Today, NDN is proud to release a timely new study of the economic implications of the “Invest in Transportation Act” sponsored by Senator Rand Paul and Barbara Boxer. The study, “The Revenue And Economic Effects of the Paul Boxer Plan To Encourage the Repatriation of Foreign-Source Earnings by U.S. Multinational Corporations,” is co-authored by Dr. Robert Shapiro of NDN and the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy, and Dr. Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute. Their rigorous study predicts that the passage and implementation of the Paul-Boxer bill would provide substantial revenues for future highway and infrastructure investment, boost GDP growth and potentially create large numbers of new U.S. jobs.
A PDF version of the study can be found at the bottom of this post.
The study analyzes extensive data from the 2004 Homeland Investment Act, the repatriation-related part of the American Job Creation Act of 2004, as a benchmark to project what would happen with the implementation of Paul-Boxer. Among the study’s main findings:
$1.45 trillion would be repatriated from foreign sources to the United States over the 5-year term of Paul-Boxer.
These huge repatriations would generate revenue gains totaling $68.9 billion over five years for the Highway Trust Fund. This addition $68.9 billion in infrastructure investment would generate between $138b and $172b in additional GDP.
The Paul-Boxer provision directing that 25% of repatriated funds must be used for specified purposes, including job creation and capital investment, would direct $350b over five years for those purposes, producing an additional $520b in GDP.
The $1.1 trillion in repatriated funds not subject to those requirements would generate at least $1.1 trillion in additional GDP.
All told, the GDP gains related to the bill would be sufficient to increase GDP by 1.7 percent per-year over the five years.
Based on past experience and the terms of Paul-Boxer, the additional funds used for job-related purposes --- hiring, wage increases, and training costs – could support the creation of millions of new jobs over five years.
The use of the funds repatriated under Paul-Boxer would generate additional revenues of some $63.4 billion over five years.
These findings are drawn directly from IRS data on what actually happened under the 2004 Homeland Investment , and directly challenge the way in the Joint Committee on Taxation has approached the repatriation of foreign source earnings. From the study’s conclusion:
“This study has analyzed the assumptions used by the JCT to produce those forecasts and tested them against the experience with the one instance in which Congress enacted a one-year tax incentive encouraging such repatriations, the Homeland Investment Act of 2004. The IRS data from that experiment are inconsistent with the JCT revenue estimates. The HIA induced U.S. multinationals to repatriate much greater foreign earnings than forecast by the JCT, including earnings eligible for the HIA's temporary deduction and earnings that did not qualify for the special tax incentives. As a result, the revenues gains during the term of the HIA were substantially greater than JCT had assumed. In addition, the IRS data showed that in the five years following the HIA, U.S. firms did not reduce their repatriations relative to the pre-HIA baseline, as JCT had assumed they would, but actually accelerated relative to the baseline. As a result, the revenue losses that JCT had assumed would occur once the HIA expired did not occur…..This analysis, based on all of the available data and other evidence, demonstrate that the JCT forecast of the revenue effects of Paul-Boxer is fundamentally flawed. The proposal would result in the injection of at least $1.45 trillion in additional resources for the U.S. economy, producing substantial revenue gains and economic benefits.”
It is our hope that this more accurate forecast of the economic and revenue effects of repatriated foreign source earnings of US multinationals will make the passage of a bipartisan, long term Highway Trust Fund bill more likely this year.
Last week, we released a study showing how millions of Hispanics gained jobs under Presidents Clinton and Obama, and millions lost their jobs under the last two Presidents Bush. The contrast was stark, and reiterated how much the lives of Hispanics have improved under the last two Democratic Presidents.
But as we’ve seen significant improvements in the economic wellbeing of Hispanics in recent years, the story is even more dramatic when you factor in the impact of Affordable Care Act. According to Gallup, in the first eighteen months of the ACA, the Hispanic uninsured rate has dropped by a quarter, from 38% to 29%. In raw numbers, this means that close to 4 million Hispanics have gained health insurance in the very early days of the ACA. By comparison, this is more people than estimates believe will take advantage of the new DAPA/DACA programs – so it is a very large number indeed.
Taken together, it suggests the last few years have been very good ones for Hispanics in the United States - millions of Hispanics have landed a new job while millions have also gained health insurance.
Of course, Hispanics, and all Americans were told by Republicans that this would not happen – that the ACA itself would fail to provide the coverage promised by the Administration, and it would slow the economy. In fact the exact opposite has happened, something we noted in another study we produced a few months ago called, “The GOP Got It Spectacularly Wrong on the ACA.”
The implications of all this on 2016 could be significant. The message from the likely GOP ticket next year will one of rolling back these gains by adopting an economic approach that led to significant unemployment of Hispanics in each of the last two GOP Administrations, and the direct stripping of at least 4 million Hispanics of health insurance they have recently acquired (and perhaps more by the fall of 2016). As we wrote recently, this is another reason why the “hole is very deep” for the GOP with this critical part of the electorate.
This morning, President Obama announced that the United States and its partners (P5 + 1) reached an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. There will be much punditry and debate. For now, we encourage you to read the President's statement on the deal and this video of his speech.
With Donald Trump putting the issue of our changing demography front and center in the 2016 Presidential election, we’ve put together some of work in this area to help our community make better sense of it all.
"Unintended consequences: Could Trump wake sleeping Latino vote?" Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/19/15. Marinucci writes on the impact of Trump on the GOP primary, coming from a historical perspective of how the GOP lost Latinos in California for a generation, and interviews Simon on the political fallout for the Republicans.
"The GOP's Hispanic Problem - The Hole Is Very Deep,"Simon Rosenberg, 5/5/15. While the GOP may be able to put a promising candidate on the ticket in 2016, the hole they've dug with Hispanic voters is very deep, and will be hard to dig out of next year.
"NDN Offers a Path Forward on Puerto Rico," Simon Rosenberg and Rob Shapiro, Fusion/Univision, 7/8/15. We tried to look beyond the short-term, limited fiscal measures at hand, and towards a longer term strategy for the Island that can help reverse its current, economic “death spiral.”
"A New Day for the United States and Cuba," Simon Rosenberg, 12/17/14. The Obama Administration’s historic policy changes towards Cuba will be good for the US, the Cuban people and for the hemisphere.
"The 50 Year Strategy: A New Progressive Era (No, Really!)" Simon Rosenberg and Peter Leyden, Mother Jones, 11/07. The article lays out a grand strategy for how today's Democrats could build a lasting electoral majority and today's progressives could seize the new media, build off new constituencies like Hispanics and the millennial generation, and solve the urgent governing challenges of our times.
Last summer, Rob Shapiro and I became alarmed at the economic news coming out of Puerto Rico and decided to do something about it. Over that summer and the following fall, we produced a series of papers and essays about the worsening fiscal and economic crisis there. We also briefed folks around town, including key advisors in the Obama Administration.
Due to the growing interest in these issues, we send along one of our essays from last year, an English language op-ed which ran on the Fusion website (it below and here). You can find a Spanish language companion here which ran on Univision’s site, and the full paper from Rob which we reference here. Rob is a recognized international expert in sovereign debt crises and has advised the IMF on Western Hemisphere economies. As people think about what to do next, we tried to look beyond the short-term, limited fiscal measures at hand, and towards a longer term strategy for the Island that can help reverse its current, economic “death spiral.”
Rob has also written on the economic situation in Greece, which you can find here.
"To Restore Prosperity, Puerto Rico Should Look to Ireland"
Submitted by Simon Rosenberg and Robert Shapiro on 9/17/14
How much longer will the people of Puerto Rico have to live with failed economic policies? It must be clear by now that the Commonwealth reliance on U.S. corporate tax preferences for U.S. companies locating operations there ran its course many years ago. Low tax rates matter to foreign investors, but it’s time for Puerto Rico to expand its horizons well beyond the United States. Rather, the Island should consider the example of Ireland, which a generation ago was the poorest member of the European Union (EU) – and became one of its most prosperous members by 2006.
In the late 1980s, Irish policy planners recognized that the fastest way to modernize their economy and turbo-charge productivity and growth was large-scale foreign direct investment (FDI). They also knew that with scores of middle-income countries vying for FDI, Ireland needed a comparative advantage. So they offered up Ireland as a low-wage, low-cost platform for multinationals from everywhere but Europe to enter the huge EU market. But they also had to make Ireland the most attractive place in the region for foreign investment. So in addition to the tax breaks that countries offered, the Irish government ramped up its public investments in modern infrastructure, they created 10 "enterprise zones" for foreign investors and equipped each zone with a new institution for advanced training and education, and they rolled out an array of special services and subsidies for foreign multinationals. The program even included helping foreign companies find the best locations and workers to meet their needs and providing relief from selected regulations and taxes for individual companies.
From 1987 to 2006, more than 1,000 multinational companies established new facilities in Ireland, including Microsoft, Dell, and Citicorp. The country’s real GDP grew at an average annual rate of 6.9 percent over that period, unemployment fell from 17 percent to 4 percent, the brain-drain of highly-educated young Irish was reversed, and the government’s debt as a share of GDP declined from 112 percent to 33 percent.
Like Ireland and the E.U., Puerto Rico and the mainland United States share a common currency, and virtually everything made in the Commonwealth enters U.S. markets without cumbersome customs and other import regulation. In short, Puerto Rico has a real opportunity to attract large-scale FDI from around the world by offering itself as a low-wage, low-cost platform for multinationals from Latin American, Asia and Europe to sell into the huge American market.
To succeed as Ireland did, Puerto Rico will have to undertake a comparable commitment to undertake difficult spending and tax reform, including targeted increases in public investments in education and infrastructure while still bringing down budget deficits. The Commonwealth government also must repair its tattered image with large foreign investors. To restore their confidence, Puerto Rico must step back from a possible debt default and from proposed changes in its bankruptcy laws to word off technical defaults by its public utilities. In this context, Puerto Rico also can ill-afford widely-publicized controversies that cast doubt on the Government’s commitment to keeps its word, such as current efforts by the Commonwealth Treasurer to negate its legal agreement to provide tax credits for tax over-payments to one of the Island’s major financial institutions, the Doral Financial Corporation.
The alternative is that the future for Puerto Ricans will look much like their present and recent past. After nearly a decade of stagnation and recession, the economy is 13 percent smaller than it was in 2004 – compared to Puerto Rico’s 13 Caribbean neighbors, which have averaged 2 percent annual GDP growth over the same period. That’s unsurprising. Business investment has grown in Puerto Rico at half the rate as elsewhere in the Caribbean. Capital flight has accelerated: foreign financial flows have been negative since 2006; and more recently, FDI flows turned negative as well. Unemployment is double the rate of the U.S. and nearly percent among the young, and the labor participation rate is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, public debt has soared from 66 percent of GNP to 96 percent, and both Moody’s and Standard & Poors rate the Commonwealth’s bonds as junk.
Here’s what ought to be the bottom line: While the per capita income of the Irish people increased from 60 percent of the EU average in 1987 to 136 percent of the average in 2003, per capita income in Puerto Rico today is seven percent less than it was in 2006. The choice – a hard road to long-term prosperity or the easy road to further decline – is Puerto Rico’s.
Having just finished a study looking at the economic performance of the last two Democratic and Republican Presidencies, we decided to take a similar look at how a particular group we have long studied, Hispanics in the United States, fared over the past generation.
As in the broader population, for Hispanics things have gotten far better under recent Democrats and far worse under recent Republicans. Using a very simple economic measure, the unemployment rate among Hispanics, the contrast is very clear:
H.W. Bush: Jan 1989 (8.6%), Jan 1993 (11.3%)
Clinton: Jan 1993 (11.3%), Jan 2001 (5.8%)
Bush: Jan 2001 (5.8%) Jan 2009 (10.1%)
Obama: Jan 2009 (10.1%) June 2015 (6.6%)
In both Bush Presidencies, the net effect of their policies was that millions of Hispanics lost their jobs. In both the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, millions of Hispanics gained jobs.
Admittedly, this is a simple analysis and we will be returning to this again in the coming months. We also include some graphs we think will be helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the data. You can find a PDF version of this memo below as well.
Source for Data is Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Unemployment during the Great Recession and Recovery
As America approaches the 239th celebration of its independence, the events that began with the horrific shooting of innocent churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th and culminated in an eloquent eulogy to their grace, and God’s, ten days later by President Obama, seemed to signal a shift in the nation’s direction to a more tolerant, inclusive and confident nation. Those three traits are themselves a reflection of the attitudes and beliefs of the increasingly omnipresent Millennial generation. They form the basis for a new civic ethos that will come to characterize American government in the rest of this decade during which all 95 million members of the generation will enter adulthood. The cohort’s demographic dominance is an inexorable force increasing the chances that the startling changes the country witnessed in the span of less than two weeks are just a foretaste of what America will be like for decades to come.
The first unexpected event that suggested something different was happening occurred when the African-American families of those slain by a white man filled with hate forgave him based on their deep religious beliefs. In a courtroom in Charleston the voice of Vaclav Havel, the charismatic leader of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, could be heard through the anguished testimonies of the victim’s families. “Those who have for many years engaged in a violent and bloody vengefulness against their opponents are now afraid of us. They should rest easy. We are not like them,” Havel said at the moment of his triumph over Communism. Similarly, the families foreswore revenge on those who had oppressed their race for generations in order to lay the foundation for a national reconciliation far beyond the confines of the Deep South. The families’ reactions were so unlike the polarizing behavior that has come to characterize American politics that the country stopped and took notice.
The family’s courage and grace was followed by an equally unexpected statement from the Republican Indian-American, female Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. Whereas her more timid colleagues, including the state’s African-American Republican U.S. Senator, Tim Scott , suggested it might be time to talk through the issue of removing the most hated symbol of state’s rights and segregation, the Confederate battle flag, from its honored place on the State Capitol grounds after the victims had been buried, the Governor instead urged the state’s legislature to immediately consider its removal to begin a badly needed process of healing and reconciliation.
But, remarkable as Governor Haley’s words were, nothing could better symbolize the generational import of remarks by two white Southerners of impeccable “Old South” lineage. In response to the Governor’s comments Republican State Senator Paul Thurmond, explained why he would vote to remove the flag. “Our ancestors were literally fighting to keep human beings as slaves, and to continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of this heritage.” This from the son of Strom Thurmond, the former South Carolina governor and U. S. Senator, a segregationist candidate for president in 1948 and leader in efforts to defy the nation’s civil rights laws in the 1960’s, including raising the confederate flag in state capitols as a symbol of that defiance.
Equally remarkable was the statement of Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV, a descendant of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and a scion of an old aristocratic Virginia family. A 22 year old Millennial, Lee is a pastor in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group that has broken with the conservative Southern Baptist Convention on issues such as women in the pulpit. When asked what he would say if he had an opportunity to speak with the accused murderer, Reverend Lee replied that he would tell him, “You crucified Jesus yet again on the cross of white supremacy.”
But the debate over the battle flag of the Confederacy and its place in the Millennial Era was just one of a series of transformative events that swept the country in what many observers called the most historic week in Obama’s presidency. On the following Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, surprised liberals and conservatives alike by upholding the doctrine of disparate impact as a way to measure violations of the nation’s Fair Housing Act. So sure were liberals that the Court would instead begin to require proof of an overt intention to discriminate that they had quietly pushed for settling two earlier cases, expecting the Court to knock out the legal underpinnings for much of the jurisprudence surrounding the country’s anti-discrimination laws. Instead the Court made it clear that statistics and other evidence can be used to show decisions and practices have discriminatory effects without proving they are the result of direct discriminatory intentions.
As we documented in our book, Millennial Momentum, the Supreme Court, as the only branch of the federal government whose members enjoy lifetime employment, is usually behind the times initially when it comes to shifts in public opinion as the country moves from one era to another. Most famously, the “nine old men”, in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words, struck down much of the initial New Deal legislation as being unconstitutional in the reach and scope that those laws gave the federal government to interfere in the operation of the nation’s economy. But in FDR’s second term, with clear evidence from the President’s landslide victory in 1936 of where popular opinion stood on these issues, the Court had a change of heart and found no reason to doubt the constitutionality of Social Security or the Wagner Act’s rules for collective bargaining, or for that matter any of the myriad New Deal laws that came to its attention in later years. So too, in the Fair Housing decision, a 5-4 majority of the court decided that the country was best served after all by a vigorous prosecution of those actions leading to the social inequalities that so trouble members of the Millennial Generation.
That decision was merely a prelude to the 5-4 majority decision making same sex marriage the law of the land that was announced on Friday of the same remarkable week. This time it was clear to everyone that the Court was “following the election returns” as Mr. Dooley, Finley Peter Dunne’s wise and witty Irish bartender so famously pointed out more than a century ago. Thanks to the 73 percent of Millennials who support for gay marriage, the country’s opinion on this controversial topic had shifted at lightning speed from hostility to endorsement during the decade when a majority of the generation became eligible to vote. Even 59% of Millennial Republicans favor the legalization of gay marriage. Using the positive values of love and marriage rather than scolding opponents for their bigotry, allowed the “win-win” Millennial way of making decisions to transform public opinion. In the words of conservative columnist George Will, “whether someone was gay or not became as irrelevant as whether they were right or left handed.” All that remained was for the Supreme Court to find a way to embed that new consensus in constitutional principles, which Justice Kennedy did over the loud and even rude objections of his Boomer conservative colleagues.
A day before this decision was announced, the Court also put its final imprimatur on the validity of the Affordable Care Act, a law that is not only President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, but an excellent example of the Millennial civic ethos that will dominate public policy in the future. As complex as the Act’s provisions may be, when taken as a whole, as the Justices did in this particular decision, it does set up a new structure for how government can use its power to shape markets. ObamaCare’s strategy was completely different than the New Deal approach to federal regulation. It did not, despite the hysterical posturing of its opponents, impose the heavy hand of bureaucracy on health care markets, as it might have done by creating a “public option” for the direct provision of health care as many liberals wanted it to do. In this new civic ethos, the roles of the federal government and state governments are separately defined and the responsibilities for behaving properly are placed squarely on the individual. The Act sets the rules for the nation’s health care markets, but doesn’t dictate who is allowed to play in the game. It uses the power of the federal government to make the game fairer by offering subsidies to those least able to pay for health insurance. But it also uses the federal government’s taxing authority to impose penalties on anyone who seeks to avoid their responsibility to buy health insurance and not play at all. States were seen as the best place for individuals to learn more about their options and to provide solutions tailored to local needs. Some states stepped up to do just that. In others, Republican governors raised ideological objections. This ironically, forced their citizens to interact directly with the federal government despite their loud calls for defending states’ rights. All these new roles and responsibilities proved to be confusing at times to the drafters of the detailed legislations, but the Court was correct in deciding by a decisive 6-3 majority that what the Congress intended, a more inclusive and equitable health insurance market, should not be put asunder by judicial intervention.
But all of the signs of an emerging consensus didn’t just come from a meeting of the judicial and executive minds. In the middle of the eventful week that was, Republicans in Congress decided to hand their arch political enemy, President Obama, a victory on trade authority that only one week before had been sabotaged by leaders of the President’s own party. The trade negotiating authority he was granted by Congress is the linchpin in Obama’s strategy to confront America’s largest economic and military rival, China, through economic and diplomatic moves, rather than war.
As evidenced by the generation’s attitudes toward free trade, this approach is classically Millennial. A June, 2015 Pew survey found that 69 percent of Millennials say that free trade agreements are “a good thing for the United States,” while 56% believe that such treaties have helped them personally. Unlike those who represent economic structures and constituencies of America’s past, Millennials have always lived in a time of global competitiveness and are optimistic that they can win any such contest. They lead America in supporting the continued expansion of global trade using the mechanisms of multi-lateral treaties and due process, while providing aid to those who might be hurt by such competition. Whether President Obama, Senator Mitch McConnell, and Speaker John Boehner were listening to the voices of their Millennial constituencies when they cut their deal or not, the political fallout from having done so will be much less because of the confidence and optimism Millennials bring to their economic endeavors.
All of these momentous events were only the prelude to the remarkable conclusion to the country’s giant step into the Millennial Era. When President Obama addressed those assembled to mourn the shooting, ten days earlier, of Reverend Clementa Pinckney in Charleston’s historic Mother Emanuel AME Church before a racially-mixed congregation that reflected the diversity and tolerance of the Millennial generation, the President turned to his Christian faith and its notion of grace to explain the actions of the victim’s families in forgiving the person who had harmed them, culminating in an act that will be memorialized in every historical account of his presidency. He began singing “Amazing Grace,” all alone and in acapella style, until the congregation and the organist joined in, inviting everyone in the country to do so as well.
He also spoke of the way forward to a better America. He dismissed the typical Boomer generation call for additional conversations about race and instead pushed for immediate action to address some of the wrongs society has visited upon its most vulnerable and discriminated against minorities. “We talk a lot about race,” he said “There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk.” Mindful, as he said in a podcast interview earlier in the week, that real racial progress has been made in America on racial issues, he outlined additional actions that could be taken to improve race relations in both the political and economic spheres. He did not recommend new federal legislation. Instead his suggestions reflected the Millennial generation’s belief in thinking globally, but acting locally and individually to solve the big problems confronting the nation. He suggested that employers call back “Jamal and not just Johnny” for job interviews, that local government work to improve community/police relations, and that states stop trying to restrict voting rights.
History is best seen in a rear view mirror. The passage of time helps clarify which events and decisions turn out to have lasting impact and which do not. Many observers were sure that the 9/11 terrorist attacks would set America on a new course of unity and strength or that the Great Recession would lead to a more populist approach to economic policy. But as important as those events have been in shaping the beliefs of the Millennial Generation, neither led to any new national consensus on how to address the nation’s challenges. Instead, even after 9/11 and the Great Recession, the country’s politics remained on a continuing course of retribution and resistance, reflecting the deep ideological divisions of America’s previously largest generation, Baby Boomers. Consequently, it can’t be said with certainty that the sudden alignment of the nation’s Supreme Court with the priorities of its chief executive and the willingness of previously hostile political forces to join in an atmosphere of comity and reconciliation will turn out to be as propitious as it appears at the moment. But there are plenty of signs to suggest that America became a more tolerant, inclusive, confident, and pragmatic country in this amazingly short period of time.
We can only hope, as the President suggested in his eulogy to Reverend Pinckney , that not only will God continue to shed his grace on America, but that the final lines of the revered patriotic hymn, , “America the Beautiful,” will also become true, thanks in large part to the continued acceptance of the values of the Millennial Generation. If America follows the generation’s lead, it will be more completely crowned “with brotherhood from sea to shining sea,” then it has ever been before.
Happy Fourth of July to all Americans and especially the members of America’s next great generation, Millennials.
It is always a bit dangerous to extrapolate too much from a single poll, but findings in the new CNN/ORC poll if true and lasting are important for understanding the emerging 2016 landscape. The poll published earlier this week finds the approval of the President’s handling of the economy is now 52%, higher than his overall approval rating which stands at 50%. As CNN reports, this is the President’s highest rating on the economy in six years and may be the first time his approval rating on economic matters has been higher than his own personal approval rating. New consumer confidence data out yesterday shows a similar potentially structural jump in the public’s understanding of where the US economy is today (and it should be noted that these gains have come at the same time TPA was debated and passed once again challenging the conventional wisdom that advancing these trade agreements is bad politics).
Why is this so important? It speaks to where the GOP can go in 2016. Many commentators this past weekend dwelled on the anachronistic social agenda of the modern GOP and how it is likely to be a major drag for their party in 2016. This leaves the GOP candidate nominee more opportunity perhaps on the economy and security matters some suggested. But if Obama and Democrats are beginning to get credit now for turning the economy around, why would one elect a Republican in 2016? Particularly since this will have been the second consecutive Democratic Administration who had to turn things around from a GOP President whose policies brought us recessions and higher deficits? And the truth is the economy is far better now due to President Obama – tens of millions more are employed, tens of millions have gained health insurance, the annual deficit is a third of what it was in Bush’s last budget, the stock market is at historical highs, and there is a growing body of evidence showing that wages have begun to go up for the first time in fifteen years. Under this President and his policies the country is far better off, and the public is beginning to notice. And the projections for the next eighteen months suggest things are far more likely to get better than worse for the US economy.
Given all this it is just hard to see a way for the GOP to win the economic debate in 2016, particularly given that on fiscal matters – their supposed strong suit – the last two GOP Presidents have brought higher deficits while the last two Democratic Presidents have brought lower ones. Winning the economic argument in 2016 may be just as challenging for the GOP as winning on social issues. Democrats will be able to make a clear and convincing case that over the past generation it is just simply true that under Democratic Presidents the lives of everyday people have gotten better and under Republican Presidents they have gotten worse.
Thus, it is likely that the GOP is going to have count on winning the argument about who is best about keeping us safe as the cornerstone of their 2016 approach, an approach that worked well for them in 2014. Certainly there could be an opening for the GOP here. But my own view is that like the economy there is a lag in understanding of how much the President has achieved in foreign policy and security matters. He has pursued broad, strategic engagement in Europe and Asia, highlighted by his ambitious trade agreements in both regions. With his bold Cuba initiative, and other policies, relations with Latin America are strong and solid, and improving as was evidenced by the very warm event with President Rousseff of Brazil yesterday. The President has taken unprecedented steps to tackle global climate change, and his “all of the above” energy strategy has helped make the US far more energy and geopolitically independent. The US-Mexico border is far more secure than it was in the Bush era, and net undocumented migration into the US has gone from hundreds of thousands a year to zero. This President is helping rediscover the very best in the American foreign policy tradition, using all the tools in his tool box – economic sanctions, trade negotiations, traditional diplomacy and military might – to advance American interests abroad and make the world safer and more secure. Recent polling suggests the public likes this approach, and appreciates this President’s efforts to shape the course of history through more than just risky military conflict.
But what about the Middle East and terror? While President Obama may join the long line of American Presidents who struggled to improve things in the most challenging region of the world, the judgment of his strategic approach here still needs more time to settle on the ground and with the public. Much could change for the better, or the worse, in the next eighteen months. We don’t know how the Iran deal will turn out but at his point in his Presidency it would be ridiculous to dismiss these efforts as naive or ill thought through. But however the public will judge him next year it is hard to see how the simplistic belligerence of the modern GOP will either make the current global situation better, or their party popular with the American public skeptical of yet another American war in the Middle East. The last GOP President brought a series of foreign policy disasters for the US perhaps unparalleled in our history. And that legacy is likely to be as a big a drag in 2016 as any other the GOP faces no matter the record of President Obama next year. So even this issue set is going to be hard for the GOP to prevail on next year.
Finally, Hillary Clinton also seems prepared to open a new front which could end up being very advantageous to the Democrats in 2016 – political and governmental reform. As I have written elsewhere, this is an area of incredible opportunity for the center-left. What has become true in recent years is that there is one party which wants everyone to vote and to ease participation in our democracy, and one party which doesn’t. If fully developed this issue could become a powerful and meaningful new bludgeon for the Democrats in 2016, one making an already promising political landscape even more so.
So yes, it is early. And yes this is one poll. And yes much will change. But as we look ahead to 2016 a winning issue/agenda/argument path for the GOP is hard to see.
In a long form magazine piece from a few years ago, I offered my own explanation for why the GOP is struggling so much with modernity, and been so unsuccessful in looking forward rather than back.
Update: Gallup reports a significant swing in Party ID towards the Democrats this quarter, providing further evidence of structural changes emerging in the 2016 landscape.
In light of the major economic events occuring over the weekend in Greece and Puerto Rico, we compiled our recent works on these topics for use in the coming days.
Greece – Rob Shapiro has assessed the financial circumstances in Greece in a recent report, "How Greece Could Short-Circuit the U.S. Expansion." He says in part: "This crisis has unfolded in fits and starts for a long time, and the EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) have spent hundreds of billions of Euros trying to support those bond markets and strengthen the banking system. No one knows if it will be enough to stave off the worst-case scenario. But if a genuine crisis unfolds over the next month or so, everyone does know that European voters will never accept another bank bailout. And if Europe’s economy falls into a tailspin, the ECB will have little room to support and stabilize it by cutting interest rates."
Puetro Rico – Last fall, NDN was among the first organizations to raise the alarm bell about Puerto Rico, publishing a series of reports/essays and participating in meetings inside the Administration and on the Hill. We released a paper tackling Puerto Ricos' debt crisis: "To Reclaim Prosperity, Puetro Rico Should Adapt Ireland's Model for Modernization." Afterwards, Simon and Rob published additional analysis, writing an op-ed in Fusion/Univision (in both English and Spanish) and a follow-up op-ed in Roll Call.
"NDN is pleased that the U.S. Senate voted to advance trade promotion authority today. We expect that TPA will pass the full Senate later this week and head to the President's desk for signing soon after.
We hope that this new momentum will allow USTR Froman to bring the TPP round to a rapid close in the coming weeks.
Once again, we applaud the more than 40 Democrats in the House and Senate who voted to pass TPA in the last few weeks."
- Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN
For more on NDN's work on the President's trade agenda, visit this backgrounder.