"The Senate Appropriations Committee should include the $775 million requested by the Administration for its proposed MENA Incentive Fund in its State/Foreign Operations mark up later this week. The Fund is a smart and appropriate response to the rapidly evolving, and deeply promising, events in North Africa and the Middle East. It will give the Administration a modest and flexible budget to aid the democratic transitions taking place in the region; transitions that America has long sought and sacrificed so much to help bring about.
Including the MENA-IF in the Senate Foreign Operations Bill is particularly important as the House Republicans, irresponsibly and recklessly, refused to include it in their recently passed version of the legislation. At a time when the people of North Africa and the Middle East are struggling with such dignity to improve their societies, it is essential the government of the United States make a clear statement of support for their efforts by funding this initiative. If Republicans leaders are unhappy with the current MENA-IF, they should propose amendments or an alternative approach rather than rejecting the entire initiative. Simply refusing to support the Fund will send a terrible signal to the people of this region working to bring about the next stage of these historic transitions already underway.
So to our friends on the Senate Appropriations Committee, we strongly encourage you to include funding of the MENA-IF in the State/Foreign Operations mark up."
Guns smuggled from the United States into Mexico are contributing to the rise in drug cartel violence in our southern neighbor. A recent Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) study found fully 68,000 guns of 99,000 confiscated by law enforcement agencies in Mexico originated in the United States.
On May 31st, NDN/NPI's "21st Century Border Initiative," will convene a forum in the US Capitol looking at whether there is more we can do in the US to stop this illegal southbound flow of guns into Mexico, a country where owning a gun of any kind is illegal. Joining us will be Congressman Adam Schiff of California and the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan. The forum will take place at 2456 Rayburn House Office Building, and run from 12:15pm to 1:30pm. You can RSVP here.
Among the topics sure to be discussed at our May 31st forum is the success of the Administration's Multiple Sales Reporting (MSR) program which has required more complete reporting of multiple "long gun" sales in border states, and a new bill, the "Straw Purchaser Penalty Enhancement Act," authored by Rep. Schiff, which creates a two-year prison sentence for so-called "straw purchasers" who currently receive probation or very little jail time for acquiring weapons under false pretenses and then selling them to Mexican gun smugglers.
We hope you will be able to join us for this important and timely event.
Today Ezra Klein wrote a very interesting piece about Common Cause's new lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the filibuster. In his piece he has this passage:
In the end, the Constitution prescribed six instances in which Congress would require more than a majority vote: impeaching the president, expelling members, overriding a presidential veto of a bill or order, ratifying treaties and amending the Constitution. And as Bondurant writes, “The Framers were aware of the established rule of construction, expressio unius est exclusio alterius, and that by adopting these six exceptions to the principle of majority rule, they were excluding other exceptions.” By contrast, in the Bill of Rights, the Founders were careful to state that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
That majority vote played into another principle, as well: the “finely wrought” compromise over proper representation. At the time of the country’s founding, seven of the 13 states, representing 27 percent of the population, could command a majority in the Senate. Today, with the filibuster, 21 of the 50 states, representing 11 percent of the population, can muster the 41 votes to stop a majority in the Senate. “The supermajority vote requirement,” Bondurant argues, thus “upsets the Great Compromise’s carefully crafted balance between the large states and the small states.”
This insight - that the way the country has grown and added states since our founding over 200 years ago may have upset the large/small state construct of our Congress - is an idea we explored at a recent forum we convened at Tufts University on "Renewing Our Democracy."
The list of reasons why Americans feel their politics are broken is long and growing. Here’s one of many: The U.S. Senate, which due to the way the U.S. population has grown and settled, has developed a “small state bias” so grave that it is on the verge of becoming an undemocratic institution. The issue is serious enough that it has become necessary to question whether major reform of Congress, and particularly the Senate, is needed.
According to the 2010 census, it is now the case that half of the United States’ population lives in just nine states, with the other half of America living in the other 41 states. While the voters in these top nine states have equal representation in the House with 223 Representatives (the other half has 212), in the Senate it is a different story. Because of this population distribution, the half of the U.S. living in the largest nine states is represented by 18 Senators. The other half of the country living in the other 41 states has 82 Senators, more than four times as many. You don’t have to be good at math to see how much less representation in Congress those living in the big states have today.
Let’s take a closer look at this dynamic by examining California. With a population of about 37 million, California has more than 66 times the population of the smallest state, Wyoming, which has 563,626 people. California has 53 Representatives, and two Senators; Wyoming, one Representative and two Senators. So despite having 66 times the population of Wyoming, California has only 53 times the number of Representatives and an equal number in the Senate.
Furthermore, the four smallest states combined have eight Senators, giving California only a quarter as many Senators as Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming, even though California has 14 times the population of these states combined.
At our forum, which included a presenation by Pam Wilmot, the head of Common Cause in Massachusetts, we also looked at moving towards a single national popular vote for President and recent efforts to make it harder for people to vote. However you feel about the large/small state issue we raise here (which I think is pretty serious) we hope this research, this forum and the other articles we published from the forum will help stimulate a vigerous debate about ways we can renew and improve our democracy.
If you are in DC today please come by our lunchtime event, a speech by Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blanc on the Administration's domestic manufacturing strategy. We start at 12:15 and will lunch will be served. For more or to RSVP visit here. Hope you can join us! It is going to be a good one.
Today the NDN/NPI team is kicking off our annual Spring fundraising drive. Our goal is to raise $250,000 in new contributions by June 30th - hence the "250." With the money we've raised this year, and additional commitments we have in place, we still need to raise about $250,000 to make our budget for 2012. I hope you will be one of those who help us achieve this important institutional goal.
You can do your part for NDN/NPI by making a contribution - of any amount - today here on our secure website. No matter the size of your contribution every dollar counts toward our goal of "two fifty."
Your support will allow us to continue our cutting edge research and message work; to conduct our events which give compelling thought-leaders from around the world a chance to weigh in on our debate; improve our operations, so we are more efficient and effective with the limited dollars we have; and to continue investing in emerging talent who will do so much to shape the debate in the years ahead. We are proud of the contribution we have made to the debate these past few years, but are very aware of how much more there is to do.
So thanks for your interest in NDN/NPI, and all the whole team here hopes that you be part of the spirited group which gets us to "two-fifty."
Update, 5/16 - Our push is paying off - thanks to all of you. So far, just a few days in to the campaign, we have $52,000 in commitments or monies raised. It is a great start to our important campaign. Keep it up!
Update, 5/25 - We broke $60k in total committments this week. Still have a way to go but feel good about getting there. Thanks to all who have stepped up.
Brad touched upon this yesterday but it is clear now that this recent period of center-right ascedency in the G7 countries is coming to an end. The Socialists are returning to power in France for the first time in 17 years, Cameron is terribly wounded in the UK, Merkel and her coalition is struggling at home, the center-left DPJ seems to be finding its footing in Japan and Obama is ahead, slightly, here in the US.
In an all this there is opportunity for the global center-left to offer a new politics grounded in today's new economic and geopolitical realities. At the core of this new politics must be a much greater understanding of the how globalization and the "rise of the rest" is creating a much more competitive world that is challenging the old economic arrangements of the affluent G7 countries. While Hollande calls for growth to replace austerity, it has to be a growth committed to "raising our game," and being relentess about creating more competitive, effecient, and entrepreunial economies throughout the G7.
Austerity has failed in the US and in Europe because it was the wrong perscription for our economic moment. The great backdrop to all that playing out in the developed world is this "rise of the rest" and rising, virulent competitiion for our workers and companies. The only legitimate response to this serious economic challenge is to create a culture of investment which helps equip societies to meet this rising compeitition head on. Slashing investments in knowledge and skills, infrastructure, long term R & D, is exactly opposite to what is required now throughout the developed world. Which is why the public in the Europe and the US views austerity for what it is, now - a guarentor of national decline.
But what is the alternative? Can the European left help modernize its unaffordable and overly generous social safety net and have honest conversations with its people about how future success means "raising our game" and help shift public investment dollars to the more "growth" oriented strategy Mr. Hollande aspires to? The structural, fiscal, economic, and demographic realities of Europe cannot be ignored by the new post-austerity politics of Europe. The newly emboldened center-left can only succeed by aligning itself with a politics which takes these challenges head on and offers a compelling strategy for Europe which at its core acknowledges has much has changed, and how Europe itself must change. Nostalgia is the greatest threat to the success of the Anglo-European center-left now. There is no going back to a time of less competition and comfy late 20th century European/G7 growth. A new, leaner, digital, entreprenuerial center-left must emerge, one focused on enterprise, creativty, innovation and what truly drives the wealth of nations, the labor and ingenuity of its people.
Will this happen? Not sure why not. You can see it here in the current path of the Obama Administration (both in policy and messaging: "Forward"). And I think a failure to do so will certainly contribute to the rise of new parties, like the Pirate Party, who seem to be speaking to the current moment and are not playing an old and tired political game no longer appropriate to the new era we all find ourselves in.
Yesterday, during the middle of highly sensitive negotiations with the Chinese government regarding Mr. Chen, Mitt Romney lashed out at the Administration, showing a remarkable lack of judgment and reserve. Clearly the situation called for calm and quiet while the Administration, with the Secretaries of State and Treasury on the ground, worked to find a smart solution to a very challenging diplomatic incident. Given where things are today, with what appears to be a good deal for all parties, the actions by Mr Romney yesterday appear even more immature and petulant. Clearly if Mr Romney should have criticized anyone it should have been the Chinese, whose repressive policies and death threats caused this incident in the first place.
The seething anger of the Romney camp and their willingness to attack the President over everything - even in moments like the Chen incident - directly contradict the image Romney is trying to craft of a mature, sensible turnaround guy who the nation can trust. The Romney campaign we've seen so far is anything but a mature, thoughtful and serious campaign. Their statements are far too often untethered from reality, their positions change on a dime, their language is over the top even by modern standards and there is a seething, direct contempt for the President himself I'm not sure we've ever seen before.
The loss of their foreign policy spokesman this week; their flailing attempts to disguise his bad call on Osama Bin Laden in 2007; yesterday's wild, reckless attack on our government during a time of sensitive negotiations with a foreign power, when lives were/are in the balance; all of this is painting a picture of Romney that is much more craven, inexperienced politician with a wild and immature staff than mature, thoughtful leader riding in to save the day during a time of national challenge. Mitt may be disappointed in today's employment numbers, but he should start getting much more worried about all of us being wildly disappointed in him.
Friends - below, please find a link to the recording of my live video briefing from last Friday on the 2012 elections and the current national political landscape. And here is the link to the Real Clear Politics electoral college map I refer to in the briefing.
This Friday I will be hosting a live web video briefing/discussion on the 2012 elections, latest trends in the national political landscape. You can RSVP and learn more about Spreecast, the new platform we are using for these discussions, here.
In the meantime use the Spreecast page to post interesting articles, videos or other reference you think folks should read before the discussion. Always good to hear from our community on these things, as it will help inform the discussion. I will be adding things there and here this week as I do my own prep and thinking for the discussion.
"Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox."