from Renewing America

How America Stacks Up: Our New Book on Economic Competitiveness and U.S. Policy

February 1, 2016

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

The Renewing America initiative is delighted to release our new ebook How America Stacks Up: Economic Competitiveness and U.S. Policy. The book is based on detailed evaluations of how the United States compares to other advanced economies in setting policies that help create success in a highly competitive global economy. And we have tried to present the material in an accessible way for busy readers, with the main conclusions highlighted in a series of visual infographics.

The book is intended to be a balanced and comprehensive assessment of where the United States stands compared to other advanced economies on a series of policies that are critical for U.S. economic competitiveness. Our hope is that it will be a helpful resource for evaluating President Obama’s economic legacy, for assessing the competing claim of the candidates in this year's election, and in setting priorities for the next administration and Congress.

With the 2016 presidential campaign now entering its critical phase, the stakes could hardly be higher. As we write in the introduction: “American leadership in the world is built on the foundation of its economic strength. In order to preserve its own national security, to play a leading role in maintaining the global order, and to set an example of successful democratic governance that other countries will want to emulate, the United States needs a healthy, growing economy. Government policies that help build on America’s strengths while addressing some of the growing weaknesses are needed to ensure that the United States becomes an even more competitive economy and continues to create the prosperity at home that allows for a robust national defense and an outward-looking, engaged foreign policy.”

The picture that emerges from our research is a mixed one. In some areas, such as innovation, the United States is the clear global leader, and other countries should be busy studying how this country has built and sustained that innovation edge. But in other areas, such as tackling the long-term debt burden created by an aging population, evaluating and eliminating redundant regulations that harm businesses, or retraining workers for new job opportunities, the United States has plenty to learn from other countries.

The good news is that many of the obstacles to building a more competitive economy are well understood. While the United States has lost ground in some areas, the measures needed to reverse those losses are not that difficult to conceive or to implement.

As we argue in the book: "Each of these issues is about America’s future: Is the United States laying the foundation to build a stronger and more productive economy that will offer better jobs and opportunities to the next generation? And is the United States nurturing the economic capabilities that have allowed the nation not only to ensure its own defense, but also to play a leading role on the global stage? The answer to both questions needs to be yes."