NDN Blog


Por favor de prestar atención al anuncio que se ha dado: se informa que la Presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes, Nancy Pelosi, ha escogido al Congresista Xavier Becerra para emitar la respuesta oficial en español de los demócratas al Discurso del Presidente Bush sobre el Estado de la Unión.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – La Presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes Nancy Pelosi y el Líder de la Mayoría del Senado Harry Reid anunciaron hoy que el Congresista Xavier Becerra de California, Asistente de la Presidenta de la Cámara, y el único miembro del Congreso de California del Sur que forma parte del poderoso Comité de Medios y Arbitrios emitirá la respuesta oficial en español de los demócratas al Discurso del Presidente Bush sobre el Estado de la Unión el próximo martes, 23 de enero, 2007.

“Estamos orgullosos de que el Congresista Xavier Becerra emita la respuesta en español este año,” dijeron la Presidenta de la Cámara Pelosi y el Líder de la Mayoría del Senado Reid. “Su intelecto profundo y su experiencia substantiva de la política pública le han hecho un líder nacional en cuanto a varios temas de importancia para los latinos y todos los estadounidenses. Como ex Presidente del Caucus Hispano Congresional y como integrante nuevo del Liderazgo Demócrata, como Asistente de la Presidenta de la Cámara, el Congresista Becerra fortalece las voces de los latinos y del Partido Demócrata por todo el país.”

“Es un día nuevo y una dirección nueva,” dijo el Rep. Becerra. “Me siento honrado que la Presidenta Pelosi y el Líder del Senado Reid me han dado la oportunidad de compartir con el pueblo estadounidense los pensamientos de los demócratas sobre el estado de la unión y las varias ideas y propuestas de política pública para fortalecer a nuestro país.”

Se hará pública una trascripción, traducción a inglés, y una versión podcast MP3 en el sitio Web http://Becerra.House.Gov siguiendo la respuesta del Rep. Becerra la noche de martes.

# # #   BECERRA.HOUSE.GOV   # # #

Dan Balz on Obama and Hillary

You may think you've read it already when it comes to analysis of Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but Dan Balz has an excellent take in today's WAPO:

Democrats moved a step closer yesterday to what shapes up as one of the most historic and compelling contests ever for their party's presidential nomination, a study in contrasting styles and candidacies in which race and gender play central roles in the competition.

At center stage stand Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who set up his presidential exploratory committee yesterday, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is set to make clear her intentions soon. Never has a party begun a nomination contest with its two most celebrated candidates a woman and an African American.

Senator Jim Webb to Give Democratic Response to the State of the Union

Senator Jim Webb has been tapped to give the Democrats' response to President Bush's State of the Union next week.  It's short notice, but this is a man who wrote his own op-ed for the Wall Street Journal without running it by his staff, so his speech may end up being must-see-tv, with more candor than usual.  Senator Webb is a marine combat veteran, whose son is currently serving in Iraq, and his outspoken oppostion to the President's Iraq policy will provide an important voice, as we debate America's involvement going forward

Stem Cell Innovation in NY

In NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress, we urge our leaders to "invest in and encourage the extraordinary promise of the knowledge revolution in science and medical care."

Now, a good friend, Gov. Eliot Spitzer is stepping up and fighting NY's legendary legislative inertia in the effort to make NY a leader in the important field of stem cell research.  Read more, and note the emphasis on a post-ideological, new politics that meets the governing challenges of our time. 

In his first address to the Legislature, Gov. Eliot Spitzer called this month for passage of a $2 billion 10-year bond initiative for research and development, at least half of which would be set aside to pay for stem cell research. And the project is being tailored as an economic development effort in the hopes of attracting support from upstate Republican lawmakers.

Politically Motivated Firings at the Justice Department?

At least seven United States attorneys are being fired for no apparent reason, and Senator Diane Feinstein (see video below) is not happy about it.  Among those being dismissed is Carol Lam, the top prosecuter in the Duke Cunningham case.  Conservative Congressman Darrell Issa said that her work on the bribery case against Republican Cunningham was "a credit to her leadership and her office."  So why are she and six other qualified prosecutors being fired?  The NYT points to the answer:

Ms. Feinstein said the departmentmight be removing the prosecutors to take advantage of a little-noticed provision in the 2006 reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act that expanded its authority to make indefinite interim appointments.

Previously, a federal judge would appoint an interim United States attorney to serve until the Senate confirmed the president’s nominee. Now the attorney general can nominate someone to serve without confirmation for the remainder of Mr. Bush’s term. Ms. Feinstein, Mr. Pryor and Mr. Leahy have introduced legislation to restore the role of naming interim prosecutors to the judiciary.

Update 1/17/06 at 5:55pm:

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has admitted that he inserted the provision that makes these unconfirmed appointments possible - at the last second, when members of Congress wouldn't have a chance to review it - into the Patriot Act.  No explanation at to why he did so. 

Also, Josh Marshall raises the excellent point that if these firings go through, there will be six new prosecutors with supena power, hand-picked by the Bush Administration.  Just when you thought there couldn't be any new abuses of executive authority...

Senator Allard (R-CO) Not Running in '08

Markos Moulitsas (Kos at Dailykos.com) is fast becoming an authority on the electoral map.  His take on Wayne Allard's decision not to run for re-election, and how that helps Democrats, is below.  And stay tuned for in-depth analysis from NDN on demographic and political changes in the increasingly progressive West.

Senate Republicans are weeping today.

Sen. Wayne Allard said today he will honor his term-limits pledge and leave at the end of 2008, creating a replacement fight that should turn Colorado into one of the country’s biggest electoral battlegrounds.

"I just didn't think I could back away from the (term limits) commitment. It is a matter of integrity and keeping your commitments. I have never wavered on that," Allard told the Rocky Mountain News.

Colorado was already the Democrats' top pickup opportunity, with Allard winning his two terms with razor-thin margins and a Blue wave sweeping the Rocky Mountain state.

Rep. Mark Udall, who represents the CO-02 district, announced his candidacy back in 2005 when he bowed out of the governor's race. The popular scion of the long-serving political family should have a clear shot through the primaries.

On the Republican side, former Gov. Bill Owens has said he won't run. Tancredo is running for president, though could pivot and shoot for the open Senate seat. That wouldn't just create a competitive open seat race in CO-06, but would also exacerbate fierce divisions in the state's GOP on immigration. Bigoted Rep. Marylin Musgrave barely survived her own race in 2006, and will be hard-pressed to stay in Congress, much less get a promotion in the Senate.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis has expressed interest in an open seat race, and would be no slouch. But remember, the rising star of the Colorado GOP, the guy they pinned their future on, was Rep. Bob Beauprez. And here's what happened to his gubernatorial bid this past November:

Beauprez (R) 41%

Ritter (D) 56%

That demonstrates better than anything else the dismal state of the Colorado Republican Party.

This will be a Democratic pickup in 2008.

Dr. Robert J. Shapiro's Remarks on Globalization at EPI

The Challenges of Globalization
Remarks to the Economic Policy Institute
by Robert J. Shapiro, Director NDN Globalization Initiative
January 11, 2007

Jeff and I may not see eye to eye about how trade deficits affect jobs; but we do agree that globalization is real, its effects are enormous, and it’s creating increasing costs and burdens for American workers.

Over just the last 15 years, the share of everything produced in the world that’s traded across borders has risen from 18 percent to 30 percent, to the highest levels and largest increases ever recorded. And while trade accounts for less of our economy than any major European country, nevertheless, we are the world’s most globalized advanced country.  Some 44 percent of our exports go to developing nations, and 50 percent of our imports come from developing nations – roughly twice the shares for the EU, which mainly trades with itself.  The same holds for our foreign direct investment – about 28 percent of our FDI is now in developing nations, compared to about 12 percent of Europe’s FDI. 

So far, globalization’s effects are most clear in those countries – China, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Korea and some others -- that opened themselves not only to that foreign investment, but also increased domestic competition and upgraded their transportation, communication, education and public health systems.  And the greatest beneficiaries have been the people in many of the world’s poorest countries.  In China and India, average incomes more than doubled over the last decade – and that includes hundreds of millions of desperately poor Chinese and Indians living in rural areas untouched by all these changes.  

Globalization also changes the basic needs of modern corporations.  For centuries, large national and international companies used their heft to get sweet deals on their most basic resources, capital and labor.  Modern globalization makes labor and capital much more easily and cheaply available, so their business strategies no longer focus there.  Instead, their most critical resource has become the intellectual capital of their patents, brands, business methods and the knowledge and relationships of their professionals and managers.

This “idea-based” economy has been a metaphor for a while, but globalization has made it real.  Since the mid-1990s, U.S. companies invested as much in intangibles -- mainly the intellectual property of patents and trademarks, but also databases, branding, organizational changes and the training to use these ideas – as in all physical assets, from equipment to land and buildings.  This shift towards intellectual capital is also clear in the way investors value public companies.  Twenty years ago, the market value of the physical assets of the top 150 U.S. companies accounted for 75 percent of the total value of their stocks.  A firm was roughly worth what its plant, equipment and real estate could be sold for.  Today, the book value of the top 150 U.S. corporations accounts for just 35 percent of the total value of their shares.  Today, nearly two-thirds of the value of a large company comes from what it knows and the ideas and relationships that it owns.

This is America’s great advantage in globalization, because we remain the world’s largest and most powerful idea-factory.  In effect, we represent the other pole of globalization from China – they’re becoming the world’s largest production platform while we produce the ideas that give value to what they produce.  If there’s any doubt about that, consider that half of our imports from China come from the Chinese subsidiaries of U.S. companies.

This is great for American companies.  The potential market for what they do best – developing new products, materials, technologies, coming up with new ways of financing, marketing and distributing goods and services, as well as new ways of doing business generally – has become global.  And to a large extent, they now have the entire world to pick the cheapest and most reliable sources of materials, parts, labor and everything else. Revenues, productivity and profits are all high, and the U.S. economy has grown at very healthy rates.

But globalization has also produced a nasty surprise for working Americans.  As overall growth has expanded smartly, the relationship between how fast the economy grows and how many jobs it creates has weakened badly.  Take jobs.  The 2001 recession cost us about one-half percent of GDP – by historical standards, that should have cost us 500,000 jobs.  Instead, we lost 3 million.  After the 1991 recession, it took us 18 months to get back to pre-recession job levels; this time, it took 52 months.  And even today, we’re creating jobs at half the rate we did at the comparable point in the 1990s expansion.

The same thing is happening in the link between productivity and wages.  Over the last four years, productivity has grown 3 percent a year – the best record since the 1960s – yet both real wages and total real compensation have virtually stagnated.

The problem is not the overall economy, which is doing quite fine. The problem lies in the transmission mechanisms between that macroeconomy and the lives of most working people. And globalization is what’s changing those transmission mechanisms.

It begins with China, traveling a long and complicated path to reach the United States. Let’s start with some numbers.  China’s merchandise exports went from $62 billion in 1990 to $750 billion in 2005, and they’re still growing 25 percent a year.  At those levels, China’s exports now swamp those of its rivals in other developing nations – almost two-thirds more exports than all the rest of East Asia, for example, and almost 30 percent greater than all of Latin America. 

Here are some examples of what happens.  Zhejiang Forging Company, a Chinese manufacturer of forged metal parts, expands its production of motorcycle parts, at prices that undercut producers in Thailand; while Sunpower Enterprises, a large Chinese producer of hotel furniture, undercut rival producers in the Dominican Republic.  As customers around the world learn of it, some of the less productive producers of metal parts and hotel furniture in Thailand and the Dominican Republic are squeezed out of business – so on the margin, capital and expertise in those countries shift to other industries, such as basic electronics or more sophisticated equipment.  The new capital and expertise makes those industries a little more competitive -- and that puts new pressures on their rivals in, say, Korea and Brazil.  This process repeats itself, and on the margin capital and expertise in those economies shifts again to, say, LCD makers in Korea and auto producers in Brazil. This time, the new competitive pressures may begin to squeeze LCD producers and auto makers in the United States. 

China’s manufacturing sector is so big and diversified that these dynamics intensify competition across scores of industries in scores of countries, ratcheting up competitive pressures across the world. When these competitive pressures reach us, there’s no other place to transmit them, so here the result is just that companies find it harder to raise their prices, even when their costs increase.  Now, U.S. health insurance and energy costs have risen more than 60 percent since 2001, and for many companies pension costs are up sharply as well.

On top of that, globalization has another effect: It expands the pool of workers much more than it expands the pool of capital.  The consequence is that the return on capital goes up.  So even as companies feel; squeezed between more intense competition and rising costs, financial markets tell them that they have to show higher profits.  So businesses have taken what’s probably the easiest way out: They’ve found other costs to cut, starting with jobs and wages.

This is what’s happening in the United States, and it’s the great political challenge posed by globalization.  If we don’t step up to plate with serious answers to reduce the rapid increases in health care, pension and energy costs – three areas in which the current administration has been missing in action for six years – the U.S. job creating machine will stall out, and the incomes of a majority of Americans will slowly fall for the next generation.   If we don’t step up to the plate with a serious training and education strategies that can ensure that Americans can do their jobs more efficiently than anyone in any developing country –another area where this administration has checked out – offshore outsourcing, especially in the new areas of services, will hollow out part of the American middle class.

We couldn’t roll back globalization, even if we wanted to.  I also suspect that we can’t much affect the pace of global trade.  Markets and global companies can make the mincemeat of trade provisions as they do of tax provisions. What we must do is restore the links between growth and jobs and between productivity and wages, so American workers can benefit from globalization as much as the companies they work for.

Rep. Harman Holds Bush Administration Accountable

Rep. Harman is leading the effort to hole the Bush Administration accountable for Iraq and make funding for our involvment in Iraq more transparent.  Read her op-ed from today's San Francisco Chronicle in its entirety here:

Stop Conducting the War Off the Books

- Jane Harman
Friday, January 12, 2007

As new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, there will be no more "blank checks" for the war in Iraq. Congress will hold President Bush accountable for the way he has fought this war, for what he plans to do next and for how he plans to pay for it.

Bush has funded the war in Iraq and the broader "war on terror" almost entirely through "emergency supplemental" appropriations bills -- in other words, off the books. Ninety-three percent of the approximately $507 billion appropriated for the war in Iraq has come through such bills, and the president is reportedly set to ask for another $100 billion in "emergency" funds in February to cover costs.

By designating budget requests as "emergencies," the president and the former Republican-led Congresses placed them on a legislative fast-track. Congress had little opportunity to ask tough questions about how these funds were being spent, and little opportunity to strip out offending items -- including a litany of earmarks and other domestic spending that had nothing to do with the war.

Calling these funding requests "emergencies" also automatically exempts them from spending caps. The president can thus claim that more than $500 billion in recent spending is not part of the deficit. Nonsense.

By doing so, the true costs of the war are not understood in relation to the other programs that are shortchanged to pay for it -- including providing veteran's benefits to the 22,714 American servicemen and women wounded in the war, funding the chronically underfunded No Child Left Behind education law, paying for affordable housing for Hurricane Katrina victims and investing in clean energy.

Last year's budget resolution, which this Congress has adopted, defines "emergency" as addressing a situation that is "sudden," "urgent," "unforeseen" and "temporary." After almost four years, the war in Iraq cannot reasonably be called "sudden." The Pentagon is capable of "foreseeing" the costs of the war with a reasonable degree of accuracy. And it stretches credulity to call either the war in Iraq or the "war on terror" "temporary." (I will grant the situation is, without question, "urgent").

There is ample precedent for considering the costs of war through the regular appropriations process. President Lyndon B. Johnson sought emergency supplemental funding for the first two years of the Vietnam War, but the war was almost entirely funded through the regular appropriations process in subsequent years. Similarly, most of the cost of the first year of the Korean war was paid for through supplementals, but the following two years were almost entirely paid for through the normal process. The war in Iraq should be no different.

No one in Congress wants to deprive our brave military men and women of the protective gear or equipment they need, or to fail to fund their safe exit from Iraq. That is why the 2007 supplemental appropriation is likely to pass -- and finding spending to cut in the 2007 budget to offset theses costs will be hopeless. But the marker can be set down for future funding. No more "emergency" supplementals, Mr. President.

Future funding for the war in Iraq must be on-budget, so Congress and the public can see the trade-offs and finally have a chance to "share" what is sacrificed.

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, is in her seventh term in Congress and served for the past four years as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.


One Step Closer to Our Goal: Minimum Wage Hike Passes the House

NDN is a national leader in the effort to raise the minimum wage, and improve the standard of living for millions of working Americans.  Our Spanish language media campaign to build support in the Hispanic community was a major factor in passing state ballot initiatives in Arizona and Colorado, and in keeping the pressure on Congress.  And the outcome was bipartisan support in the House for this important measure:

The House yesterday overwhelmingly approved the first increase in the federal minimum wage in nearly a decade, boosting the wages of the lowest-paid American workers from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years.

The 315 to 116 vote could begin the process of ending Congress's longest stretch without a minimum-wage increase since the mandatory minimum was created in 1938. In the past decade, inflation has depleted the value of the minimum wage to the lowest level in more than 50 years.

...Republicans who held in lock step during their 12 years as the majority party went over in droves to the Democratic side.

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Gov. Richardson Brokers Cease Fire in Sudan

Building on his reputation as a statesman, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico just returned from a successful trip to Sudan where he negotiated a 60-day cease-fire between the Sudanese government and rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan. 

The New York Times has more:

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan and leaders of several rebel factions in Darfur, the western Sudanese region, agreed Wednesday to a 60-day cease-fire in separate meetings with Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, according to a statement by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Bashir.

Mr. Richardson went to Sudan on behalf of the Save Darfur Coalition of groups trying to stem the violence in Darfur, to try to break the deadlock over who will police the region.

Hopefully, this cease-fire will be a first step towards ending the violence, massive population displacement and even genocide that has plauged Darfur.  At the very least, Gov. Richardson's actions show that there can be more to US foreign policy than military interventions. 

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