among lower-skilled Americans. We quoted Paul Krugman, who had explored the issue thoroughly in the 1990s and was rethinking his earlier conclusion that the impact of trade had been small: “It’s no longer safe to assert that trade’s impact on the income distribution in wealthy countries is fairly minor,” Krugman wrote. “There’s a good case that it’s big and getting bigger.” But we noted that, unlike the 1990s, economists had not thoroughly examined the more recent evidence. Read more »

Europe, Italian-Style

by Michael Spence Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Monti speaks during a news conference at a European Union leaders summit to discuss the EU's long-term budget on February 8, 2013 (Eric Vidal/Courtesy Reuters). Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Monti speaks during a news conference at a European Union leaders summit to discuss the EU's long-term budget on February 8, 2013 (Eric Vidal/Courtesy Reuters).

Last summer, after two years of growing uncertainty, systemic risk in the eurozone finally began to wane, as conditional commitments came together. Italy and Spain offered credible fiscal and growth-oriented reforms, and the European Central Bank, with Germany’s backing, promised intervention as needed to stabilize the banking sector and sovereign-debt markets.=Unfortunately, that trend may be reversing. Growth in the eurozone has turned negative overall, significantly so in the south. Unemployment stands at about 12% in Italy, and 38% for the young. Likewise, Spain’s unemployment rate is above 25% (and 55% for young people). And French economic indicators are slipping quickly. Read more »

The Renewing America Interview: Robert Reischauer on Fiscal Reform

by Jonathan Masters Wednesday, March 13, 2013
A view of the House of Representatives Building and the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol (Ron Cogswell/Courtesy Flickr). A view of the House of Representatives Building and the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol (Ron Cogswell/Courtesy Flickr).

This week, for the first time in more than ninety years, both houses of Congress put out their annual budget proposals before the White House, an anomaly that reflects the topsy-turvy world of fiscal politics in Washington today. The Obama administration has delayed its fiscal blueprint for a few more weeks, which White House officials blame on the chronic budget brinksmanship over the last several months. Read more »

North America: Big Trade Gains Close to Home

by Edward Alden Tuesday, March 12, 2013
A truck of the Mexican company Olympics approaches the border at Laredo, TX to cross into the United States (Josue Gonzalez/Courtesy Reuters). A truck of the Mexican company Olympics approaches the border at Laredo, TX to cross into the United States (Josue Gonzalez/Courtesy Reuters).

There’s a striking number in Robert Pastor’s new Renewing America Policy Innovation Memorandum, “Shortcut to U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A Seamless North American Market.” Like many, I had assumed that, whatever one’s assessment of the overall impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that it had been largely successful in its primary goal of increasing trade and investment flows among the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Read more »

Policy Initiative Spotlight: Teddy’s Big Ditch Grows Deeper

by Steven J. Markovich Monday, March 11, 2013
A cargo ship waits to pass through the Miraflores Locks in the Panama Canal (Alberto Lowe/Courtesy Reuters). A cargo ship waits to pass through the Miraflores Locks in the Panama Canal (Alberto Lowe/Courtesy Reuters).

This summer, a billion-dollar project will begin to raise the road deck of the Bayonne Bridge that links Staten Island to Jersey City, and provides access to Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel. The project is not being undertaken because of safety concerns about the current bridge, but rather to allow larger container ships to pass underneath it and reach the Port of New York and New Jersey. It’s just one of several port projects in anticipation of the widening of the Panama Canal. Read more »

Public College Costs Up, State and Local Support Down

by Renewing America Staff Friday, March 8, 2013

In recent decades, the United States has witnessed a trend in which students have been paying a larger and larger portion of higher education costs. In the past ten years, average student loan debt has spiked, and loan default rates are rising, leading more Americans to doubt that college is affordable. Read more »

U.S. Antitrust Policy

by Renewing America Staff Thursday, March 7, 2013
The interior of a Microsoft retail store in San Diego (Mike Blake/Courtesy Reuters). The interior of a Microsoft retail store in San Diego (Mike Blake/Courtesy Reuters).

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust authority, announced a decision earlier this week to fine Microsoft $731 million for violating the terms of a previous antitrust settlement, which analysts say may constitute a warning to other dominant multinational firms and signals the EU’s willingness to go farther than their U.S. counterparts. Read more »