If Congress can reach agreement on immigration policy, it could help the economy. “Comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes currently unauthorized immigrants and creates flexible legal limits on future immigration in the context of full labor rights would help American workers and the U.S. economy,” Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda of the University of California-Los Angeles, wrote in the Cato Journal last winter. More recently, Kevin Hassett of the conservative American Enterprise Institute argued that a “vast expansion of legal immigration could feed the next economic boom.”
4. Improve the nation’s education system. Education researchers Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann found that a country’s gross domestic product growth rate is closely tied to its international test scores in math and science. Lower education levels also correlate with lower health, leading to a “health drag” on the economy, says Elaine Weiss, an education expert at the liberal Economic Policy Institute.
States have a lot of control over the nation's public school system right now, but Washington is going to have to re-engage at some point, National Journal’s Fawn Johnson wrote in December. “States already are working on implementing the Common Core standards, which were negotiated by governors. If Congress doesn't keep up with them, the tension between federal funding and state practices could become too taut and snap,” she said.
In light of those tensions, Obama could focus on K-12 in his second term. But a higher-education law authorizing many student-aid programs also expires this year, which means Congress and the White House will likely need to revisit it. Education will be an issue to watch, and one where the Obama administration’s actions have the potential to benefit the economy in the years to come.