NDN Blog

My 2014 Election Predictions in the Hill

My predictions for the 2014 Hill election contest are up on its site.

As a proud winner in both 2012 and 2008, I take this one seriously.

Spoiler -- I have the Dems keeping the Senate. But read on to learn more. 

Invite: Wed, Nov 12th - Simon Joins ASP for Discussion of US-EU Relations

On November 12th, Simon will join the American Security Project for a conversation entitled: "The U.S. - EU Strategic Partnership: Trade, Energy, and Security." Things kick off with lunch at noon, and the discussion follows shortly afterwards at 12:30.

The event will open with a keynote address by Julieta Valls Noyes, the Deputy Assistant Security in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Afterwards, Simon joins a panel to discuss issues of international trade, energy security, and foreign conflicts. The panel discussion includes Simon, Paul Adamson, and additional unannounced guests. 

For more information, including participant biographies and the rsvp link, visit ASP's event page. The American Security Project is located at 1100 New York Ave, 7th Floor West Tower, Washington, DC, 2005. 

Does Our Government Still Have the Consent of the Governed?

Simon and I worked on this piece together. For the full report, including charts and graphs, download the full pdf version at the bottom.

As we enter the home stretch of the 2014 election and survey the races across the country, we keep returning to the same question - whether or not our much maligned American political system is still capable for providing the most foundational of all electoral outcomes in a democracy, the “consent of the governed.”

The basic issue is that for far too many Americans their vote for Federal office simply doesn't matter. In recent years, there has been a significant decline in the number of competitive states at the Presidential level, and in competitive Senate and House races. Using one measure, in 2012 only 17% of registered voters cast a meaningful vote for President, 1.7% for the Senate and 3.7% for the House (meaningful being a vote which could in theory alter the outcome of the election). Not only does this lack of competitive states and races contribute to lower voter turnout (see graph below), but it is becoming routine for 65-85% of the country to not really be part of any Federal election every two years – the ads, the voter contact, the ubiquitous candidates – giving them far less investment in the issues at hand, the democratic process, and we fear ultimately the outcomes of these elections themselves.

Consider that in 3 of our 4 largest states, CA, NY and TX, equaling about 22% of all voters in the country, there has not been a competitive race for President, Governor or Senate since the 1980s. This means young adults in their mid 20s who have grown up and still live in these states have never experienced a close statewide election contest with all that comes with it in their entire lifetimes. Below you will find a series of charts and graphs offering a bit more data on the trends we refer to here.

We will readily acknowledge that our concern here about consent is in an early beta form of analysis, but we wanted to put it out there for broader discussion. One recent poll taken earlier this year found that only 19% of the public believes that Washington has “the consent of the governed.” And it makes sense. If you are one of those whose Presidential vote has not mattered for decades, and perhaps only once every ten years or so for the Senate or House, even if you are voting regularly are you truly granting your consent in the way the Founding Fathers conceived it? Or is our current system in fact achieving the exact opposite – a reinforcement of distance and not proximity, of a system no longer connected to the concerns of everyday people as just far too many people are just sitting on the sidelines watching others far away experience real campaigns with real debates and where one’s vote really matters?

Given how large and diverse our democracy is, ensuring that our process provides true legitimacy and consent is particularly important. But our system now has developed an enormous bias against ease of voting; allows a candidate with fewer votes to become President; provides wealthy Americans a far greater voice in the electoral process; and gives power to political parties in Congress based on a very small fraction of the population’s vote preference. There is little wonder why average Americans would feel disconnected from politics and the outcomes of Federal elections in DC given all this.

How has this come about and what can we do about it? Both of those subjects will have to wait for a longer examination in another day. But the system is ripe for major reform, and ideas like same day registration, universal vote-by-mail, and eliminating the Electoral College should be given far more consideration. In light of all this, efforts to further restrict participation in a system without enough of it today seems particularly malevolent and pernicious.

We end our pre-election musings with this passage from the Declaration of Independence which makes clear just how important this perception of consent is to our democracy and way of life:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The clear implication - it is only governments elected with the consent of the government that are capable of being just.

Send us your thoughts to srosenberg@ndn.org and ccantor@ndn.org. 

Graphs -- For Additional Charts and Data -- see Full Report

Op-Ed: "Puerto Rico at a Crossroads"

This article, co-written with Dr. Robert Shapiro, originally appeared in Roll Call on October 27th, 2014. In addition, they also published an earlier op-ed on Puerto Rico's economic circumstances, entitled "To Restore Prosperity, Puerto Rico Should Look to Ireland." 


America’s sunniest place, Puerto Rico, faces dark days, and the likelihood is rising that Washington will be asked to step in. While the rest of the United States recovers economically, the commonwealth’s economy remains stuck in a decade-long recession. Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate is double that of the mainland U.S., despite one of world’s lowest labor participation rates. And with such prospects, nearly 10,000 Puerto Ricans every month leave the commonwealth for the mainland.

It’s actually even worse. For years, fixed business investment in Puerto Rico has grown at half the average rate of the 13 Caribbean nations, and recently foreign investors have been cashing out their Puerto Rican financial assets and closing their Puerto Rican operations. And the commonwealth’s public debt is rising at such an unsustainable rate that Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have downgraded it to junk status.
The first rule for such dire times is that the government should do whatever it can to rebuild confidence and draw in new investment. Yet, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla seems intent on steering in a different direction. First, he rattled bondholders by forcing through new legislation of doubtful constitutionality that allowed Prepa, the island utility, to restructure its debt. And after losing a court case to one of the island’s major banks, the governor is threatening to defy the judgment.

The case involves Doral Financial Corporation, which years ago overstated its earnings and consequently its taxes. After years of negotiations, the Commonwealth Treasury had agreed to provide Doral with $230 million in tax refunds over five years, until Padilla’s treasurer unilaterally the agreement. And when Doral won the case in court a few weeks ago, the governor decried the result as “immoral” and said it would be against the public good to abide by the decision.

Not only did the commonwealth’s government unilaterally renounce its contractual obligations to Doral and now threaten to defy the courts; officials also have warned Doral’s executives that unpleasant investigations will follow, and a whispering campaign against the bank and its top management is in full swing. And if Puerto Rico’s rejection of the court’s ruling persists, the consequences for Doral, a major island employer and mortgage lender, will be dire. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has said unless Doral can book the $230 million refund, it will find itself with inadequate reserves and possibly forced to close.

In the next few weeks, Padilla will ask Wall Street to float almost $2.5 billion in new bonds. Even before the Doral case was decided, Moody’s had ranked Puerto Rico as the second most likely place in the world to default on its debts — right after Argentina, which has since defaulted on its debts. In addition, the Government Development Bank is also said to be virtually broke. Now, the governor must ask himself why anyone would lend Puerto Rico that kind of money when its government renounces its contracts and questions the rule of law.

The new offering could fail, or it could “succeed” with a very high coupon rate. In either case, Washington intervention appears to be rising. Indeed, Padilla may already have a federal bailout in mind. True, it’s difficult to imagine Congress or the White House going along. But if a disastrous default is the other alternative, and a bailout of some kind happens, it will cost Puerto Rico dearly. Congress has the authority to take control of the island’s fiscal affairs — and that will be the price for any federal guarantee or bailout. Like the financial controls used to address the District of Columbia’s fiscal crisis in the late 1990s, Padilla would find Congress managing Puerto Rico’s payments to creditors, pension obligations and overall budget.

The commonwealth has time to avoid this drastic scenario, if the governor is prepared to reverse course and do what it takes. He could start by signaling to American, Puerto Rican and foreign investors alike that Puerto Rico’s government keeps its word and respects the law. He could accomplish much of that by honoring his Treasury’s agreement with Doral and respecting the court’s recent judgment in that case. Once that is behind them, Padilla and his advisers should consider Ireland’s model of economic development. The goal is to make Puerto Rico the preferred jumping-off point for foreign multinationals to enter the U.S. market. The basic method is simplify taxes, reform regulations and expand public investments in ways that attract large foreign direct investments from Latin America, Asia and Europe.

The first step, however, is to govern responsibly.

Robert Shapiro, chairman of the Washington advisory firm Sonecon and former under secretary of commerce (1997-2001), has been an adviser to Doral. Simon Rosenberg is the founder and president of NDN, a Washington think tank.

In addition, Simon Rosenberg and Dr. Shapiro also published an earlier op-ed on Puerto Rico's economic circumstances, entitled "To Restore Prosperity, Puerto Rico Should Look to Ireland." 

Fighting to Keep the Internet Open and Free

This piece, co-written with Mobile Future's Jonathan Spalter, originally appeared in the Hill on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014.

This week, as the world’s Internet diplomats descend on Busan, South Korea for the important global gathering of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU), they would do well to do a quick status update on the health and well-being of the Internet and the future of global communications.  

For the truth is that this remarkable thing we call the Internet may be much more fragile than it appears. 
Cyber-criminals, rogue states and adversaries are making the Internet far less safe for consumers through the persistent and escalating theft of personal data.  
Autocratic governments are making a major effort to bring the day-to-day governance of the Internet under their control. 
Industrial espionage has dramatically escalated across the world, with some estimates now suggesting that global corporations are losing hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property every year.
Spectrum, the electromagnetic waves which form the invisible infrastructure for the mobile Internet, increasingly is in short global supply as demand continues to accelerate through the developed and developing world.
Meanwhile, protectionist trade policies are threatening to create not a single global Internet, but a series of regional intranets that replicate the kind of customs regimes we see on physical borders today.  
To counter these threats to the Internet, it will be critical at this meeting for America’s delegation to be crystal clear about what concrete steps need to be taken to ensure that the Internet can remain resilient, accessible, free and secure, now and for future generations.  
In that regard, we offer the following agenda for the U.S. government both in Busan and going forward: 
Defend the current multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance – The American delegation should re-affirm our nation’s principled commitment to the current multi-stakeholder approach which limits the ability of authoritarian governments to exert undue influence. It also must reiterate that the proposed transition of certain Internet domain name functions, known as IANA, from the U.S. government to the global multistakeholder community through a process convened by ICANN (the organization responsible for technical coordination of  the domain name system ) must satisfy all applicable conditions before it comes into effect, and be clearly understood to be undertaken as a means to reinforce the integrity and viability of the current system.
Finish the ambitious Pacific and Atlantic trade agreements – It is important for the Administration to complete the two current regional trade agreements which will begin to put a more solid global legal framework underneath the digital economy. Most of the current trade treaties were completed prior to the arrival of the Internet, and a whole new generation of trade agreements will need to be negotiated to extend the current liberal system to a new era of digital commerce. These binding treaties will be essential to stem the exploding level of industrial espionage and corporate cyber theft which itself has become one of the biggest threats to global commerce.   
Maintain a “light touch” when it comes to regulation– For 20 years, the U.S. government has argued that the Internet must not be regulated at home or abroad as a public utility-style telecom service. This legal distinction has been essential to the Internet’s explosive growth, and the innovation we’ve seen.   If the FCC were to declare, as some have requested, that wireline and wireless broadband and other services be reclassified as a Title II telecommunications service, it would create an opening for the Internet to become globally regulated by the ITU, a body that will likely be chaired by a Chinese government official in the coming years. It may also provide “cover” for certain authoritarian regimes to point to the more heavy-handed new Internet regulation in the United States as justification for their own greater control of the Internet in their societies. 
Encourage governments to keep taxes on Internet devices and services low – In far too many countries, including here in the United States, mobile devices, mobile service, computers and other devices and services – which make up the Internet as we know it today – are taxed at levels which prevent widespread consumer access, and at rates which are far greater than other common goods and services. The U.S. government should continue to work with foreign governments to build internal regulatory and fiscal frameworks which encourage wide spread adoption and the democratization of information services. And we must lead by example by lowering mobile tax rates here at home.   
Ramp-up White House policy leadership – Both Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry put Internet freedom high on the list of key American national security priorities. That was a wise first step. But now, given the enormous and increasing global economic, cultural, and security stakes involved in maintaining a flourishing and secure Internet, it is time for the White House itself to exert more hands-on leadership in, and coordination of, overall Internet policy management across government.
For Americans and many people around the world the Internet represents freedom, opportunity, and knowledge – a world of possibility and openness. But to many autocratic governments and rogue actors on the global stage, the very openness of the Internet is a threat to their far more oppressive understanding of what civil society means. In recent years, these and other forces are working to weaken the Internet, and challenge its primacy in the lives of billions of people around the world. To ensure that the Internet continues to evolve and strengthen, the United States government will need to become far more assertive on the international stage in shaping the global consensus for how we can ensure our grand kids won’t be talking about this thing called the Internet the way we talk about the League of Nations today. A strong and aggressive performance in South Korea over the next few weeks by the United States delegation will be an important first step in this vital effort.  
Rosenberg is president of the think tank NDN.  Spalter, chair of Mobile Future, was a senior national security official in the Clinton administration.

Other Pieces on the Need for Liberal Values to Prevail in a New Century:

The Liberal Order Needs An Upgrade, September 23rd, 2014, U.S. News. Like an old building needing an upgrade, the liberal international order, now almost 70 years old, needs to go through a period of renewal and reform.  

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade, January 21st, 2014, Huffington Post.  The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

Forward, or Backward? October 25th, 2012, Letras Libres.  The English language version of my major essay about the 2012 elections which originally appeared in the October issue of the Mexico City based Spanish language journal, Letras Libres.

Video: The Age of Possibility,  April 29th, 2011, Tisch College, Tufts University. Simon Rosenberg explores the notion that we are entering an era of unprecedented opportunity and possibility, and that more is possible today for the people of the world than ever before.

Crafting an American Response to the Rise of the Rest, January 21, 2010, Salon.com. In this essay written for Salon, Simon lays out three strategies for the Obama Administration to craft a comprehensive response to the new politics of the 21st Century.

Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century, July 24, 2009, Demos.  An essay which ran as part of a leading British think tank's series of essays on the future of center-left politics.

Obama: No Realist He, June 16, 2009, Huffington Post. Simon offers some thoughts about Obama's global brand in the early days of the Iranian uprising. The essay drew many comments in its more than 24 hours on the front page of Huffington Post.

Despite Global Shockwaves, U.S. Economy Continues Strong ’14 Recovery

Two years ago, the idea of having an unemployment rate of 5.9% seemed impossible. But as the U.S. enters the final quarter of the calendar year, the economy continues to show impressive job growth and underlying strength. NDN’s Dr. Shapiro covered last month’s job report in-depth, but there has been additional good news in the last few weeks.

Firstly, jobless claims have fallen to the lowest level since 2000 as only a seasonal adjusted 264,000 people applied for initial unemployment benefits. The amount of job openings in the U.S. economy is also at a 14 year high—with 4.84 million availabilities according to the Department of Labor. And in the past year, the U.S. has added over 2.64 million jobs over the past 12 months—and we’ve seen many months in 2014 with over 200,000 jobs added. Not all aspects of the economy are growing so quickly; in particular wage growth has been slow throughout most of the economic recovery. ADP and the Bureau of Labor Statistics disagree on exactly how much wages have grown (4.5% versus a more sluggish 2%). The difference is important: it makes the difference between a more sluggish or robust recovery for the average American.

With the Holiday Season just around the corner, experts will keep an eye on these economic indicators and others. If growth continues at a similar rate, the United States would finish 2014 having had its best economic growth of the new millennium. Not bad for a country that just six years ago was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month.  

Oct 21: Simon to Speak at MPI's 11th Immigration and Law Policy Conference

On Tuesday, October 21st, Simon will join a panel at the 11th annual Immigration and Law Policy Conference at Georgetown University Law Center. The panel Simon is joining includes: political commentator Ana Navarro, American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow Norman Orstein, and Marc Rosenblum, the Deputy Director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Programs at the Migration Policy Institute. The group will discuss the rationale behind President Obama’s decision to delay action on immigration, the potential beneficiaries of future action by the Obama Administration, and the impact of policy choices by both Democrats and Republicans on the midterm and 2016 elections.

The event is co-hosted by Georgetown University Law Center, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the Migration Policy Institute, and the New York Center for Migration Studies. Their discussion begins promptly at 11:30 am and will run until about 1 pm.

In order to attend the panel, you must register for the conference as a whole by October 17th. It is a full day of exciting panels and guest speakers. The Migration Policy Institute has more information on this year’s conference and full rundown of events up on their website. Georgetown University Law Center is located at 600 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC, 20001. Panels will be held in the Hart Auditorium in the Bernard P. McDonough Hall. 


The Jobs Report is All Silver Lining

Today’s jobs report shows, at long last, what employment growth looks like in a balanced economic expansion.

Total employment not only grew by a net 248,000 positions in September; the jobs data for July and August also were revised upward by an additional 69,000 positions, for jobs gains in those months of 243,000 and 180,000, respectively.   Further, the number of people who lost their jobs in September also fell pretty sharply, by 306,000.  To be sure, the gains in September were uneven demographically, because the labor market does not provide an even playing field for everyone: So unemployment fell among men, whites and Hispanics, but remained unchanged for women, blacks and teenagers. 

Looking across industries, the biggest job gains occurred in health care, retail trade, and professional and business services.  The expansion of insurance coverage under Obamacare helps explain the job growth in health care, while the job gains in retail trade reflect rising consumer spending, and the gains in professional and business services go hand-in-hand with the recent strong growth of business investment.  Moreover, information services, mining, leisure and hospitality businesses, and finance all posted decent job growth.  Finally, the construction industry added jobs, too, which hopefully signals a continuing housing recovery that could ultimately strengthen the expansion. 

# of People DHS Is Removing/Returning From US Continues to Decline

Despite Central American Migrant Crisis, The Number of People DHS Is Removing and Returning to Other Countries From the US Continues to Decline

Yesterday, DHS released “Immigration Enforcement Actions,” one of its annual reports looking at the immigration enforcement system (a second more detailed report on deportations will be coming out in a few weeks).

Among the more interesting findings is that continued decline of the total number of people DHS is removing from the US and returning to other countries.   This decline comes despite evidence of significant increases of unauthorized migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. 

At the very least this calls into question the argument some have made that the Administration has “ratcheted” up immigration enforcement as the total number of people DHS is taking out of the US each year is less than half of what it was a decade ago. 

Additionally, this data confirms one of the more important trends in migration in recent years:  the decline of people attempting to enter the US without permission, and the stabilization of the undocumented population here. Please check out the graphs below.  For a comprehensive look at the border trends this data speaks to, read our recent report: “NDN/NPI Report on Central American Migrants and President Obama’s Immigration/Border Enforcement Record.”


NDN/NPI President Simon Rosenberg Selected To Join State Department Advisory Committee (ACICIP)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

NDN/NPI is pleased to share that its President, Simon Rosenberg, has been selected to join the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy (ACICIP). Simon joins over 40 other leading industry thought leaders that assist the State Department on policy issues, including technology research and development, regulatory policy, the activities of international organizations, and other policy priorities.

Hosted by Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, the U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, the Committee meets at least twice a year. In addition, members offer advice to the State Department, take on special projects, and consult with stakeholders such as the U.S. Government, federal agencies or private groups. For additional information on ACICIP, please visit the State Department’s site here.

Simon’s appointment was confirmed at the Committee’s most recent meeting on September 26th, 2014. He looks forward to further involvement with ACICIP and in this policy space in the weeks and months ahead.  

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