NDN Blog

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.  

Transcript: Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas at NDN Event

On September 16th, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas joined NDN at the National Press Club to discuss the agency's work on addressing the Central American Migrant Crisis. We have posted the full transcript of his remarks below . The Administration has an excellent summary of its efforts in this post on the White House Blog. R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Commisioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) runs through the most recent data and illustrates the steps taken to stem the crisis.


Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas’ Remarks at NDN

September 16, 2014

Unofficial Transcript

Thank you very much Simon, and thanks to all of you for dedicating a few minutes of your time this morning. I should say that is not the way the interview with Secretary Johnson went. Be that as it may. I’m going to be very brief. I want to share with you just a few thoughts about our response to the surge in the migration of unaccompanied children to the southwest border and of course specifically to the Rio Grande Valley Sector of that border. And then leave it to you to leave as much time for question and answer. I see representatives from the embassies. I see journalists I know. And of course I see wonderful advocates very dedicated to the issues. And I want to give everyone as much time to ask whatever questions are on your mind. I know that some will be difficult and some less so. Simon aptly described this as a difficult situation.

Our response to it is characteristic of how we would respond to situations as a Department and that is in a very comprehensive way across the department. It was but five months ago when we first began to experience a really dramatic surge in the number of children arriving at and apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector of the border. More than 300 in a day. And very quickly Secretary Johnson raised the level to the highest level of contingency planning in the department which meant that not only the traditional agencies in the department would respond to this situation, but rather the department as a whole would. And shortly thereafter, the President directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the capable leadership of Craig Fugate would lead an all of government response. It is now five months later and the number of children arriving at and apprehended at our border is dramatically lower than it was five months ago. And that I think that is a result of a number of factors, many within our control and some perhaps outside of the control of the Department and the government generally.

Historically, for example, the month of August has seen a precipitous drop in the number of migrants reaching the southwest border by virtue of the season, the time of year, the heat and the like. So that very well may play a factor in what we observed in the dramatic decline. But clearly the response of the United States Government and the Department of Homeland Security on point, as well as the responses of our partner countries, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, have all played a part. And let me if I can, just briefly describe our response and what we have done in the surge of resources and bringing together all of the assets of the Department of Homeland Security and the government of the United States to be where we are today.

And I should at the outset say two things. One, it would be premature at best to declare victory. To say the problem is behind us because we don’t know. And so what we have achieved is tremendous progress. And the second point is that if indeed we begin to observe an uptick in the number of unaccompanied children migrating to the southwest border, specifically the Rio Grande Valley, we are prepared to address that uptick very swiftly.

One of the first things that we did, both to prevent the migration of those youth to the southwest border and to accomplish a very important humanitarian protection mission is surge law enforcement resources to combat the traffickers and smugglers that were bringing the children to the Rio Grande Valley sector. And we did that with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Homeland Security Investigations officers, with our partners in Mexico, with other law enforcement agencies in our administration, and we surged resources, more than 50 investigators and tremendous resources not only to address the trafficking networks and the people that are conducting them but also to address the flow of funds from the illegal enterprise. We had a number of operations working in parallel that have yielded tremendous results to date.

We engaged in a public messaging campaign that had two main components to it. One was to dissuade individuals from taking the perilous journey from their countries of origin across Mexico and to the southern border. And I think we are all acutely aware of the perils of that type of journey, even for an adult, let alone for a child who is unaccompanied. And that was a very significant area of focus for us. The second was to counter what we learned to be a very significant misinformation campaign on the part of smugglers and others. And that was that if you can get to the southwest border, if you can get to the United States and be apprehended you had a permiso, you had the ability to enter the United States and remain in the United States lawfully. You could avail yourself of comprehensive immigration reform when that would pass or alternatively you could avail yourself of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA, as it is commonly known by its acronym. Both very significant pieces of misinformation, and we engaged with our partners to the south in a very vigorous public messaging campaign to dissuade people from taking the perilous journey and from setting the record straight with respect to the fact that relief would not be provided to them under either of those programs.

We accelerated the cases, the processing of the recent arrivals. I should say at the outset of this tremendous spike our facilities on the border there are not designed for the long term detention of children or families. We have under the law an obligation to turn over a child in our custody to Health and Human Services within 72 hours. When three, four hundred children a day were arriving we were not meeting that 72 hour threshold and now we’re well under it and we’re managing the process very ablely. And we accelerated our processing of children, of family cases while adhering to our legal requirements and values as a nation. We built facilities. We developed facilities for the detention of families and adults traveling with children. And I know very well, and I’m sure I’ll be asked about this, I know that the conditions in those facilities have been a concern to advocates in the community and we have responded to those concerns very vigorously.

When the concerns were first surfacing, Secretary Johnson had planned to send two experts in immigration, David Shahoulian and Serena Hoy, relatively new arrivals in our Department of Homeland Security. Many of the advocates in the audience know them both well for the quality of their work and their expertise and lifelong dedication to these issues. He was planning to send them to observe the facilities, but accelerated their visit to the Artesia facility in response to the concerns articulated by the community, the concerns about the ability to conduct screening of a parent outside the presence of a child; issues of concerns of access to counsel; the scheduling of interviews; the privacy of spaces and the like. And we have responded to those concerns as quickly as possible. And our response is ongoing. We understand those concerns and we want the conditions of our facilities to be at the highest levels that everyone here would embrace.

We are working as I alluded to earlier. We have worked and continue to work with the governments of Mexico, with the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to build the repatriation capacity, to work on the public messaging, to interdict individuals seeking to cross borders illegally, to address and attack the smuggling and trafficking organizations. It’s been a very holistic approach in that regard while ensuring that the humanitarian protections of individuals seeking refuge under the law, seeking refugee protection here in the United States for example are honored, that our credible fear screening is comprehensive and is as fulsome and sensitive to the needs of the children as all would expect.

And lastly, not most importantly, but at least equally as important perhaps most importantly to the future, is investing in the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and providing them with the resources to address the situation of violence in the towns and cities, to address the causes of despair that would lead a parent to send a child unaccompanied from one of those countries on a long and dangerous traverse to the United States. And I do think that the investment of resources is perhaps the most important of all with respect to the future and the future children in those communities. And with that I conclude and I thank you for being here and I really welcome your questions and comments. 

Hispanic Uninsured Rate Drops By One Third In Just First Year of ACA

Today’s Los Angeles Times reports on a new study showing that the uninsured rate for Hispanic adults in the US dropped from 36% to 23% in just the first year of the Affordable Care Act.   These dramatic gains of course took place even without two states with enormous Hispanic populations, Florida and Texas, expanding their Medicaid programs.

As I wrote last year, given the high number of Hispanics without health insurance in the US, it is possible that the Affordable Care Act will affect more Hispanic families over the next few years than any version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

“The ACA is in the process of becoming the legislation that has done more to benefit Hispanic families than any other,” said Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN, a think tank in Washington, DC.  “These gains are dramatic.  The quality of life of millions of Hispanics is far better today than it was just a year ago.  And it just the beginning.”    

"The Liberal Order Needs An Upgrade" - A US News Op-Ed

I have a new op-ed running in US News this morning timed to the President’s important UN speech tomorrow. You can read it in full below or at the US News site here

The Liberal Order Needs An Upgrade

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will address the United Nations General Assembly. We know the speech will focus on a very full slate of immediate global challenges, including the Islamic State group and U.S. airstrikes in Syria, as well as Iranian nuclear ambitions, Russia’s adventurism and Ebola. But it is my hope that the speech also finds time to discuss a subject very appropriate for the U.N. on the cusp of its 70th anniversary: the need to reinvigorate and modernize an aging liberal international order.

The world as we know it is going through a truly profound and historic set of changes in demographics and in the distribution of economic and political power. A long 500-year run of Western preeminence is giving way to a world where power and opportunity will be far more distributed among the people of the world. More than 50 percent of the world's population is under the age of 30 today, and it is those emerging leaders who will do much to determine the fate of their countries and the rest of the world. Much more must be done to help create a sense of ownership in the current liberal order for these emerging powers and leaders, so they can become powerful stewards of what has been built.

Over the coming generation, the American president should become a champion of this process of reinvigoration. What exactly a project like this looks like is hard to know at this point, but I offer up four areas the president could address this week to start a conversation in earnest:

1) The Middle East: It is long past time to put on the table what is obvious to all: The greatest threat to world peace today is the chaos emanating from the Middle East and North Africa. No other part of the world is so actively resisting modernity and the core values of the United Nations as the despotic governments of the region. Anti-modern radicals, funded and aided by regional elites, have exported their barbarism far beyond the region itself. And with a vast wave of young people coming into adulthood in the region over the next decade, the opportunity for a dramatic escalation of this radicalism is staring the entire world in the face.

In exchange for ridding the region of the latest dangerous set of radicals, the developed world, backed by the U.N., should demand the region’s leaders begin to engage in a conversation about how to bring an end to this era of chaos. Plans for investing in everyday people, as well as for creating a regional Marshall plan, should to be discussed. A forum for forging a regional Sunni-Shiite détente should be established. All countries in the region should commit to ceasing the arming of proxies and investing in institutions of radicalization like Wahhabi madrassas, which have done so much to fuel extraordinary levels of violence.

Additionally, the president should identify the very real global threat of the “oil curse,” or of our learned experience that much of the chaos the world is seeing today is a result of the reckless behavior of oil producing nations. A plan to create a totally different global energy paradigm should be articulated, with the goal of universal energy independence for all nations by 2050 through investments in renewables and other technologies put on the table for debate.  

2) Modernizing the global trade system: The president should also offer a full-throated defense of the two major trade agreements his team is negotiating now. Affecting two-thirds of the global economy, these two big trade agreements will usher in a period of renewal and modernization of our global trading system. The last period of structural reform took place before the advent of the Internet and our recent wave of globalization. For this system to remain relevant, it will need an extended period of modernization, as new innovations like 3-D printing and peer-to-peer banking will challenge the current, very 20th century, orientation of our global trade system; new voices from the developing world will need to have far greater influence in shaping a more modern system.

3) Keeping the Internet open and free: There has perhaps never been a tool as powerful for advancing the global liberal order as the Internet. It should be a far more important priority of the president to ensure the Internet stays open and free for the people of the world in the years ahead. A combination of factors – increasingly powerful cybercriminals, efforts by despotic nations to seize control over Internet governance, growing censorship and very legitimate fears about privacy – all have made the Internet far more fragile an undertaking than is commonly understood. In his speech this week, the president should offer an aggressive defense of the Internet, make clear he will oppose greater governmental control over it, and reaffirm his commitment to the current multi-stakeholder system of Internet governance.

4) Expansion of the Security Council: The president should acknowledge that the current structure of the United Nations Security Council no longer represents the world as it is today. He can begin by suggesting that the three largest countries in the world not on the permanent council – India, Indonesia and Brazil – be added. More reforms should be considered.

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. The president should lead this effort. This order has helped usher in a remarkable period of prosperity and relative peace in the world. As the world changes, and a long period of Western dominance of world affairs comes to an end, the need to modernize and maintain this order is perhaps the greatest responsibility the American president has today. I hope our president can begin this conversation in his speech to the U.N., and begin a discussion that will ensure the values articulated in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” prevail in this uncertain but promising century.


Related writings/videos:

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.

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