Many NDNers in DC and New York knew my dad, Peter. He was not just a constant presence at our events over the years, but a major contributor to NDN in his own right. In the days since his passing two weeks ago, I've heard the same thing again and again -
"Simon, I remember talking to your Dad at an NDN event in xxxx. He was so interesting and thoughtful. Was a joy to talk to him." Or something along those lines.
My mother passed in 1998, so my father's departure - unexpected, a bit sudden - ends a very important chapter in my own life and career. I was motivated to the political life by my parents. It was their sense of justice, of the need to do more to make the world a better place, that I think at the end of the day led me to where I have been these past 25 years. It is safe to say without their powerful sensibilities, I would not have ever choosen this path, and started NDN many years ago.
I miss my Dad. I talked to him almost every day. He often called me with the latest political outrage (as he saw it). And I would try to calmly, not always successfully, why something was just, and so. I called him to report in on my remarkable wife, Caitlin, and my terrific kids Jed, Will and Kate. He was a constant presence in their lives too, and everyone at home misses him more than he would ever have believed. Willie said the other day that Grandpa Pete was "his best friend."
So the NDN family lost a big one this month my friends. The man who inspired me, who paid for our very first dinner back in 1996, who often provided a "bridge" loan during cash flow crunches. Other than me it is possible Peter Rosenberg did more to make NDN work these almost 17 years (in our various legal forms), and he will be missed.
For more on Peter, take a look at this wonderful obituary which is running now on the Antiques And The Arts Weekly web site. While I remain terribly sad, I am comforted at every moment by knowing that Peter lived a full and rich life, and that he touched so many people, warmly, powerfully, along the way.
A new article by Patrick Wintour in the British newspaper, The Guardian, examines the impact NDN and Rob Shapiro's economic analysis has had on thinking in the UK:
Labour is set to draw on what is described as "the most important chart in American politics" to claim that long-term stagnation of living standards in the UK, as opposed to low growth, may be the dominant issue facing the country at the next election.
Labour is drawing on research by the New Democrat Network (NDN) central to the Obama re-election campaign to shape its own election thinking.
The research was described by the Obama campaign as its North Star. It tracked three trends in the US economy between 1992 and 2009, showing how two – higher growth and higher productivity – had not been matched by a rise in living standards for the majority.
The Resolution Foundation thinktank, the leading voice on UK living standards, will next week produce its own State of the Nation report showing how long it will take to return to rising living standards in the UK even if growth returns. Labour will also launch its own exercise – "the condition of Britain" – next week, its policy review chief, Jon Cruddas, has revealed.
The analysis suggests Labour cannot respond simply with a promise to stoke demand, since growth alone will not address the issue of rising inequality and stagnant living standards for the majority.
It also indicates that the crisis of living standards predates the City-induced recession of 2008.
"The reason this is happening is because of rising global competition, the defining new economic challenge of our time," Simon Rosenberg, the head of the New Democrat Network, said in a recent interview.
"In the actual experience of the American economy, there has become an enormous gap between the upper one-third and everyone else."
The chart hung in the Obama campaign office, along with a caption derived from a focus group participant: "I'm working harder and falling behind." That same line was repeated by the president in a campaign stump speech.
Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary and a close student of US politics, told the Guardian: "Back in 1992 the famous dictum of Bill Clinton's adviser James Carville was: 'It's the economy, stupid.' It contained the implicit assumption that economic growth ensured rising living standards.
"Today that no longer can be taken for granted, as this important research by NDN and the Resolution Foundation shows. I've worked closely with the NDN in recent years and that collaboration confirms to me this is one of the defining challenges for today's progressives on both sides of the Atlantic."
Visit here to learn more this analysis, and the "most important chart in American politics. And if you are in DC on Monday please drop by our event where Dr. Shapiro will be unvieling new some new research on the economics of this new age of globalization.
Today, I released the following statement. For press inquiries, please contact Anjani Nadadur at email@example.com.
We are pleased to see both President Obama and the Senate taking such serious steps towards passing immigration reform in this Congress.
As we move forward on this debate, it is critical to recognize how much circumstances have changed since we began the process of reforming our immigration system back in 2005.
A few examples:
Success on the Border - Additional resources, better strategies, and enhanced cooperation with Mexico have brought about significant improvement in the border region. Net migration of undocumented immigrants into the US has dropped from 500,000 a year a decade ago to zero today, crime on the US side of the border has plummeted, all while legal trade and tourism with Mexico have grown at very rapid levels.
Mexico Is Growing, Modernizing - The Mexican "baby boom" which encouraged so many Mexicans to migrate into the US has ended, and the Mexican economy is producing far more better paying jobs. The birth rate per Mexican woman had fallen from 7.3 in 1960 to almost 2 today. Mexican economic growth is equally significant: by 2010, Mexican GNI per capita had risen to nearly $9,000, up from $3,250 in 1991. Today Mexico is the 13th largest economy in the world, is America’s 3rd largest trading partner and 2nd largest export market. If current trends continue, Mexico will be the 5th largest economy in the world by 2050. The result of these developments is that the enormous flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico into the U.S. we saw in the decade of the 2000s is almost certainly never going to be replicated.
The Immigration System Is Better - While Congress failed to act, the Obama Administration has taken a series of steps to improve the legal immigration system in the US in recent years, including: prioritizing criminal migrants for deportation, making it easier for families to stay together during the legalization process, replacing work place raids with more targeted and effective I-9 audits and removing the threat of deportation from deserving undocumented youth.
For those in Washington working on a 2013 Immigration Reform legislative package, it is essential that they take into account how much safer the border region is today, how much better the legal immigration system is, and how much Mexico itself is changing.
We are optimistic that the two parties can come together this year, building on the success of recent years, and take the critical next steps to reform the immigration system in America.
For more, see here for important NDN work on immigration reform and please find recent press on immigration reform here.
A new electorate re-electing a mixed race President with more than 50 percent of the vote. Democrats winning the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections. New communications tools and strategies are allowing greater citizen involvement in our politics than ever before. And new issues - from climate change to gay marriage to immigration reform to the "rise of the rest" and the "pivot to Asia" - dominate the national debate.
Has the US entered a new post-Reagan political era, one where the center-left has replaced the center-right as the dominant force in our politics? To discuss this, NDN/NPI is conducting a live web video discussion this Friday at 3pm Eastern time. Joining me will be two noted authors of books which argued a new era was upon us:
For those who may have missed our terrific forum yesterday featuring mayors from both side of the US-Mexico border, you can watch the C-Span recording here. We were pleased that C-Span went live with it yesterday.
For more on our border and immigration work please check back in at www.21border.com.
"The President has taken bold and courageous steps to combat rising gun violence in America. We at NDN look forward to working with the White House to help turn his agenda into law this year.
It should not be overlooked how much the new approach outlined by the President today would impact the south bound flow of illegal guns into Mexico, guns which have done so much to contribute to rising levels of violence in our Southern neighbor.
The President's plan, particularly the more aggressive actions taken against "straw purchasers" of guns, will not just America much safer but will dramatically improve the safety of the Mexican people so scared by violence in recent years.
In his four years in office, President Obama has made the border region safer and the immigration system here in the US better. His new gun violence plan will be another important step to making our neighbor Mexico, and the border region itself, even safer still."
Like many I was a bit amazed at Wayne LaPierre's effort to blame fictional weapons found in the movies, TV and video games for Sandy Hook style shootings in the US, and not the real guns themselves. Since then I have followed the debate closely and have listened to leading figures attempt to blame a rising "culture of violence" in the US for the conditions that have created these horrific incidents.
"Culture of violence." Are we living in a worsening culture of violence in the US today? Are our cities more dangerous, our kids less safe, our communities more under threat? As someone who lived through the 70s, 80s, 90s and the last decade this argument seemed ridiculous. My own city, Washington, DC, has seen a huge drop in crime. Let's take the murder rate. In 1993, there were 454 murders in DC. In 2011, 108, almost a fifth as many! The city is profoundly safer and more vibrant than in the dark days 20 years ago. This is also true for so many other cities in the US. In fact there has been something of an urban rivival in the US, with vibrant, prosperous and safer cites once again becoming the core of more dynamic metro areas in many many parts of the country. See the chart below mapping DC murder rates from 1993-2011.
So, to check and see if the US was actually more violent today, I looked at national data. And here is what I found: the incidents of violent crime in the US per 100,000 people in 1993 was 747; in 2011 it was 386, or half the rate. Half! Not 10 percent less, 20 percent less, but fully half. Even in absolute terms - not adjusted for the rapid population growth and huge waves of immigration in the last 20 years (and explosion of video game use) - violent crime is down, and down in all areas measured. See the chart below for one cut on the data, violent crimes per 100,000 people over the past generation.
The reduction in crime that has taken place in the US over the past twenty years is something that, as a society we should celebrate, and be proud of. America was indeed a violent place. It simply isn't any more. All of this happened while immigration has soared, something that normally could be associated with less social cohesion, and all forms of media consumption - video games, tv, movie, youtube - have increased. Gun ownership, by the way, has also been declining for generations now. Far few people own guns in the US than two generations ago.
While I am no expert on these matters, it seems like a much more reasonable interpretation of recent data is that while the consumption of all forms of media has increased - including mature video games - all forms of violence in the US have dropped. There just isn't a strong statistical basis for claims that we are or have become more violent, and this violence has somehow contributed to these horrific incidents. But what seems clear as day is that if these disturbed people did not have high capacity assault weapons, the carnage they would have caused would have been much less severe. Crime is down, violence is down, but these mass killings are up. To me,the culprit seems to be much more likely to be real guns than the fictional ones in Mr. LaPierre's imagination. And we can, and I hope will, do something about that in this coming Congress.
Have found it interesting in the morning after the horrors of the Sandy Hook shooting discussions about what it would take, politically, to make our gun laws a bit more reasonable. Many of these discussions have eventually ended up reviewing the role of the "Republican House," a House which is either going to be a bulwark against "liberal overreach" (their formulation), or a reactionary force thwarting the will of the majority eager to leave an old age of politics behind (mine).
John Boehner is in no easy position right now. He retained control of the House not through popular will and the consent of the governed, but vigorous redistricting (as the Times documents today). His caucus is made up largely of Members from 70 percent plus GOP districts, whose values on most major issues are out of step with the majority of the country. The Speaker's job of course is to fight for his caucus, something that so far this year is driving his and his Party's poll numbers down to extraordinary low, even dangerous levels. His caucus is in the thrall of late Reagan era rigid, reactionary, ideological positions - no tax hikes, no amnesty, no Obamacare, no gun control - which leave little room for compromise or negotiation. The big question of this Congressional cycle is how long can Boehner and his team hold out against the popular will, and a much more organized and aggressive Democratic team. The negotiations over the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling are the first test of this new political moment. This is not just a Democrat vs. Republican battle, but very much one of forward/backward as I wrote in this major magazine article, and posited in "A 50 Year Strategy," a landmark Mother Jones piece from a few years ago (see Krugman's smart take on all this). And it is unclear how it is all going to turn out.
The Times redistricting piece today raises important questions about whether the particular distribution of today's US population has created a political system slow or unable to accommodate the popular will, or this era of politics. The Times piece looks at the packing of Democratic voters in urban areas. We have identified another, and I think, more serious problem - that half of the nation's population today lives in just nine states. Half of our country - more diverse, more urban, more immigrant - is represented by 18 Senators. The other half - more rural, more white, older - is represented by 82 Senators. This flow of our population into these 9 states over the past generation has resulted in what we described as a "small state bias," which is in itself has become a major mechanism for thwarting the national will.
This discussion began with more reasonable gun laws, but could also be applied to an issue like immigration reform. In the 2012 exit polls, fully 65% of voters embraced legal status for undocumented immigrants, a number consistent with most polls over the past 7 years. And yet we cannot move immigration bills through Congress, largely due to conservative (read House Republican) opposition. Why is this? I believe it comes down to a great degree to this issue of the distribution of the population. The majority of the country who want immigration reform is not represented by a majority in the Senate, or House, due to the methods we use to apportion representation in Congress. It is this small state bias at its most extreme.
The big societal and political breakthrough we saw this past cycle - the growing acceptance of gay marriage - happened without needing a vote of House Republicans, playing out in the courts and in the states. I am not suggesting in any way that the center-left should not fight with everything it has for its agenda in Washington these next two years. But we also have to understand that the Senate and House are not in synch with the growing majority consensus on issues like immigration reform, gay marriage, reasonable gun laws, economic and fiscal matters and other issues. The battles in Congress these next two years are going to be tough, hard and sometimes disappointing - but of course very much worth waging. The current House is just wildly out of step with today's America.
And it is also why a big, broad political reform agenda whose goal is to make it easier for everyone to vote and to remove anti-democratic processes from the system should be at the very top of the center-left's agenda in the years to come.
Update, Mon AM - New HuffPo poll shows majority support for more reasonable gun laws, assault weapons ban. Why I have no doubt these numbers may shift in the months ahead, it demonstrates that there is a working majority ready, now, to move on improving our gun laws.
Tues, AM - A new National Journal piece details the latest GOP scheme to game the US political system. This one will move to apportion electoral college votes by district in Democratic leaning blue states. One more reason why it is time for the Democratic Party to offer a big and bold political reform agenda, including the embrace of the National Popular Vote effort, which would eliminate the electoral college altogether.
America is changing. So are its politics. New voters have entered the electorate. New tools are changing the way we connect, and the way we do just about everything else in our lives. New challenges – from a transforming Arab world, to the rise of China, to the way our economy is evolving – make navigating Washington and governing today very different from times past. To help our community understand and navigate these changes, NDN is launching an exciting new program called The Study Group.
The Study Group is not an endless string of happy hours or a series of stale symposiums. It is a community dedicated to learning and discussing the big changes going on in the world today, in intimate settings that empower our members in tackle these issues in their own careers.
Membership in The Study Group is $1,000 annually. SG Members will be invited to participate in private, monthly events that center on real conversations with leading thinkers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and government officials who are blazing trails through this new world. SG Members will also have a voice in our programming and will be encouraged to help us identify future speakers and participants that speak to their unique interests.
Most of our events will be private lunches, but we also expect to host three or four receptions and parties each year.
You can become a member of NDN’s Study Group today by making a credit card donation of $1,000. Reserve your membership today – and you will start receiving event invitations right away. Our new program kicks off in January and our first group of speakers will be announced soon. And be sure to visit our website for The Study Group - it will be undergoing upgrades and improvements over the next few months.
Several polls out over the past few days show the Republican Party to be in terrible shape right now, both in absolute terms and relative to the President:
- Rasmussen and NBC/WSJ show a significant drop in the standing of the GOP since the election, a drop so severe and so big that it could be called a collapse. Rasmussen shows a 10 point drop, WSJ/NBC a net 8 point drop. Both find the GOP in the 30s, and far far below the Democrats. A new Pew poll has the GOP Congressional approval rating at 25%, a new WaPo/ABC poll finds only 24% of voters approving of the job Speaker Boehner is doing in the fiscal cliff negotiations. The Rasmussen Congressional generic is showing a staggering 21 point net swing towards the Democrats in the last two years.
- Pew and WaPo/ABC find the GOP to be in bad shape reletive to the President in the current fiscal cliff negotiations. In WaPo/ABC more than twice as many voters would blame the GOP if the deal collapsed, and only 32% believe the GOP is making a serious effort to reach a deal. while 55% believe the President is being serious.
Frankly, these are shockingly bad poll numbers. If I were Speaker Boehner I would cut a deal quickly, get out of town and live to fight another day. The GOP is in no shape to take on the President right now and need to retreat, quickly.