NDN Blog

Three Questions Donald Trump and Every Republican Should Have to Answer

Debate season starts tonight, and many are writing about the questions they would like to see answered by the candidates. Here are the three I hope to see Donald Trump asked tonight, and put to other Republicans and their surrogates in the days ahead:

1. The Economy. You say things are worse today because of President Obama. Yet the employment rate and annual deficits are way down, the stock market is at record highs, the number of American without health insurance is at the lowest level ever recorded, and even median income is higher today than when Obama took office. Are Americans really worse off today?

2. Safety. You say Americans are less safe today. But compared to President Bush’s Presidency, only hundreds have been killed by terrorists not thousands; only thousands of Americans have been killed and wounded in war compared to tens of thousands; crime rates and the number of police killed in action are far below what we saw in the Bush years; and the net number of unauthorized immigrants coming into the country annually has plummeted from 400,000 a year to zero. What statistics can back up your claim that America isn’t safer today than during the Bush years?

3. Syria. Candidate Trump has blamed President Obama and Secretary for the Syrian civil war. Can you tell us how the war started, and what your plan is to end it? Feel free to discuss the role of Russia and Iran, and the regional sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shi’a, in your response.

So, yes, infering from these questions I believe America is both better off and safer today.  I am also anxious to hear GOPers continue to blame America for a war started and waged by Assad and his Russian allies, and for how they plan on bringing it to an end.  No more secret plans please. 

Simon on "How to Debate Trump"

Our friends at Democracy Journal asked 18 of their contributors and allies to share their thoughts on the best way for Hillary Clinton to approach Donald Trump in their first debate. It is a thoughful feature, and well worth your time. Here is Simon's submission: 

"Primary job in this first debate is to focus on telling your story. Make your case. Folks have their doubts about Trump, but they need to feel better about you. Smile, have fun, be optimistic and upbeat, talk about how great and good the country is, and how much better it can be.

Some time spent on political reform, how Washington itself will change during your tenure, would be welcome. And when he goes low, you go high. Do everything you can to ignore him, staying relentlessly focused on the people watching at home. He craves attention. Don’t give it to him."

Column: Thoughts on the New Democratic Coalition (esp Hispanics/Millennials)

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Using our regular polling aggregator, Clinton leads this week 46/42. The race is clearly tightening, both across the country and in the 13 battleground states. This of course was to be suspected. Trump had been struggling for months to consolidate the Republican electorate, and is slowly, slowly doing so now. One should expect him to continue to do so until he is regularly polling at 45%. The question begs – can Clinton answer, regain some of the standing she’s lost in recent weeks, and put the race away?

To do so Clinton is now functionally running against three candidates – Trump, Johnson and Stein. Simply, if Clinton performs well at the debates, spends her time, particularly in the 1st debate, making her case, laying out her plans, conveying her optimism and can do spirit, she should be able to pull voters who’ve wandered over to Johnson and Stein. But the campaign would be wise now to start kicking around ways to create more excitement about this race for Democratic voters – inspirational videos, more Michelle Obama and Cory Booker, things that provide a lift and resist the deeply negative environment that I worry is indirectly suppressing our voters. We need more “for” to complement the very well articulated with hundreds of millions of dollars of the “against.” And count me in on the idea of having aging politicians lecturing voters why the vote for a Clinton alternative is “youthful” or a “waste” is itself a waste of time. Time now to focus on making our case. And as I wrote last week, we have a compelling case to make indeed.

On the new Democratic Coalition and turnout – In the last week we’ve seen a stream of stories about how Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans, and emerging weaknesses with two of the pillars of the muscular new Democratic coalition, Hispanics and Millennials. Whether this is true or not is a bit hard to tell, but that is in some ways the point. Given how important this new electorate is to 2016 and the future of the Democratic Party, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what is going on with these voters at this point in the election cycle.

A decade ago NDN was among a handful of organizations and researchers who pointed out that American politics was in the process of going through a huge demographic transformation, one driven by the explosion of two emergent groups, Hispanics and Millennials. Perhaps more than any other organization in American politics NDN focused on these two groups in particular, capped by the major magazine piece Pete Leyden and I penned for Mother Jones in 2007 (yes prior to Obama winning in 2008). In our piece, and in the hundreds of presentations we’ve done on the subject, we argued that these demographic changes represented a big “opportunity” for Democrats if their politics could adapt to the sensibilities and the far different media consumption habits of these new potential voters. We do not and have never believed demography was destiny. It was an opportunity to be seized, and never guaranteed (Bush showed us this in 2000 and 2004).

In the last few elections we’ve seen the opportunity this emerging electorate offers, and the perils for Democrats in not getting it right. In part by surfing this demographic wave, Barack Obama received 53 and 51 percent of the vote in his two elections, the best showing for Democrats in back to back elections since 1940 and 1944. But at the same time, during this same period of historic success, we had two disastrous midterm elections. In a series of essays (here and here) and a major poll we did in the spring of 2010, NDN warned that these new voters were far less committed to voting in mid-terms and that left unaddressed we could see a very bad election ahead. My own view since 2010 has been simple: as Tip O’Neill said, we cannot expect someone’s vote unless we ask for it, and we just weren’t asking for the votes of this new electorate with the money and strategic intent we were with the rest of the electorate. This was a bit of an “old dogs new tricks problem,” and as Harry Reid says in today’s Washington Post, it is also expensive (and I would add hard, complicated and requiring the reinvention of the traditional 20th century campaign model).

So heading into 2016 it was conventional wisdom that a great deal of the Democratic Party’s success would ride on the ability to get this new Democratic Coalition (it is not Obama’s coalition, and I will leave that for another day) to be actively engaged in the election. This was particularly important, for given the growth of both Hispanics and Millennials, the electorate this year was projected to be about 2 percentage points more favorable to the Democratic nominee. Getting this part right, holding all other things equal, would make success far more likely.

Which was why I became loudly opposed to the Democratic debate schedule when it was first announced last summer. It was in many ways it was the exact opposite of what was required by the Party to address this strategic opportunity/challenge. Nothing was built in to appeal to Millennials, the Hispanic/Spanish part was TBD, and the choice of old school broadcast networks on the weekends was seemingly designed to create as few impressions with all voters as possible. Given the success of the Party and its 26 debates and highly competitive primary in 2008, it was hard to justify a big change in the debate strategy; it was impossible to justify the schedule the DNC committed to last summer. Look at the results: the GOP’s debates were seen by over 100m more people than the Democrats, an impression gap worth literally hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. And we did nothing to address this core strategic challenge that we need to design and learn new ways to reach new audiences that are far more open to hearing from us than them.

The burden of re-inventing the 20th century broadcast model of American politics falls far more heavily on the Democrats, as our coalition is younger and has far more rapidly left the reach of a traditional 30 second spot. The DNC should have used these debates to have experimented with the model, bringing in new partners and models, showcased younger more diverse leaders, etc. Lots of things could have been tried, but instead we relied on media partners from the predigital age (incl PBS!!!!!!!!!!!) of media and few people watched. No Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Snapchat, Twitch, Vice. Our clear message to this emerging electorate who remain episodic voters – our party is not speaking to you. It was one of the greatest mistakes by a major American political party in my lifetime.

Given the fear Democrats should have had about this new coalition not adequately showing up in 2016 literally everything the Party should have done these past two years should have been designed to engage these new audiences in new ways. And that’s why reading these articles – Spanish language ads starting 10 days ago (In May in 2012, March in 2004), the Millennial effort beginning today, no clear evidence of major Hispanic strategy at the DSCC – you just have to sit back and say WTF guys. Given both the promise and very real challenges of engaging the new electorate the only justifiable strategy would have been to spend more money and to have created more impressions (asking for their vote) than ever before.There is no strategic logic for less, particularly when there are as many as 20 million more Millennials and 4m more Hispanics in the electorate than in 2012.

In my mind, the Democratic Party had one truly significant strategic challenge this cycle – to have ensured that we had a tested, true and funded national strategy to ensure this emerging electorate did not underperform again. Sitting where I sit today, it is clear that we are not there yet. Democrats are still likely to win this year but man is it long past time for there to be a big national conversation about how are going to finally once and for all become the party of the digital age and this new electorate that offers us so much promise and opportunity. 

P.S. Simon wrote about these matters extensively in his 2014 post-election memo, "A Wake Up Call For Democrats".

Release: Rosenberg Statement on Trump Immigration Letter - "It Resolves Nothing"

Simon Rosenberg's statement on Melania Trump's immigration letter:

“Without producing the actual visas or green card application this letter resolves nothing. If they have all the documents, then release them. It is the only way we can answer the fundamental question here which is whether Melania Trump followed immigration law. Failure to release them suggests that they are indeed hiding something, or the narrative they spelled out today is false. It also would have been far easier and quicker to release the actual documents then to have created an outside review. This letter is another case of “believe me” - which is clearly insufficient given that we are talking about possible criminal behavior by the potential First Lady of the United States.

There are additional problems with the letter:

Extraordinary Ability - The claim to have gotten an “extraordinary ability” green card seems improbable given this particular green card's requirements. They are intended for Nobel Laureates or others whose achievements are widely recognized as extraordinary in their field, not middling models. And the most important question remains unanswered by the letter– if she claimed to have a double degree from a university in her green card application she committed fraud, a crime against the United States Government which would put her entire green card/citizenship path becomes in doubt.

It should be noted that the lawyer who produced the letter today is also the one who said on the record in a recorded interview she received her green card through marriage. So one assumes he has recanted his previous public statement about her immigration path into the US.

Questions about the H1B - The reporting by Julia Ioffe and others that she had no regular employer and infrequent work in the late 1990s is again inconsistent with her having been granted a series of H1B visas, or suggests that there were misrepresentations and/or fraud in her applications. It is also not traditionally necessary to return to the home country to renew an H1B, once again calling into question her own recollection of how she lived and worked in the US in the late 1990s.

Finally, the claim that she was never in the US until Aug 1996 has obviously been contradicted by several different eyewitnesses and news accounts.

So, where are we? The letter was well executed and smart. But it resolves nothing. The only way to clear up the question of whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by releasing her work visas, green card application and green card. Her refusal to do this implies guilt, and this whole episode should be treated as seriously as the Donald Trump’s coming appearance with Dr. Oz."

Additional Resources: Be sure to review Simon's tweets on the topic: here, here, and here as well as his piece, "4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path Which Still Need Answers".

Report: In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits and Incomes

Overview – This report looks at the economic performance of the two American political parties when in the White House since the end of the Cold War.  You can find the full report below, as an attachment. 

We use 1989 as a starting point for comparison because when it comes to the American and global economies, the collapse of Communism and the non-aligned movement ushered in a new, truly global economic era, one very different from the one that came before. It is thus fair to see how the two parties have adapted to the enormous changes this new era has offered, and whether their policies have helped America prosper or struggle as we and the world changed.

As you will see from the following analysis, the contrast between the performance of the Democrats and Republicans in this new economic era is stark: 2 GOP Presidencies brought recessions, job loss, higher annual deficits, and struggle for workers; the 2 Democratic Presidencies brought recovery and growth, job and income gains, and lower annual deficits.

Based on these findings it is fair to assert that over the past generation the Democratic Party has been far more effective at crafting effective responses to a new economic era than the Republican Party. This case is bolstered, of course, when recalling the GOP’s spirited predictions of economic calamity when opposing both the 1993 Clinton economic plan and budget and the 2009/2010 Obama stimulus and “job-killing” Affordable Care Act.

The Republicans have gotten it wrong now in four consecutive Presidencies.

While it will not be the subject of this short report, our findings raise questions about whether the characterizations of the US economy as one not producing income and wage gains either over 40 years or over the past 15 years are accurate. It would appear that a more accurate description of the US economy in recent years is that with smart policies, Americans can prosper even in a more challenging and competitive global age.

Key Findings From The Report:

Job Growth: Over the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, more than 30m new net jobs were created. In contrast, during the two Bush Presidencies, approximately 3.5m jobs were created.

GDP Growth: Both Democratic Presidents saw the GDP rate rise during their Presidencies. The first President Bush saw GDP hold steady during his tenure. The second President Bush saw GDP decline.

Unemployment Rate: Both Democratic presidents saw more than a 3% point decrease in the unemployment rate during their terms. The Bushes saw increases in the unemployment rate by more than 2% and 3% points respectively.

Income: Both Bush Presidencies saw Americans experience decline in their median income, while during the Presidencies of Presidents Obama and Clinton Americans experienced gains. The newly reported 2015 increase in median income of almost $3,000 is the largest ever recorded since statistics began being kept in 1967.

Deficits: Both Democratic presidents saw dramatic improvements in the annual deficit during their tenures, with Clinton turning large structural deficits into annual surpluses and Obama cutting the annual deficit he inherited by one half. Both Bushes saw increases in the annual deficit on their watches, with the second President Bush seeing a more than ten-fold increase in the annual deficit during his presidency, one of the greatest explosions of debt in US history.

Public Opinion About the US Economy: Survey after survey finds Americans believing that things are far better, and improving. According to one new report, the President’s job approval on the economy stands at its highest mark since 2009. A new report from Gallup finds fully 80% of Americans are satisfied with their current standard of living.

Healthcare: The uninsured rate has plummeted, while the growth of health care costs – a significant driver of the US budget deficit – has slowed. Slower cost growth and healthier Americans are good for the American economy, businesses and the nation as a whole.

Energy: President Obama’s “all of the above” approach has a rousing success for the nation, increasing domestic production, lowering energy costs for American businesses, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy while giving the US a leg up on the new energy technologies of the future.

Again, you can find the full report, below, complete with lots of charts and graphs. Enjoy. 

NDN In The News on The 2016 Election: Print/Digital Media Roundup

Simon's analysis has been recently featured in several national and international media outlets. Be sure to check out full articles by clicking on the links. (Updated on Wednesday 9/14/16)

Media Appearance and Citations

"Melania Turmp, through a lawyer, details immigration history," Ben Schreckinger and Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 9/14/16.

"How Donald Trump Lost His Mojo," Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, 9/6/16.

"Stop getting played by Trump's scam job on immigration," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/30/16.

"Trump's new ad inadvertently reveals the core absurdity of his whole campaign," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/19/16.

"Convention revealed what really drives Hillary," Roger Simon, Chicago Sun Times, 7/29/16

"In tight Obama-Clinton alliance, the merging of two political machines," Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, 7/26/16.

"On Day One, Democrats ruthlessly exposed a core Trump weakness," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 7/26/16.

"End the anti-democratic superdelegate system," Joe Trippi and Simon Rosenberg, Philly.com, 7/23/16.

"Can the Trumpster Fire Be Contained," Robert Schlesinger, US News & World Report, 7/8/16.

"Paul Ryan Among the Ruins," Francis Wilkinson, Bloomberg, 6/30/18.

"GOP shifting to become the anti-trade party," Nicholas Riccardi, Associated Press, 6/29/16.

"A brutal week for Obama and his liberal vision of an interconnected world," Greg Jaffe and David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 6/25/16.

"Clinton's hard-won nomination comes after learning the lessons of 2008," Sabrina Siddiqui, The Guardian, 6/7/16.

"A Primary That Pitted Democrats Against Independents," Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic, 6/6/15.

"Sanders sticks it to the Democratic Party," Daniel Strauss, Politico, 5/17/16.

"Clinton faces conundrum as Trump shoots from the hip," Demetri Sevastopulo and Sam Fleming, Financial Times, 5/10/16.

"The GOP awakens to a Trump nightmare come true," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 5/4/16.

"Can Hill thrill after you've felt the Bern," Courtney Weaver and Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times, 4/28/16.

"Will young Sanders backers stay and steer the Democrats leftward," John Wildermuth and Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/28/18.

"Obama, who once stood as party outsider, now works to strengthen Democrats," Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, 4/25/16.

"Supreme Court showdown to begin over Obama's moves to block deporation," David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 4/17/16.

"Here's one way the Clinton-Sanders brawl could end well," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 4/11/16.

"Bernie surges toward New York showdown," Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 4/6/16.

"For Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a Debate Over More Debates Brews," Colleen McCain Nelson, The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/16.

"Sander scrambles to keep pace with Clinton," Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 3/23/16.

"Why Sanders Trails Clinton Among Minority Voters," Noam Schieber, The New York Times, 3/21/16.

"The Great Divide: Clinton, Sanders, and the future of the Democratic Party," Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, March 21, 2016 Issue

"Why trade matters in the Rust Belt," Alex Seitz-Wald, MSNBC, 3/12/16.

"Trump's Path to Victory: Both Parties' Working-Class Whites," Nicholas Riccardi, Associated Press, 3/7/16.

"Democrats are taking the Trump threat very, very seriously. They're right," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 3/1/16.

"Pay close attention to what Chris Christie just said about Trump, Democrats," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 2/26/16.

"Obama's plan to visit Cuba is reminiscent of opening to Burma," David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 2/18/16.

"Hillary's debate desire: DNC rolls over now that she wants more Bernie bashing," Howard Kurtz, Fox News, 2/12/16.

"Bernie Sanders has already succeeded in a huge way (even if he loses)," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 2/11/16

"Democrats to Clinton: Fix your messaging," Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 2/10/16.

"Hillary Clinton's Recurring Struggle to Connect With Young Voters," Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic, 2/4/16.

"Trade deal to be signed, but presidential politics could doom passage," Doug Palmer, Politico, 2/3/16.

"Clinton may have won Iowa, but she's got a lot of problems," Joe Garofoli, San Franscisco Chronicle, 2/2/16.

"America's Agitator: Donald Trump Is the World's Most Dangerous Man," Markus Feldenkirchen, Veit Medick, and Holger Stark, Der Spiegel, 2/1/16.

"MSNBC, NH newspaper to hold unsanctioned Dem debate," Ben Kamisar and Rebecca Savransky, The Hill, 1/26/16.

"Sanders battle with DNC overshadows Dem Debate," Ben Kamisar, The Hill, 12/19/15.

"The 'astounding' levels of campaign ads are just getting started," Nik DeCosta-Kipa, Boston.com, 11/17/15.

"So far, the Republican debates are way more popular than the Democratic debates," Alving Chang, Vox, 11/16/15.

"CBS Democratic debate draws lowest ratings," Hadas Gold, Politico, 11/15/15.

"Saturday nights with Hillary, Bernie and Martin," Hadas Gold, Politico, 11/13/15. 

"Democrats Eye More National Events As Anger Over Debate Schedule Grows," Sam Frizell, TIME, 10/16/15.

Column: Clinton Expands The Map, Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – With fewer than 60 days to Election Day, according to our polling aggregate Clinton continues to hold a substantial 5 point lead in the race, 46-41. A few things to also note: 1) While Clinton retains this 5 point lead, a majority of public polls now have the race within 2 points. 2) Trump is still struggling to get out of the low 40s, and is only above 42% in a handful of either national or battleground state polls. 3) Clinton has successfully expanded the battleground to three new states – AZ, GA and NC. New polls from NBC this weekend should both AZ and GA to be a dead heat, and she leads in most North Carolina polls.

This last point is significant. A larger battleground allows the Clinton financial and organizational advantage to become magnified, as her resources – including powerful surrogates – are being deployed in more than just 10 states (the core battleground - CO, FL, IA, NV, PA, MI, NH, OH, WI, VA). This not only puts much more pressure on the under-resourced Trump operation, but it will mean more wins for Democrats down ballot in these additional states. For the Republican Party who has struggled so much at the national level in recent elections this expansion of the map is a very ominous development.

The move of Arizona into a pure toss up (two good polls out this week have the race dead even, Romney won by 9 pts in 2012) is one that should be particularly worrisome for the national GOP. For it means that soon Texas will start to be in play for Democrats, and not just statewide – Hispanics make up more than 15% of eligible voters in fully 15 Congressional seats held by Republicans in Texas, and 5 of those have more than 25% share. Dedicated, funded campaigns designed to get Hispanic turnout up in those districts could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the House in coming years. The last two public polls of Texas have Clinton up 1, and Trump up 6. Even assuming a 6 point spread, this is way way too close for the GOP to feel good about.

For those wondering about the state of play in the House, this Politico piece is well worth reading.

Trump and Putin – While Trump’s apparent admiration for Vladimir Putin has gotten a lot of attention of late, it is his embrace of Putin’s worldview that should be most alarming to Americans and to his fellow Republicans. Trump and his top supporters, including Governor Pence, have repeatedly praised Putin’s “strength,” admiring of his ability to prosecute his agenda on the world stage particularly in the Middlle East. But let’s look at that agenda a bit, and question whether it deserves praise and admiration.

In the Middle East, Putin is funding and protecting Syria's Assad, and is thus directly complicit in mass slaughter of civilians, the lengthening of the Civil War, and the massive refugee crisis in Europe that is doing so much to weaken establishment parties in Europe right now.  Putin has also for years been Iran’s primary backer on the global stage, including at the UN. The ISIS insurgency is primarily a fight against the Iran/Shi’a aligned regimes in both Syrian and Iraq, and thus one could argue that it has been Russia more than any other global power who has been responsible for creating the conditions that have led to both the rise of Iran as a regional power and ISIS itself - something Trump blames Hillary Clinton for daily.  

The distance between Putin's approach to the Middle East and the very public demonization of Iran we've heard from the GOP over the past few years could not be greater. 

His “strength” has also led Putin to invade and occupy portions of a foreign neighbor, and like Trump, support Brexit, weakening of both Europe and NATO (see this piece for a longer discussion of this).  His “strength” has also put him right in the middle of both the greatest sport cheating scandal in history, the FIFA scandal, and now the greatest Olympic cheating scandal in history. The level of cheating and corruption practiced by Russia on the global sports stage has no historic parallel, and is another sign of Putin’s utter contempt for a rules-based, international system.

Third, Putin is a leader of what has become the most pernicious political economy of the 21st century – the petro state. There is perhaps no system more antithetical to the American creed than petro states – unaccountable dictatorships, systems whose wealth and power is derived from mass pollution of the planet and the threat of global instability (which keeps oil prices high) rather than a commitment to the current global system.

Which brings me to my final point – that Trump, like Putin, has denigrated institutions and conventions which keep our democracy strong. He has broken from time honored bi-partisan tradition and refused to release his tax returns and his medical records, and has even failed to produce Melania’s basic immigration documents that he promised weeks ago.. He has refused to allow press to travel on his plane, and ended the traditiona of the “protective pool” that would travel with him at all times of day. He already said the election will be rigged and thus illegitimate, has encouraged the hacking of a major political party in the US by a foreign power to help disrupt our election and constantly calls the media and political elites dishonest and corrupt. He has questioned the efficacy of NATO and the European project, praised Brexit, and has said he will rip up trade agreements we have with other nations, violating international law and weakening the global trading system that has done so much to advance democratic capitalism around the world.

It would be one thing to praise Putin’s charm, but to praise his leadership and “strength” is praising a man who gets up every day fighting against time worn American values and the modern world we helped build. This is the very opposite of patriotism, and to me is the single most troubling manifestation of the new politics of Trump.

The Economic Outlook for the Election and Beyond, and How Who Wins Could Change It

With nine weeks to go, the economic conditions for the election are set — modest growth, low inflation, and continuing job gains. A few Wall Street forecasters rate the odds of a 2016 recession at one-in-three; but unless a major shock wrenches the economy off its present course, bet with Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke on the economic expansion continuing into next year.

The tougher question is what economic conditions will confront the new president and the rest of us in 2017 and 2018? Since the fourth quarter of 2015, the economy has grown at an annual rate of less than one percent, and business investment has declined at a three percent annual pace.

Consumer spending and home sales could lift growth and investment next year, if the healthy income growth of the last three years continues. But much of those income gains come from the unusually strong job growth of those years; and with unemployment now below five percent, job creation almost certainly will moderate soon.

If jobs gains lessen next year, healthy income gains will depend on a turnaround in the economy’s disappointing productivity record. A modern economy cannot stay strong indefinitely without strong productivity growth to fuel incomes, demand, profits, and investment. Its recent record explains our slow growth: Productivity gains averaged just .6 percent per year from 2011 to 2015, and even those small gains turned negative in the first half of 2016.

This represents a major change: Productivity increased at an average rate of 2.8 percent per year through Bill Clinton’s second term and remained strong at 2.6 percent per year from 2001 to the financial collapse in 2008. Moreover, it recovered quickly in 2009 and 2010, reaching 3.2 percent per year. Unless productivity recovers again in 2017, wages and incomes could stall and the economy could stagnate in the next President’s first or second year in office.

Yet, the economic debate this year has mainly focused on overall growth rather than productivity. Most economists — Ben Bernanke, Paul Krugman, Larry Summers and Kenneth Rogoff, among others — pin the slowdown in GDP growth on higher savings and the associated weaker spending. So, most economists have called for renewed fiscal stimulus here and for much of the world. They’re right; but the outlook for incomes and investment would be more encouraging if the fiscal stimulus focuses on recent meager, or even negative, productivity gains — and their impact on growth.

Americans are in luck — assuming the pollsters are right that Hillary Rodham Clinton will vanquish Donald Trump. While Clinton has not offered an explicit program to boost productivity, her economic and social policy proposals include the three essential elements of such a program. First, improve overall market conditions for all industries; second, promote innovation through the development and broad use of new technologies, materials, and ways of doing business; and third, give workers access to the skills they need to operate effectively in a more innovative economy.

The big play to improve the efficiency of all U.S. industries and businesses is Clinton’s commitment to expand public investments in infrastructure by $275 billion over five years. Unsurprisingly for Hillary, her program covers every conceivable form of infrastructure. There are new investments not only for roads, bridges, public transit, rail freight, airports, seaports, waterways, dams, and wastewater systems.

Her proposals also cover 21st century infrastructure networks, including a smart electric grid, advanced oil and gas pipeline systems, and universal access to 5G broadband and Next Generation wireless. Since virtually every enterprise and employee depends on these systems every day, her proposals should enable most firms and workers to carry out their business more efficiently.

As stimulus, these infrastructure improvements amount to $55 billion per year, or just three-tenths of one percent of GDP. Fortunately, Clinton’s program includes other measures that also should bolster productivity. To promote innovation, she pledges to scale up federal investments in basic research and development through the NSF, the NIH, the Energy Department and DARPA, across areas from high performance computing and green energy, to machine learning and genomics.

Always a pragmatist, Clinton also has plans to promote the commercialization of advances in R&D through grants for private accelerators and reforms to expand access to capital by the young businesses that play a prominent role in innovation.

Finally, Clinton has a serious program to help Americans upgrade their skills. Computer science training would be available for all high school students, and foreign-born students who complete a U.S. masters or Ph.D. degree in a STEM field would automatically receive green cards to stay and work in the United States.

However, the cornerstone is tuition-free access to public colleges and universities for all young people from families earning $125,000 or less, and tuition-free access to community colleges for anyone. To complete her productivity agenda, Clinton should expand her community college program and give all working adults the real ability to improve their skills, through no-cost access to two training courses per year at community colleges.

From the other side, Trump offers virtually nothing. He says that he, too, would increase federal spending on infrastructure. But his tax promises would balloon federal deficits by upwards of $700 billion per year, leaving no room to upgrade infrastructure, much less promote basic R&D or expand access to higher education and worker training.

His massive deficits also would crowd out business investments in new technologies and new enterprises. Trump’s program, in short, would virtually guarantee that the American economy stagnates, or worse.

This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.

Backgrounder: Trump and Immigration

Donald Trump and immigration are back in the news. We’ve assembled our most recent and most relevant work to help shine a light on a dark chapter in this campaign. (Updated on Wednesday 9/14/16)

NDN Materials

Trump's New Immigration Line is Consistent - Not Inconsistent - With His Arizona Speech, Simon Rosenberg, 9/2/16. Trump made it clear: supersized deportation force, national round 'em raids, everyone leaves, no legalization ever. No way to wiggle out of that.

Key passages from Trump Immigration Speech, Chris Murphy, 9/2/16. Several passages from Trump's speech are critical to understanding what Trump actually means and has proposed as future US immigration policy. We have compiled the passages we believe demand closer scrutiny. 

Trump's Mass Deportation Strategy Explained, Simon Rosenberg, 9/1/16. While there has been a great deal of confusion around Trump’s immigration wiggle and concepts like "mass deportation" in the past few weeks, his strategy towards the 11m and others here without authorization is very clear.

All They Have Is Fear Itself, Simon Rosenberg, 11/23/15. The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period.

On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform, Simon Rosenberg, 7/21/15. During the summer of 2015 we saw a breathtaking level of cynicism from the national Republican Party on the issue of immigration enforcement.

The state of immigration, Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 1/19/15. While the GOP’s latest rejection of immigration reform has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, the reality is that the United States is already undergoing a major societal shift as a result of significant Hispanic migration.

Questions About Melania's Immigration Path

4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path That Still Need Answers, Simon Rosenberg, 8/10/16. Weeks after the Melania Trump immigration story broke, 4 key questions we still need answered.

Video of Trump Promising Presser, Saying It Is "So Documented"

NDN in the Press

"Melania Turmp, through a lawyer, details immigration history," Ben Schreckinger and Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 9/14/16.

"Trump returns to his old standbys: Xenophobia, hate, lies, and yes, mass deportations," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 9/1/16.

"TRUMP doubles down -- 'Angry reincarnation of Pete Wilson' -- DIAPER vouchers and cap-and-trade bills," Carla Marinucci and Andrew Weber, Politico, 9/1/16.

"After Mexico trip, Trump delivers tough talk on immigration," John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31/16.

"Stop getting played by Trump's scam job on immigration," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/30/16.

Simon's interview on AM Joy, Joy Reid, MSNBC, 8/27/16 (Video)

"Trump's new ad indavertently reveals the core absurdity of his whole campaign," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/19/16.

On 2016: We Are Better Off Today

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Sticking with the poll average we’ve used all election, Clinton heads into the home stretch up 48.1/42.5 over Trump. The Real Clear Politics “No Toss Ups” Electoral College map has it 340/198 for Clinton. While the race has tightened a bit, and the CNN poll shows Trump up today, I will stick with the data in front of us – Clinton holds a firm lead on Labor Day. It was always inevitable that Trump would claw his way back to the mid 40s from the historically low place he has been in recent months. Part of what we are seeing is the slow, painful “coming home” of Rs who are holding their noses and deciding to vote for Trump. My expectation is that heading into the 1st debate on September 26th Clinton will hold a 3-4 point lead.

The Real Clear Senate “No Toss Ups” has it 50/50, which would give control to the Democrats if Clinton wins. Any way you look at this election right now, we should expect it to be competitive across the board. The ace in the hole for Democrats is their huge financial and organization advantage, which could make a significant difference in close states either for President or Senate. More on the House next week.

We Are Better Off Today – One of the most significant sets of data in the 2016 revolves around the perception of the performance of President Obama. As I’ve said for years now, if folks don’t believe that Democrats did a good job these last eight years there won’t be any reason for them to vote for them in 2016. We know that President Obama’s various approval ratings hover in the high 40s, low 50s, and in some polls are the highest they’ve been in his second term. We know that the employment rate is below 5%; median incomes have been rising in the US since 2011; there is direct evidence now that wages have alos been rising since 2013; the stock market is at historic highs; the annual deficit is less than half of what it was when Obama took office; 20m have health insurance today who didn’t have it and the growth health care costs are slowing: despite dystopian rhetoric from Donald Trump, crime rates in the US have plummeted over the past generation and investment in our cities has soared; energy costs are lower today, domestic production is up and we’ve begun to make the transition to a cleaner energy future in earnest.

To me it is clear and evident that things are better today than when Obama took office.

Helping fill in this picture a bit comes a brand new study from Gallup. We include the key graphs from the study but this shows is that simply isn’t a high level of discontent in the country right now. 80% of Americans say they are satisfied with their current standard of living, and 50% say things are getting better for them. Take a look:
 

 

Democrats need to do a better job owning the success of their past two Presidents. Both have left the country far better than they found it. The same cannot be said of the last two Republican Presidents. If Democrats were to move one single message as a party in the final two months of the election it would be this – when they are in power, things better. When the Rs are in power, things get worse. This is both true, and germane to the debate we are having in America right now.

We end with a chart that Jared Bernstein used in a recent Washington Post piece,  It shows that median income has been rising since 2011. 

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