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Every day in our own work we face it – things are changing, new competitors are rising, you have to manage what you have well but reinvent to stay ahead. Few enterprises still around are doing what they were doing in the same way as they were even a few years ago. Managing through change, renewing institutions for a new day and time is the key to success in a time of great transformation.

For a decade now NDN has understood this new landscape and offered solutions for the center-left to adapt and modernize – to renew itself – for a new day. Our work has been creative, prodigious and influential. We’ve helped identify a new coalition; the need to develop and deploy a new generation of post-broadcast TV tools; and have been leaders on emerging fights from Internet Freedom to community colleges to Cuba to immigration reform and a better understanding of why the middle class has been down for so long. For a small institution, we’ve had an outsized impact on the national debate, an impact that has made us a better and more modern political movement.

But with the events of the last few years, it has become clear that the center-left will need to go through another period of extended reform and renewal. For as successful as the last period was – and it was very successful – our opposition has not stood still, and new and daunting challenges have emerged. As an organization which helped lead the last period of renewal, the team here at NDN is saddling up for what looks to be at least a decade of hard work and innovation ahead.

The support of far-sighted investors in NDN and a few other organizations made this last period of renewal possible. But to fund this next phase we are going back out into the marketplace and asking for your financial support and engagement. Can you help us end the year strong, and hit the ground running in 2015 by making a contribution to NDN today? Whatever amount - $25, $50, $100 and more – all helps us prepare for the vital work head.

In the next few weeks we will be announcing a preliminary set of projects we think are the most strategically important for our community to spend its time on in 2015. I hope you will sign up for this next chapter in our organization’s compelling mission, and start by giving us the resources to make our work over the coming years the best yet.

Some Thoughts Post CRomnibus

A few observations about the events of the last few days:  

Democrats May Have More Power in the Next Congress than Many Believed – That Speaker Boehner lost 67 of his own conference and needed Democrats to bail him out on a bet-the-Speakership vote suggests that the most important political dynamic in the next Congress will be the management of the GOP’s establishment/Tea Party fissure.   

The math for Republicans to see any of their ideas become law is daunting.   While depleted, the Democrats have enough power to prevent GOP overrides of Presidential vetoes, and of course Democratic votes are needed to even pass anything through the Senate.   To pass a bill, including a budget, Republicans will need Democrats, which will require pursuing an approach likely to alienate anti-establishment Republicans.  If President Obama, and leaders Reid and Pelosi can come up with a common strategic approach and keep their troops in line they could end up not just getting more of their agenda through than many expect, but also creating an even greater rift in the GOP ranks. 

We found these columns by the Washington Post’s E.J Dionne and Greg Sargent helpful in making sense of this CRomnibus fight.  The Huffington Post's Sam Stein quotes me in his early post-CRomnibus take, which is also worth a read through.  And for more on the divisions in the GOP and how it will effect 2016 see my recent post-election analysis.  

Raising Party Limits May Be Good for Democracy – While the process for raising the giving limits to political parties was indefensible, it might end up making a bad political system better.   The post Citizen United political system is moving hundreds of millions of dollars to dark, unaccountable organizations which have no check on the integrity of their speech and do not have to disclose their donations. The practical effect of raising party limits will be to move a great deal of this money back into organizations which are far more transparent and accountable.  It will improve the quality of political speech in campaigns; increase the percentage of money spent by accountable, transparent organizations; will weaken Super PACS by denying them an enormous number of their 2nd and 3rd tier donors; and it may even allow more low dollar contributors and average people to participate in the system as large, well funded Party organizations will have more resources to engage every day people in their activities.   It is a bit an inconvenient truth for the reform community that only well funded campaigns have the capacity to build systems that engage large numbers of people in a meaningful way.  

While the threat of corruption in this new system will increase and be of significant concern, these changes will on balance make the post Citizen United system better and strengthen our democracy in the process.   

Cruz and Immigration – The threat to the Republican Party of their new found radicalization on immigration was on full display these last few days.   Ted Cruz’s effort to shut down the government may have been reduced to a point of order but he managed to drag three other Senators with national aspirations into his crazy camp: Rand Paul, Rob Portman and Marco Rubio all voted for Senator Cruz on Saturday night.   With anti-immigrant warrior Rep. Steve King acting as kingmaker in Iowa, there is incredible pressure for even the more moderate 2016 Republicans to embrace the ugly politics of a revitalized anti-immigrant movement. 

If Cruz ends up dragging the entire GOP 2016 Presidential field to the right on immigration, he has new found pressure back in Texas fighting to keep him there or even move further to the right – newly elected Governor Greg Abbot and Lt. Gov  Dan Patrick.  After a generation of Republican governors who were reasonable on immigration matters, Texas elected a team who are among the most committed anti-immigrant politicians ever produced by the modern GOP.   Their stated agenda will continue to pressure Cruz, Perry, Paul and Texas Congressional Members, dragging the national GOP even further away from reasonableness on an issue that is threatening to put the Presidency out of reach for the GOP for years.   

The danger for the Republicans can be found in a new Gallup poll, which found Obama’s job approval among Hispanics surging in the past month from 52% to 64%.  This is a higher approval rating than Obama had in the fall of 2012 when he won the Hispanic vote 71-27 against Mitt Romney.   To be competitive at the Presidential level, it is conventional wisdom the GOP nominee needs to keep the margin with Hispanics to 20 or so points, and certainly not 44 as it was in 2012.  While more data is needed, it certainly seems that the ground the President has made up with Hispanics as returned the GOP to an uncompetitive place with this critical group heading in 2016.   And of course this is before a year of Abbott/Patrick/Cruz inspired anti-immigrant politics further distances Hispanics from a Party that is making it clear it wants all 11m undocumented immigrants in the US to leave.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times has a new, good take on Obama’s surge with Hispanic voters. 

The Peculiar Economics of Falling Oil Prices

The sharp fall in worldwide oil prices is a silver lining with a silver lining, even if the linings are a bit tarnished.  The price of the world’s most widely-used commodity has fallen sharply over the last five months, from a spot market price of $115 per-barrel in late June to $77 last week.  For consumers everywhere, that means major savings that will mainly go to purchase other goods and services; and those boosts in demand should spur more business investment.  So, if low prices hold for another six months, analysts figure that growth in most oil-consuming and oil-importing countries could be one-half to a full percentage-point higher than forecast, including here in the U.S. and in the EU, China and Japan.  It’s a blow to the big oil-producing and oil-exporting nations; but the global economy will come out ahead.  After all, the U.S., EU, China and Japan account for more than 65 percent of worldwide GDP, while the top ten oil exporting countries, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, make up just over 6 percent.

The hitch for this rosy scenario is that much of the revenues that OPEC countries now won’t see would have gone into financial and direct investments in the U.S. and EU.  That means that new investments in American and European stocks and bonds could be reduced by some $300 billion per-year.  The upshot may be slightly higher interest rates and slightly lower equity prices, which would dampen the growth benefits of lower oil prices. 
 
 The lower prices are driven mainly by supply and demand, but market expectations and some strategic maneuvering by Saudi Arabia play a role, too.  Yes, worldwide oil supplies are up with rising production from U.S. and Canadian tar sands and shale deposits, and Libya’s fields are fully back online.   Moreover, these supply effects are amplified by softness in demand for oil, coming from economic stagnation in much of Europe and Japan, China’s slower growth, and our own increasing use of natural gas.  Oil prices also are influenced, however, by the prices that buyers and sellers expect to prevail months or years from now.  Last week, when the “spot price” of crude oil was about $77 per-barrel, the price for oil to be delivered next month was almost $10 lower.  In fact, the world’s big oil traders see crude prices continuing to decline not simply into 2015, but for a long time:  The price for oil to be delivered in mid-2016 is less than $72 per-barrel and, according to these futures prices, not expected to reach even $80 per-barrel until 2023. 
           
Don’t count on a decade of cheap oil.  Yes, technological advances have brought down the cost of extracting oil from tar sands, shale and deep water deposits, as well as the cost of producing and transporting natural gas.  But the economics of these new energy sources work best at prices higher than those prevailing today.  A long period of low oil prices would slow the growth of supply from those sources -- and so drive oil prices back up.  The Saudis are counting on it.  They’ve refrained from cutting their own production, which could restore higher prices, in hopes that another year of low prices will slow down investments in all of those alternatives sources.
 
The truth is, oil prices will rise again whether the Saudis’ tactic works or not.  While the outlook for much stronger growth remains slim for Japan and much of Europe, an extended spell of lower energy prices will support higher growth here, in China, and across many of the non-oil producing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa.   Stronger growth and energy demand will bring on line more alternative sources of energy -- so long as oil prices are high enough for the alternatives to be competitive.
 
This is an old story.  Oil prices fell, and as sharply as they did this year, in 1985 and 1986, in 1997 and 1998, and in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial upheavals.  Each time, oil prices marched up again after one, two, or at most three-to-four years.  Of course, that volatility also makes some people billionaires.  To join them, what you’ll need is patience and a hedge fund’s access to credit.  With that, all you do is go out and purchase a few billion dollars in contracts to take delivery of crude in 2018 or 2020 at today’s futures prices, and then dump the contracts when oil prices once again head north of $100 per-barrel.
 
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog

Presidential Action on Immigration: New Op-Eds, Sec Johnson Appears at NDN, More

NDN is joining with millions of others in enthusiastic support of the bold steps the President has taken to improve our antiquated immigration system.   Our team has been at the front lines of this consequential debate for many years now, and offers this roundup of our recent and most important work in this area including recaps of events we've hosted with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and the Deputy Secretary of DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas

"A Note From Simon - The President's Historic Steps To Reform the Immigration System," Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 11/24/14. 

Event Recap: NDN Hosts DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, NDN, 11/19/14.  

"A Winner for Obama and the Nation," Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 11/19/14.

"The Battle Over Immigration Action is Just Beginning," Simon Rosenberg and David Leopold, MSNBC, 11/18/14.

Backgrounder: "The President's Coming Executive Action and Prosecutorial Discretion," NDN, 11/11/14.

Event Recap: NDN Hosts DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, NDN, 9/19/14. 

Most Anti-Hispanic House of Representatives Ever?” Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 8/2/14.

Report: "NDN/NPI on Central American Migrants, Obama Administration's Border /Immigration Enforcement Record," NDN, 7/18/14.

November Jobs Report: U.S. Economy Adds over 320,000 Jobs

2014 has already been a great year for jobs growth, with the economy picking up steam and each month this year averaging over 200,000 jobs. Perhaps, it wasn’t surprising that we would end the year on a strong note. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. Economy added over 320,000 new jobs during the month of November, the highest single monthly report since January 2012. In addition, the report revised the data from September and October to include more than 44,000 additional new jobs.

The unemployed rate held steady for November at 5.8%. Over the past year, the unemployment rate decreased by 1.2 percentage points. Additionally, wages ticked up slightly by .4 percent--the most since June 2013. This news, along with strong GDP growth and high consumer sentiment, continues the string of positive recent economic news.

New Studies on ACA: Uninsured Rate Plummets by 30%, Healthcare Cost Increases Slow

Earlier this year, I wrote about new data which suggested that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was positively impacting the American Healthcare System. In particular, reports at the time highlighted the fact that the law was completing its primary objectives: decreasing the number of uninsured, bending the healthcare cost curve, and slowing the growth of premiums.

This week multiple reports point to the continued successful policy implementation of the ACA. A report released by the Urban Institute on December 3rd, estimated that in the first year of the ACA, the number of uninsured decreased by 10.6 million—about 30% of the entire uninsured population. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that in 2013 National Healthcare Expenditures only grew by 3.6%. While still an increase, this rate was below the historical growth rate of healthcare costs. In fact, the last four years have had the slowest growth in healthcare spending since the Center began measuring this information in the 1960s.

Source: CMS

The Department of Health and Human Services also released new information that suggested another goal of the ACA, making the system as a whole work better, is moving forward. Sarah Kliff of Vox.com has a good take on the HHS data that found that ACA programs contributed in reducing hospital errors; this action resulted in saving about 50,000 lives over a four-year period. Infections acquired in hospitals decreased by over 17% since 2010.

The next phase of open enrollment for the market exchanges is also off to a great start. In the two weeks since open enrollment began on November 15th, over 760,000 people have signed up for plans. This is a large turnaround from the initial launch of Healthcare.gov where just a little over 100,000 people were able to sign up during the entire first month. Open enrollment will continue until the middle of February 2015.

Source: Urban Institute

Though the first year of the Affordable Care Act has not been without flaws, we are beginning to see the healthcare system change in a profound way. Whether it’s reducing costs at large, helping improve hospitals, or decreasing the uninsured, the ACA has started to impact the system in the way that its proponents had intended.

The President’s Historic Steps To Reform the Immigration System – A Note From Simon

For over nine years, NDN has been a leader in the fight to reform our immigration system. Last week, the President and his team took an historic step forward in improving this anachronistic system, a step that in its own way broke the “gridlock” on an issue of critical importance to our country. As I wrote in US News, the President’s Executive Actions will help grow our economy, better public safety and improve border security. These actions are clearly in the national interest of the United States, and are the kind of bold, ambitious acts we expect from our President. I was fortunate enough to be in a small meeting with the President a few hours before his Thursday night speech, and I can tell you he and his entire team have the passion and commitment to see these important actions through to their successful implementation next year. This powerful commitment was something we also felt in our discussion with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson at an event we hosted on Wednesday, the last major event the Administration held prior to the President’s announcement on Thursday night.

As prominent immigration attorney, David Leopold, and I wrote on MSNBC.com, the political fight over these actions really only began last week. There will be opposition that will need to met head on, and a lot more work to be done. We are taking stock of the current state of play, and evaluating the best way for us to add value in the critical months ahead. If you have suggestions for us, please let us know.

What I really want to say, however, is thank you. Thank you for your financial support, your hard work, and your words of encouragement and challenge during this long hard fight. I am proud of the leadership role we’ve played in what has been one of the more consequential and roughest policy and political fights in Washington over the past decade. While our work is not done, I hope you will savor this moment. Together we’ve fought for policies which will, in a very short time, bring dramatic improvement to the lives of millions of striving, immigrant families. We are a better, more just and safer national today because of these actions. Big steps like these is why many of us do what we do, and while this fight is not done, a big thank you from the DC office for helping make these historic actions possible.

Thank you again, and all of us I think have a bit more to be thankful for this coming Thanksgiving weekend.

Event Recap: NDN Hosts DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, spoke on November 19th about the Obama Administration’s Border Enforcement and Immigration Record at an NDN event. The event took place in Washington at the National Press Club in the main ballroom.

NDN President Simon Rosenberg introduced the Secretary. Simon spoke about important strides that the Department of Homeland Security had made by using prosecutorial discretion and the “Morton Memos” to make the immigration system safer, stronger, and work more efficiently.

If you missed the event, you can watch it in full on CSPAN

Numerous media outlets covered the event, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC, and more. You can find a full list of press links below:

"Obama to Detail His Executive Action on Immigration, Setting Up Clash with GOP," Washington Post, 11/19/14.  

"Obama Executive Order on Immigration Coming Thursday," Amanda Sakuma, MSNBC, 11/19/14.

 “DHS sec’y: Obama Immigration Plan ‘Comprehensive’,” Alicia Caldwell, AP, 11/19/14.

Homeland Security Secretary Talks Immigration,” Matt McGovern, NBC, 11/19/14.

Obama to Boost Border Security, DHS Secretary Says,” Erin Kelly, USA Today, 11/19/14.

Jeh Johnson: Obama has ‘Fairly Wide Latitude’ to Act on Immigration,” Elise Foley, Huffington Post, 11/19/14.

DHS Secretary Says Country Could Face New Surge of illegals,” Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, 11/19/14.

DHS Chief: Obama’s Immigration Order will be ‘Comprehensive’,” Jesse Byrnes, The Hill, 11/19/14.

Homeland Security Secretary: Obama’s Immigration Relief Will Contain Border Security Components,” Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Think Progress, 11/19/14.

"Obama to announce immigration measures on Friday, news outlets report," Fox News Latino, 11/19/14

Consumer Sentiment at 7-Year High

When it comes to understanding the U.S. Economy, there are many different ways that experts, pundits, and policy makers attempt to measure progress. Some look at the monthly jobs report as the key indicator; other suggest that median wage income ought to be the new guiding light. Consumer sentiment might also be a good way to measure how people at large feel about the economy.

The Consumer Sentiment Index, taken by Thomson-Reuters and the University of Michigan, is a five question survey that aims to capture the mood about current economic conditions. The survey asks the taker about the conditions of their family’s income, whether they are better or worse off, and if businesses and the economy at large will be better off next year.

This month, the survey found consumer sentiment at 89.6, which was the highest rating since July 2007. Despite positive feelings about lowering gas prices and the lower unemployment rate, many still felt like their income would not improve by much in the coming year. Still, this month’s report was on the whole good news. Consumer Sentiment took a major hit even before the financial crisis of 2008, when the initial recession began in late 2007. During the Debt Ceiling negotiations of 2011, Consumer Sentiment took another dive after the fear that the US might default on the national debt. Afterwards, it has slowly inched back up and made gains over the past year—finally returning to high levels after seven years.  

Event Recap - Nov 19: Simon joined panel on Innovation in Technology at Mobile Future Forum

On November 19th, Simon joined a conversation on the future of the Internet and Mobile Technology. The event took place at the Ronald Reagan Building (1300 Pennsylvannia Ave Entrance) in Washington, D.C. 

The event started with a conversation moderated by Jonathan Spalter (Chair of Mobile Future) and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. Afterwards, Simon joined a panel with Julie Diaz-Asper (Social Lens Research), Professor David J. Farber (Professor at Carnegie Mellon University/Former FCC Chief Techonlogist), and Professor Emeritus Gerald Faulhaber (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania/Former FCC Chief Economist). 

You can find an archived video of the event at Mobile Future's site. In addition, be sure to check out Simon's piece written with Jonathan Spalter in the Hill, entitled: "Fighting to Keep the Internet Open and Free."

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