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America's Declining Global Influence, COVID-19 and Schools, Pardoning Snowden: RAND Weekly Recap

September 11, 2020

We discuss why America's international standing has declined—and what can be done to reverse the trend; long-term challenges that schools face in mitigating COVID-19 risks; the pandemic's effects on the leisure and hospitality industry; how good planning can make Americans more free; what Shinzo Abe's resignation means for the U.S.-Japan alliance; and why pardoning Edward Snowden would come with security risks.

An American flag waving at sunset, photo by Emily Sisson/Getty Images

Photo by Emily Sisson/Getty Images

The Decline of America's Global Influence

Over the past two decades, the United States has experienced a sharp decline in international achievement and global influence. A new RAND paper identifies multiple factors that have driven this downturn: a combination of domestic politics, U.S. foreign policy, and external events. The authors also argue that a slow and poorly managed response to COVID-19 has further diminished U.S. international standing.

How can America return to preeminence? First, more could be done to persuade skeptics that working for a more peaceful and prosperous world is in the U.S. interest. Second, sustained public support for constructive international engagement will require cooperation across party lines. Without such cooperation, the United States may remain “reliably unreliable” on the world stage.

A child attends Miami Community Charter School for the first day of class in Flagler City, Florida, August 31, 2020, photo by Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS/ABACA/Reuters

A student on the first day of class at Miami Community Charter School in Flagler City, Florida, August 31, 2020

Photo by Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS/ABACA/Reuters

Schools Need Long-Term COVID-19 Plans—and More Help Executing Them

Schools across the country are scrambling to resume instruction amid COVID-19 risks. According to RAND experts, it's important to remember that these risks will likely be present for the entire year—not just a few months. That unfortunate reality should inform how schools plan and invest. School districts may need more support from the federal government to make changes that meet safety standards, provide students with internet access and devices, and track what strategies are working to keep teachers and kids healthy.

A sushi chef waits for diners as Miami-Dade County allows indoor servicing in restaurants after easing some lockdown measures in Miami, Florida, August 31, 2020, photo by Marco Bello/Reuters

A sushi chef waits for diners in a restaurant in Miami, Florida, August 31, 2020

Photo by Marco Bello/Reuters

Recovery Is Even Slower in the Leisure and Hospitality Industry

Even as the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped from its peak of nearly 15 percent, many workers are still being left behind. This is especially true for those in the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes arts, entertainment, and food services. According to RAND economist Kathryn Edwards, not only is the overall share of permanent layoffs among these workers increasing, but their flows from temporary layoffs to permanent layoffs are also on the rise. This suggests that the recession—which has already proven to be steep—may not be short.

Glass globe sitting on chalk board with crisis and policy written in chalk, photo by courtneyk/Getty Images

Photo by courtneyk/Getty Images

COVID-19 and How Poor Planning Limits Freedom

The pandemic has confined Americans to their homes, kept them from offices and schools, and separated them from the people they love and the activities they value. If the United States had planned better, Americans might be more free during the COVID-19 crisis. That's according to RAND's Robert Lempert and Tim McDonald of the Pardee RAND Graduate School. But there is a silver lining: This experience could provide lessons for how to address other sweeping problems that require planning, such as climate change.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, June 18, 2020, photo by Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo, June 18, 2020

Photo by Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Reuters

What Does Abe's Resignation Mean for the U.S.-Japan Pact?

Over the last eight years, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been a fervent supporter of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Now, news of Abe's looming resignation could leave the alliance unstable, say Zack Cooper of the American Enterprise Institute and RAND's Jeffrey Hornung. The timing is concerning: With China's rise and increasingly aggressive behavior, this pact is more important than ever. New leadership in Tokyo (and possibly in Washington) could end up in a defensive struggle to protect the alliance from critics inside their own countries.

American whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he delivers a speech during the Roskilde Festival in Roskilde, Denmark, June 28 2016, photo by Scanpix Denmark/Mathias Loevgreen Bojesen/via Reuters

Edward Snowden delivers a speech during the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, June 28, 2016

by Scanpix Denmark/Mathias Loevgreen Bojesen/via Reuters

Pardoning Snowden Would Come with Security Risks

After leaking classified court records about National Security Agency phone surveillance in 2013, Edward Snowden was charged with theft and unauthorized disclosure of an estimated 1.7 million classified documents. Last month, President Trump said he was considering a pardon for Snowden. RAND experts warn that a pardon might lead others holding highly sensitive information to think that they, too, “can be the sole arbiters of U.S. national security and the public good.” That could cause more grave harm to the United States.

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