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CFR Presents

Renewing America

Ideas and initiatives for rebuilding American economic strength.

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 »

Inequality Starts With Your Employer

by Renewing America Staff Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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.

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

by Rebecca Strauss Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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 »

Renewing America Progress Report: Federal Debt and Deficits

by Edward Alden Monday, September 8, 2014
CFR Renewing America Federal Debt Deficits Scorecard The CFR Renewing America Federal Debt and Deficits Scorecard

It’s not often that one hears the phrase “European steeliness.” But while the United States continues to punt its serious tax and spending problems ever farther down the field, Europe’s big economies have actually done something about fiscal challenges that were even bigger than those facing the United States. Read more »