from Renewing America

Morning Brief: States Take the Lead on Renewable Energy

Wind turbines are seen on the northshore of Oahu, Hawaii in November 2011. (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters)
Wind turbines are seen on the northshore of Oahu, Hawaii in November 2011. (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters)

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As federal funding for renewable energy dwindles with the drawdown of stimulus funds, states are increasingly taking the lead in creating incentives for renewable energy (Stateline). Budget pressures are leading states to think beyond traditional tax breaks, grants, and subsidies. Last year, Connecticut created a “clean economy bank” that leverages private capital to finance energy projects through low interest loans. Hawaii’s Senate and House have passed similar proposals, and ten other states are considering following Connecticut’s lead.

Scott Thomasson, the president of NewBuild Strategies and an expert on infrastructure funding, recently authored Encouraging U.S. Infrastructure Investment, a Policy Innovation Memorandum released by the CFR’s Renewing America initiative. Thomasson proposes new initiatives to address crumbling U.S. infrastructure.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

Debt and Deficits

Interview with Erskine Bowles

Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, was interviewed by the Council on Foreign Relations as part of the HBO History Makers Series. Bowles discussed the “Simpsons-Bowles” plan for reducing the deficit through a combination of spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and tax simplification. He focused on how it was developed, why it was not embraced by the Obama administration, and why it is likely to be the framework for the ultimate solution. He also touched on the need to improve K-12 education and invest in U.S. infrastructure. Video and audio are also available.

As the United States continues to run budgets with high deficits, politicians debate different plans to reduce government costs and to raise revenue. This CFR Backgrounder by Jonathan Masters outlines the competing policy paths on federal fiscal reform, and the global consequences for failing to bring down U.S. debt.

Debt and deficits. Read more from experts on the challenges in reducing U.S. debt.

Education and Human Capital

Roots of Stagnating Median Pay

The Economic Policy Institute released a report on the stagnant real median wages of U.S. workers. Since 1973, median pay for non-managers has not kept pace with rising worker productivity. Three drivers were identified: growing inequity of wages, shift of income from labor to capital as share of GDP, and rising consumer prices outpacing the rising prices of national output.

Westerners Increasingly Head East

Weak job markets in developed nations have encouraged some young workers to head to East Asia (Time). “The shifting balance of global growth is making emerging economies more attractive,” explained Madeleine Sumption, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. “It is turning them into receiving countries, when traditionally they’ve been sending countries.” Developing nations are relaxing immigration restrictions to compete for highly-skilled workers; earlier this year China launched the Thousand Foreign Experts program, which hopes to attract 1,000 top academics and entrepreneurs over ten years.

This CFR Backgrounder provides an overview of the immigration policies proposed by President Obama and his potential Republican competitors. CFR’s 2009 Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy, chaired by Jeb Bush and Thomas F. McLarty III, recommends policies with three goals: reform of legal immigration to improve efficiency and U.S. competitiveness; effective enforcement of immigration laws; and a fair, humane, and orderly way to deal with migrants illegally living in the United States.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.


Has the Internet Sapped Innovation?

Justin Fox of the Harvard Business Review argues that the internet era is not innovative. While the early twentieth century saw staggering changes through the birth of electricity, cars, and electronic communication, he contends that life has not changed substantially during the digital age other than improved communication. While he links this paucity of life-altering technological innovation to disappointing economic growth, he sees some hope in emerging biotechnology, 3D-printers, and an asteroid mining venture.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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