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CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

The TPA Debate: Stuck in a Time Warp on Trade

by Edward Alden Thursday, May 21, 2015
McConnell Warner Ernst exports small business Trade Promotion Authority U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) hold a news conference on the importance of exports to American small businesses and the need for Trade Promotion Authority in the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 19, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

The United States concluded into its first bilateral free-trade agreement, with Israel, in 1986. Since that time, it has entered into some 20 other such agreements, most notably the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada in 1993. Yet as Congress debates fast-track Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation and the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Asia, the debate feels stuck in a time warp. Read more »

The TPP: Why It Won’t Address Security Concerns With China

by Guest Blogger for Edward Alden Friday, May 15, 2015
Barack Obama Xi Jinping national anthems U.S. flag Great Hall of the People Beijing U.S. President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping listen to national anthems behind a U.S. flag during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Petar Kujundzic/Reuters).

As the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) heats up in Congress, some (including myself) have argued that the trade deal would advance U.S. security interests in the Asia-Pacific. In this guest blog post, Daniel Slane and Michael Wessel argue this view is misguided. The authors serve, respectively,  as a Republican and Democratic Commissioner on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The views they express are their own. Read more »

Congress’s Budget Game Gets Uglier

by Renewing America Staff Monday, May 4, 2015
Chairman House Budget Committee Tom Price House Budget press conference Capitol Hill Washington Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-GA) announces the House Budget during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015 (Joshua Roberts/Courtesy Reuters).

In recent years Congress has slashed non-defense discretionary spending close to its lowest point in half a century. In his new column for Bloomberg View, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Peter Orszag observes that the new budget that Congress has put forth would continue to cut discretionary spending as a percentage of GDP over the next decade. This means that funding for agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Transportation Security Administration would continue to shrink relative to the economy as a whole–and the country’s growing population. If Congress continues to employ budget games and cut into essential government services, he writes, the result would be an economic disaster.

Re-assessing U.S. Trade Policy on the Eve of the TPA Debate

by Edward Alden Monday, April 13, 2015
CFR Renewing America Trade Investment Scorecard The CFR Renewing America Trade and Investment Scorecard

With the anticipated introduction in Congress this week of legislation that would give President Obama the authority to conclude massive regional trade agreements in Asia and Europe, the issue of trade and its impact on the American economy is about to take center stage in Washington.  To help shine some light on the issues at stake, we have substantially updated and revised, and are re-releasing today, the Renewing America infographic Scorecard and Progress Report on U.S. Trade and Investment Policy. Read more »

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 »