CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

The U.S. Trade Deficit: Is It a Problem, or Not?

by Edward Alden Friday, April 3, 2015

The United States has run a trade deficit with the rest of the world every year for the past 40 years. With the U.S. debate heating up over the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we will be hearing a lot over the next few months about the trade deficit and its causes. Recently I hosted here at CFR a panel of four extremely bright economists with different views on the subject — Robert Atkinson of ITIF, Robert Blecker of American University, Dan Ikenson of Cato, and Derek Scissors of AEI. I asked them a simple question: “Is the trade deficit a problem, or not?” The debate that followed was extremely lively, with many areas of disagreement but some surprising areas of consensus as well. Have a look. It is worth your time. Read more »

Three Misconceptions About Inequality

by Renewing America Staff Thursday, April 2, 2015
worker clean Brooklyn Bridge Park New York A worker tries to clean the path at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York February 22, 2015 (Eduardo Munoz/Courtesy Reuters).

Explanations of why inequality is growing in the United States too often rest on three misconceptions: that capital is rising as a share of the economy, that most of the rise in wage inequality is explained by growing gaps within companies between higher and lower paid workers, and that workers are increasingly moving from one job to another. In a new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag discusses another explanation, which could help policymakers better understand and respond to this growing problem.

The TPP and the Bicycle Theory of Trade

by Edward Alden Friday, March 13, 2015
Bicycle Corporation of America plant Manning South Carolina A patriotic label is affixed to the handlebars of each bike at the new Bicycle Corporation of America plant in Manning, South Carolina, November 19, 2014 (Randall Hill/Courtesy Reuters).

I am having a hard time making up my mind about economic pluses and minuses of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the pending trade deal that will deepen economies ties between the United States, Japan and 10 other Asia-Pacific nations. Nick Martin, a cycle shop owner in Colorado who has been made a poster child for the deal by the White House, has shown me why. Read more »

Federal Regulations: Not “Job-Killing,” But Still Costly

by Edward Alden Wednesday, March 4, 2015
CFR Renewing America Federal Regulation Policy Scorecard The CFR Renewing America Federal Regulation Policy Scorecard

There are few issues in Washington today that generate more heat than regulations–that broad swathe of government actions that affect everything from air quality to worker safety. Congressional Republicans are promising to take aim at “job-killing regulations,” arguing that a rollback of onerous federal laws will boost U.S. economic competitiveness and spur job growth. Read more »

What Would Happen if DHS Really Shuts Down?

by Edward Alden Thursday, February 26, 2015
border agents vehicle crossing Sweetgrass Montana U.S. border agents check a vehicle entering the United States at the American border crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana (Todd Korol/Courtesy Reuters).

Among the long list of reasons that the U.S. Congress has become a dysfunctional body, the biggest one may be this: its members are never truly held responsible for the consequences of their actions. They can gin up one “fiscal showdown” after another because they know that, even if all or parts of the government shut down temporarily, the real world costs are fairly minor. The only genuine victims in the short run are the government employees themselves–who are either furloughed without paychecks or, if deemed “essential,” forced to work for nothing but an IOU. For some, that could mean genuine hardship; for all, it is another slap in the face that further saps the morale of our civil service and drives good people away from government. Read more »

Why Public Investment?

by Michael Spence Monday, February 23, 2015
M-1 light rail Woodward Avenue Detroit Michigan Construction on the M-1 3.3-mile light rail transit project is seen along Woodward Avenue near downtown Detroit, Michigan, November 7, 2014 (Rebecca Cook/Courtesy Reuters).

The world is facing the prospect of an extended period of weak economic growth. But risk is not fate: The best way to avoid such an outcome is to figure out how to channel large pools of savings into productivity-enhancing public-sector investment. Read more »

A Bridge Too Far: Made in Detroit, Paid for by Canada

by Edward Alden Thursday, February 19, 2015
Ambassador bridge Detroit Michigan Windsor Ontario Commercial trucks line up on the Ambassador bridge crossing over to Detroit, Michigan from Windsor, Ontario (Rebecca Cook/Courtesy Reuters).

There are two possible reactions to the news that Canada and the United States have finally ironed out the last wrinkle and can now move ahead with the much needed new International Trade Crossing of the Detroit River.  It will create thousands of short-term construction jobs (far exceeding the much better-known Keystone pipeline project) and will speed movement of goods and people between Michigan and Ontario . I know I should celebrate it as a creative example of cross-border cooperation to solve a thorny problem. It is, as the Department of Homeland Security noted, an “innovative approach.” But mostly I’m just deeply embarrassed. To cut to the conclusion: we are getting a new bridge, but our neighbors to the north are putting up every penny for it. Read more »

Scott Walker’s Risky College Experiment

by Renewing America Staff Friday, February 13, 2015
Wisconsin Scott Walker Freedom Summit Des Moines Iowa Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015 (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters).

Since 2000, the percent of state budgets devoted to higher education has fallen from 13 percent to 9.5 percent. This decline in funding has strained public university finances, reduced pay for many professors, and driven up tuition for students. In a new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag explains the factors that have led to the dramatic state university budget cuts, and discusses some ways that states can better manage their higher education budgets.

How to Get More Kids Into and Through College

by Guest Blogger for Edward Alden Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Barack Obama commencement Worcester Technical High School Students applaud as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the commencement address at the Worcester Technical High School graduation ceremony in Worcester, Massachusetts June 11, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

This is a guest post by Amir Farokhi, CFR Term Member and COO, College Advising Corps.

Imagine a leaking pipe is flooding your house. What would you do? You would patch it immediately. Yet, when it comes to America’s pipeline of talent, we do ourselves no such favors, allowing too many gifted high school students to give up on higher education. Read more »

The “Strong Dollar” Policy: Back to the Future

by Edward Alden Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Jacob Lew AT&T Foundry U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew listens during a tour of the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto, California (Beck Diefenbach/Courtesy Reuters).

The “strong dollar” has been a mantra for the United States for decades. Recently, as the euro has fallen to an 11-year low against the dollar, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has once again been paying homage. “I have been consistent in saying, as my predecessors have said, that a strong dollar is good for the United States.” Read more »