NDN Blog

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

On Donald Trump's New Immigration Plan

On Sunday night, I gave the following quote to Greg Sargent of the Washington Post re Donald Trump and his immigration plan:

“No leading candidate for President in the last generation of US politics has been so explicit about blaming Mexico, Mexican immigrants and our recent high rates of immigration for America's economic troubles as Trump. It is a dramatic escalation in the argument against the current mainstream consensus on immigration by a powerful champion, and helps Trump both strengthen his anti-establishment credentials and speak to the economic anxiety of everyday people. While I disagree with his argument, it would be unwise to underestimate the sophistication, ambition - and divisiveness - of what Trump is attempting to do.

He is the most significant champion of the restrictionist approach to immigration the country has seen in this era of American politics."

You can read the story which Greg published yesterday morning here.  It is a good piece. We also included a round up below of recent stories that have covered the response to Trump's plan.

Trump, Immigration Round Up:


The 2016 Politics of Income Stagnation and Decline

America has a big incomes problem: The incomes of most Americans largely stopped growing around 2002.   Wide public resentment over that hard fact already dominates the 2016 debate.   On the Democratic side, income issues have been conflated with concerns about inequality, and every plan to cushion the impact on middle-class is financed by taxes on the unworthy wealthy.  From the right, where the uber-wealthy, unworthy or otherwise, fund a flock of would-be presidents, income issues have been mixed up with the party dogma that most problems come from the corruption of liberal government and the pollution of foreigners.  So GOP plans for restoring rising incomes usually boil down to tax cuts, especially for the uber-wealthy, that tacitly blame the people who liberal government traditionally help, and especially undocumented workers.

Both approaches have had only limited success.  Hillary Clinton understands that today’s inequality is the result, not the cause, of broad-based income stagnation and decline.  So she can never outflank Bernie Sanders, who brings to their debate the fervent (if quirky) enthusiasm of a genuine socialist.   The GOP faces a tougher challenge, since much of the party’s base blame their economic problems on a corrupt establishment that includes big business as well as big government, and on the foreign labor that big business and big government need or protect.   On this front, Bush, Rubio, Walker and even Cruz and Paul will never outflank a self-assured¸ self-financed xenophobe like Donald Trump, or not unless they can change the subject. 

These half-baked responses are tailored for the base voters already fully engaged in the partisan wars.  They won’t be enough when the candidates have to address the majority of Americans, who care more about their jobs and their personal lives than about party posturing.   For the Democratic candidate, winning will depend on maximizing the support of women, minorities and young voters, while containing the disaffection of working class white men.  The Republican faces the opposite and tougher challenge – energize the support of working class white men while attracting more support from women, minorities and millennials. 

My recent report from the Brookings Institution laid out the basic facts that will be in many voters’ minds.  Let’s consider households headed by people in their mid-to-late 30’s when each of the last five presidents took office.  Among such households that were headed by women, for example, annual average income gains of 3.9 percent under Reagan and 5.8 percent under Clinton have been followed by much smaller progress, averaging 1.0 percent per-year under Bush and 2.0 percent per-year in Obama’s first term.

More tellingly, consider households headed by people without college degrees, which account for 70 percent of all American households.  For example, among those headed by people in their mid-to-late ’30s when each president took office, and with only a high school diploma, annual income gains averaged 2.6 percent under Reagan and 2.4 percent under Clinton.  Under Bush, however, comparable households experienced income losses averaging 0.3 percent per-year, followed by even greater losses averaging 1.8 percent per-year in Obama’s first term. 

Similarly, households headed by Hispanics in their mid-to-late 30’s when each president took office made annual income progress averaging 2.2 percent under Reagan and 3.1 percent under Clinton, followed since then by barely any gains at all, averaging 0.3 percent per-year under Bush and 0.1 percent per-year in Obama’s first term.

The country’s broad economic disappointment has energized the Tea Party and the Occupy movement, and it now animates the bases of both political parties.  The challenge for those who would be president is to bypass popular anger and partisan simplifications and present a serious agenda that can restore normal income progress. 

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

Simon joins Howard Kurtz's #MediaBuzz to talk Trump and Immigration, 2016

Last Sunday, Simon joined Howard Kutz on Fox News' MediaBuzz. He appeared in two segments of a panel with Amy Holmes, anchor of the Host List on Blaze.com, and Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner.

They talked 2016 politics, including one on Donald Trump impact on the race and the media's response to him. Then the panel discussed the issues with the New York Times' report on Hillary Clinton's emails. You can check out both videos below, and be sure to follow Simon on Twitter for additional 2016 commentary.

Segment on Donald Trump, Immigration, and the Media

 The discussion begins here at about minute 2:00, and Simon's first comments are at about 3:30. 

Discussion on New York Times and Hillary Clinton's emails 


Important note on House GOP/sanctuary cities

As we prep for the House "sanctuary cities" bill important to note that due to House GOP's embrace of "King Amendment" that DHS would not be able to prioritize someone like the SF shooter for deportation. 

This is no small point.  If the House GOP wants to prevent future incidents like the one in SF, it requires that once a local community turns over a violent criminal to DHS, DHS would be able to rapidly deport this criminal.  This of course has been central to the Administration's strategy since 2010.  And of course the House GOP voted to roll back this approach, preventing DHS from prioritizing criminals for deportation in both 2013 and 2014.  In fact, preventing DHS from prioritizing criminals for rapid deportation was the only immigration the House GOP passed in the last Congress. 

On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform

This week we will see, even by Washington standards, a breathtaking level of cynicism from the national Republican Party on the issue of immigration enforcement (the data backing up the arguments in this piece can be found here, here and here).

For a decade now there has been broad consensus that the huge wave of undocumented immigrants who came into the United States from the early 1990s to the later part of 00s needed federal legislation to resolve; that this enormous influx has overwhelmed law enforcement and immigration courts responsible for managing domestic immigration enforcement, degrading the integrity of a system built for a much lower level of unauthorized migration; that local enforcement desperately wanted to spend their limited resources on going after serious criminals and not law-abiding, job holding undocumented immigrants; that enforcing immigration law is a federal not a local responsibility, something reinforced repeatedly in the courts over the past decade; that the passage of comprehensive reform would have created an orderly process allowing law enforcement agencies at all levels to better focus on the imprisonment and deportation of serious criminals.

As we head into a week of significant debate then on immigration enforcement, it is important to remember a few things:

- Since Comprehensive Immigration Reform was first introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain in 2005, Republicans in Congress have blocked its passage on four separate occasions. The most significant instances came in 2006 and 2013/4, when the House Republicans refused to even consider sensible bi-partisan bills passed by the Senate and supported at the time by President Bush and then President Obama. Each of these bills would have helped unclogged an overwhelmed immigration enforcement system in the United States, making incidents like what happened in San Francisco far less likely.

- In 2010, recognizing that the primary method we had for helping unclog the overwhelmed immigration enforcement system – CIR – was not going to happen in the President’s first term, DHS implemented new enforcement priorities known as the “Morton Memos” which prioritized illegal border crossers and undocumented immigrants with serious criminal history for deportation. These reforms brought immediate change to the huge immigration enforcement system in the US, and have resulted in the deportation of more serious criminals and has helped keep illegal entries into the US at historic lows.

- In 2013 and again in 2014, the House Republicans passed legislation designed to overturn these smart reforms, making it impossible for example for DHS to prioritize felons like the suspect in the San Francisco shooting for rapid removal through the immigration enforcement system. And the House doubled down on this approach by threatening to shut all of DHS down earlier this year in a standoff over the implementation of these reforms, including the new Priority Enforcement Program. PEP as it is known was launched last year to forge a higher level of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement to more rapidly remove serious criminals from the country.

Finally, it must be said that the attacks on President Obama’s immigration enforcement record are ridiculous. The President has deported more unauthorized immigrants than any President in American history; after a decade and a half of the US absorbing half a million new undocumented immigrants into the county, the net flow of new immigrants on this President’s watch has dropped to zero (an extraordinary public policy achievement); crime along the entire US side of the border is way down, and the two safest large cities in the US today sit on the border, El Paso and San Diego; reforms initiated by DHS throughout the Obama Presidency, including a new round in late 2014, have made the deportation of violent criminals the highest priority for our immigration system. All of the policies used to achieve these outcomes have been opposed by the House Republicans, and further reform, comprehensive immigration reform, has been repeatedly blocked.

So a proper read of the last decade has been one party, the Democrats, have repeatedly advanced proposals and policy that have strengthened our immigration enforcement system and made the rapid deportation of criminals a priority. The other party, has repeatedly block sensible bi-partisan reforms which would strengthened our immigration enforcement system, and have passed additional legislation preventing DHS from continuing policies which have clearly made our border safer and immigration system far more focused on deporting murderers and not moms. If there is a national Party to blame for the tragic event in San Francisco it is far more the fault of the Republicans than the Democrats.

The national GOP’s effort to politicize the tragic shooting in San Francisco is an act of breathtaking and insulting cynicism. For a decade now they have blocked reforms and legislation designed to make incidents like this one far less likely. The new legislation being discussed to crack down on “Sanctuary Cities” will only make a terribly broken system worse, it will generate enormous political ill-will between local and federal law enforcement making the management of our entire national system far more difficult. These bills are hasty, political and ill-thought out. They will only make a serious national problem far worse and seemed far more designed to change the subject from Donald Trump’s recent attacks on legal, law abiding immigrants to the US than to solve a vexing national problem made far worse by their refusal to advance sensible reform over a decade of intense debate. 

If indeed the national Republican Party is serious about building on the extraordinary gains we’ve made in immigration enforcement in recent years, it can:

1) Pass comprehensive reform. HR15 introduced by the Democrats last year included the GOP’s Homeland Security Committee’s package of immigration enforcement provisions. CIR will help allow law enforcement and immigration courts to better target and more rapidly remove serious threats to public safety

2) Fully fund and support the post Morton era reforms by DHS, including the expansion of PEP. These reforms have already produced real results and improvements in border security and domestic enforcement.

3) Fund the Administration’s Central America proposal to help staunch the flow of unauthorized migrants from nearby El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Last summer the House GOP deeply politicized the border crisis, and is now unwilling to follow through on sensible investments which will make future events like this far less likely while improving regional security and economic growth.

This latest focus on "Sanctuary Cities" is another disappointing episode in the GOP's decade long commitment on immigration reform to put politics over smart, sound solutions to a vexing national challenge. 

Video: On O'Reilly, Simon discusses President Obama's record on terrorism

On Friday, July 17th, Simon appeared on the O'Reilly Factor to discuss President Obama's use of language and the impact of his policies on combating terrorism. Simon makes a strong argument about how to correctly describe who the U.S. is fighting against. Check out the full segment below:


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