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Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

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2014 by the Numbers: A Pretty Good Year

by Edward Alden
Falls Church Virginia December 2014 gas prices A taxi passes a gas station in Falls Church, Virginia December 16, 2014. For the first time in more than a decade, U.S. gasoline prices are tumbling toward $2 a gallon even as the economy grows and unemployment shrinks (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

The Washington Post’s Outlook section last week declared that President Obama had the “worst year in Washington,” dissecting the trifecta of election defeat, foreign policy missteps and falling popularity. But if judged by the standards that actually affect the lives the most Americans – the state of the economy and the state of their pocketbooks – 2014 was perhaps the best year of Obama’s presidency. It wasn’t all good by any means, and some of the biggest problems saw little improvement, such as the number of part-time workers who would prefer full-time work and those who have given up entirely. But many of the indicators are finally pointing strongly in the right direction. Read more »

Don’t Get Too Excited About the Budget Deal

by Renewing America Staff
moon Capitol dome The moon is seen rising behind the dome of the U.S. Capitol building (Jim Bourg/Courtesy Reuters).

If Congress can pass the spending bill it has negotiated, it will succeed in avoiding another costly and embarrassing shutdown. However, as CFR Adjunct Fellow Peter Orszag explains in a new column for Bloomberg View, that doesn’t mean it’s good policy. The “CRomnibus,” as it is colloquially referred to, continues to cut discretionary spending to the bone, but Congress makes no effort to evaluate where cuts can be made without doing further damage to the economy.

Obama’s Immigration Action Shows the Limits of Executive Power

by Edward Alden
rally immigration reform Capitol Hill Washington Latinos rally in favor of comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill in Washington (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

President Obama’s executive action on immigration, which will temporarily legalize as many as 5 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, is being criticized by opponents as an unprecedented abuse of presidential authority. But as the details are coming out, what the action shows instead is how sharply limited the president’s powers actually are. What has been true for many years remains true today: the real problems with U.S. immigration laws simply cannot be solved without congressional action. Read more »

A New Do-Nothing Congress

by Renewing America Staff
Obama Boehner U.S. President Barack Obama sits with Speaker of the House John Boehner during a memorial service for former Speaker Tom Foley (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

If Republicans take the Senate, will it lead to productive compromise or just more obstruction? In a new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag discusses the range of scenarios that Republican control of the Senate could produce in areas like healthcare, trade, and the federal budget.

Growth in the New Climate Economy

by Michael Spence
wind turbines Palm Springs California Wind turbines are seen in Palm Springs, California (Eric Thayer/Courtesy Reuters).

Action to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change has long been viewed as fundamentally opposed to economic growth. Indeed, the fragility of the global economic recovery is often cited as a justification to delay such action. But a recent report, “The New Climate Economy: Better Growth, Better Climate” released by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, refutes this reasoning. Far from being a detriment to economic growth, the report concludes that efforts to combat climate change could boost growth considerably–and relatively soon. Read more »

Inequality Starts With Your Employer

by Renewing America Staff
Revision3 worker cubicle Bonnie Burton, director of social media strategy for Revision3, works at her cubicle in San Francisco, California (Noah Berger/Courtesy Reuters).

Discussions of inequality often focus on the pay gap between executives and lower-level employees. However, in a new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag highlights new research showing that variation in salaries across different companies is actually the largest driver of inequality. This finding may help explain the decline in job-related mobility among Americans. Once a worker finds a high-paying company, they are less likely to leave. This limits opportunities for workers in lower-paying companies to make a move into a higher-paying one, and therefore decreases the incentives to move across state lines to find a new job.

Good and Bad Inequality

by Michael Spence
Reginald Rounds Ferguson Missouri protests Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium Wyoming Reginald Rounds of Ferguson, Missouri protests during the opening reception of the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming August 21, 2014 (David Stubbs/Courtesy Reuters).

Rising income and wealth inequality in many countries around the world has been a long-term trend for three decades or more. But the attention devoted to it has increased substantially since the 2008 financial crisis: With slow growth, rising inequality bites harder. Read more »

Do-Nothing Congress Is Your Fault

by Renewing America Staff
Protest Government Shutdown Congress Los Angeles California Marcia Noboa, 65, protests against the government shutdown and potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters).

Conventional wisdom holds that Congress is more polarized than the American people as a whole. However, in a new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag explores evidence showing that voter preferences may have long been misread. Congressional districts that are moderate on average may not actually contain large densities of moderate voters. Instead, there may be a similar number of partisan Democrats and Republicans, with only a small moderate minority.

Why Have Americans Stopped Moving?

by Renewing America Staff
flag for-sale sign Capitol Hill Washington A U.S. flag decorates a for-sale sign at a home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Many state-level policymakers propose lowering income taxes to lure people from other states. In a new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag explains that income tax rates are not a major driver of interstate migration. Rather, people move to find warmer weather, cheaper housing, and, most importantly, better jobs.

Politics-Proof Economies?

by Michael Spence
Federal workers demonstrate for an end to the U.S. government shutdown on the west front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 13, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). Federal workers demonstrate for an end to the U.S. government shutdown on the west front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 13, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

This post was co-authored with David Brady, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.

MILAN–Governments’ inability to act decisively to address their economies’ growth, employment, and distributional challenges has emerged as a major source of concern almost everywhere. In the United States, in particular, political polarization, congressional gridlock, and irresponsible grandstanding have garnered much attention, with many worried about the economic consequences. Read more »