NDN Blog

Column: An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary

US News and World Report has published Simon's ninth column, "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in which Simon does a deep dive on why Trump 's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

An Excerpt from "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary"

This week, President-elect Donald Trump thumbed his nose at the government agency that oversees ethics in the Executive Branch by announcing he intends to keep all of his far flung holdings as president. Whether this unprecedented and arrogant act is illegal and unconstitutional and not just unethical will be at the center of what is sure to be a vigorous debate in the coming months.

But the worry about his arrangement is far greater than the issue of propriety and legality. Let me offer a few examples:

It establishes new far weaker norms. Perhaps inspired by Trump's example, we've already seen House Republicans vote to gut their own ethics regime; the Senate GOP is holding hearings on Cabinet nominees without either their FBI background check or ethics clearance completed; challenging anti-nepotism laws, Trump is bringing his son in law, who is also not divesting from all his holdings, into the White House; and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson refuse to recuse himself from overseeing decisions affecting his lifelong employer, Exxon Mobil. In these early days, the new GOP has made it clear it intends to weaken or ignore good government policies put into place decades ago – the very opposite of draining the swamp.

It encourages public corruption. Remarkably, Trump not only refused to adopt the many suggestions outside counsel had for how to ethically manage his holdings, he actually walked back a commitment for the Trump Organization to do no new deals while he is president. In his Wednesday press conference, Trump said the business will in fact be able to do "domestic" deals. This is a clear signal from our next president that investors/courtiers, and one would assume U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, should begin lining up at Trump Tower to begin talks on domestic U.S. projects. The benefit of these deals would go directly to the benefit of the Trump family, and since he has not divested, Trump himself. As all of his business dealings are essentially secret, the public would have no way of knowing who was entering into business with the family of the sitting president. The opportunity for public corruption here is perhaps unprecedented in all of American history.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

 

Backgrounder: Countering Russia's Insurgency Against The West

Friday, Jan 6th - The question of what exactly is going on with Russia and our next President is perhaps the biggest story in American politics today. We send along a series of pieces we’ve written over the past six months to provide our family more context for this emerging and important story. We also recommend this new Politico magazine piece by Molly McKew, Putin's Real Long Game, which echoes many of the arguments we’ve made but makes them in a far more compelling way.

Helping craft a cogent strategic response to what NDN refers to as the Russian insurgency against the West will be one of NDN’s most significant undertakings this year. 

In recent days Simon also offered some observations on Twitter very germane to this discussion: one on very real concerns about how Trump's secret holdings expose him to easy manipulation by foreign governments, and another that dives into Trump's dangerous denigration of our intelligence community and the smart, concrete steps taken by President Obama last week.

Countering Russia's Insurgency Against the West

The Pernicious Politics of Oil – On Trump's embrace of petro-politics, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/16/16. In his recent column, Simon does a deep dive on why Trump's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

Trouble Ahead – 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/1/16. In this recent column, Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency – unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI’s late intervention and Melania’s immigration troubles.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 11/28/16. Our government must explain what happened with Russia's successful intervention in our election, and what steps it plans to take to prevent it from ever happening again.

The West Is On The Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling all Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Voting Machines Should Be Seen As Critical Democracy Infrastructure, Greg Miller, The Hill, 8/22/16. Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece to provide a plan to protect our elections systems from disruption, foreign or domestic.

Fighting to Keep the Internet Open and Free, Simon Rosenberg and Jonathan Spalter, The Hill, 10/22/14. Simon and Jonathan Spalter offer up a whole of government approach to keeping the Internet open and free in the years ahead.

Simon's New Weekly Column in US News and World Report

Simon is writing a weekly guest column for US News & World Report through the end of the year. You can find previous versions here and below.

US News & World Report Columns

An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary, US News and World Report, 1/12/17. In his new column, Simon looks at four major consequences of Trump's plan to keep all of his holdings.

The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics, US News & World Report, 12/16/16. In his recent column, Simon does a deep dive on why Trump 's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star, US News & World Report, 12/9/16. In his recent column, Simon offers some thoughts on the path forward.

Trouble Ahead - 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency, US News & World Report, 12/1/16. In this recent column, Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency - unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI's late intervention and Melania's immigration troubles.

The West Is On The Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/27/16. Demographic trends show the state is on the precipice of going from red to blue.

Why Democrats Dominate, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/20/16. Perhaps the most important political story of the past generation is transformation of Democratic Party into a successful governing party with popular leaders well regarded by the American people.

Calling all Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

How America Prospers in a Global Age, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/6/16. In a recent op-ed, Simon make the case that America has prospered in this new age of globalization, but only with the right policies.

Column: Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Global Petro-Politics

US News and World Report has published Simon's eighth column, " The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star," in which Simon offers some thoughts on the arduous path ahead for Democrats.  He calls for a focus on four issues now: prosperity, security, political reform and being for everyone.  

An Excerpt from "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's Embrace of Petro-Politics"

For all the sense of fear and dread about the state of the world today, America and its allies do not have a significant global ideological rival as we did with Communism and Fascism in the 20th century. Most of the world is in the American-led global trading system; most of the world has signed on to the Paris climate accords; most of the world still works through the forum of the United Nations to at least discuss and debate contemporary issues.

Yes, this system is fraying. It isn't perfect, and there are outliers and insurgencies, like the Islamic State group. But there is one looming threat that if not contained could continue to grow into something existential and truly threatening – the pernicious politics of oil.

There are three parts to this rising threat. First, climate change. In addition to the promise of the Paris climate accords and the many other steps large and small governments and communities are taking around the world, clean energy investments appear to be hitting an early critical mass, suggesting private sector innovation will play an ever more meaningful, and perhaps historic, role in addressing the challenge. More must be done here, of course, and rapidly, but the Obama years have created a global momentum that I think is unstoppable. Or so I hope. (Note I am an advocate for more domestic fossil fuel production and a supporter of fracking, but also believe in the necessity to accelerate our transition to more sustainable and distributed sources of energy. See this terrific new Atlantic piece from Ron Brownstein on the role fossil fuel production played in the 2016 presidential election.)

Second, the oil curse. What the world has learned is that far too often countries with large oil and gas holdings fall prey to authoritarianism and oligarchical capitalism. There is a traditional political economy reason for this: The revenues generated for the government through oil production frees politicians from their dependence on taxpayer dollars and thus voters themselves. The wealth created through traditional free market capitalism, innovation and bottom up entrepreneurship isn't needed to generate the wealth of the nation or an unaccountable small ruling class. In the process, the state becomes much more powerful vis a vis its own people, and democratic institutions and norms are weakened or struggle to develop. Think of Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia as prime examples.

These petro-economies are in the most extreme a different form of societal organization – maybe a rival? – than free market democracies. They are oligarchical and "command and control" in structure, the opposite of the bottom up, people-led vision of a good society imagined by our Founding Fathers and championed globally by the West since World War II. These countries are less invested in the instruments of the modern free market system, and while they make money off of it, the more it becomes a global success the more of an ideological threat it becomes to their control over their own people – particularly in an age when it is far harder to control the information to which their people have access to.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star

US News and World Report has published Simon's seventh column, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Trouble Ahead - 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency," in which Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency – unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI’s late intervention and Melania’s immigration troubles.

An Excerpt from "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star"

To successfully counter what will be a very aggressive Republican legislative agenda next year, Democrats will be have to be unusually focused and disciplined. At a strategic level we will not just have to make clear what we are against, but also what we are for, what we will do different if once again given the chance to govern. With all that in mind, I offer up an early sketch of a focused agenda that can help animate the Democrats' opposition in the coming years:

Prosperity and Security. While there are many issues we must tackle together in the coming years, there are two that matter more to the nation and the American people themselves than the others – getting ahead, and feeling safe from threats.

The good news for Democrats is that our track record on the economy and keeping us safe is strong, and gives us a lot to work with going forward. On the economy, Obama will leave office with the nation at near full employment, GDP at a robust 3.2 percent, incomes rising since 2013, 25 million more with health insurance, his "all of the above" energy strategy having made us more energy independent while accelerating the growth of renewables, the deficit is half of what it was and the stock market at all-time highs.

For Democrats, this is second consecutive stint in power that we have left the economy far better than we found it. We simply have to become more purposeful about telling this story – since the end of the Cold War there has been more jobs, rising incomes and lower deficits with the Democrats, and job loss, declining incomes and higher deficits with the Republicans. We enter the coming debates about the budget and the economy as the only party which has successfully produced sustained prosperity for America over the past generation of our political life, and we cannot let up in this fight.

On "security," as it has been discussed in this year's campaign, Democrats have simply ceded too much ground to the Republicans of late. By most measures Americans are far safer today. Violent crime, killings of police, Americans killed by terrorists, military causalities are all far lower than during the George W. Bush administration, and in some cases, at all-time lows. The net flow of unauthorized immigrants into the U.S. has dropped from 400,000 a year net under Bush to zero under Obama – a remarkable achievement. Immigrants commit crimes at rates lower than native born Americans, and the economic achievements of the two largest immigrant groups – Asians and Hispanics – are impressive by any measure. Despite historically high levels of immigration, the American "melting pot" has once again done its thing, leaving us a better, stronger and more diverse nation than before. These accomplishments are meaningful, and well worth defending.

On the Middle East and terrorism, Barack Obama will leave office not the first nor the last president disappointed about what was achieved. But on the rise of the Islamic State group, we have to recognize that it grew from the internal political failings of two sovereign nations, Syria and Iraq, caught in the middle of a broader regional struggle between Sunni Arabs and its proxies and Iranian supported Shia forces. Creative thinking is needed here from all sides, thinking that recognizes that there is no "bombing them into the stone age" military solution to the region's troubles. The path forward involves expanding the increasingly successful military and counter-terrorism already in place, vigorously pursuing a regional reconciliation between Sunni and Shia, vigilant efforts to counter the Islamic State group's online reach, and Marshall Plan like efforts to modernize and strengthen those nations in the region wanting to put this violent age behind them.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Republican Presidents and Inequality

The new findings on growing inequality by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman are deeply disturbing. They demonstrate again how extreme overall inequality has become in America. The top 1 percent's share of all pretax income went from 10.7 percent in 1980 to a little over 20.2 percent in 2014, while the share claimed by the bottom 50 percent fell from 19.9 percent in 1980 to 12.5 percent in 2014.

But that's not the whole story. I looked into their data, which cover five presidents from 1980 to 2014, and found that both the gains at the top and the losses by the bottom half varied a lot across those presidencies. Fully 73 percent of the gains by the top 1 percent happened from 1980 to 1992 and from 2000 to 2007, when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush held the White House. Moreover, the income share of the rich virtually stagnated from 2007 to 2014, mostly under Barack Obama. Equally important, 71 percent of the decline in the share of total income claimed by the bottom 50 percent also happened during Reagan and the two Bushes ’ and again, under Obama, their share in 2014 was virtually the same as it was in 2011.

Politics and policy matter, so income inequality worsened much more under Reagan and the two Bushes than under Bill Clinton and Obama. The final tally: Republicans held the White House 57.6 percent of the time examined here, and 72 percent of the increase in inequality happened during their terms. Democrats held the White House 42.4 percent of the time here, and only 28 percent of the increase in inequality happened on their watches.

Sadly, it's all too easy to imagine how the top 1 percent and the bottom 50 percent will fare under Donald Trump.

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

Backgrounder: Rob Shapiro on the Economy

Our long time collaborator Dr. Rob Shapiro has been busy this year.  We've put together this compendium of his most important economic analyses for you to review.  Rob has been a bit ahead of the curve (again) in calling the improvements in the US economy a true recovery, and was among the first to document that the era of flat wages and incomes has gratefully come to an end. (Updated Thursday 12/8/16)

Republican Presidents and Inequality, Rob Shapiro, Sonecon, 12/8/16. A review of the data suggests that a great deal of the inequality we've seen develop in the US economy has happened during GOP Presidents and their far less people oriented policies.  

What Hillary's Campaign Missed, Rob Shapiro, Sonecon, 11/15/16. Last week’s election should be dubbed the revenge of the neglected. The outcome would have been different if Hillary’s strategists had taken to heart James Carville’s famous quip in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Why the good economy could be a problem for the next president, Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post, 10/26/16.

Obama's Expansion Is Finally Paying Off, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 10/13/16. American businesses have created net new jobs on a scale recalling the job creation rates of the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, the incomes of most American households grew again at rates that matched or exceeded the average for the 1980s and 1990s.

On Economic Growth, Hillary Delivers and Trump Pretends, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 9/26/16. To prepare for the first presidential debate, Rob decided to think through Donald Trump’s promise to deliver 4% annual economic growth.

The Economic Outlook for the Election and Beyond, and How Who Wins Could Change It, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 9/7/16. Clinton’s economic and social policy proposals include the three essential elements to boost productivity.

Sorry Donald – The Incomes of Minority Households Grow More under Democrats than under Republicans, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 8/29/16. Donald Trump says that Democrats have failed American minorities, so let’s test his claim by the most basic economic criteria.

Rising Incomes Are a Key to Winning in 2016 – But Not Enough, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 6/2/16. Since 2013, the household incomes of most Americans have risen steadily and substantially.

Whatever Some Candidates Tell You, the Incomes of Most Americans Have Been Rising, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 4/4/16. After a decade when most Americans saw their incomes decline, a majority of U.S. households racked up healthy income gains in 2013 and 2014.

Donald Trump’s Chutzpah: His Tax Plan Doubles on Inequality and Gives His Own Company a Huge Tax Windfall, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 3/3/16. Trump has been very precise about not only his plans for undocumented immigrants and Obamacare, but also his approach to taxes.

The Surprising Good News about American Incomes, Robert J. Shapiro, Sonecon, 10/26/15. For the first time since the 1990s and 1980s, household incomes rose substantially in 2014, and did so across all demographic groups.

Trouble Ahead: 4 Scandals That Could Rock The Trump Presidency

US News and World Report has published Simon's sixth column, "Trouble Ahead," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The West Is On the Ballot," in which Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

An Excerpt from "Trouble Ahead"

Democrats just spent an entire election cycle worrying that a lingering scandal could at any moment do significant, crippling damage to their presidential candidate. And in the end, we were right to be worried.

As someone who just went through this on the Democratic side, I have a message for my buoyant Republicans friends: You have far more to be worried about with President-elect Donald Trump than we ever did with Hillary Clinton. Consider that in just the few weeks since the election, Trump payed $25 million in a legal settlement to thousands of Americans whom he scammed and ripped off; he admitted to illegally using his foundation, which is subsidized by American taxpayers, for personal gain; he appeared to use discussions with foreign leaders to advance his business interests (here and here); and his newly-opened luxury hotel in Washington has rapidly become a potent symbol of the unprecedented legal and ethical challenges the president-elect's global business interests will present.

I'm pretty sure we've ever seen anything like this in modern American history.

But this is just the beginning, and there is certainly more to come. It is my take that there are at least four potential game-changing set of scandals that could alter the course of the Trump Presidency.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters

The rise of Trump certainly gives our community much to be concerned about. But as I sit here in DC thinking about what NDN can and should do in the months ahead, I keep coming back to one thing – the Russian intervention in our election. Our government simply owes the American people a clear explanation for what happened, or at least a more transparent process to help us get one, soon.

A new, alarming Washington Post piece from over the break reminded us how extensive the Russian operation was, and how seemingly ill-equipped we were to counter it. There are so many pieces to put together here – the extent of the penetration into the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign; the many ties of the Trump campaign to Russia, something that the FBI is reportedly investigating; the active encouragement of the Russian actions by the GOP nominee and the Republican Party itself, and the precedent setting decision by Party leadership to actively use the questionable material in the campaign; the question of whether there was any actual tampering with our elections process, and the coming to terms with the massive, successful disinformation efforts by the Russians that are now well documented.

For some I am sure this all sounds like a bad James Bond movie. But it is clear now that a foreign hostile power played a major role in a US election, one significant enough to have potentially influenced the outcome. All of our leaders in Washington should be asked to step up here and work together to come to an understanding about what happened, and take concrete, publicly understood steps to ensure it never happens again. This is particularly true, as I wrote in a recent US News column, because the intervention here is part of a wide ranging Russian campaign to weaken the West and a global politics that resists authoritarianism.

It is possible the Russian intervention in our election this year was one of the most significant events in modern American history. While there are many things our leaders can and should be focusing on in the coming year, getting to a better understanding of what happened here has to be at the top of the list. It won’t be easy, and hard conversations will have to be had. The new governing party’s resistance is likely to be fierce. On this one, however, we need to be Americans and patriots first, partisans second. Our leaders need to lead and help America, and the world, understand what happened and to offer clear concrete steps to ensure it never happens again.

Related Materials

The West Is On the Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling All Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Arizona Outperforms North Carolina for Democrats

Assuming the current tally holds, AZ now stands at 49.03 Trump 45.46 Clinton, a margin of 3.6%, closer than NC’s 3.8%.  This is important given NC may have seen the greatest investment per vote of any battleground state by Clinton/DNC, and AZ perhaps the least.   Remarkably, AZ outperformed IA, NC and OH for Democrats this year, and has become a place of true opportunity for Ds in the years ahead. 

2016 left us with a new national electorate college map, among other things moving AZ into the core of the battleground and Texas onto its edges (TX outperformed IA for Clinton, and almost matched OH).

It is important to note that the three states where Democrats gained the most ground in 2016 were Texas, California and Arizona, states with large numbers of Hispanics and Millennial voters.  In fact Texas now has a higher share of Millennials and Hispanics than California - today's Texas is a very different state than it was a generation ago.  Clinton won under 45s in Texas by 6 points, 49% to 43%. 

And as we’ve written, many of the key battlegrounds Democrats lost in 2016 (FL, MI, OH, PA, WI) were among the lowest in the nation in Millennial share of the vote.   Many of the states that held for Democrats, or gained – AZ, CA, CO, NV, TX, VA – are in the upper end of Millennial share.   In fact Texas now has a higher share of Millennials and Hispanics than California – a reason it moved so aggressively towards the Dems with little investment.   See our recent report on Millennials for more on this.   Millennials jumped from 19% of the electorate in 2012 to 29% in 2016 according to an election night survey by Democracy Corps.   And their arrival in the electorate will increasingly matter for both parties in the years ahead.

For more on how young voters performed in 2016, see this new study from Tufts/Tisch College's CIRCLE.  It is a must read on the 2016 outcomes.   

Syndicate content