Economy & Budget

Time to reassess our national transportation program

Innovative transport projects have caught on in a big way, especially with America’s towns and cities. But national policies lag far behind. When it comes to transportation policymaking, it’s time for Congress to stroll along Main Street.
 
All over the country, we hear the trumpeting of local policies designed to promote walking and biking, the rising popularity of urban bike share systems, even the raising of local taxes and issuing of bonds to support local public transit service. Indeed, more of America’s mayors and city managers, together with their departments of transportation and spurred on by community groups, are finding new and better ways of utilizing their streets.
 
While local efforts are significant and critical, a wholesale paradigm shift is needed to accelerate the upgrade of the U.S. transportation system. Many local officials will tell you that their most innovative transport projects are either stalled in or workarounds of government red tape and budget confusion. Such barriers must be removed if we hope to provide better transportation options to more places across the country. Every community deserves a functioning economy, cleaner air, safer streets, and less gridlock. Even during the recent recession, the cost per retail square foot in Times Square quickly rebounded after the pedestrianization of Broadway and now competes with the most expensive retail space in New York City, Madison Avenue.

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Mr. President: Why the change?

“This Congress cannot and should not leave for vacation until they have made sure that tax increase doesn’t happen.  Let me repeat that:  Congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families aren’t seeing their taxes go up by $1,000 … I expect all of us to do what’s necessary to do the people’s business, and make sure it’s done before the end of the year.”

These aren’t my words. They were spoken urgently by President Obama little more than a week ago.

He’s not alone. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have recently insisted on a one-year extension of the federal payroll tax holiday. On the Senate floor November 28th, Reid called for passage of a one year extension saying, “We need to assure those families that they can rely on that [payroll] tax cut next year as well.”  On the House floor December 7th, Pelosi supported the President’s one-year extension declaring, “We can’t go home without the payroll tax cut …”

House Republicans agree. 

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The force for opportunity

Two years ago today, R2-D2 and Darth Vader rang the New York Stock Exchange bell to celebrate Star Wars’ place as the top U.S. selling licensed toy brand. 

Today, to mark our busiest holiday season ever, my colleagues and I at FedEx are ringing that NYSE opening bell. It’s been quite an economic ride over those two years, with businesses and consumers around the world wondering whether the Force would be with them. We’re certainly not Jedi knights, but we do believe the force of the global economy shows glimmers of overcoming the Dark Side. 

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A peace dividend we should all want

In light of Congress's failure to wrestle up short-term cost-cutting measures for our country, we must not lose sight of longer-term concerns about the sustainability of our deficits, debts and, ultimately, our budgets.  While we tempt deadlines now, trimming where feasible, we will land in this position on multiple occasions in the future unless we reform radically or restructure the way in which America does its business.   

We are not, however, suggesting radical reforms in ways that Washington has already witnessed.  We are recommending a rethink in how we deal with a range of realities prevalent in all 50 states, not just Washington.  It may seem self-evident but the high rates of violent crime, homicides, incarceration, policing and the availability of small arms, are costing this country hundreds of billions of dollars, and millions of jobs, per year.

Illustrating how much money America is mismanaging, the first-ever U.S. Peace Index, launched this year by the Institute for Economics and Peace, cites conservative estimates of the economic effect if the U.S. were on par with Canadian policy on all five aforementioned fronts: $361 billion per year and a stimulatory effect of 2.7 million jobs.  Given America’s high debt and high unemployment, it could benefit from both of these boosts. 

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Agricultural innovation and exports key to America’s economic resurgence

Farming is quickly evolving as advances in seed technologies boost yields, and with it, profits and exports. As in so many other areas of industry, these technological advances have outstripped the legal and regulatory frameworks established to ensure a free and open marketplace. As farmers lead America’s export resurgence from rural Minnesota, California’s Central Valley and out on the Plains, these regulatory structures must be updated to allow farmers access to seeds best suited to their land, their families and their businesses. 

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Providing certainty and creating jobs

Since being elected to Congress, I have remained focused on passing legislation that will create jobs and providing bi-partisan solutions to reduce our debt and restore economic growth.  That is why I was proud that the House was able, with the support of many Democrats, to pass the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act this week. 

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The Flaws with WTO

As the World Trade Organization meets in Geneva this week to discuss ways to boost multilateral trade, the headline item is the accession of Russia to the WTO’s disciplines. While the addition of Russia to the ranks of the WTO is a step forward, the finalization of the Russian bid for membership underscores yet again the fundamental flaws in the globalized, multilateral approach to free trade currently institutionalized in the WTO.

To be sure, Russia represents a positive addition to the WTO, adding legitimacy to the organization intended to serve as the trade-promoting counterpart to such global bodies as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Adding Russia to its ranks means that non-membership in the WTO is largely reserved for historically gross abusers of human rights like Liberia, war-torn economies like Iraq, and tiny nations like Tuvalu.

But to tout Russia as a success is to shove the flaws of the system under the rug. In particular, in-fighting among member states and its resulting gridlock – exactly the things the WTO is supposed to reduce – are at an all-time high. Instead of fast-tracking trade negotiations to provide speedier market access, the WTO is now a bastion of bureaucratic headaches.

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Why we need to restore the American dream for the 99%

On Tuesday, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus released a grand proposal to help rebuild America and its embattled middle class—and it couldn’t come at a better time. 

As Republicans continue to recycle their failed economic policies of the last decade—tax cuts for the wealthy and lax rules for rogue industries—The RESTORE the American Dream Act provides a serious alternative to getting our future back on track. The legislation outlines both short- and longer-term strategies for rebooting our nation’s progress, and it achieves robust deficit reduction over the next 10 years. It’s a walk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time approach to putting our nation back to work and getting our fiscal house in order.

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Congress cutting, not swapping

Swapping America’s national security in the name of job creation in other sectors will lead to both national security and economic crises.  If $1 trillion is cut from the defense budget, there will be two results.  America’s national security will be dangerously weakened.  And one million American workers could find themselves unemployed.

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