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Agenda for Change
The Obama administration inherits a daunting set of domestic and international policy challenges. It would be tempting to put Latin America and the Caribbean on the back burner, for their nations pose no imminent security threat nor do they seem at first blush critical to the most pressing problems of U.S. foreign policy. The Obama Administration and the Americas, however, argues that the new administration should focus early and strategically on Latin America.
Our neighbors to the south impact daily on the lives of U.S. citizens, on issues such as energy, narcotics, immigration, trade, and jobs. And these are the countries most likely to partner with Washington on the basis of shared values, culture, and interests. Recognized experts from Latin America, the United States, and Europe suggest in this timely volume that the United States should seize an early opportunity to engage Latin America, recognizing the region's diversity but also its shared concerns and aspirations.
The consolidation of stable democracies and rule of law in Latin America has long been an expressed goal of both parties in Washington, but the backlash from Iraq, the global financial crisis, and other recent experiences may discourage the use of U.S. influence and assistance to nurture democratic governance. The authors emphasize case-by-case, sophisticated, and multilateral approaches to dealing with such hard cases as Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, and Venezuela.
The Political Economy of Transparency, Participation, and Accountability
Decisions about "who gets what, when, and how" are perhaps the most important that any government must make. So it should not be remarkable that around the world, public officials responsible for public budgeting are facing demands from their own citizenry, other government officials, economic actors, and increasingly from international sources to make their patterns of spending more transparent and their processes more participatory.
Surprisingly, rigorous analysis of the causes and consequences of fiscal transparency is thin at best. Open Budgets seeks to fill this gap in existing knowledge by answering a few broad questions: How and why do improvements in fiscal transparency and participation come about? How are they sustained over time? When and how do increased fiscal transparency and participation lead to improved government responsiveness and accountability?
Contributors: Steven Friedman (Rhodes University/University of Johannesburg); Jorge Antonio Alves (Queens College, CUNY) and Patrick Heller (Brown University); Jong-sung You (University of California San Diego) and Wonhee Lee (Hankyung National University); John M. Ackerman (National Autonomous University of Mexico and Mexican Law Review); Aaron Schneider (University of Denver) and Annabella España-Najéra (California State UniversityFresno); Barak D. Hoffman (Georgetown University); Jonathan Warren and Huong Nguyen (University of Washington); Linda Beck (University of MaineFarmington and Columbia University), E. H. Seydou Nourou Toure (Institut Fondamental de l'Afrique Noire), and Aliou Faye (Senegal Ministry of the Economy and Finance).
Independent Ideas for America's Next President
American voters say they want to hear more about the issues and less about partisan politics. An unusually wide-open presidential race presents a unique opening for frank discussion and innovative solutions to pressing policy challenges. Opportunity 08 takes advantage of this political space to help presidential candidates, political observers, and the informed public focus on critical issues facing the nation. Opportunity 08 tackles a broad range of issues, organized under three categories: Our World, Our Society, and Our Prosperity. On the latter, for example, Brookings scholar Isabel Sawhill joins former Congressmen Bill Frenzel (R) and Charles Stenholm (D) and longtime budget counsel Bill Hoagland to provide a clear picture of the American budget deficit situation and what should be done about it. Sawhill also collaborates with Ron Haskins on a plan to provide greater support for education, work, and marriage. Hugh Price puts forth a strategy (and price tag) for boosting academic achievement among American schoolchildren. Brookings scholar Henry Aaron and Harvard professor Joseph Newhouse describe America's health care predicament and discuss options for expanding coverage and reducing costs. Mark McClellan, until recently the administrator of Medicare and Medicaid, takes another angle on the same subject, In the realm of international affairs, Jeffrey Bader and Richard Bush as well as former Bush administration official Michael Green discuss how best to deal with China. Jeremy Shapiro calls for a more analytic and threat-based approach to homeland security, arguing that many proposals are too ambitious and costly. On the Middle East, Martin Indyk and Tamara Cofman Wittes emphasize the need for a moderate coalition that will counter Iran's ambitions in the region, while also discussing political reform in Arab states and the Arab-Israeli peace process. Peter Rodman, until recently a Bush administration Pentagon official, also addresses the challenge posed by a radical Iran. These are just a few of the critical issues and renowned authors included in this timely book. Insightful, informed, and independent, Opportunity 08 truly is Brookings at its best.
The Challenge of Military Financing in Indonesia
Indonesia has the fourth largest total population and the largest Muslim population of any nation on earth. Indonesia's transition to democracy, thus, is critically important at a time when the West's relationship with much of the Muslim world is problematic and the push for greater democracy worldwide is a U.S. priority. A major impediment to democracy in Indonesia and several other nations is a military establishment that is not financially accountable to civilian leaders and thus nearly impossible to control. This new study examines what is necessary to bring the Indonesian military "on-budget" what policies are required, what Indonesia can learn from other nations (e.g. China, Turkey), and what a realistic timetable looks like. More than half of what the Indonesian armed forces spend is believed to come from sources other than the national budget. These sources include a vast array of commercial enterprises, non-profit foundations, cooperatives, and rent-seeking activities. Lex Rieffel, who began doing research in Indonesia in 1968 and has extensive experience in economic development and international finance issues, is impressed by the commitment of Indonesia's new government to reduce the role of the armed forces in the economy and make it a fully professional institution. The concise treatment considers not only the requirements but also the ramifications of success or failure in this endeavor and can serve to inform similar efforts in other "democratizing" countries, such as Pakistan and Nigeria.
Poverty, Assets, and the American Dream
Despite the recent success of welfare reform in moving people off public assistance and into jobs, most of America's working poor are still unable to accumulate even the most minimal of assets. Even when they are getting by, they lack many of the resources tangible and intangible that provide middle-class Americans with a sense of security, stability, and a stake in the future. In Owning Up, Michelle Miller-Adams demonstrates how asset-building programs, used in combination with traditional income-based support, can be an effective means for helping millions of American out of poverty. Miller-Adams expands the traditional concept of assets to encompass a range of tools, experiences, resources, and support systems that are necessary if asset building is to serve as an effective anti-poverty strategy. She identifies four types of assets that can represent sources of wealth for low-income individuals and communities: economic human social, and natural assets. Economic assets include equity, retirement savings, and other financial holdings. Human assets include education, knowledge, skills, and talents. Included among social assets are the networks of trust and reciprocity that bind communities together. Natural assets include the land, water, air and other natural resources we depend on for survival. Owning Up also examines five organizations at the forefront of building assets for the poor. Their stories are told through the eyes of individuals whose lives they have helped transform. These organizations have all developed effective strategies for building assets, and Miller-Adams identifies them as models to be emulated elsewhere. The profiled organizations include: Neighborhoods Incorporated of Battle Creek, Michigan. Its innovative strategies seek to increase home ownership and promote neighborhood revitalization in poor communities. The Watershed Research and Training Center. This local organization strengthens the natural resource-based economy by retraining workers and strengthening social ties. The Private Industry Partnership of Wildcat Service Corporation. Based in New York City, PIP trains former welfare recipients in New York City for entry-level white collar jobs. Iowa's Institute for Social and Economic Development. This microenterprise development organization is one of the largest U.S. based organizations training low-income entrepreneurs. The Corporation for Enterprise Development. CFED, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that has been instrumental in showing that poor people can and will save if given the opportunities and incentives for doing so. They have helped put Individual Development Accounts on the national agenda.
Measuring Quality of Life in Latin America
The "quality of life" concept of quality of life is a broad one. It incorporates basic needs but also extends beyond them to include capabilities, the "livability" of the environment, and life appreciation and happiness. Latin America's diversity in culture and levels of development provide a laboratory for studying how quality of life varies with a number of objective and subjective measures. These measures range from income levels to job insecurity and satisfaction, to schooling attainment and satisfaction, to measured and self-assessed health, among others.
Paradox and Perception greatly improves our understanding of the determinants of well-being in Latin America based on a broad "quality of life" concept that challenges some standard assumptions in economics, including those about the relationship between happiness and income.
The authors' analysis builds upon a number of new approaches in economics, particularly those related to the study of happiness and finds a number of paradoxes as the region's respondents evaluate their well-being. These include the paradox of unhappy growth at the macroeconomic level, happy peasants and frustrated achievers at the microlevel, and surprisingly high levels of satisfaction with public services among the region's poorest. They also have important substantive links with several of the region's realities, such as high levels of income inequality, volatile macroeconomic performance, and low expectations of public institutions and faith in the capacity of the state to deliver. Identifying these perceptions, paradoxes, and their causes will contribute to the crafting of better public policies, as well as to our understanding of why "populist" politics still pervade in much of the region.
The Crisis in German-American Relations
Germany and the United States entered the post-9/11 era as allies, but they will leave it as partners of convenience or even possibly as rivals. The first comprehensive examination of the German-American relationship written since the invasion of Iraq, Parting Ways is indispensable for those seeking to chart the future course of the transatlantic alliance. In early 2003, it became apparent that many nations, including close allies of the United States, would not participate in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq. Despite the high-profile tension between the United States and France, some of the most bitter opposition came from Germany, marking the end not only of the German-American "special relationship," but also of the broader transatlantic relationship's preeminence in Western strategic thought.
Drawing on extensive research and personal interviews with decisionmakers and informed observers in both the United States and Germany, Stephen F. Szabo frames the clash between Gerhard Schröder and George W. Bush over U.S. policy in Iraq in the context of the larger changes shaping the relationship between the two countries. Szabo considers such longer-term factors as the decreasing strategic importance of the U.S.-German relationship for each nation in the post-cold war era, the emergence of a new German identity within Germany itself, and a U.S. foreign policy led by what is arguably the most ideological administration of the post-World War II era.
What Role for Washington?
Plug-in electric vehicles are coming. Major automakers plan to commercialize their first models soon, while Israel and Denmark have ambitious plans to electrify large portions of their vehicle fleets. No technology has greater potential to end the United States' crippling dependence on oil, which leaves the nation vulnerable to price shocks, supply disruptions, environmental degradation, and national security threats including terrorism. What does the future hold for this critical technology, and what should the U.S. government do to promote it?
Hybrid vehicles now number more than one million on America's roads, and they are in high demand from consumers. The next major technological step is the plug-in electric vehicle. It combines an internal combustion engine and electric motor, just as hybrids do. But unlike their precursors, PEVs can be recharged from standard electric outlets, meaning the vehicles would no longer be dependent on oil. Widespread growth in the use of PEVs would dramatically reduce oil dependence, cut driving costs and reduce pollution from vehicles. National security would be enhanced, as reduced oil dependence decreases the leverage and resources of petroleum exporters.
Brookings fellow David Sandalow heads up an authoritative team of experts including former government officials, private-sector analysts, academic experts, and nongovernmental advocates. Together they explain the current landscape for PEVs: the technology, the economics, and the implications for national security and the environment. They examine how the national interest could be served by federal promotion and investment in PEVs. For example, can tax or procurement policy advance the cause of PEVs? Should the public sector contribute to greater research and development? Should the government insist on PEVs to replenish its huge fleet of official vehicles?
Plug-in electric vehicles are coming. But how soon, in what numbers, and to what effect? Federal policies in the years ahead will go a long way toward answering those questions. David Sandalow and his colleagues examine what could be done in that regard, as well as what should be done.
Public Finance through the Lens of Behavioral Economics
Traditional public finance provides a powerful framework for policy analysis, but it relies on a model of human behavior that the new science of behavioral economics increasingly calls into question. In Policy and Choice economists William Congdon, Jeffrey Kling, and Sendhil Mullainathan argue that public finance not only can incorporate many lessons of behavioral economics but also can serve as a solid foundation from which to apply insights from psychology to questions of economic policy.
The authors revisit the core questions of public finance, armed with a richer perspective on human behavior. They do not merely apply findings from psychology to specific economic problems; instead, they explore how psychological factors actually reshape core concepts in public finance such as moral hazard, deadweight loss, and incentives.
Part one sets the stage for integrating behavioral economics into public finance by interpreting the evidence from psychology and developing a framework for applying it to questions in public finance. In part two, the authors apply that framework to specific topics in public finance, including social insurance, externalities and public goods, income support and redistribution, and taxation.
In doing so, the authors build a unified analytical approach that encompasses both traditional policy levers, such as taxes and subsidies, and more psychologically informed instruments. The net result of this innovative approach is a fully behavioral public finance, an integration of psychology and the economics of the public sector that is explicit, systematic, rigorous, and realistic.
Lessons from the Civilian Conservation Corps, VISTA, and AmeriCorps
In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt created America's first domestic national service program: the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). As part of this program the largest and most highly esteemed of its kind nearly three million unemployed men worked to rehabilitate, protect, and build the nation's natural resources. It demonstrated what citizens and government could accomplish together. Yet despite its success, the CCC was short lived. While more controversial programs such as President Johnson's Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and President Clinton's AmeriCorps survived, why did CCC die? And why given the hard-won continuation and expansion of AmeriCorps is national service an option for fewer Americans today than at its start nearly eighty years ago?
In The Politics and Civics of National Service, Melissa Bass focuses on the history, current relevance, and impact of domestic civilian national service. She explains why such service has yet to be deeply institutionalized in the United States; while military and higher education have solidified their roles as American institutions, civilian national service is still not recognized as a long-term policy option. Bass argues that only by examining these programs over time can we understand national service's successes and limitations, both in terms of its political support and its civics lessons.
The Politics and Civics of National Service furthers our understanding of American political development by comparing programs founded during three distinct political eras the New Deal, theGreat Society, and the early Clinton years and tracing them over time. To a remarkable extent, the CCC, VISTA, and AmeriCorps reflect the policymaking ethos and political controversies of their times, illuminating principles that hold well beyond the field of national service. By emphasizing these programs' effects on citizenship and civic engagement, The Politics and Civics of National Service deepens our understanding of how governmental programs can act as "public policy for democracy."