Earlier today I held a video chat briefing offering my take on current polling, politics and the national political landscape. If you would like to check it out I start off with about ten minutes of initial thoughts and then take questions for another twenty. You can watch it here. Feedback welcome of course.
For many years now the team at NDN/NPI has been making an argument that a new politics was emerging in the United States and around the world. We've argued that this new politics was being driven by three big changes - rapid advances in media and technology, profound changes in demography, and a new global governing agenda driven by the extraordinary changes brought about by early 21st century globalization. We predicted that, taken together, these developments would bring about a 21st century politics vastly different from that which we witnessed in the 20th century. The events of recent years - Barack Obama's people-driven campaign in 2008; the Iranian Uprising in 2009; the visionary speech by Secretary Clinton in 2010 on the "freedom to connect;" and of course the Arab Spring which began in 2011 and continues today. All of these events, along with recent waves of protest in Putin's Russia all suggest that true change is in the air, something new is afoot throughout the world, an old era is ending and a new one, full of possibility, is being born.
Of all the papers, events, thinkers and articles on this subject, few have been as influential to us in assembling this vision as Tim Chamber's path-breaking paper on the coming age of mobile. When he wrote this paper for us back in 2006, it opened our eyes, powerfully, to how this nascent internet age, characterized at that time by the Dean campaign and the rise of progressive bloggers here in the US, was about to give way to something much more ubiquitous and powerful - the age of mobile. Much of what Tim anticipated then has come to pass and we're proud that NDN/NPI has been one of the first and most consistent voices on the significance of this technology. The world is being altered by mobile in the ways we foresaw, but also in powerful ways we have not yet fully digested due to the rapid pace of evolution - think iPads and iPhones, the App revolution, Facebook and Twitter. Because of mobile we are on the verge of reaching what we think will be a tipping point in human history - a moment, when incredibly, everyone will be connected. Every one. The impact of all this transformation is only just now being understood while at the same time its effects are accelerating and intensifying.
So to help us make sense of all this we asked Tim to update his influential early work with a new look at this remarkable age of mobile. What follows in this paper is his take and where things stand today and where they may be headed. But as he and I discussed in reviewing the paper in its final edits, this paper is at best a sketch, a suggestion, an informed and very temporal take - for the velocity of change this new age of mobile brings will only deepen as bandwidth and access increases, more people arrive on the network, and the great spirit of human kind finds new and more creative and powerful ways to use this global information network for its own ends - and where that takes us is truly one of the great questions, and great opportunities, of this exciting moment in history.
On March 7th we hosted an event here at NDN with Suzanne Hall and Reed Hundt to help us release Tim's exciting new paper "The Mobile Revolution: Revisited." Full video of the event is available online here and the paper is available for download at the bottom of this page. Tim's thorough and insightful paper concludes with a series of concrete best-practices that will be essential for businesses, organizations, political activists, and everyone seeking to remain relevant in the years ahead.
The application window for our five summer intern slots closes Wednesday, March 14th. Details on the five openings can be found here. Send good folks our way! These are usually terrific experiences for the right, highly motivated and independent-minded student. Thank you - Simon
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters NDN/NPI is excited to announce that we have extended the lease on our terrific work and event space through the summer of 2015. As part of this new commitment, we will be making some significant improvements in our space over the next few weeks, including re-carpeting, repainting, some kitchen renovation and some upgrades to the event space which should improve acoustics and the overall event experience.
I want to personally thank Norman Jemal and his team at Douglas Development. We are in our fifth year now at 729 15th Street, and all along the way Norman and his team have been great landlords and a true pleasure to work with. We are excited we will be able to spend at least another 3 1/2 years doing some good with them at our wonderful headquarters just by the White House.
I was asked by US News to offer some thoughts on the impact of the GOP’s recent debates over social and cultural issues. I gave them a short essay, which you can read here at US News. A copy is also below:
Every day Republicans are talking about social issues is a bad day for the Republican Party. More so than most elections, the 2012 elections will be decided on the traditional issues that define presidential elections—foreign policy and the economy. With such enormous domestic and foreign policy challenges in front of us right now, there is going to be little room for much else this summer and fall.
Straying into social and cultural issues is dangerous territory for the GOP. It undermines the core attack of the Republican Party on Obama—that he has taken his eye off the ball on these matters—and risks making them look feckless in a time of great national challenge. I think this perception of the lack of seriousness of the GOP in a time of great national challenge has contributed dramatically to the significant shift away from the GOP toward the Democrats we've seen over the past few months (for new numbers on this shift see this newly released Politico poll).
This election will not be about what either party has done but about what they hope to do now to get the economy going again and make the world safer and better than it is today. The current Republican debate should not leave the party optimistic that it has a strong argument on these essential matters heading into Election 2012. Mitt Romney's main arguments are little different from the ones advanced by George W. Bush, which are widely understood to have failed. Tax cuts for the wealthy did not bring about a strong and healthy economy, just as a foreign policy that relied heavily on expensive and risky military interventions and global unilateralism did not produce the gains in security the costs of such efforts should have yielded. Listening to the likely GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, it sure sounds as if the GOP has not done the big rethink required from the failures of Republicans' governance last time they were in power.
But perhaps that is why the GOP is so comfortable venturing into social and cultural conversations these days. For on the two issues that will define 2012—foreign and economic policy—Republicans' current batch of arguments simply is inadequate for the complex and vital moment in history we find ourselves in. And until they fix that, they should not expect to be able to make up the ground they've lost against President Obama and the Democrats in the past few months,
Almost six years ago NDN released a pathbreaking paper, "Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics," that argued powerful, ubiquitous mobile devices would be the next big wave of global technological change, one which would have a profound effect on politics and civil society around the world. Six years later, we see this change all around us – Twitter and social networks are essential for breaking news and commentary, we carry our full digital lives with us on our smartphones and iPads, Ghonim and other leaders of the Arab Spring used these tools to usher in a new political age in the Arab World – this pace of change seems, if anything, to be intensifying not abating.
To look back at this remarkable and historic transformation, we asked the paper's prescient author, Tim Chambers, to do an update on his landmark work, which we will be releasing and discussing today here at NDN. Joining Tim and I for what will be a spirited discussion is former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and Suzanne Hall, Senior Advisor for Innovation, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Department of State.
For a compendium of our work in the mobile space since Tim's path-breaking paper see this recent post from Brad Bosserman. And look for Tim's new paper here on the site after noon.
"The Mobile Revolution, Revisited" will take place tomorrow, March 7th, at NDN/NPI's event space, 729 15th St, NW. Lunch will be served at noon and the program will begin at 1215pm. Seating is very limited for this event so please RSVP today. I hope you will join us - it is going to be a good one.
Today I announce a new addition to the NDN/NPI team - Bradley Bosserman will be joining us as a Policy Analyst, where he will manage a portfolio of foreign policy and global economic issues. Prior to joining NDN, he worked on defense, security, and grand strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Bradley has published reports on a wide range of national security and international relations topics, contributed a chapter to a forthcoming book on US-Iranian strategic competition, and has briefed members of the House and Senate Budget Committees as well as the Congressional “Super Committee.”
Previously, Bradley was a Research Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute where he was a lead author of the Budget for a Millennial America. He has a degree in Economics and Political Science from Aquinas College and is currently completing his Masters Degree in Government at Johns Hopkins University.
Keep a look out here for his writings and posts, starting this Thursday. Assume you will be seeing him here a great deal as he is a terrific writer with many many things to share.
Rob Shapiro, Chair of NDN's Globalization Initiative, and I have released the following memo:
Point One: Cutting Taxes Does Not Guarantee Growth or a Healthy Economy
The argument Romney has been making on the stump, that cutting tax rates drives broad based growth, strong employment gains and higher wages, is not supported by the evidence or experience of the American economy in the last twenty years.
In the 1990s Bill Clinton raised taxes on wealthy Americans and the US economy boomed – yet, we saw the longest expansion in US history, income gains across all income groups, lower levels of poverty, fast-rising stock prices, soaring corporate profits, and deficits that turned into surpluses.
In the Bush decade, we radically cut taxes and saw deficits explode, incomes decline for everyone but the very affluent, the housing bubble and then bust, a global financial collapse and of course the Great Recession.
Based on America’s experience over the last two decades, it would be appropriate for team Romney to be aggressively challenged in the coming days when they assert that tax cuts will produce a stronger US economy.
Point Two: Romney’s Plan Cannot Balance the Budget and Will Make Future Prosperity Less Likely
While there are many ways to reduce the deficit, there are three things which must happen to have any chance of bringing the budget into balance – the growth of spending for Medicare must slow, defense expenditures must be reduced, and taxes/revenues must be raised. This is simple math, as there isn't enough money in the rest of the budget to achieve balance without leading with these three areas.
Romney would slow the growth of Medicare spending by shifting much of the burden to retirees, and from published reports actually appears to be advocating to expand defense spending. Finally, the Romney tax plan appears to invoke the magical thinking of supply side economics to argue that cutting tax rates somehow increases revenues. This is an idea that has been disproven by the evidence and experience of our economy over the past generation. Taken together it means that Romney has no intention or capacity to produce a balanced budget, or one even close to balance.
Additionally, cuts in other areas of federal spending investment on the level that the Romney plan contemplates would require significant reductions in the things which most economists agree are essential to long term prosperity - education and training, infrastructure, and government funded R&D. The notion that in a time when America must do more to compete with rising levels of competition in the global economy that we should dis-invest in skills, infrastructure and R&D, seems less like a roadmap for prosperity than a guarantor of national decline.
It seems inevitable now. Look at the news in recent days - Iranian belligerence, Syria shelling, Americans held in Egypt, rising gas prices here at home. Whether we want to or not, America is once again about to have a major debate about our strategy towards a region of the world where America has invested so much in recent years, and gotten so little in return.
The recent announcement by the Obama Administration of their intent to turn America's strategic gaze to the East is sound, and smart. But the events of recent weeks remind us that the current challenges in the Middle East and places like Pakistan and Afghanistan won't vanish when we will pull our troops out of Afghanistan in the next few years. While we turn East we cannot take our off the ball of the Middle East and its neighbors, and a much clearer strategy for how we intend to engage there beyond military withdrawl is needed now.
For President Obama there is a political urgency to articulating this go foward strategy. With the US economy improving, the Republicans will have to turn to other attacks to bring him down this fall. An obvious approach would be to make the case that the President's strategy in MENA has failed. Gas prices are rising, the Administration has failed to stop Iran's nuclearization, Islamists are in charge now in too many nations, our troops were taken out prematurely, the President stopped Keystone and has been hostile to domestic production, Americans are being held in Egypt, we have no clear economic strategy to engage the many unemployed youth throughout the region, etc. This approach will allow the GOP to find a broad based and potentially potent way to attack the Administration now that their old line - "Obama has failed on the economy" - simply doesn't work any more, and their prospects in 2012 are looking less promising every day.
This line of attack also allows some Republicans to raise issues dormant in the national debate but still important to them. On "Morning Joe" this morning, Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, suggested that Obama had been soft on the Islamists in the region because he himself was a "son of Islam," implying of course that Obama was in essence an Islamic Manchurian Candidate. This sense of Obama as an unworthy and dangerous "foreigner" of course is a truly powerful meme that has coursed through the right from the day Obama stepped on the national stage. Rick Santorum made similar sounding allusions to the President's "otherness" throughout the weekend.
I know my friends that this all seems like a bit of a reach. We've made great strides in recent years in lessening our dependence on foreign energy sources. ME/NA is making slow, unsteady but historic strides towards greater pluralism and modernity. The President is a practicing Christian. The world is more united against Iran than every before. Terrorist groups are in retreat. Despite extraordinary headwinds the US economy is improving. There is a strong case to be made against this potential GOP line of attack but it is time now for the President to make that case, forcefully, and repeatedly, or risk playing defense on a powerful and consequential new dynamic emerging in global and US politics.
Update: Talked about these issues a few weeks ago on Megyn Kelly's show on Fox News.
If you have some time Thursday come join me for a live video web briefing/discussion about the current national political and policy landscape. It is another test of a new and powerful web video platform, Spreecast, which allows much greater capacity to interact and participate in the briefings, including the ability to include live video of our audience participating and asking questions (similar to Google Hangout).
So if you can make come join me at 215pm EST tomorrow. Just go to this page on our Spreecast Channel and join the conversation. While there be sure to check out some of the recent briefings/conversations we've conducted on a wide range of subjects.