"There is a lot to digest in this new, historic poll of the Cuban people. But what seems clear is that two thirds of Cubans want a new and better path for their country; a majority believes the status quo benefits their government and not them; a minority supports the current regime and their politics; and the US and the American President are getting a lot of credit for working to help the Cuban people find this better day through the Administration's approach.
If the ultimate end of the current policy approach of the Administration was to help move Cuba beyond the Castro era it appears that America has developed a powerful ally in this effort - the Cuban people themselves."
- Simon Rosenberg, April 8th, 2015
You can read more about this historic poll here. And be sure to review this recent poll showing the new Cuba policy of the Administration has majority support among Cuban-Americans in the US.
As the country gets ready to pick a new President in 2016, we felt it would be interesting to look at the recent economic performance of the Democratic and Republican parties when they controlled the White House. While there were many ways to cut this data, we chose the last two Presidents of each party and looked at five categories: GDP growth, net job creation, unemployment rate, budget deficits and performance of the Dow Jones.
The contrast between the performance of the economy under recent Democratic and Republican Presidents is stark. Democratic Presidents dramatically outperformed their GOP counterpart in all five categories. Some examples:
Job Creation – Both President Obama and Clinton witnessed an average rate of job growth over 1 million each year. Neither President Bush was able to come close to that number, coming in at 630,000 and 135,000 per year respectively. The two Democratic Presidents oversaw an annual job growth 2.1 million per year. The two Republicans had a combined annual rate of 300,000, or one seventh the total of the two Democrats. The latest data released shows that the economy created 2.9 million jobs in 2014, which is at a comparable job growth rate to an average year in 1990’s.
Unemployment Rate – The two Democratic Presidents saw on average more than a 3 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate during their Presidencies. The two Republicans saw on average more than a 2 percentage point increase. Each Republican President left office with the country in recession.
Deficits – Both Presidents Obama and Clinton witnessed significant declines in the annual budget deficit on their watch. Both President H.W. and W. Bush saw increases of the annual budget deficit on their watch. The second President Bush came to office with a $100 billion annual surplus. He left office with a $1.4 trillion annual deficit, one of the most dramatic turnarounds of America’s finances in any period in US history.
Stock Market - Under the two Democratic presidents, the stock market soared. The Dow Jones has more than doubled in the Obama era and now is at record highs. Under Bill Clinton it grew four fold. Under the first President Bush the market had a small increase. The Dow was lower when the second President Bush left office than when he arrived.
As we look to 2016 it is important to note that the last two Republican Presidents led the nation into recession and larger annual budget deficits. Both Democratic Presidents had to lead the nation out of recession and saw strong job growth, declining deficits and soaring stock markets on their watch. There is indeed a stark contrast between the performances of the two parties on the economy over the past generation. This contrast will be particularly significant in 2016 if the Presidential contest is between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
Update, April 8: With the 2016 Presidential Race kicking off, we have updated some of the data to reflect current trends in unemployment, job growth, and the stock market. Data about GDP and budget deficits have been kept the same since the initial paper, but will be updated in the future. We hope to keep this data up-to-date as it provides a good foundation of areas to compare the two parties moving forward.
A new poll is out and highlighted in the Miami Herald on how Cuban Americans view the United States efforts to chart a new course on Cuba. 400 Cuban Americans were polled in and English and Spanish on a range of issues, including views on normalizing relations, the continuation of the embargo, and plans to travel to Cuba in the future. The poll finds in part:
51% of Cuban Americans show their support for the Obama Administration's new policy to normalize relations. 40% disagreed with it and 9% did not respond or did not know.
The poll highlights generational differences, with more older Cubans supporting a continued trade embargo, while the majority of those under 50 believe it should not continue.
Cuban Americans living outside of Florida were much more supportive of President Obama's new policy than those living in the sunshine state.
For on this new data, including reactions by the pollsters and others in this piece from the Miami Herald. Be sure to check out Simon's statement: "A New Day for the United States and Cuba."
Fresh off the funding battle over the Department of Homeland Security, GOP Representative Charlie Dent noted to the New York Times: “We really don’t have 218 votes to determine a bathroom break over here on our side. So how are we going to get 218 votes on transportation, or trade, or whatever the issue? We might as well face the political reality of our circumstances and then act accordingly.”
The issue is that there are certain funding that Congress must vote on—and nowhere is that more apparent than with the return of the debt ceiling. On March 16th, according to the Treasury Department, the U.S. reached the limit for the amount of funds it is allowed to spend. As with previous debt ceiling debates, Treasury is able to draw out the period of time before actually defaulting on the national debt through using accounting maneuvers and other extraordinary means. But ultimately, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling—or risk a default on the debt that will greatly impact the interest rate the US pays on the national debt and harm the full-faith and credit of the United States.
Following the 2014 election, Senate Majority Leader McConnell promised an end to governing-by-crisis. And despite the theatrics around the Department of Homeland Security, there was no shutdown and the Senate handled the dispute with relatively few fireworks. The problem with the debt ceiling is that even approaching it becomes dangerous. In 2011, despite not defaulting on the national debt, consumer confidence dove dramatically as businesses and Americans anticipated disaster. The debt ceiling was first hit in May—and the crisis peaked in August. It would take 6 months to return to neutral ground, and longer to steady growth in confidence.
Since then, Congress has submitted the U.S. economy to additional funding stand-offs: the fiscal cliff on taxes following President Obama’s re-election, a second debt ceiling fight in early 2013, the government shutdown over the ACA in 2014, and the standoff over the Department of Homeland Security. As the Times notes, this spring will bring additional conflict over the expirations of the Highway Trust Fund, the Expert-Import Bank, and the return of the Sequester—alongside the disagreements that are already occurring in Congress between fiscal conservatives and defense hawks in the 2015 FY budget.
Senator McConnell has argued that the process itself will play out over the next couple of months, but what Dent’s quote highlights is the difficulty, particularly in the House to pass any legislation regardless of necessity. Congressional Leaders should return to their previous tactics for using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip as the risk is way too great. Unfortunately, the last few months have only shown that the contrast between how the Democrats and Republicans run government exists not only in the Presidency in Congress as well—the lack of focus on jobs growth, sound fiscal policy, and governing by crisis all impacts how well Americans perceive the economy as well as the political system.
At a time when Americans are “turning a page” on the U.S. economy, there is no need to return to a dangerous round of governing by crisis.
Something potentially very significant happened last night in the ongoing debate over the President’s recent immigration reforms: 14 states asked a higher court to release them from the Texas judge’s injunction that is preventing DAPA and DACA expansion from proceeding.
This is important for whatever the merits of the case brought by Texas and 25 states that led to the injunction, that the injunction was applied to 24 states who did not join the suit and do not believe they were harmed by the President’s seems to be a clear and unsustainable overreach by Judge Hanen of Texas.
As the case moves to the 5th circuit, it is important to note that there at least two separate legal tracks emerging. As I’ve written elsewhere, the core of Judge Hanen’s decision was legally weak and is likely to be overturned. That process could take months. But on the question of whether to release the 24 states who have claimed harm and did not join the current suit, that decision could come much sooner as there simply is no legal basis to block the implementation of the President’s reform in these states who want the reforms to take place.
This also means that this debate will start to move to the political realm. Will for example, the GOP’s new US Senate candidate in California, Rocky Chavez, support his state’s call to be released from the injunction or does he support Judge Hanen’s decision? And what about in Iowa, a state who has been asked to be released? Will the 2016 GOPers publically challenge this decision? Will prominent GOPers in the 14 states who have filed an amicus brief come out in support of their state or will they oppose? Lots of fun ahead.
But as I’ve said, I am confident the President will win in the courts and his reforms will be implemented this year. What may happen sooner, however, is that the 5th circuit may release some states from the injunction, allowing these reforms to begin to be implemented soon, perhaps as early as this spring.
We are proud to announce that today NDN has joined people and organizations from across the nation and the political spectrum in supporting the bold work of the Campaign for Free College Tuition.
The Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) was launched in 2014 with the aim to make college tuition free in all 50 states. Their plan – available at www.freecollegenow.org – aims to provide a tuition free college education at a public institution without raising federal taxes or accruing additional debt by redirecting existing federal spending in support of higher education, significantly reducing the profits the federal government currently makes on student loans, and asking states to do their part to restore their support for higher education to historical levels. The cornerstone of CFCT’s plan is the establishment of a National Promise Scholarship (NPS) program that would provide every academically qualified student from a middle or lower income family enough money to pay for in state tuition at either a two or four year public college.
CFCT also applauds President Obama’s America’s College Promise initiative to make community colleges tuition free in partnership with state governments, as well as existing efforts by the State of Tennessee and dozens of “Promise” communities throughout the country that have made free college tuition a reality for their residents.
In announcing our support, we released the following statements:
“Understanding the millennial generation and their impact on the future of American politics has been one of NDN’s main areas of focus over the past decade.” said Simon Rosenberg. “Ensuring that America has a well-educated workforce that isn’t crippled by student loan debt is a noble cause that would have a positive benefit for all. We applaud the works of CFCT and NDNer Morley Winograd on their work thus far, and are excited about helping the campaign move forward.”
“It is imperative that we restore our nation’s historic commitment to free and universal education,” said CFCT President Morley Winograd. “To ensure our nation’s future competitiveness, we must fundamentally reform the way the country finances higher education by making public colleges tuition free. We are pleased that NDN is joining our coalition and look forward to working with Simon Rosenberg and his colleagues to make the attainment of an affordable college education a possibility for every American.”
While NDN has provided tacit support to CFCT already, look for us to step our advocacy for their important work in the months ahead. We hope that you will take the time to visit the Campaign for Free College Tuition website to learn more, and if you are so moved, sign up online to join the Campaign. NDN would also like to applaud the Obama Administration for its recently announced Student Loan Bill of Rights and continued efforts to make tuition more affordable.
In the coming years this effort has the opportunity to do something truly important for the country – but they will only get there by growing a broad-based coalition with your support.
You can also read CFCT's coverage of the NDN endorsement on their website.
The condition of most American households, and of the country as a whole, is set largely by people’s income – both the levels, and the income progress that people make as they age from their 20’s to their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. For generations, most Americans have believed that if they work hard, they’ll have real opportunities to earn steadily rising incomes. Such broad based upward mobility is one of the reasons that Americans have been generally optimistic and willing to extend opportunity to successive minority groups. But is that the way America really works? One common view argues that wages have stagnated and most Americans have made, at best, modest income progress since the 1970s. This view is based on a time series of a single statistic, “aggregate median household income.” In fact, the true picture is more complex.
Today, the Brookings Institution issues a new report which I worked on for the past year. Using new Census Bureau data, I analyze household incomes by age cohort – say, people age 25 in 1980 or in 1990 –and then follow those age cohorts as they age. The results revise what we thought we knew about incomes. The data show that broad, strong income gains were hallmarks of the 1980s and 1990s. Moreover, the steady progress of the Reagan and Clinton years covered just about everybody -- households headed by men and by women; by whites, blacks and Hispanics; and by those with college degrees, high school diplomas, and no degrees at all. This broad upward mobility, however, simply stopped under Bush and has not recovered under Obama. Moreover, this dramatic turnaround, including declining incomes from 2002 to 2013 for a majority of American households, affects every demographic group.
I’ll be writing more about what’s really happened to income, why, and what we can do about in coming weeks and months. If you want to read the report for yourself, click here.
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.
Later this week, the Supreme Court takes up a new case regarding the Affordable Care Act, King v. Burwell. At risk are subsides that make insurance affordable for many of the Americans who have signed up via the healthcare exchanges. We thought that given how far the law has come, that now would be a good moment to put its progress in perspective. A court decision that rules against the government would have enormous ramifications.
While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used 11.4 million as the number of beneficiaries of the ACA, we find that the number of Americans benefitting from the ACA is far higher. Steve Ratter’s recent piece in the New York Times cites data from ACAsignups.org, and illustrates that the true number of beneficiaries is over 31 million Americans. And the number may be even higher as neither analysis can fully account for the number of young people who gained insurance coverage by staying on their parents’ healthcare until 26.
If we go with the 31 million number as an estimate, then we have an almost intangible amount of Americans benefiting from the law. How do we put that number in a better context?
Within the first 18 months, the 31 million people benefitting from the ACA are now:
About 15.1% of the entire American population that falls between the ages of 18 and 65.
The size of 1/5th of the entire workforce in the United States.
More than twice as large as the number of members of labor unions in the United States.
Eight times larger than the entire federal government (including military and civilian personnel).
60% of the total Medicare population. There are currently about 50 million people enrolled in Medicare.
Beneficiaries of the ACA are a larger group than labor, the number of employees of the federal government, and other major political groups. This number is likely to grow, as the law has only been fully operating for a year-and-a half. Thus, their needs should not be ignored by Congress or the Supreme Court—particularly when a court case later this week threatens the health insurance benefits of many ACA enrollees. According to a new poll by Hart Research, the American public disapproves of the Supreme Court negatively impacting subsidies by 63% to 29%. Republicans are not far off disapproving of a removal of subsidies by a margin of 56% to 31%.
In the past two years, the number of people uninsured has fallen by about 11 million people. The percentage of the country that is uninsured, according to Gallup, has fallen from about 18% to 12%. These changes have enormous impact, in terms of how Americans will go about taking new risks and what type of impact this freedom will have on their general view towards the U.S. economy. For what it’s worth, the general view on the ACA has reached the point where for the first time more people want to keep or expand the bill as opposed to replace it, according to a poll by Yougov.
Essentially, the ACA has reached the point of no return, and has woven itself into the American healthcare system. It is working as intended, by lowering the number of uninsured, bending the cost curve, and reducing the deficit. What this new data and polls number suggest is the proponents of the law have been underselling the positive and monumental changes that are brought forth when Americans finally feel secure in that an injury or illness will not bankrupt their family. And that the political landscape around the ACA has shifted in the short time since full implementation began.
One of the reasons folks like Steve King are and will continue to fight so hard against Speaker Boehner on DHS funding is that the obvious weakness and narrowness of Judge Hanen's recent ruling blocking elements of the President's Executive Actions did not give them confidence they would prevail in the courts.
The judge's decision did not block the central focus of King's efforts in 2013/4, which was to roll back the "Morton Memos" and the way the President began to change the imm/border enforcement system in 2011. The "King Amendment" in 2013, and a similar measure which passed the House in 2014, targeted prosecutorial discretion itself not only DACA. The failure of the judge to challenge PD and block the portions of the President's executive actions which build upon these earlier changes means that Judge Hanen's decision could not possible satisfy Rep. King and his Congressional allies. It didn't go far enough, and as far as King is concerned, Hanen's ruling did not address the core flouting of the law by the President we've heard so much about these last few years. This is one reason why they are fighting and will continue to fight so hard today and in the weeks to come in the House - they no longer see the Court as a way of solving this problem. Congress is going to have to do it, now. This is their only shot.
My MSNBC op-ed from earlier this week goes a bit more in depth in this political terrain. I've been saying all week that I never say a path for a clean bill to pass the House, even a CR, without Democratic support.
Sat AM Update - As predicted, Rep. King and his allies did not relent. And what is perhaps most important for the next iteration of this debate at this end of this coming week Speaker Boehner lost 5 votes from the first to second vote - from 50 to 55. Amazingly, more GOP House Members voted against the one week CR than the earlier three week version. What can explain this level of oppostion to Speaker Boehner? Read above, and be sure to read Frank Wilkinson's take in Bloomberg why the 24 states who did not challenge the President's immigration reforms may hold the key to what happens next.
Finally, it needs to be understood that by keeping DHS on a CR is an affirmative step to lower America's defenses during a time of rising threats. As someone who works closely with DHS and has for years, there should be no mistaking it - the GOP have purposefully weakened our ability to deal with foreign and domestic threats for their own political gain. It is shameful and reckless behavior.
This piece originally appeared on February 24th on MSNBC's website in-advance of a townhall they hosted with President Obama.
MSNBC’s televised town hall discussion with President Obama on Wednesday comes at a critical juncture in the debate over how to best improve our immigration system.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas blocked the implementation of parts of the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would provide deportation relief for millions. And this week, congressional Republicans may recklessly allow the Department of Homeland Security to shut down, endangering our border, cyber security and counter-terrorism operations, in order to register a symbolic protest.
So where are we heading in this debate, and what will the president say later this week? Here are a few things we know:
Obamacare may be a road map. The experience of the Affordable Care Act may be a good guide for what could happen with the president’s reforms in the years ahead. The ACA has been through a controversial 5-6 years. There were ups and down along the way, problems with implementation, legal challenges and intense political opposition.
But almost six years after Obamacare was first introduced, it is looking increasingly like a significant policy and political success. Signups have exceeded expectations this year. Tens of millions of people have seen dramatic improvements in their lives in just the first 18 months of full implementation. The famous “health care cost curve” is bending, and during the first months of the ACA, we’ve seen one of the strongest economic performances from the U.S. economy in the last 20 years. And the public is noticing. New polling shows that a majority of Americans now approve of Obamacare for the first time since this debate began in 2009.
Advocates of reform should draw from the tough but ultimately successful implementation of Obamacare, not only for inspiration for their own work in the years ahead but also to continue to explain to the American people why they are so confident the reforms will work as intended..."
The legal and policy arguments against reform are weak. With a full week to review the injunction by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, the Texas justice who blocked the implementation of the president’s reform, the decision is looking more like the desperate political act of a losing side than a sound, sustainable legal opinion. The injunction was granted on a minor technicality and did not attempt to meaningfully challenge the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion” behind Obama’s executive actions.
In fact, very significant applications of this legal theory regarding other aspects of border and immigration enforcement were not blocked and will continue to be implemented. As this Washington Post analysis demonstrates, the judge’s clearly hastily-written opinion betrayed a shocking and potentially disqualifying lack of understanding of how the immigration system works in the United States. And the injunction overreaches, covering all 26 states in the suit though he cites “harm” in only one, Texas (and the 24 other states who did not join the suit).
That the opinion was so sloppy and narrow reinforces how political the ruling was. Rushed out on a federal holiday just days before the reforms in question were set to take effect, the decision now appears intended to buy some time for Hanen’s ideological allies in Washington who have so far failed to find a way to block Obama’s reforms.
The reason the GOP’s challenge ultimately will fail is that there is ample legal precedent for the president’s actions. And, as with Obamacare, these smart reforms will be good for the nation, boost the U.S. economy and enhance our security. By allowing immigration agents to focus on true criminals and illegal border crossers, the U.S. will become more effective at deterring future unauthorized migrants. Federal and local law enforcement will be freed up to go after truly dangerous criminals – not working moms with kids in public schools.
Important parts of the president’s reforms were not blocked. What is perhaps least well known is that Judge Hanen did not strike down Obama’s far-reaching reforms of the immigration and border enforcement systems, which will continue to be implemented without challenge in the months ahead.
And they are significant. Building on earlier reforms in 2011, the Department of Homeland Security will further focus enforcement resources on those trying to enter the country illegally and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with serious criminal records. The net effect of these reforms will be to remove the threat of immediate deportation from 10 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. It will also make it far more difficult for undocumented immigrants to be put in detention without a formal arrest.
Prioritizing immigration and border enforcement in this way will improve the security of communities across the nation while building a more powerful deterrent on our border for those thinking of entering the country illegally. These reforms are smart and humane, and will guarantee that Obama leaves his successor a border and immigration enforcement system far better than the one he inherited – despite years of extraordinary opposition from the GOP.
So what’s next for immigration reform? I am fairly confident the administration will prevail in the courts. The Republicans will back down on their DHS shutdown threat, which recklessly threatens American security in a time of heightened fears. And the president’s reforms will proceed, ending a decade of gridlock, giving the country a better immigration system and millions of people a renewed chance to pursue the American Dream for them and their families.
The lessons of the health care reform fight point the way: years of battle, legal victories and defeats; but at the end, a better America with millions and millions having the chance to make an even more powerful contribution to their adopted home. As Obama is certain to remind us when he speaks Wednesday night, positive social change only comes about through relentless, hard-fought struggle.
Simon Rosenberg is the president of NDN/New Policy Institute, a pro-immigration reform think tank based in Washington, D.C.