Competitiveness

Photo Credit: Flickr User Squiggle

Salsa Dancing into the Digital Economy

Colombia’s national soccer team famously taught the world how to properly celebrate a World Cup goal; now the nation is poised to teach the world a thing or two about innovation. In 2010, Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MinTIC) devised a plan to connect 27 million people, or more than half of its population, to the Internet by 2018. This plan, called Vive Digital, has had many accomplishments, which include increasing the number of Colombia’s Broadband Internet connections from 2.2 million to more than 8.2 million. In the past four years, the Colombian government has reduced the barriers for adoption of broadband technologies, efforts that brought computers and tablets to schools and created a robust network for digital entrepreneurs.  MinTIC has also poured investment into Internet infrastructure, and is in the process of extending fiber-optic Internet access to 96 percent of the country’s municipalities—many of which are isolated in remote areas.

The man behind these aggressive efforts is the minister of MinTIC, Diego Molano Vega.

Mr. Molano wants to solve what he says is his country’s most important problem: poverty. In an interview Read the rest

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Unsubstantiated attacks on the Ex-Im Bank fail to take flight

A recent review by the Wall Street Journal of a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) credit analysis of Boeing in relation to the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank appears to have missed the point. The article sums up the report with the quote, “We don’t believe that the expiration of Ex-Im’s authorization in September would hurt Boeing’s credit quality or ability to make planned deliveries in 2014 and 2015.” However, this ignores the fact that this statement relates only to planes already in production being prepared for delivery. S&P goes on to conclude that alternative financing sources would not be able to match the demand for Boeing airplanes, and that Boeing would lose out on new orders of aircraft. In addition, it states that the effect of an Ex-Im Bank dissolution on Boeing’s credit quality would be significant, especially in sales to emerging markets or to start-up and financially weak airlines. Judging by 2014 data, Boeing’s new financing needs would total between $7 billion and $9 billion if it lost the support of the Ex-Im Bank.

This ‘misunderstanding’ seems to stem from a desire to portray the Ex-Im Bank—which has been quietly … Read the rest

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No, Immigrants are Not Stealing Our Jobs

It doesn’t take long to get the drift of a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-partisan, anti-immigration think tank. The title basically sums it up: “All Employment Growth Since 2000 Went to Immigrants.” The only question left to the reader is, why they didn’t simply title it “Immigrants stole all of our jobs”?

Perhaps it’s because immigrants didn’t steal our jobs, and the authors have no evidence that they did, but they’re doing their best to insinuate that they do.

Their main findings certainly look surprising at first blush: immigrant employment has increased significantly since 2000, but native employment has not increased at all, despite the fact that native population has increased twice as much as immigrant employment. It seems like a closed case: all the new jobs went to immigrants, therefore we should decrease immigration.

If only it were that simple. As intuitive as it might seem to argue that a job is a job and an unemployed person is an unemployed person, this is not how economies work. The Center makes a mistake common to many casual observers of the labor market: what economists … Read the rest

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STEM Immigrants Help Raise Local Wages

The H-1B visa program, which allows a limited number of high-skilled workers to work in the United States temporarily, is controversial because some claim that it lowers wages for high-skilled workers. However, a new paper by Peri, Shih, and Sparber of UC Davis and Colgate University shows just the opposite—that additional H-1B visa recipients raise wages in cities where they come to work.

The authors’ interest in immigration is a side effect of their interest in a more general labor market question: they use fluctuations in high-skill immigration due to the H-1B visa program as an instrument to examine whether the supply of STEM workers affects productivity growth. In essence the question is, what happens when you increase the amount of high-skill STEM workers: do wages fall as one would assume in a standard supply/demand framework? Or do they increase because of the effect that the high-skill workers have on productivity, demand for innovative workers, and economic growth?

To answer this question you can’t simply look at the amount of STEM workers in a city and average wages for those workers, because you can’t tell which way causality is going. … Read the rest

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If Manufacturing Employment is Dead Then Take a Look at China’s Zombie Apocalypse

Policy-making relies on narratives, and narratives often come from data. Or claim that they do. One story often told by economists—by everyone from Dani Rodrik to Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee to James Kynge to Laurence Summers—is that China’s manufacturing sector has been shedding workers since the mid-1990s. This story leads us to believe that something like this is happening:

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This argument ends up as a morality tale with serious policy implications: if even China, manufacturing powerhouse with wages developed countries cannot hope to compete with, is losing manufacturing jobs, then surely manufacturing jobs are obsolete and the U.S. is foolish to try to maintain them—let alone get them back.

Unfortunately, this story is based on a gross misreading of inaccurate evidence. There are three major problems. First, even based on a simplistic look at the data, it’s flat out wrong. Take a look at this chart that shows the actual manufacturing employment in China. (You may note that this chart only goes back to 1998, and that the peak of employment  underlying most claims was in 1996—more on that in a bit.)

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Strangely enough this graph looks nothing … Read the rest

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Congress Should Extend Bonus Depreciation

Since after the Great Recession Congress has put in place temporary bonus depreciation for new capital investment. Given the current state of the economy, already high levels of corporate taxation, and the need for additional investment, Congress should renew bonus depreciation for at least another year.

As ITIF recently wrote, American companies already face the highest statutory tax rates in the developed world. Their effective tax rates also tend to be high, partially because they are taxed on their worldwide income. Bonus depreciation, which temporarily allows companies to deduct equipment purchases faster than they otherwise could, partially offsets this. But the current provision expired at the end of last year.

Faster depreciation reduces the economic cost of new equipment, thereby spurring more investment. It does not reduce the total taxes paid by a company, but it does delay them. The benefit to companies exceeds the cost to the government because the latter can borrow at much lower rates. Higher investment also benefits the broader economy by increasing productivity and creating jobs.

Bonus depreciation also helps align tax liability with actual profits. Accounting methods require companies to write off equipment … Read the rest

Cuts to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ budget should have us all concerned.

Bring Back our National Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is considering cutting more of its data reports, this time weighing the elimination of Import-Export Pricing Data. Far from saving tax-payers money, the potential cut will hobble the ability for both our government and our exporters to have the information they need to innovate and compete in a changing global marketplace.

The BLS’s Import-Export Pricing is a valuable part of its Price and Cost of Living report. The report collects data on goods entering and exiting the country and the prices of those goods by polling U.S. companies. The data gives producers vital information on trends in world prices and provides the public with information on U.S. inflation, economic output, and the overall well-being and competitiveness of American business.

Unfortunately, eliminating Import-Export Pricing is not an isolated example of the government’s growing information crisis. Across the board, budget cuts and sequestration has severely reduced efforts by the BLS, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Commerce to produce timely and high-quality data to assess traded sector competitiveness. The BLS has already eliminated its … Read the rest

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Krugman Wrong on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Again

A Paul Krugman op-ed in The New York Times today, “No Big Deal,” incorrectly argues that completing a trans-pacific trade pact would be of little consequence to the U.S. economy. Rather, successfully concluding The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which includes 12 Asia-Pacific region countries—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—is vitally important to the U.S. economy and to future global economic integration, as ITIF argues in Concluding a High-Standard, Innovation-Maximizing TPP Agreement.

Krugman argues that the “glory days” of trade deals are over, in part because previous trade pacts significantly reduced many countries’ tariff levels, such that “there just isn’t much more protectionism to eliminate.”

Unfortunately this line of thinking fails to acknowledge the pernicious and growing impact of NON-TARIFF barriers (NTBs) on innovation industries. These barriers include a range of unfair and distortionary practices, such as inadequate intellectual protections on foreign intellectual property (IP), restrictions on trade in services, barriers to digital trade and cross-border data flows, currency and standards manipulation, and localization barriers to trade—policies that mandate local production or the transfer of technology or intellectual property … Read the rest

Government Shutdown Damages U.S. Energy Innovation

The federal government has officially shutdown as of midnight, October 1st, 2013 due to Congress’s failure to pass a budget. The 2013 fiscal year ends on September 30th and the government required a new budget to continue operations. The government has been operating on a Continuing Resolution – a CR, or an extension of the previous years budget, since 2012.

While coverage of the shutdown will focus on the political circus that is fueling it and the thousands furloughed from their jobs, it is also important to note that it is directly impacting America’s overall energy innovation capacity. In the short-term, many of the nation’s premier energy innovation institutions will scale-down or shutdown completely, while a few will continue to operate using carryover funds. That means the longer the shutdown drags on, the less research America will produce, and the fewer next-gen energy technologies and fundamental scientific discoveries. In other words, a prolonged shutdown threatens overall U.S. international competitiveness and progress towards a low-carbon advanced energy system.

Specifically, the following energy-related institutions and programs are being directly impacted by the government shutdown:

Impacts on Existing Fossil Fuel Read the rest

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Balancing Innovation: Managing Current Needs with Future Success in Developing Countries

No one disputes the benefits of innovative technology. It has resulted in IT, medical, and energy advancements that have revolutionized the way we live our lives. What often goes unappreciated, however, is the time and resources invested that ultimately yields this progress. As I discussed on Friday as part of a panel at the Global Intellectual Property Center’s IP Summit, failing to acknowledge and respect intellectual property puts future innovation in jeopardy, and it is critically important that we educate developing countries on the benefits of protecting IP before it has lasting effects on not just the global innovation economy, but their own individual innovation economies

At a time when developing countries are not only trying to recover from the Great Recession, but also working toward building more prosperous economies, access to innovation is increasingly important. Unfortunately, all too often developing countries believe that to achieve their economic and social goals, they must focus on getting access to technologies (including pharmaceutical products, sometimes through issuing compulsory licenses) in the near-term, instead of setting up an environment of strong IP protection where innovation can flourish over the long-term. These actions are … Read the rest