NDN Blog

President Obama's 2015 UN Speech

NDN, like many, was impressed by the President’s speech at the 70th United Nations General Assembly. Be sure to take a look at the video below and read a transcript of it here.

Job Opening at NDN (extended to 9/30), Big Thank You to Corey

So I write with good news, and less good news.

We have an opening for my assistant here at NDN. That’s the good news.

The less than good news is that Corey Cantor, my current assistant, will be moving on. It is our tradition here is to bring in an ambitious, smart young person to spend a year as my assistant, working closely with the entire NDN community. Unfortunately for all of us that year is coming up for Corey, and it is time for him to take what he has learned here and go out in the broader world here in DC. Recent assistants are doing really well out there – Anjani and Sam are at USTR, Andres is at Treasury, Jessie has become an important part of Mayor DeBlasio’s team, Chris is working as a legislative assistant in a House office.

Corey’s goal is to go into the Administration, join a Senate or House office, or work in some other policy-related capacity. He has been a terrific member of our team and would add value to any office he joins. If you have ideas for Corey, or want to interview him yourself, please contact him at ccantor@ndn.org. I have some plans for him as well and will be working hard to ensure he lands in a place where he can contribute and learn.

As for the assistant position, please help us find the very best person. See the job description below. Please send cover letter, resume, recommendations and anything else you would like to submit to Corey (ccantor@ndn.org) by 5pm on Wednesday, September 30th. No phone calls please.

Job Description: At NDN, the Assistant to the President is responsible for managing President Simon Rosenberg and the office’s day-to-day operations. This includes managing the President’s schedule; executing weekly emails including NDN’s newsletter, member updates, and other releases via NGP-Van; handling administrative tasks (such as event management, meeting arrangements, scanning documents, and other errands); researching legislation or other policy information for the President’s use. In this role, you will also work closely with other NDN members’ offices and Washington stakeholders. This position allows for growth as well as special projects assigned by the President. Additional responsibilities consist of handling office communications, including answering the main NDN phone-line, processing invoices, assisting with travel logistics, event coordination, and keeping track of written correspondence, and other duties as assigned.

So to sum up – we need your help in finding a new assistant for me, and a great next step for Corey. Anything you can do to help please let us know and thank you in advance. And please thank Corey for his excellent work here at NDN – he has done a great job for me, and for all of us.



Infographic #1 accompanying my recent Incomes Report


Check out theinteractive infographic at the Sonecon, LLC website here

Read the full Incomes Report here

Event Recap: "The Real Politics of Trade" hosted by WITA

On Wednesday, October 7th, NDN's President Simon Rosenberg joined an impressive panel to talk about the politics of trade following the completion of TPP.

The panel included presentations by Robert Moran, of the Brunswick Group and a particularly interesting power point by Bruce Stokes of Pew. Simon and Sean Spicer, the Communications Director of the RNC, offered their political commentary on the path forward and potential of Congress approving the trade deal. You can find more, including links to the presentations and video of the event, here.

You can find the two power point presentations shown at the event and video of the entire panel here

Backgrounder: Improving the Democratic Debate Schedule

NDN has joined the chorus calling for a better Democratic debate schedule, writing: "There are too few debates, too many are on weekends or holidays when viewership is much lower, and there aren’t enough close to when the most consequential voting will take place." 

A few stats: in 2007/8 Democrats had 26 debates, this cycle they will have 6.  The RNC has scheduled 11 debates, the Democrats will have 6 with one shown only on a Spanish language network.  In the all important Jan thru March window next year, when close to 60% of eligible voters will vote, the GOP will have 6 English language debates and the Democrats 2.  All in all the DNC will have 2 English language debates in prime time during the week for the entire nominating process, the RNC could have as many as 9. 

Regardless of the virtue of the original DNC debate strategy, the RNC has produced a far better approach that will guarantee their candidates hundreds of millions of more impressions.  This gap is so large that it could sway the outcome of a very close race, and the DNC should take steps to close this gap in the weeks ahead.  Simon's latest piece, below, offers three single steps the DNC could take today to address the problem, and suggests other things the Party could be doing to generate more interest into the race itself.  

We've built this backgrounder with our work and the most recent and best pieces from other sources to help keep people up to date.  If you agree with us that Democrats deserve a better debate schedule, join us in making your voice heard.  

From NDN

"On Dem debates, progress but more to do." Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 10/10/15

Democrats are playing a dangerous game with the debate schedule,” Simon Rosenberg, Time, 9/16/15.

"The Democratic debate schedule is a mess. Here's how to fix it," Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 9/9/15. 

"The Consent of the Governed," SImon Rosenberg and Corey Cantor, NDN, 12/17/14.   This analysis looks at how the decline in competitive states and races in our Federal elections is allowing far too few Americans to meaningful participate in picking their leaders, and questions whether our political system is still capable of providing "the consent of the governed." 

Full Debate Schedules - Here's a link to complete debate schedule, including the 10 scheduled GOP debates and the 6 scheduled by the DNC. The 4 DNC debates that have hard firm dates are taking place on October 13th (little promotion), November 14 (Saturday night), December 19th (Sat before Christmas), January 17th (Sunday night of holiday weekend).  Last two debates are not scheduled yet. 

Media Hits:

Simon discusses the 'debate' debate on KABC, 9/11/15. (starts at the 10:00 minute mark).  

Other Prominent Pieces and Op-Eds

Some Democrats Push DNC Chairwoman to Allow More Debates, Peter Nicolas, The Wall Street Journal, 9/30/15. 

"How Democrats got bogged down in a messy dispute over debates," Greg Sargent, Washington Post, 9/21/15.

"Democrats demand more debate time as intra-party rift reaches boiling point," Lauren Gambino, The Guardian, 9/20/15.

"Democrats have a growing debate problem on their hands," Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 9/20/15.

"DNC chair heckled over Democratic primary debates," Alex Seitz-Wald, MSNBC, 9/19/15.

"Pelosi joins calls to add more Democratic primary debates," Theodore Schleifer, CNN, 9/18/15.  

"Clinton in N.H. to counter Sanders, says she wants more debates," Matt Stout, Boston Herald, 9/17/15. 

"Hillary Clinton should push hard for more Democratic debates," Greg Sargent, Washington Post, 9/16/15.

"Clinton, DNC face pressure to add debates," Gabriel Debendetti, Politico, 9/16/15.

"Two D.N.C. Officials Call for Adding More Debates," Maggie Haberman, New York Times, 9/9/15. 

"Howard Dean comes out for more debates," Greg Sargent, Washington Post, 9/8/15. 

New Op-ed in Time: "Democrats Are Playing a Dangerous Game With the Debate Schedule."

I wrote a new op-ed for Time on the Democratic debate schedule. You can find the full piece at their website or below:

Democrats Are Playing a Dangerous Game With the Debate Schedule.

Unlike the GOP, the Democrats are planning to power down their presence exactly as voters will tune in

The three leading Democratic candidates for President have called for more debates. So have party leaders across the country, including two of the five Vice-Chairs of the Democratic Party. So has the head of the AFL-CIO. So should the Democratic National Committee add more debates? All signs point to yes. Not only do the Republicans have more debates allowing them to reach more voters, but the 2016 primary calendar has bunched up so many states early next year that without a robust debate schedule few voters will be able to meaningful participate in the picking of the Democratic nominee.

Let’s look at this admittedly arcane subject in a bit more detail: As the chart demonstrates, the Republican Party has scheduled ten debates before the end of March of 2016. Most of these debates are in primetime during the week, and each is with a major commercial television news outlet. The first Fox debate proved these debates have the potential to reach tens of millions of people directly, without the candidates or parties spending a dime — a holy grail of political campaign strategy.

The Democrats, on the other, hand have only six debates scheduled in this period and only one in weekday primetime so far. Two of those are with PBS and Univision, limited television networks with smaller reach. Left unchecked, the superior RNC schedule could easily reach 50 to 100 million more eyeballs than the current Democratic schedule—meaning tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars of lost opportunities to persuade, engage and excite the audiences all Democrats will need to win in 2016. But the cost is so far beyond dollars and minds: the debate schedule could affect who wins the Presidency, the Senate and scores of other races across the country.

When you look at the how the primary schedule is stacking up next year, the current Democratic Party strategy looks even harder to justify. As you can see, after the four early states vote – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — 21 more states with more than half of all Democratic primary voters will vote in the 14 days between March 1 and March 15. The scale and speed of this unprecedented compression of the primary calendar means that the only way most voters in these states are going to be able to touch and feel a candidate will be through paid advertising or free debates. Some of these states may not even see a single candidate visit during this short window, and thus are more reliant on debates for getting the information they need to make an informed decision.

Additionally, the compression of the calendar gives an enormous structural advantage to any candidate coming out of the four early states ahead. And if they are also well resourced, it could mean that the election will be for all intents and purposes decided in February of 2016, leaving tens of millions of Americans without the chance to participate in picking a nominee for their party. Having debates during this period is not only necessary given the sheer number of voters going to the polls, but to make sure the winning candidate has the informed consent of a sizable number of their partisans.

The RNC seems to understand all this, having scheduled six of their ten debates during this first quarter window, all with major television networks. The DNC, however, is taking a different approach, having proposed only three debates during this window. The first is on a Sunday night in January during a holiday weekend. The next two—so far without firm dates—are a Spanish language debate (only three of the 21 states have significant Spanish-speaking populations) and one with a far more limited television network (PBS) in a state (Wisconsin) that votes in April. It is conceivable that the Democrats will not have a single English language debate in this period from February 1 to March 15—when tens of millions will be paying attention and voting, and when many believe the nomination will be decided. The GOP already has three scheduled in this voting window, and depending on how their schedule firms up, could have as many as five.

At a time when half the country goes to vote the RNC is ramping up the pace of its debates, while the DNC is slowing its down. By limiting the total number of debate to six it also ensures that the half of the country which votes in the ten weeks after March 15th has little or no chance to hear directly from the candidates.

Simply put, there is no way to justify or defend this strategy. As currently constructed, too few people are going to be able to meaningfully participate in the picking of the nominee of the Democratic Party, something that is inconsistent with our Party’s approach to politics and a threat to the success of the party in the 2016 elections. As many as seven of the dozen or so battleground general election states will vote in this period. The loss of party building in those states is particularly dangerous for Democrats.

There are many ways to improve the current debate schedule but I would begin, as I’ve proposed elsewhere, with shooting for party parity in 2016. The DNC should match the RNC by adding three debates, with at least one coming between Feb. 1 and March 15. The proposed Univision and PBS debates should also be scheduled before March 15, with the Wisconsin debate moving to a March date in an important pre-March 15 state like Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Texas or Virginia. The DNC could also expand the pool of its media partners to include those with large progressive audiences, and important digital outlets like Facebook (which sponsored the first RNC debate), Instagram, Twitter and Yahoo who reach different audiences than traditional media.

Those calling for a better Democratic Party debate schedule are right. The current schedule, while well intentioned, can and should be improved. It will benefit all Democrats up and down the ticket, and ensure that more than a few million people participate meaningfully in picking the Democratic nominee. The compressed primary schedule next year makes the adding of more debates while so many states vote so quickly even more of a imperative.


President Obama's powerful statement on Immigration

Last night the President gave a powerful riff about immigration that we thought might be welcome to our community given the tone of late. They came from a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa. Enjoy:

[Excerpt from President Obama’s Town Hall on College Access in Des Moines, Iowa, 9/14/15]

THE PRESIDENT: But this raises the broader question that I’ve been talking about now for a couple of years, and that is that for young people who came here, their parents may have brought them here and they now are Americans, kids by every other criteria except for a piece of paper -- they may be your classmates, they may be your friends, they may be your neighbors -- the notion that somehow we would not welcome their desire to be full-fledged parts of this community and this country, and to contribute and to serve makes absolutely no sense. (Applause.)

And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are. (Applause.) Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else. (Applause.) And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and we have been working -- and I’ve been pushing Congress to make sure that we have strong borders and we are keeping everybody moving through legal processes -- don’t pretend that somehow 100 years ago the immigration process was all smooth and strict and -- that’s not how it worked.

There are a whole bunch of folks who came here from all over Europe and all throughout Asia and all throughout Central America and all -- and certainly who came from Africa, who it wasn’t some orderly process where all the rules applied and everything was strict, and I came the right way. That’s not how it worked.

So the notion that now, suddenly, that one generation or two generations, or even four or five generations removed, that suddenly we are treating new immigrants as if they’re the problem, when your grandparents were treated like the problem, or your great-grandparents were treated like the problem, or were considered somehow unworthy or uneducated or unwashed -- no. That’s not who we are. It’s not who we are.

We can have a legitimate debate about how to set up an immigration system that is fair and orderly and lawful. And I think the people who came here illegally should have the consequences of paying a fine and getting registered, and all kinds of steps that they should have to take in order to get right with the law. But when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care -- I think that’s un-American. I do not believe that. I think it is wrong. (Applause.) And I think we should do better. Because that’s how America was made -- by us caring about all our kids. “


"The Democratic debate schedule is a mess. Here's how to fix it" - New NDN op-ed on MSNBC

I penned a new op-ed for MSNBC.com on how to improve the 2016 Democratic debate schedule. You can read the full piece here and below. 

"The Democratic Debate Schedule Is A Mess.  Here is How to Fix It." 

The critics are right: If the point of presidential primary debates is to give candidates a forum to make their case to the tens of millions of people who will pick their party’s nominee, the current Democratic debate calendar is wholly insufficient to the task at hand. There are too few debates, too many are on weekends or holidays when viewership is much lower, and there aren’t enough close to when the most consequential voting will take place.

Before we get into the devilish details, it’s important to look at next’s year’s very front-loaded Democratic primary calendar: The four early states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina – vote in February, followed by 21 more states between March 1 and March 15. The result is that the Democratic nominee will be effectively locked in by mid-March, only six weeks after primary voting begins. It is potentially a very compressed calendar.

As of today, the Republicans have ten debates scheduled before mid-March, while the Democrats have four. Of those debates, the GOP has six debates scheduled in the ten weeks closest to the actual voting, while the Democrats have just one.

The only Democratic debate scheduled for Iowa is taking place 10 weeks before the caucuses, on a Saturday night, and the only New Hampshire debate is happening on the last Saturday before Christmas.
In 2016, the GOP will have debates in Iowa, New Hampshire, Texas, Florida, and twice in South Carolina – all consequential states. The only debate the Democrats have scheduled currently in 2016 is on the Sunday night of the Martin Luther King Day weekend in South Carolina.

Rather than being close to the voting – when people are paying attention – the only Democratic debate scheduled for Iowa is taking place 10 weeks before the caucuses, on a Saturday night, and the only New Hampshire debate is happening on Dec. 19, the last Saturday before Christmas, when the last thing on anyone’s mind will be politics.

Of the eight debates the GOP has scheduled with actual firm dates, six are during the week when viewership is higher. Of the four Democratic debates with firm dates, only one is during the week. The rest are on the weekend, and two – the Iowa and South Carolina debates – are also during holiday weekends.

There are three ways the Democratic National Committee can improve the schedule:

- Move more of the existing debates to weeknights
- Add more debates in the key states prior to March 15
- Remove the limit on debates in case the nominating process goes beyond March 15.

The DNC should also try to get the 2015 debates in Iowa and New Hampshire moved to better days during the week, add Iowa, New Hampshire and one other debate to the early 2016 window, and lock in the proposed Florida and Wisconsin debates before March 15. If in February the election looks like it is going to go to late spring, more debates can be added. There’s no reason to have a cap, or to force candidates to agree to one.

In the digital age, engaging partisans early in the campaign cycle is critical to building an excited base of volunteers and small-dollar donors, such as buoyed both Howard Dean in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. The Democratic Party simply has no other tool as powerful as these debates to engage the millions of people needed to win elections in 2016 up and down the ticket in all fifty states. And this tool should be more aggressively deployed for the good of the whole party.

The last time Democrats had an open presidential race, the DNC held 19 debates, starting in April of 2007. The end result of that wide open process was a 53% victory in the general election by Obama and unprecedented levels of citizen engagement in our politics. That wide open and early system helped produce the best election result for the Democratic Party in 44 years, and should only have been significantly altered if there was a powerful rationale and argument from the party leadership. This is particularly true given the enormous policy commitment Democrats are making today to reforming our political and electoral systems to give more Americans a more meaningful voice in their democracy.

While the Democratic Party cannot replicate its 2007-2008 approach, it can improve the current one. As a lifelong Democrat, I am grateful that candidates Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have all asked the DNC to make changes to the current debate schedule. For the good of all Democrats across the country, let’s hope they get on with it in the days to come.


Update: You can also check out the current schedules for the Democratic and GOP debates here, as well the full 2016 primary calendar

Update, 9/10 -  In my piece I wrote there were 19 Democratic debates in 2007/8.  In fact, according to Wikipedia, there were 26.  And by this date in 2007 there already had been 9.  Again, given the resounding success of the Democratic Party's Presidential candidate in 2008, it remains hard to understand why the leadership of the DNC felt compelled to make such a dramatic alteration to what worked so well last time and is so consistent with the overall push by Democrats for openness and reform in our political system.  

Update, 9/10 - Last night two DNC Vice Chairs joined the call for more debates. 

Update, 9/10 - The Washington Post's Greg Sargent has published a smart take on all this.

Update, 9/16 - From Politico: "Hillary, DNC face pressure to add debates".

Video: Simon on Fox News discussing 2016

Last Sunday, Simon appeared on Howard Kurtz's MediaBuzz, along with Jim Geraghty of the National Review. The two talked about recent comments by Hillary Clinton on the GOP field. Then Simon shared some of his perspective behind the rumors of a Joe Biden presidential run, and how the media has covered it.

You can watch the full clip, via Fox News, below.

Where Congress and the President Could Find a Few Trillion Dollars

This year’s presidential hopefuls all agree that America has serious problems, with each party blaming the other.  As readers of this blog know, the Number One problem in my view is the end of strong income growth for a majority of American households since 2002.  However the candidates define the problem, they all have answers (of sorts) ranging from sweeping tax cuts to major initiatives for training, higher education and infrastructure.  None of them will say how to pay their agendas; but as it happens, they’re all in luck:  A new book by Swedish economists Dag Detter and Stefan Foster, titled immodestly The Public Wealth of Nations, has found hundreds of billions of dollars, even trillions of dollars, hiding in plain sight.

It begins with two facts.  Governments own more assets that all of their richest citizens put together; but unlike wealthy people, governments don’t manage their assets.  The U.S. government owns more than one million buildings, vast networks of roads, military and space installations, public utilities and railroad facilities, and 25 percent of all the land in the country (including 43 percent of all forest land).  No one in government even knows precisely what all of those assets are worth, because there is no standard or systematic accounting of public assets, much less professional management to enhance their value, like private assets. 

Professionally managing a country’s public assets is an idea associated mainly with the national wealth funds created by Norway, Saudi Arabia and a few other countries that found themselves with more energy revenues than they could handle.  The Swedish economists make a good case that the United States and other countries should apply this model to their physical assets.

Here’s what it could mean if we tried it.  The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the federal government’s non-financial assets are worth about 20 percent of GDP, or about $3.5 trillion today.  (The physical assets of city and state governments, including their networks of schools, hospitals, prisons, roads, and so on, are worth some $10 trillion.)  Detter and Foster reviewed the evidence and the literature, and conclude that the professional management of public assets can raise their returns by 3.5 percentage-points, which by any measure is a lot of money.

Let’s be conservative and say it would raise those returns in the United States by just 2 percentage-points.  At that rate, the professional management of federal assets would generate an additional $70 billion per-year without raising a dollar in taxes or cutting a dollar in spending.  With a reasonably growing economy, 10 years of such professional asset management should produce more than $800 billion for the government and its taxpayers, and 20 years would produce $1.9 trillion.

And if the Swedes are right that professional management could raise those returns by 3.5 percentage-points, it would generate more than $120 billion per-year, $1.4 trillion over 10 years, and $3.3 trillion over 20 years.  That would cover about 40 percent of the projected funding shortfall of Social Security.

 There also are models on how to do it, since versions are in place today in the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Singapore. First, establish an independent enterprise with the authority to manage the government’s nonfinancial assets, overseen and operated by independent, publicly-accountable directors and executives.  The closest domestic model we have is the Federal Reserve, and like Janet Yellen and her colleagues at the Fed, senior executives and board members would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  The executives and board would hire platoons of professionals in every area, all outside the civil service, to competently manage our public wealth.

It could mean, for example, that the Postal Service might use its assets as deftly as UPS or Fedex, or at least close enough so that its productivity gains were half those of UPS and Fedex instead of less than 30 percent.  Or consider the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees 260 million acres of federal lands.  Those holdings include the “Green River formation” in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, which happen to be the world’s largest known sources of shale oil and gas.  Unlike the BLM, professional asset managers could lease some of those lands for shale production.  And in another division, managers could weigh the case for moving various military facilities currently cited on some of the country’s most expensive land, like the barracks for dress Marines on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and leasing such desirable facilities to commercial tenants.   

Most people would fire their investment managers, if they didn’t know what their clients held and had done nothing for decades to increase the value.  If we applied the same standards to federal assets, we could find the means to carry out the ambitious initiatives the country so badly needs. 

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

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