CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Rebecca Strauss"

We Don’t Know If Our Patent System is Working

by Rebecca Strauss
A woman tries the silver colored version of the new iPhone 5S after Apple Inc's media event in Cupertino, California September 10, 2013 (Stephen Lam/Courtesy Reuters). A woman tries the silver colored version of the new iPhone 5S after Apple Inc's media event in Cupertino, California September 10, 2013 (Stephen Lam/Courtesy Reuters).

“Innovation” is a hot buzzword in Washington. In a city gripped by partisanship, being pro-innovation is something everyone can agree on. One of the most direct ways the federal government participates in the innovation economy is through the legal protection of tangible innovations themselves, or patents. Yet incredibly, no one has a good grasp of whether the U.S. patent system is doing what it was intended to do—promote innovation. Read more »

An Easy Way to Get Smarter on Infrastructure Finance

by Rebecca Strauss
Vehicles drive on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge in San Francisco, California September 2, 2013 (Stephen Lam/Courtesy Reuters). Vehicles drive on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge in San Francisco, California September 2, 2013 (Stephen Lam/Courtesy Reuters).

“The United States has an infrastructure investment problem,” so starts CFR Senior Fellow Heidi Crebo-Rediker’s compelling new policy innovation memo released yesterday. As we lay out in our report on federal transportation policy, the country should be spending one-third more than current levels just to be able to maintain the infrastructure we alrady have. Using more private money is one way to plug the gap. But many state and local governments, who are responsible for paying for and managing most of the nation’s infrastructure, do not have the expertise of using innovative financing structures that share risk, channel private money effectively, and give taxpayers value for money. Read more »

New Harvard Study: U.S. Social Mobility Is Not Decreasing

by Rebecca Strauss
Jason Howe and Adrian Perez (L) hold their one-year-old twin daughters Clara (R) and Olivia at a playground in West Hollywood, California (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters). Jason Howe and Adrian Perez (L) hold their one-year-old twin daughters Clara (R) and Olivia at a playground in West Hollywood, California (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters).

There is no question that income inequality has been increasing since the 1970s in most of the world. And it has been the general assumption that as inequality went up, class mobility between generations would go down. This relationship, cleverly named the “Great Gatsby Curve,”  was thought to hold across nations, and previous studies about domestic U.S. trends had reinforced that conclusion. Read more »

Is There a Skills Gap? It’s Less Clear-Cut Than You Think

by Rebecca Strauss
Case worker Jessica Yon discusses job eligibility for unemployed people at a jobs center in San Francisco, California (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters). Case worker Jessica Yon discusses job eligibility for unemployed people at a jobs center in San Francisco, California (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters).

Closing the “skills gap” is high on the list of priorities for Washington policymakers. But the debate behind the skills gaps—whether it exists, how large it might be, and what to do about it—is much less clear-cut than a casual reading of the papers would suggest. Read more »

What’s Behind Obama’s Push to Attract Foreign Businesses?

by Rebecca Strauss
U.S. President Barack Obama at the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit (Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama at the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit (Courtesy Reuters).

Last week the Obama administration hosted the first-ever national summit showcasing the United States as an attractive place to do business, part of a newish initiative called SelectUSA. The event was sold out. In attendance were hundreds of representatives from foreign companies along with U.S. local and state government officials looking to attract their business. The speaker lineup was stacked to impress. President Obama and the secretaries of Commerce, Treasury, and State all separately graced the podium. Panels were filled with big-time CEOs from companies like Dow, Caterpillar, and Walmart. The event’s message: the United States is “open for business” and the Obama administration is serious about it. Read more »

What Does Adult Mediocrity Mean for U.S. Competitiveness? It’s Complicated

by Rebecca Strauss
Thomas Michel, a professor at Harvard Medical School, waits for the start of the 360th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 26, 2011. (Brian Snyder/Courtesy Reuters) Thomas Michel, a professor at Harvard Medical School, waits for the start of the 360th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 26, 2011. (Brian Snyder/Courtesy Reuters)

It is old news that average American student performance is mediocre on international tests. With the recent release of the OECD’s first survey of adult skills, we now know that American adults continue that mediocre track record. And once again, the big achievers are Japan and small Nordic countries like Finland. Read more »

Making Colleges Accountable: One Step Forward, But More to Go

by Rebecca Strauss
College students take their seats at a diploma ceremony (Brian Snyder/Reuters). College students take their seats at a diploma ceremony (Brian Snyder/Reuters).

The most ambitious part of President Obama’s new college accountability plan unveiled in August—tying the eligibility of schools for federal student aid to demonstrated results in preparing students for the job market—is unlikely to survive. The less ambitious part—ranking colleges and making the “value” of a school’s degree more transparent to student consumers—probably will. But it is unlikely that transparency alone will shake up the higher education establishment and either lower costs or improve quality, especially when the onus is on students to find and act on the information. Read more »

Transportation: Overhyped “Can-Do” States and P3s

by Rebecca Strauss
A police vehicle escorts visitors through one of two tunnels that will replace a stretch of California's Highway 1 near Pacifica, California on March 25, 2013 (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters). A police vehicle escorts visitors through one of two tunnels that will replace a stretch of California's Highway 1 near Pacifica, California on March 25, 2013 (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters).

Advocates for more U.S. transportation spending are accustomed to discouraging news. So it is understandable they would claim a resounding victory when a handful of (small) “can-do” states manage to buck the national trend and raise taxes and revenues dedicated to transportation spending. More private dollars than ever before are being funneled into infrastructure projects, too. But the underlying, fundamental problem remains: the federal government and the vast majority of states are failing to raise enough public funds to pay for upkeep on the nation’s road and highway system, not to mention make new capital investments. Read more »

The U.S. Demographic “Advantage” Reconsidered

by Rebecca Strauss
President Obama holds up a baby after speaking in Las Vegas (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). President Obama holds up a baby after speaking in Las Vegas (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

In the litany of Washington debates about current and future U.S. economic competitiveness, demographics is consistently placed on the advantage side of the U.S. competitiveness ledger. A broad view of the macro demographic trends—taking into account only population growth and age-profile—would indeed seem to support this claim. Yet this ignores other U.S. trends that could strike a blow at worker productivity, undermining the potential economic advantage of favorable demographics. Read more »

The Sales Tax: The New Way to Fund Transportation?

by Rebecca Strauss
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 »