CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

Getting Americans Back to Work: A Long Way Still to Go

by Edward Alden Tuesday, January 13, 2015
CFR Renewing America Federal Worker Retraining Policy Scorecard The CFR Renewing America Federal Worker-Retraining Policy Scorecard

For the first time since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, the United States is finally creating a lot of new jobs–252,000 jobs in December, and nearly 3 million over the whole of 2014. Unemployment has fallen to 5.6 percent, the lowest rate since June of 2008. Read more »

Five Reasons for Slow Growth

by Michael Spence Tuesday, January 6, 2015
storm clouds Capitol dome Washington Storm clouds approach the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington (Gary Cameron /Courtesy Reuters).

A remarkable pattern has emerged since the 2008 global financial crisis: Governments, central banks, and international financial institutions have consistently had to revise their growth forecasts downward. With very few exceptions, this has been true of projections for the global economy and individual countries alike. Read more »

2014 by the Numbers: A Pretty Good Year

by Edward Alden Monday, December 22, 2014
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 Thursday, December 11, 2014
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 Friday, November 21, 2014
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 »

Dumb Government and Smart Government

by Edward Alden Monday, November 17, 2014
Kevin Spacey House of Cards Alice Tully Hall Lincoln Center New York City Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the premiere of Netflix's television series "House of Cards" at Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center in New York City (Stephen Chernin/Courtesy Reuters).

There were two stories in the paper over the weekend – both of them local to the Washington, DC area – that perfectly captured the difference between smart government spending and dumb government spending. Let’s start with the dumb first.

Since 2012, the Maryland state government has been offering increasingly generous tax credits to persuade filmmakers to locate their productions in the state, most notably the Netflix series “House of Cards.” A new report from the non-partisan Maryland Department of Legislative Services concludes that the state has wasted more than $60 million to encourage productions that create only a handful of short-term jobs and bring little revenue back to the state. For every dollar the state spends on tax incentives, the report found, about 10 cents comes back. Read more »

A New Do-Nothing Congress

by Renewing America Staff Tuesday, November 4, 2014
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 Friday, October 31, 2014
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 »

Obama’s Disappointing Legacy on Transportation Policy

by Rebecca Strauss Thursday, October 16, 2014
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 »

A New Realism: The Independent Task Force on North America

by Edward Alden Thursday, October 2, 2014
Barack Obama speech North American Leaders' Summit Toluca Mexico President Barack Obama gives a speech at the North American Leaders' Summit in Toluca, Mexico, February 19, 2014 (Henry Romero/Courtesty Reuters).

The Council on Foreign Relations has released this week the new report of the Independent Task Force on North America, and for anyone familiar with the long history of efforts to deepen economic integration in North America, the adjectives that probably best describe the report are “pragmatic” and “realistic.” The Task Force, co-chaired by Robert Zoellick, the former World Bank chief and veteran of several Republican administrations, and General David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, urges a series of measures to improve security and boost the economic fortunes of all three countries in an increasingly competitive global market. (I served as an “observer” on the Task Force, which meant I participated in the discussions but was not asked to endorse the report or its recommendations.) Read more »