NDN Blog

Monday Musings on 2016

In this new feature, I offer my weekly thoughts on the 2016 race. To see previous entries, click the "Monday Musings" tag. 

- The 1st Democratic debate is eight days away, Tuesday night October 13th. Will be a big night for all the candidates, and an important moment in the 2016 campaign. The biggest news heading into next week is the strength of Bernie Sanders. He is leading in NH and in some polls in IA, and is now competitive with Hillary Clinton on resources. As I said in this recent Time magazine article, Democrats don’t do coronations, and it sure looks like the Democratic race has become competitive (even without the potential entry of Joe Biden). Important to acknowledge that the Clinton campaign has shown of late a degree of creativity and confidence, however, that has been in short supply over the past few months. That in of itself is a true sign the campaign is heating up!

- The GOP field seems to be winnowing now, with Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush and Cruz still in the hunt. Not sure there is room left for the rest. It is growing increasingly unlikely that the GOP will nominate a traditional, establishment candidate. As we are also seeing in the leadership fight in the House, the energy now in the GOP is in rejecting the Bush era “establishment” GOP and ushering in a new and different GOP.

- The McCarthy “slip” has become another critical moment in the 2016 cycle. Kathleen Parker captures the sentiment many GOPers have about what happened, and how McCarthy is now, even if he wins, another in a long line of wannabe GOP leaders who just have not been able to play the game at the big league level.

Till next week!

Invite: Thur 10/8 - Simon to give talk at Tufts University

Next week Simon will join students at his alma mater Tufts University. He will be sit down with students to discuss his career, the current political landscape and more.

The event starts at 6 pm at Tisch College. For more details, including to rsvp visit this page here. If you have any children or friends that go to Tufts, we encourage them to join Simon at this event!

Getting Serious About Helping Puerto Rico

I recently penned a major op-ed in the Hill, "Getting Serious About Helping Puerto Rico." The story appears today in both the print and digitial editions. You can find the digital version here or below. 

Getting serious about helping Puerto Rico
By Simon Rosenberg

Whatever the United States government does in the coming months to help Puerto Rico, it is important that policymakers act with a deep sense of urgency about the scale of the problem the island faces. The crisis is far more than a fiscal one. If working-age and young Puerto Ricans continue to leave the island at current rates, soon the island will hit a demographic tipping point where the ratio of retiree to worker will make it nearly impossible to ever restore to a virtuous cycle of economic growth and prosperity. Simply put, we have to get it right this time or the future of Puerto Rico will be very bleak indeed.

Getting it right also means that policymakers in the United States will have to accept two inconvenient truths: The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens and deserve the same kind of attention the people on the mainland would receive, and our Congress has played a significant role in helping push Puerto Rico to the brink. There is little doubt that years of bad governance and fiscal management by both political parties in Puerto Rico are the central cause of today’s crisis. But as Washington readies to act, acknowledging that a series of decisions by the U.S. Congress — including the removal of a job-generating tax break a decade ago and inequitable treatment of Puerto Ricans across many U.S. government programs — have made matters worse. In practical terms, this means that the only way to truly address the crisis will be through deep, sustained coordination among the administration, Congress and political leaders of both parties on the island, as everyone will have to do their part, together.

Given the coming elections in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and rancorous politics in both Washington and San Juan, how will this level of complicated political cooperation be established? I’ve come to believe that the only way forward will be through a package of joint Washington and San Juan led reforms that include establishing an inclusive federal financial control board akin to what was successfully implemented in New York and Washington, D.C. decades ago. 

For Puerto Ricans, the virtue of a federal financial control board are: 1) It has worked before; 2) despite a well-intentioned reform package from the Padilla administration, it is highly unlikely that the Congress and international financial markets will view any locally led, partisan-led reform effort to be credible; and 3) it binds the United States to the process, preventing it from walking away and not doing its part in restoring prosperity to the millions of American citizens on the island.

For Puerto Ricans wary of this level of federal involvement in their affairs, it is important to remember that here in Washington, D.C., the head of our control board became so politically popular that he was able to run, win and become a very successful mayor of our city. In this case, like is often the case, the very best politics is good governance. Local leaders in Puerto Rico will only be rewarded now through results, not empty posturing or overly cautious measures.

In exchange for San Juan accepting and participating in a federal financial control board, Washington should agree to:

Treat Puerto Ricans as Americans. Without diving into the clearly antiquated political status question of the island, what is simply true is that Puerto Ricans are American citizens and should be treated as such. Over the years, Congress has often treated the residents of Puerto Rico as second-class citizens, repeatedly legislating inequitable treatment and funding. These discrepancies should be addressed, and in programs including Medicare and Medicaid, parity should be restored. This is not just about equity. Taking these steps will provide a short-term fiscal stimulus, help stem the flow of healthcare professionals and other productive workers from the island and make an economic recovery far more likely.

Amend U.S. bankruptcy laws. The same laws that apply to U.S. states should apply to Puerto Rico. Congress should amend current U.S. bankruptcy law to allow San Juan to restructure its municipal and public corporate debt. This step would enable a rapid, orderly restructuring of almost all of Puerto Rico’s debt without taking on the general obligation debt — a risky step that could cause a legal, political and financial backlash strong enough to interfere with the implementation of the rest of the reform package.

Focus on sustained growth and prosperity. The U.S. government should begin a serious dialogue with the island’s political, economic and civil society leaders about its long-term economic future. Congress’s ending of the 936 tax credits for U.S. businesses investing on the island a decade ago stripped Puerto Rico of its primary economic development approach without offering an alternative. A new approach is needed, and as Rob Shaprio and I wrote recently, Puerto Rico should look to Ireland as its inspiration for crafting a 21st century economic strategy. Thirty years ago Ireland set out to become a low-cost manufacturing platform for multinationals seeking access to the vast European market. Puerto Rico, with its wonderful climate, extraordinary natural beauty and direct access to the North American (Canada, Mexico, U.S.) market, should adopt a similar approach to foreign multinationals looking to break into this region. With such a farsighted plan, Ireland was able to attract more than 1,000 multinationals over a 20-year period. The U.S. and Puerto Rico should study this model and build some of its premises into its coming fiscal reform plan.

The economic and fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico was many years in the making, and there is plenty of blame to go around in both Washington and San Juan for how we got here. But it is important now for the leaders in both capitals to realize the gravity of the situation and find a coordinated and respectful path forward that gives the millions of American citizens in Puerto Rico the future every American deserves.


"Getting Serious About Helping Puerto Rico," is the latest in a series of thought pieces NDN has written on the crisis. Feel free to review these other pieces, in both Spanish and English:


Monday Musings on 2016

I'm going to start a new weekly look at 2016 and the broader political environment.  Check back Monday mornings for this new feature from NDN - Simon

We are in the midst of an extraordinary political period here in Washington. The remarkable Papal visit, the end of Boehner, a Chinese state visit, Putin’s offensive, the UN today, a possible govt shutdown, and of course Bryce Harper getting strangled in the Nats dugout by a Phillies pitcher. Some observations on this big week:

- The GOP “establishment” that was formed through two Bush Presidencies and Boehner’s Speakership has lost its hold on power, perhaps for good. You see it in the Presidential race now w/the rise of Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Cruz and even to some degree Rubio, and we see it now in the House. A new GOP is emerging now, and it is still too early to tell where it will go, but it is unlikely to be in more constructive direction than the current path. It is also increasingly hard to imagine how Jeb Bush survives in this new dynamic (and he has already moved into the second tier of the GOP field).

- The first Democratic debate is in two weeks, Tuesday October 13th. Given how much the two GOP debates affected their their field (Walker and Bush faded, Carly, Carson and Rubio gained) the Dem CNN debate is shaping up to a very consequential event in the 2016 campaign. Don’t make any plans that night!

- As I argued on this segment from the O’Reilly Factor on Friday night, it is time for the US to adopt a new strategy for Syria. Bringing about a political settlement, and fighting more effectively against ISIS appears to be the next big thing on the President’s plate. We will be watching for hints of a new strategy in the President’s UN speech this morning.

Till next week....

Video: Simon on the O'Reilly Factor discussing Syria, Russia

Last Friday, Simon joined Eric Boiling on the O'Reilly Factor to discuss a path forward for Syria.  He argued the US must now proceed on two tracks: finding a political resolution to the civil war, and stepping up our efforts to defeat ISIS. 


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

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.


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