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  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: The physical infrastructure base of the US economy, once an advantage in global competition, has become a liability. This problem has multiple causes, several of which CED has addressed in recent policy statements, and our nation’s elected policymakers are now taking up the need for additional funding. But the nation needs not only adequate funding but also a more-efficient regulatory process for our infrastructure investment—choosing the right projects, with the minimum delay, and executing them at the least possible cost. Regulatory paralysis is one of the causes of our infrastructure shortfall. It needs attention if we are going to spend our tax dollars on infrastructure wisely and efficiently so that the US economy remains globally competitive. Streamlining regulatory procedures, promoting competition, and cutting red tape across federal, state, and local governments are key to increasing investment, decreasing cost, and maximizing efficiency. Business as usual will not suffice. It takes too long and costs too much to deliver infrastructure projects, preventing us from achieving the advancements and improvements that a future-focused, competitive economy requires. CED has consistently advocated “smart regulation,” subjecting new regulations to rigorous cost-benefit analysis and reviewing existing regulations for continuing cost effectiveness to enhance efficiency and achieve quicker execution, greater benefits, and lower costs. With long delays between project conception and execution, and often multiple layers of jurisdiction and review, a smart regulation approach could ensure that the rules governing review and permitting of projects address all important concerns and ensure that net benefits are maximized over time at all levels of government on a comprehensive and timely basis.
  • Topic: Economics, Infrastructure, Governance, Regulation, Business , Economic Policy, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: Addressing America’s severe infrastructure needs—finally—must be at the top of the nation’s agenda. Improving infrastructure is one of the few issues that enjoys strong bipartisan support among the American public. Eighty percent of Americans support rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure—more than almost any other top issue facing the nation—and roughly two-thirds of Americans rate their own local roads as in fair or poor condition.1 A similar proportion say that the country is not doing enough to meet infrastructure needs.2 Modern, effective infrastructure is essential for virtually all US commerce and, therefore, for growth and prosperity that is widely shared among all Americans. Transportation and other forms of infrastructure must remake themselves to remain productive as the economy changes around them. But the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the US economy makes improving our infrastructure, keeping America competitive, and getting Americans back to work that much more urgent. The pandemic has forced an accelerated integration of technology into the work, school and personal lives of many Americans. But that has revealed inequities in access to reliable, high-speed internet. This experience is one more example of how our nation’s deficient infrastructure slows our economic growth generally. Around 24 million US households lack access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet. If not addressed, weak infrastructure can deprive many Americans of equal access to opportunity. And at the same time, climate change threatens the foundations of our economy.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Infrastructure, Economy, Transportation, Sustainability, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: With most Americans dependent on reliable, high-quality, high-speed internet services to work, train, consult with doctors, or attend school from home, the COVID-19 pandemic vividly demonstrates that affordability and access barriers leave too many families behind. As America’s leaders in business and policy work toward a postpandemic economic recovery that delivers increasing prosperity for American families and preserves our nation’s economic leadership, they must also build toward a vision of a fully wired nation that meets the internet needs of all its citizens. Innovation and competition in information technology have been essential to delivering a higher quality of life and modern commerce, and they will be integral to lasting solutions that close two stubborn gaps that leave a minority of Americans behind. First, millions of Americans—particularly in the least densely populated areas—lack access to reliable high-quality internet services that could connect them to essential educational, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities. Second, large numbers of low-income Americans with physical access to such services cannot afford them at current market prices, leaving them “underserved,” with less economic opportunity than their higher-income peers. In too many areas, a lack of competition among providers contributes to underservice. As needed internet speeds and associated hardware and technologies have advanced, closing these high-speed internet service gaps—increasing economic opportunity and strengthening businesses and communities—is essential. Policymakers must leverage the dynamism and innovation of the private market, increase competition in the provision of services, and invest wisely to close the gaps, boost deployment and affordability, and meet the universal service and critical technologies goals that have motivated nearly a century of federal telecommunications law.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Infrastructure, Internet, Economy, Business
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: President Biden proposes to follow up on his $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” with a new “American Jobs Plan” and a “Made-in-America Tax Plan.” A White House fact sheet was released early on Wednesday, March 31. It did not include a clearly itemized cost statement, but the total of the initiatives is apparently in excess of $2 trillion over eight years. Some portion of that cost is claimed to be offset— over 15 years—by corporate income tax increases included in the tax plan.
  • Topic: Employment, Tax Systems, Public Policy, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: In December 2020, one year after the COVID-19 virus had been reported in China, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization in back-to-back announcements for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna/NIAID vaccines. This was by far the fastest vaccine development in history. A typical vaccine took 10 years to develop, with the most rapid previous development being the four years it had taken for the mumps vaccine in 1967.1 And these two vaccines were of a new type, utilizing messenger RNA (mRNA). While mRNA had been studied for years, the unique spike protein of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 provided a first opportunity to respond with an mRNA vaccine.2 The ensuing technological and scientific success could not have been accomplished without the collaboration of the private and public sectors. The distribution of the vaccine nationally could not have been accomplished without the major delivery companies stepping up to meet the challenges of on-time distribution of the vaccines, which required very cold storage. The research, development, and nationwide distribution of the vaccines has evoked comparisons to the private-public sector collaboration during WWII that led to the Manhattan Project’s rapid and dramatic scientific breakthroughs.3 After death tolls climbed into the hundreds of thousands, the vaccine announcements provided hope that there may be light at the end of the very dark COVID-19 tunnel. By the end of May, the United States is expected to have sufficient vaccine supply for the entire adult American population. But the challenge to manufacture, distribute, and administer the vaccinations quickly, efficiently, and fairly, in a race against continued infection and the emergence of variants of the virus here and all around the world, requires continued collaboration between the public and private sectors. The US and the world must win that race between vaccination and mutation to achieve “herd immunity” and return to normality in daily life and the economy. The stakes are high for both the current crisis and the inevitable pandemics of the future. For this reason, the following analysis offers a diagnosis of the current episode, and recommendations for today and tomorrow.
  • Topic: Public Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: Though the US economy is expected to recover to its prepandemic level of production (gross domestic product or GDP) by the second quarter of 2021, the postpandemic economy will be different in many important ways. The pandemic’s acceleration of trends toward remote work, digital transformation, and automation could permanently reduce demand for low-skill jobs. To build a large and fully competitive US workforce and reduce inequality, aggressive reskilling will be needed. Even before the global pandemic’s onslaught, preparing the future workforce to drive rapidly advancing technology in an increasingly competitive global economy—and minimize the adverse fallout from these trends—was one of the nation’s greatest challenges. COVID-19 has made this challenge more urgent. Now, an estimated 40 percent of workers will need short-term training and reskilling by 2025.1 American leadership, prosperity, and competitiveness will hinge on maximizing the skills of our nation’s workers. The pandemic has disproportionately displaced minority workers, women, youth, and workers with lower educational attainment, many of whom are among the near-record 40-plus percent of the jobless who have been unemployed more than six months. Such displaced workers, or the “long-term unemployed,” typically find it hard to get a new job the longer they are without one. For many of them, securing a new job will require training for skills that are in demand.
  • Topic: Partnerships, Economy, Business , Training, COVID-19, Workforce
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: As the President indicated when he released his “American Jobs Plan” in March, he presented his “American Families Plan” on April 28, the day of his address to Congress. This new plan is additive with the previous one, and would spend (including through tax cuts—$1 trillion in spending strictly defined, and $800 billion in tax cuts) an additional $1.8 trillion, which is proposed to be financed by tax increases on upper-income individuals. (The $2 trillion American Jobs Plan was to be paid for by increased taxes on corporations.) Again, this plan is claimed to be fully paid for over 15 years, with continuing tax increases beyond that time providing net deficit reduction. The American Families Plan, as its name implies, focuses on expenditures and tax cuts for individuals and households, whereas most (but not all) of the American Jobs Plan financed either traditional infrastructure or private research or physical investment. Unless there is a new spirit of bipartisan cooperation, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan will achieve enactment only if combined in a second and final reconciliation bill for the fiscal year 2022 budget enactment cycle, in a process that will surely take months.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Domestic politics, Tax Systems, Investment, Deficit
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented the entire world with its worst public health threat in at least a century. The precise seriousness of the pandemic, of course, could not be known at the outset; and in fact, the pandemic is not yet vanquished as this statement is written. The extent of the damage the virus and its mutations will ultimately cause is not yet fully known. But the near-miraculous efforts to develop vaccines, contain the infection, and treat the infected provide much-needed hope that a return to “normal” is not out of reach. The pandemic had economic consequences as well. And like the public health impact, the shock to the economy was large but impossible to assess accurately at its outset. And like the damage to public health, the economic fallout is still impossible to assess today with complete accuracy. For the first time in 100 years, stay-at-home orders to protect the public health spurred an economic downturn and dramatic job losses—leaving a wide swath of businesses in hospitality, travel, leisure, dining, and retail nearly shut down, with entire occupations, such as personal service workers, facing extended layoffs or even permanent job loss. The fates of these businesses and workers are unpredictable, depending on the uncertain course of the pandemic itself. Another similarity between the public health and the economic threats is that prudent public policy required strong and immediate responses. With the ultimate extent of the damage unknown but potentially catastrophic, executive and congressional policymakers deemed it essential that government react swiftly and robustly. Policymakers and commentators repeated often that the nation should err on the side of action—that it would be better to do too much rather than too little.
  • Topic: Debt, Economy, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: Two-thirds of eligible voters participated in the 2020 election, which represented the highest turnout in a national election since 1900, before women had the right to vote. More than 159 million Americans voted, the largest total voter turnout in our history and the first time more than 140 million individuals participated in an election. Turnout rose among all racial and ethnic groups, and for the first time a majority of Americans under the age of 30 cast ballots. This historic level of participation is more remarkable given that the election took place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Topic: Elections, Domestic politics, Voting, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Conference Board
  • Abstract: In March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 schools struggled to transition to remote learning. School districts across the country with differing budgets and technological infrastructure responded uniquely, achieving differing levels of success. The transition to remote learning during the pandemic exposed a deep digital and device divide, widened achievement gaps between students in low- and high-income households, and imposed a physical and emotional toll. Even prior to the pandemic, according to international assessments of student achievement, American children were performing below the OECD average in math, and performance gaps between low- and high-income students were widening faster in the US than in other countries, especially in reading. Pandemic-related school closures and remote learning mandates exacerbated existing inequities domestically. Remote learning has been widespread during the pandemic. Near the end of the 2020–2021 school year, 49 percent of households with children enrolled in public or private schools reported that children were still receiving at least some virtual or online instruction (Chart 2). (In some cases, this included on-campus students logging on to virtual lessons from inside their classrooms, despite their schools having reopened to physical learning.) Virtual instruction is down to about half from the nearly two-thirds of households who reported children moving to at least some online learning at the beginning of the school year.1 However, more than a year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many children are still subject to the learning limitations of emergency remote learning models.
  • Topic: Education, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America