from Renewing America

Morning Brief: Why the United States Pays More For Transit Projects

East Japan Railway’s Vice President and Arnold Schwarzenegger stand near a bullet train during a tour of Japan’s high speed train operations in September 2010 (Pool/Courtesy Reuters).

August 28, 2012

East Japan Railway’s Vice President and Arnold Schwarzenegger stand near a bullet train during a tour of Japan’s high speed train operations in September 2010 (Pool/Courtesy Reuters).
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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Stephen Smith contrasts efficiently managed transit construction projects in Europe and Asia with costly and lengthy U.S. projects (Bloomberg). Depleted staffs have made it difficult for transit agencies to effectively manage private contractors, while bureaucratic red tape drives other potential bidders away. Poor priorities also hamper progress; New York is building a single, elegant subway station for the same price that Paris or Tokyo would pay for an entire subway line.

Scott Thomasson, the president of NewBuild Strategies and an expert on infrastructure funding, wrote "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.

Automating the Airport

Airlines are testing new technologies that automate passenger boarding and luggage tagging (WSJ). Similar technologies have been deployed successfully overseas, particularly in Europe. A global air trade group hopes to bring a self-service approach to 80 percent of the world’s fliers in 2020, and save the industry $2.1 billion annually.

This Policy Initiative Spotlight by Steven J. Markovich examines how transit authorities outside the United States are deploying automated subways to lower operating costs and service.

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.

Corporate Regulation and Taxation

Manufacturers Want Tax Overhaul

As politicians propose targeted measures to assist U.S. manufacturers, firms instead prefer a more fundamental approach with tax reform at top of their wish list (WSJ). The CEO of American motorcycle icon Harley-Davidson explained: "It all sort of starts and stops right there, [with corporate taxes]. We need to be more competitive [with other nations] in that respect." Other priorities include improved education, better roads, and infrastructure.

With the highest statutory corporate tax rate in the world—35 percent for federal taxes only—the United States is at a competitive disadvantage to countries such as Ireland (12.5 percent) and Israel (24 percent). This CFR Backgrounder by Jonathan Masters discusses the effect of current policy, and proposals for U.S. Corporate Tax Reform.

Corporate regulation and taxation. Read more from top economists and business experts on solutions for addressing corporate tax reform.

Debt and Deficits

Arguments Against the Gold Standard

Matthew O’Brien lays out arguments against the gold standard (TheAtlantic). O’Brien contrasts the lack of price stability under the gold standards in the 1920s and early 1930s with the relatively low inflation since the Federal Reserve’s first round of quantitative easing in November 2008. Charles Lane also argues against a return to the gold standard (WashPost).

Since 1913, the Federal Reserve has acted as the central bank of the United States. Today it must balance the sometimes conflicting demands of its dual mandate: price stability and full employment. This CFR Backgrounder by Christopher Alessi and Roya Wolverson examines the Fed’s role.

American Favor Raising Taxes to Save Social Security

As the financial analysis of Social Security’s actuaries grows grimmer, new polling finds that Americans favor increasing taxes to preserve Social Security benefits (AP). A seventy-seven year old widow explained: "Right now, it seems like we're taxed so much, but if that would be the only way to go, I guess I'd have to be for it to preserve it."

As the United States continues to run budgets with high deficits, politicians debate different plans to reduce government costs and 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

The Candidates on Education

Education Week has created an interactive infographic on the education platforms of President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. The infographic explains the candidates’ records and stated positions on significant educational issues, as well brief biographies of their education advisors.

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

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

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