Strengthening American Competitiveness: Regaining Our Competitive Edge – Four Priorities and 20 New Ideas

Carola McGiffert,
Carola McGiffert President of the 100,000 Strong Foundation; Former Senior Advisor in the East Asia Bureau at the US Department of State
Isaac Sorkin, Jason Bordoff, and
Jason Bordoff Associate Director for Energy and Climate Change
Lael Brainard
Lael Brainard National Economic Advisor - National Economic Council

February 12, 2009


The United States is in the midst of the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression. Policymakers are understandably preoccupied with applying the right mix of fiscal and monetary policy responses to stanch and eventually reverse the decline. At the same time, policymakers need to build a foundation for sustainable, long-term prosperity that can drive our economy once we move beyond the present crisis. Going forward, the economy will no longer have the technology boom of the 1990s or the housing bubble of the 2000s to sustain its growth. And it is unlikely that debt-driven consumer spending or Wall Street will provide the same boost as in the past. If we are going to provide opportunities for all Americans going forward, we need to make the right investments today to rebuild American competitiveness by investing in our people, infrastructure, ideas, and green transformation.

This paper addresses this central challenge for the United States. We begin by discussing the economic downturn and financial turmoil facing the country and how policymakers should respond to both boost our economy in the short-run and also build the foundations for long-term competitiveness. Second, the competitiveness agenda is motivated by, and must therefore be responsive to, at least three changes in the fabric of the global economy: the increase in global integration; the attendant shift in economic power to rising powers such as Brazil, China and India; and the realization of the existential threat that climate change poses. Finally, we lay out the fundamentals of a competitiveness agenda through descriptions of specific policy proposals by leading experts on how to invest more robustly in infrastructure, people, ideas and green transformation.