CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Rebecca Strauss"

The New Education Bill May Not Improve Student Outcomes

by Rebecca Strauss
Jaden Perez, 8, participates in a chess-geography lesson at Discovery Elementary School in Sunrise, Florida August 29, 2014. (Stringer/Reuters). Jaden Perez, 8, participates in a chess-geography lesson at Discovery Elementary School in Sunrise, Florida August 29, 2014. (Stringer/Reuters).

Congress is on a roll. First a budget deal, then a multi-year highway bill, and now a K-12 education bill, whose most previous authorization had dated from 2002—the infamous No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The new version preserves the best parts of NCLB, sheds the most flawed parts, and also hands back more education power from the federal government to the states. It is unclear, however, whether this bill will actually do much to improve student outcomes. Read more »

Finally a Highway Bill, But Big Financing Problems Remain

by Rebecca Strauss
CFR RoadToNowhere 20151202

For the first time in a decade, Congress has cobbled together a highway bill that guarantees transportation infrastructure funding for several years. House and Senate negotiators announced a deal this week, and the final votes are expected shortly. Unfortunately, the bill does nothing to fix the terrible infrastructure financing system, nor does it increase current spending levels enough. Read more »

Obama’s Disappointing Legacy on Transportation Policy

by Rebecca Strauss
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about transportation infrastructure during a visit to the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York May 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about transportation infrastructure during a visit to the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York May 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

We’ve seen it all before. Today Vice President Biden gave a speech calling for more infrastructure investment, but without offering a way to pay for it. We heard the same from President Obama this past July, May and February. While the message echoes over and over again, not much in the way of actual policy is changing. Now that we are nearly six years deep into the Obama administration, it is becoming clearer that Obama’s transportation legacy is sizing up to be a disappointment. His initiatives have fallen flat or were obstructed by Congress, and he (along with Congress) has done little to solve the fundamental problem of federal transportation policy—finding the revenue to pay for all the infrastructure investment he’s calling for. Read more »

Corporate Inversions: Small Fish in A Big Pond of Corporate Tax Problems

by Rebecca Strauss
Burger King customer Marignane airport France A customer reacts after collecting his food order on the opening day of the Burger King restaurant at the Marignane airport hall (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Courtesy Reuters).

Washington policymakers can be forgiven for focusing on the low-hanging fruit when it comes to corporate tax reform. When Congress hasn’t managed any kind of major reform since 1986, we should probably be happy with any tax reform progress, no matter how small. Read more »

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 »