NDN Blog

One Of The Great Joys of Running NDN

I started the original NDN back in 1996 with a simple idea - more needed to be done to invest and nuture new leaders, ideas and institutions if the center-left was to repel and defeat what I have called the conservative ascendency. 

Over these many years the investments we've made have helped build a better politics for the nation.  Many of our political allies have moved on to powerful positions of influence, ideas and strategies we've promoted have modernized the nation's politics, and institutions we've helped start have grown and are adding value every day.  I look back at this time and our our investments, and I have to say that I am pleased.   Together, we have made a difference.

Over the last few days, however, the part of the job that I think has been most rewarding was highlighted to me in ways I wanted to share with all of you.  Yesterday, I shared a stage with the vital and important new Senator, Michael Bennett, and a thoughful new Member of Congress, Joe Garcia, who gave an first hand account of the House immigration reform debate from his perch on the Judiciary Committee.  Tuesday night, our friends at Fusion, the new ABC/Univision joint venture, announced that Alicia Menendez was joining the network as an anchor, and getting her own show. 

Joe and Alicia were recent staffers here at NDN.  They are two of the best, and smartest, people I have ever worked with, and are deserving of their success.  Over the years we've helped an awful lot of people and ideas graduate to the next level of influence, but it is the staffers like Joe and Alicia, when they take their big leaps, which give me the most pride, and satisfaction.  I am incredibly proud of both of them, and am confident in their continued success.  Way to go gang!

And a big thank you to our supporters, investors, cheerleaders and allies who have made all this possible.  This week we do indeed have cause to look back and be proud.

Some Thoughts on Modernizing the Postal Service for a New Century

At NDN/NPI, we think a lot about the power of networks, and the role they play in creating economic prosperity and personal freedom.  In the US today our economy is built on top of a series of dynamic and powerful networks which allow commerce, people, ideas and so much else to flow over and through them.  Think about it - our transportation/ports of entry network, our electricity and energy network, our telcom network, our financial network (are there more?).  The vibrancy, capacity and modernity of these networks are essential to the health of our country, and countries all around the world today. 

In recent years, another network, the first real national network the United States ever built, the Postal Service, has struggled.  There is no real confusion why.  Modern telecommunications has changed the way we connect with one another, making us much less dependent on traditional mail to move information around.  Some bad decisions and a lack of a real vision for how the Postal Service could modernize itself around this new information and economic landscape didn't help.  Given what still moves over this network, it is critical that our policy makers get about the business of not bailing the Postal Service out but modernizing it. There is a very real risk that the Postal Service could fail if it is not modernized for a different day and different US economy.

It is in that vein that I am excited to be hosting a discussion here at our office on Monday about building a "21st Century Postal Service."  It features two men who have participated in a very thoughtful, bi-partisan process of developing a new vision for the vaunted USPS.  Their plan is to accept that the national postal network has already become a shared public-private one, with enormous amounts of packages already being delivered by the private sector, and "worksharing" which has allowed private sector actors to do things the USPS already does less expensively..  Their proposal would take another few pieces of this hybrid network - more back end processing, more transporting of letters and packages and a piece of the public postal services interface - and commercializes them.  What would remain of the current USPS is the "last mile" feature, the letter carrier, the person we trust to wander through our neighborhoods every day, keeping an eye on things, while also working hard to get our letters and our packages to us despite rain, sleet, snow, angry dogs and so much else. The new USPS would set a price for private sector actors for use of this last mile system, and let the market do its thing (the current USPS already moves over 300 million packages for private carriers each year in this way).

To me, this seems like an eminently reasonable plan.  It preserves the most important part of the traditional Postal Service, the letter carrier.  It tweaks the already hybrid public-private system we have today.  It will bring more access to postal and package services, something that any of us who has stood in long lines at current USPS will attest is long past due.  And it will clearly create opportunities for further innovation in both the postal network, and for the businesses who operate on top of it. 

For those who want to defend the current USPS, I just want to point out that all of the major networks that undergird our national economy are already some kind of public private hybrid, and the current postal network - through the growth of private package delivery and worksharing - has been a public-private hybrid for decades.  What we have today is already much more a postal "network" than postal "service."  In an age of enormous technological and global economic change, these networks, which hold so much value for our economy, must allow private sector financianing mechanisms to augment public investments or the public only/first approach will simply become swept aside by the pace of this change (something one could argue has already occured for the current USPS).  The private sector option becomes another tool to solve a problem, and is one that for the most part has proved more nimble and responsive to the moment than the traditional bureaucracy-driven, top-down government first approach.   We shouldn't fear the private option.  it.  In fact, in this age of great change, we almost need to guarantee private financing options for public services like the USPS in order to preserve them.

So, will this plan work? I'm not sure, but that's why we are holding this event.  We want to learn more, toss these ideas into the debate, give these savvy, experienced veterans of the Postal Wars a chance to make their case.  It sure seems like a smart and pragmatic upgrade to our the national treasure that is our postal network.  Come join our conversation and let us know what you think. 

Invite: Mon, May 20th - A 21st Century Postal Service

Please join NDN on Monday May 20th at noon for a luncheon discussion of postal reform, and how to modernize and save the Postal Service.

Joining us will be two of the four co-authors of a recently released paper urging the Postal Service to concentrate on what it does best -- final mile delivery -- and establish a charge for that service. George Gould is the former National Legislative and Political Director for the National Association of Letter Carriers; John Nolan is a former Deputy Postmaster General.  A similar final mile delivery charge is already established for packages and standard mail.  The authors call for extending that system to all mail.

The discussion will take place at NDN's event space, just a block from the White House, at 729 15th Street, NW, Washington. We'll serve lunch at noon, and the program will begin promptly at 12:15, ending at 1:30pm

Please RSVP here and we look forward to seeing you on May 20th. In case you cannot join us for the event in person, we will also be streaming the event live online.

Simon has just also published a short essay on the topic, for background. 

Today: Tue, May 21st - Senator Michael Bennet, Rep. Joe Garcia on Border/Immigration Reform

With the Senate Judiciary Committee in the midst of marking up a bill to fix our broken immigration system, NDN and NPI's 21st Century Border Initiative will host a special lunchtime keynote address featuring Senator Michael Bennet (D-Col.) highlighting the progress this critically important bill is making through Congress. Congressman Joe Garcia (D, FL-26) will also join us to give an update on the House immigration legislation. Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN and the New Policy Institute will introduce Senator Bennet.

Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the “Gang of Eight” that drafted the Border Immigration bill.
Congressman Joe Garcia, member of the House Judiciary Sub-Committee on Immigration and Border Security.
Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN and the New Policy Institute.

Congressman Joe Garcia will be give an update on progress made in the House on immigration legislation.
Senator Michael Bennet, Member of the “Gang of Eight,” will deliver remarks emphasizing the progress made on the Immigration Border Reform Bill.

The event will take place in room SR-485  in the Russell Senate Office Building. We will start at noon and the program will begin at 12:10, with Congressman Garcia speaking at 12:15, Senator Bennet will be speaking promptly at 12:30 and the event will end at 1:00 pm. To RSVP for this event please click here.Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

A Great NDNer, My Dad, Peter, Passes Away

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.

Guardian Article Details NDN Collaboration With UK Labour Party on Econ Issues

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.

Simon Rosenberg: Border is Safer, Immigration System Is Better

Today, I released the following statement. For press inquiries, please contact Anjani Nadadur at anjani@ndn.org.

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.

Invite: Today, Fri, 1/25, 3pm: Is the US Entering A New Political Era?

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: 

Dr. Mike Hais, NDN Fellow, Co-Author of Millennial Makeover and Millenial Momentum

Dr. Tom Schaller, Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Sun Columnist, and Author of the highly influential Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without The South

For further background please review some of NDN's work in this arena over the past decade or so.  

To join us saddle up in front of a computer or tablet or even a phone on Friday at 3pm and bring your questions. RSVP and join at this link. It should be a terrific session.  

Also, make sure to follow us on twitter at @SimonWDC, @MikeandMorley, and @schaller67.

The C-Span Recording of NDN's Jan 18th Border Event

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.

Statement from NDN on the President's Gun Violence Announcement Today

"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."

- Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

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