National Politics

On Trump's Meeting with Lavrov Today - Time To End The Appeasement of Russia

This morning we released the following statement to the media and our community: 

When President Trump meets with Vladimir Putin’s most senior aide at the White House today, it is essential that the President use this time to raise concerns about Russia’s rising ambitions on the global stage. Among the issues that should be on the agenda:

• Russian interference in the elections and internal politics of the United States and Europe
• Russia’s violation of the INF nuclear treaty (link)
• The imperative of returning Crimea to Ukraine, and cessation of its adventurous military operations in the region
• Rising Russian support of the Taliban in Afghanistan (link), and escalation in Libya (link)
• Russia’s establishment of a military installation in Nicaragua (link)
• And of course, the need for Russia to stop propping up Syria’s murderous dictator, and prolonging the Syrian Civil War

“While Americans should be very concerned about Russia’s intervention in our election last year on behalf of Donald Trump, what is far more worrisome is President Trump’s unwillingness to challenge Russia’s rising ambitions on the global stage since becoming President” said NDN President Simon Rosenberg.

“In another age we would call President Trump’s early approach to Russia “appeasement.” Today, President Trump has an opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that he is capable of standing firm against this rising global threat from a newly ambitious Russia. His failure to raise these matters with FM Lavrov and demand a change in Russia’s course would send a signal to the world that America supports Russia’s newly aggressive stance. Such an approach is of course unacceptable, and would give additional fodder to those who have been argued that Trump can be friends with Putin or be President of the United States - but he cannot be both.”

Update: So the meeting happened.  Lavrov brought along Ambassador Kislyak, thought to be the chief Russian spymaster in the US.  These two men helped lead the Russian campaign to elect Trump.  And Our President met with them without any other American in the room - no translator, no press, no national security council staff.  Just Putin's top aide, and the Russian spymaster in the US.  How Kislyak was allowed into the Oval Office is beyond comprehension.  And of course the White House's read out of the meeting was milquetoast, and neglected to mention Kislyak's presence.  And of course did not mention anything about the ongoing Russian interference campaign in the US or in Europe.  Pure, clear, mighty appeasement it is. 

Update: So I took to Twitter and elaborated on this piece a bit.  Well worth your time.  Biggest issue in American politics today. 

"No Normal Time" - A Special Note from Simon

Dear Friends,

Some days it is important to note just how unusual, and pernicious, American politics has become. Sally Yates’ testimony today reminds us that our President and his allies are under an unprecedented investigation for treason and active collusion with a hostile foreign power. The House passed ACHA and its emerging budget strategy is an extraordinary betrayal of everything Donald Trump campaigned on; would do clear, measurable harm to tens of millions of Americans in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest among us; and as Paul Krugman argues today in the New York Times represents a degree of direct lying about policy that is also unprecedented in modern American history. More stories of rank and unprecedented corruption by the Trump family once again dominate our headlines this morning. And just this morning our President took to Twitter to discuss golf and once again give clumsy cover to the Russian attack on the American homeland (and French, German and many others) last year. These things are not normal, or okay.

While there is good news out of France this morning, we cannot forget just how extraordinary this moment in American politics is. There is no “business as usual” option here, a sense that things will somehow settle down to something resembling “normal politics.” This is why we’ve so aggressively advocated that Democrats start to make these matters – the appeasement of Russia, the corruption, the epic malevolent lying, the denigration of democratic norms – front and center in their negotiations with Trump and the GOP. We cannot segregate off traditional policy considerations from these broader areas of concern as doing so will be in its own way a form of appeasement and acceptance.

We also have recently advocated that the RNC be challenged to take far more aggressive steps in combating the reoccurrence of foreign attempts to influence our elections that FBI Director Comey predicted will come. The RNC and thus the entire Republican Party and all of its members played a significant role in mainstreaming the Russian operation in the US last year, and were thus critical to its success. This shameful legacy needs to be confronted by the current leadership of the RNC, and steps taken to work with willing Democrats to create a united political front against foreign interference in our elections.

These are no ordinary times. History tells us that in times like these many well-intentioned people will fail to understand how extraordinary the moment is, and to allow wishful thinking to overwhelm good sense. We in America don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of politics, so perhaps it is understandable. But let me be as clear as day – this organization will not stop challenging those in power to meet this worrisome moment head on and with force equal to what is coming at us. Creativity, strategic thinking and good old fashioned courage are required now. And we are going to do our part in making sure that America comes out of this time stronger, wiser and more just than before. We hope you will continue to partner with us in these consequential days ahead to assure that it is so.

Best,

Simon

Monday, May 8th 2017 From Washington, DC

Column: Democrats should put Russia, corruption and tax returns on agenda w/Trump

Today, US News and World Report published Simon's latest column,“Standing Firm.” In the column Simon recommends that in the coming negotiations with President Trump on a wide variety of issues – including the budget, debt ceiling, infrastructure, improving the Affordable Care Act and even matters of war and peace – Democrats should add three more important issues to the agenda:

1. Full presidential cooperation with the various probes into Russian interference in U.S. politics.
2. Commonplace financial transparency - release of tax returns, public audit of Trump's holdings.
3. Cessation of presidential use of his private businesses for matters of state.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Trump's Great Betrayal

A new statement from NDN’s Simon Rosenberg:

“Candidate Donald Trump promised every day Americans his Administration would fight for them. Two months into his Presidency it is clear he has no intention of following through on his promise. These early months of the Trump Presidency could become known as “The Great Betrayal.”

Fair? Let’s take three simple examples:

Health Care – Candidate Trump promised health reform that would cover everybody, lower costs and not cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The House GOP health care bill he has endorsed and promoted would dramatically increase the number of uninsured (25m, 7% of US population); would increase costs for everybody, particularly for older people; and would savagely cut Medicaid. His plan would make tens of millions of those people he pledged to fight for sicker and poorer, while giving hundreds of billions of new tax cuts to wealthy people like those he hangs out each weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

Few proposals in American history could do as much harm to working people as the health care plan championed by Donald Trump these past few weeks. It is literally the opposite of what he promised he would do.

His Budget – The partial budget document Trump released last week would make massive cuts in education and job training, transportation and infrastructure, simple environmental protections and many other programs critical for working people to live good and decent lives. Whether working people would get a tax break for all of this is unclear as he hasn’t released a complete budget. But if his budget follows the strategy of his health care plan expect the benefits to flow to those already wealthy with little left for those struggling to get by.

His Staff – Despite his campaign rhetoric, the Trump Administration led by the wealthiest collection of Americans to every lead an American Administration in the modern era of American politics, and perhaps ever. It is full of Wall Streeters, including 5 former executives of Goldman Sachs. Working class champions are as hard to find in the early Trump Administration as those immigration documents of Melania’s he promised back in August.

Based on what he has done in his first months in the White House, it is now clear that Donald Trump lied to the American people about his intentions as President. Rather than championing the working man, Donald Trump has backed proposals that would transfer hundreds of billions of dollars from every day Americans to those already wealthy and well off. It is an astonishing and historic betrayal of the people he promised to serve, leaving tens of millions sicker and poorer and even more with reduced life opportunities. Donald Trump hasn’t shown respect to those he pledged to fight for, he has shown them hostility and contempt. He is far more venal Robber Baron than virtuous populist, far more Calvin Coolidge than Andrew Jackson, far more an oligarch than a man of the people.

I am positing for others to debate that no President in American history as veered as far from the core promises and message of his campaign as Trump has in his first few months. It is Trumpian in its scale, something that I hope becomes known as “The Great Betrayal.”

Column: 5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion

In his new US News column,“5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion,” Simon warns that Trump’s economic policies are more likely than not to derail the long Obama expansion.

According to Simon, there are 5 steps Trump is taking that are likely to weaken growth and hasten a recession:

• Labor market disruptions
• Loss of tourism
• Making America sicker and poorer
• The weakening of the global trade system
• A reckless budget

An excerpt from "5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion" –

"If the president's plans provide huge tax benefits to those already well off – as Bush's did – and create massive deficits, the net result will harm the U.S. economy and the nation's fiscal integrity. The hugely regressive nature of the Trump-Ryan health care bill is a sign of where the GOP is going, and it should worry everyone concerned about a strong, healthy American economy.

So, growth or recession? If the president just kept current economic policies in place, the U.S. would probably be headed for a few more years of growth, possibly even strong growth. But the president isn't keeping those policies in place, and I worry that what he is trying to do will in aggregate threaten our economy more than help it grow.

Our president has made a good living catering to wealthy Americans and foreigners. While that strategy may have worked as a private business, the American people and their economy can prosper only if the tide is lifting all boats, not just those docked at Mar-a-Lago. And that just isn't where America is headed now. So count me as worried about our economic prospects, and the ability of Trump to sustain a long and durable expansion left for him by his predecessor."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

For more of NDN's work on the Democrats and Republicans' stewardship of the US economy, please review our memo, "In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits, and Incomes."

"The President Didn't Release A Budget Today" - Statement from Simon Rosenberg

“The President did not release a budget today. Budgets have income and expenditures, surpluses and deficits. This document had none of that. It only detailed the expenditure side of a small portion of the overall budget, which we will apparently not see for another two months. That it has taken the Trump Administration so long to come up with this partial proposal, and is so far behind in producing the traditional document we use to run our nation, should be a concern for all Americans. Being months late on budget blueprints and attacking the government’s system for tracking the economic impact of budgets and legislation (the CBO) is not something global markets and investors traditionally reward.

One reason it is taking so long for this White House to produce a budget is that it is almost certainly proving impossible to translate the President’s promises into a budget that will pass a fiscal laugh test. President Trump has promised to radically reduce revenue to the federal government, while significantly increasing DOD, DHS and VA spending and not touching Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Even with the draconian cuts in domestic programs the Administration offered today it is reasonable to assume that the Administration’s budget, if we are to ever see it, will propose historic increases in the federal deficit and no proven strategy for growth. The last Republican President also significantly reduced revenue and increased defense spending. It brought us a Great Recession, income decline and a ten-fold increase in the annual deficit. Why this strategy will work for President Trump when it didn’t work for President Bush is something that needs some discussion in the days ahead.

Finally, it should be noted that over the last generation of American politics it has been Democrats who have presided over job growth, rising incomes, lower annual deficits and soaring stock markets. During this time two consecutive Republican Presidents brought us recessions, income decline and higher annual deficits. When it comes to the strategy for how to make economies grow and lower deficits the public should be looking to the Democrats and not to the Party of Trump.”

- Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

For more on the performance of the two parties since the end of the Cold War see this recent memo from NDN.

Memo: In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits, and Incomes (Updated)

Overview – With the debate in Washington soon to turn to budget and economic matters, we have updated and are releasing a memo we first produced in 2016. This short memo looks at the economic performance of the two American political parties when in the White House since the end of the Cold War.

We use 1989 as a starting point for comparison because when it comes to the American and global economies, the collapse of Communism and the non-aligned movement ushered in a new, truly global economic era, one very different from the one that came before. It is thus fair to see how the two parties have adapted to the enormous changes this new era has offered, and whether their policies have helped America prosper or struggle as we and the world changed.

As you will see from the following analysis, the contrast between the performance of the Democrats and Republicans in this new economic era is stark: 2 GOP Presidencies brought recessions, job loss, higher annual deficits, and struggle for workers; the 2 Democratic Presidencies brought recovery and growth, job and income gains, and lower annual deficits.

Based on these findings it is fair to assert that over the past generation the Democratic Party has been far more effective at crafting effective responses to a new economic era than the Republican Party. This case is bolstered, of course, when recalling the GOP’s spirited predictions of economic calamity when opposing both the 1993 Clinton economic plan and budget and the 2009/2010 Obama stimulus and “job-killing” Affordable Care Act. The Republicans have gotten it wrong now in four consecutive Presidencies.

While it will not be the subject of this short memo, our findings raise questions about whether the characterizations of the US economy as one not producing income and wage gains either over 40 years or over the past 15 years are accurate. It would appear that a more accurate description of the US economy in recent years is that with smart policies, Americans can prosper even in a more challenging and competitive global age.

We hope that commentators and policy makers keep the findings of this memo in mind as the Republicans roll out their budget and economic plans in the coming weeks. The Party’s track record on economic matters in this new age of globalization is not something that should inspire confidence in voters looking for plans that create jobs, raise wages and lower the annual deficit. It has been the other Party that has done that.

Column: A Strategy for Confronting Trump, Restoring Democratic Norms

In his new column for US News, "Drawing the Line with Trump," Simon argues that Democrats need to abandon traditional responses to the Trump Presidency, and set new rules of engagement. Trump’s early, repeated trampling of democratic norms must be confronted head on now. Friday’s decision to strip legal residents of the US of their liberties without debate or consultation is the act of an autocrat or dictator, not an American President. No further evidence of his intentions are needed now.

In his piece Simon lays out four conditions for continued Democratic cooperation:

1) Stop the Executive Orders
2) Debate Your Proposals In Congress
3) Divest or Disclose
4) Honor Decorum

Trump has historically low levels of public support; voters already have grave concerns about his secret holdings and the potential for corruption; and regular people are already taking unprecedented steps to protest his early Presidency. Democrats have a great deal of running room to take a dramatic and principled stand not against Trump but in favor of the rule of law and our democratic system itself.

Column: "The End of Pax Americana?"

US News and World Report has published Simon's eleventh column, "The End of Pax Americana," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his column, "Chin up, Democrats," in which Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics.
 
An Excerpt from "The End of Pax Americana"
 
In just his first week in office, Donald Trump has made moves that could set the nation back generations. He is trying to dismantle the global order that American built and led after World War II, which ushered in a relative Golden Age for Americans and the people of the world. For reasons that are still unclear, Trump seems intent on tearing down this successful global system without offering any kind of vision of what will replace it. Given that this system was erected as a way of preventing the developed world from slipping back into a frenzy of nationalism and protectionism that in the 1930s and '40s brought global economic collapse, mass unemployment and a World War that left tens of millions dead, this is no small matter.
 
Let's look at what Trump has said and done over the past few weeks. He unilaterally walked away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a liberalizing trade pack with countries representing 40 percent of the global economy that would have not only extended the global system to more countries but modernized it for the Internet Age. He has called for the renegotiation of the core economic relationship with two of our three largest trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and already threatened to unilaterally leave what we call the North American Free Trade Agreement. The New York Times reports today that an executive order is coming that will dramatically cut back American support and involvement in multi-lateral institutions like the United Nations. Imposing unilateral tariffs and border taxes as Trump has threatened would begin to unravel the global trade regime that has been in place since the 1940s. He has called NATO obsolete, and has cheered on Brexit and encouraged other countries to leave the EU. On Wednesday he announced a series of highly xenophobic steps including the building of his famous wall with Mexico.
 
Taken together Trump is signaling a retreat to the very kind of politics – nationalism, protectionism, racism and xenophobia – that brought about actual carnage in much of the developed world a few generations ago.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary

US News and World Report has published Simon's ninth column, "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in which Simon does a deep dive on why Trump 's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

An Excerpt from "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary"

This week, President-elect Donald Trump thumbed his nose at the government agency that oversees ethics in the Executive Branch by announcing he intends to keep all of his far flung holdings as president. Whether this unprecedented and arrogant act is illegal and unconstitutional and not just unethical will be at the center of what is sure to be a vigorous debate in the coming months.

But the worry about his arrangement is far greater than the issue of propriety and legality. Let me offer a few examples:

It establishes new far weaker norms. Perhaps inspired by Trump's example, we've already seen House Republicans vote to gut their own ethics regime; the Senate GOP is holding hearings on Cabinet nominees without either their FBI background check or ethics clearance completed; challenging anti-nepotism laws, Trump is bringing his son in law, who is also not divesting from all his holdings, into the White House; and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson refuse to recuse himself from overseeing decisions affecting his lifelong employer, Exxon Mobil. In these early days, the new GOP has made it clear it intends to weaken or ignore good government policies put into place decades ago – the very opposite of draining the swamp.

It encourages public corruption. Remarkably, Trump not only refused to adopt the many suggestions outside counsel had for how to ethically manage his holdings, he actually walked back a commitment for the Trump Organization to do no new deals while he is president. In his Wednesday press conference, Trump said the business will in fact be able to do "domestic" deals. This is a clear signal from our next president that investors/courtiers, and one would assume U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, should begin lining up at Trump Tower to begin talks on domestic U.S. projects. The benefit of these deals would go directly to the benefit of the Trump family, and since he has not divested, Trump himself. As all of his business dealings are essentially secret, the public would have no way of knowing who was entering into business with the family of the sitting president. The opportunity for public corruption here is perhaps unprecedented in all of American history.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

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