NDN Blog

NDN launches new TV ads in AZ, CO

NDN launched new TV ads today. An excerpt from a national e-mail from Joe Garcia, our Hispanic Strategy Center Director, is below.


Today, along with our partner the Civic Participation Campaign, NDN launched two new TV ads in AZ and CO to build public support for minimum wage ballot initiatives in each state. These new ads supplement radio ads that have been airing for the past several weeks, and an extensive ground operation that has been in place for months.

Watch and download the ads here. You can help us buy more ads in more parts of AZ and CO by contributing to NDN’s campaign here.

NDN’s new media campaign concentrates on raising awareness in the ever-growing Latino community, and asks Latino families to vote for Arizona’s Proposition 202 and Colorado’s Amendment 42. Our new ads highlight the fact that many Americans making the minimum wage are forced to work two jobs just to make ends meet.


Clinton: Uncommonly Good

CAP yesterday hosted a conference on the Common Good. Bill Clinton gave a big speech that took the pragmatic "what is good is what works" approach of his administration to new levels.

The problem with ideology is, if you’ve got an ideology, you’ve already got your mind made up. You know all the answers, and that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time, so you tend to govern by assertion and attack. The problem with that is: that discourages thinking and gives you bad results.

When does not being ideological become an ideology? Who knows? It doesn't stop him making a few, on target pot shots about the state of the Economy straight out of the NDN playbook.

As far as I can determine, these last five years have been the first time since economists have been keeping the figures when we’ve had five years of economic growth, five years of productivity increase in the workforce, a 40-year high in corporate profits, CEO executive pay averaging 369 times the pay of people in the companies, and average wages are flat or declining. Last year, 2005, for the top one percent of Americans, income increased 12.5 percent; for the bottom 99 percent, 1.5 percent, which means for the bottom half it was flat or negative. Now, I don’t think that’s very good. I don’t think that’s a common-good policy. And I believe that we can do better than that, and we should.

Quite so. Still, the overall discription of "common good" in the speech is a little disconcerting. Clinton's type of "common good politics" - basically, what Clinton did in the 90s with an emphasis on community, opportunity and responsibility - is quite different from the radical common good approach proposed by Michael Tomasky and others. This type of approach, a sort of reheated communitarianism, always sounds attractive until people realize the implications it has for a range of progressive issues, from a woman's right to choose to minority rights and other forms of legal protection. Still, even if progressives can't agree on what we mean by the phrase, we can all agree that we like Bill Clinton. Perhaps pragmatism works best after all.

NBC News Poll Shows Least Popular Congress..... Ever.......

From this morning's ABC Note:

Although conservatives think the New York Times/CBS poll is always biased against them, that the Los Angeles Times and Gallup is almost always biased against them, and that the ABC News/Washington Post poll is occasionally biased against them, the Right pretty much has agreed over the years that the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is rock solid. Today, that's a problem.

And here is why:

Voters' approval of Congress has fallen to 16% from 20% since early September, while their disapproval has risen to 75% from 65%..... In October 1994, with the public fed up with scandals and the failure of President Clinton and his party's lawmakers to deliver in key areas such as health care, voters said by a nine-point margin -- 46% to 37% -- that they wanted Republicans to take control. That compares with the 15-point margin today in favor of Democrats' taking the reins.

And there are also a couple of stories today about something that seemed unlikely a month ago - the situation in Iraq, in the face of unavoidable evidence, has become a net negative for the GOP. Note in particular this quote from the NBC / WSJ piece - ""By 40% to 31%, a plurality of voters now see the situation in Iraq as a civil war among Iraqis, rather than a war between American troops and foreign terrorists there." In short - three weeks to go, and there is cautious room for optimism.

Bush Snr on the Economy

Bush 41, speaking today, says he doesn't think 43 gets enough credit on the economy. The Street Light Blog has an interesting look at why he is wrong. (Check the post itself for graphs.) 

Take a look at the following pictures. I tried to think of those macro data series that most closely reflect the average person's experience: the amount of work available (measured as the total hours of labor demanded by firms), the average hourly earnings of workers in the private sector, the amount of overall compensation that individuals receive for their work (thus excluding capital income), and the actual salaries and wages that people earn. All data is expressed in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, and in each decade recession years are excluded. It's quite striking that by each of these measures, the US economy performed quite poorly since 2003. The current economic expansion has simply not delivered the employment or wage growth that people expect from the US economy. So why hasn't Bush gotten credit for the state of the US economy? Actually, I think that he has. And from the GOP's point of view, that's exactly the problem.

GOP Firewall Strategy Collapses

So much for the Firewall strategy. On Friday, Time reported how the GOP had decided to hold the line:

In what it is privately calling it's "firewall" strategy, the Republican National Committee has recently spent close to $4 million in three crucial Senate races — Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee — in the hope of holding Democratic gains to a maximum of five seats. No new RNC money has gone to House races during that time.

And now, only 3 days later, this from this morning's NYT.

Senior Republican leaders have concluded that Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, a pivotal state in this year's fierce midterm election battles, is likely to be heading for defeat and are moving to reduce financial support for his race and divert party money to other embattled Republican senators, party officials said.

We note only that a firewall is defined as "a physical barrier inside a building or vehicle, designed to limit the spread of fire, heat and structural collapse." Fingers crossed.

Bayh, Baucus, and the $1000bn trade debate

Mark Warner's decision to take his hat out of the Presidential ring last week moved the spotlight onto a number of other politicians, none more so than Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. Not good news for Mr Bayh, then, to be the subject of a blistering op-ed this morning by Sebastian Mallaby in the Post. Mallaby accuses Bayh of weak support for free trade, picking on his decision to supoort maintenance of a recent steel tarrif. Mallaby's criticism - of commerce department regulations, even more than the Senator - is withering. Nonetheless, we shouldn't forget that Bayh has a solid record in support of free trade, and one with which NDN has differed only rarely.

Elsewhere, the FT this morning has a piece by Alan Beattie profiling another Senator - this time Max Baucus of Montana, discussing expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance. Showing signs of sanity so frequently lacking from debates on trade this election year, Baucus argues:

"We are trying to figure out a way for more Americans to buy into trade, that trade is good for America and good for Joe Six-pack," he says. American workers "need to think that their government and their country is thinking of them too; that it is not just companies that benefit from trade".

To this end, Mr Baucus suggests expanding Trade Adjustment Assistance.....Such programmes would not come cheap: an analysis published by the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think-tank, last year suggested that it would cost $12bn to extend the benefits of TAA to all "displaced" workers who lost their jobs..... Still, given that the cumulative effect of all trade liberalisation since 1945 is estimated at $1,000bn, $12bn a year might be a relatively small price to inoculate the American workforce against infectious protectionism.

TAA, as the piece makes clear, comes with significant short-comings. Nonetheless its reassuring to see ideas being discussed sensibly that can help re-build support for trade, as even the waspish Mallaby would agree.

Dems Up, Way Up

More evidence of a significant post-Foley bounce, from the wonderful Political Arithmetik. Charles Franklin, the guy behind the site, uses a clever regression framework to get his graphs, so they come with added clout. (Click here for a bigger graph.)


Bush Talks Deficit Nonsense

President Bush will tomorrow make a speech hailing his achievement in cutting the budget deficit in half. It will be a stunning act of economic hubris. Here is why. First, you introduce policies which vastly increase the deficit through unfunded tax cuts and large spending increases. Second, you predict a dubiously high budget deficit figure a few years out, just at the point in the cycle where you'd expect the deficit to decline naturally. (Tax recipts increase relative to fixed outgoings, all things being equal, the longer into an economic cycle you are. Hence most economists like the to budget balance on average over the course of an expansion, but think its ok to run deficits at certain points.) Then, from this artificially high base you claim success by having halved an imaginery figure - reaching a level that is still billions below where it ought to be for this point in the economic cycle. And Voila, as the Republicans probably would not say.

President Bush's policy has created a structural deficit of hundreds of billions of dollar. This will lower savings and investment, contribute to the trade deficit, and lower long term growth. And, as Brad DeLong points out in this post i've linked to before, the tax cuts - by virtue of being unfunded - aren't really tax cuts at all. They are just tax increases deferred to the future generations who will have to fix the mess.

As Milton Friedman puts it, to spend is to tax. Bush's spending increases--defense, Iraq, the Republican porkfest, the Medicare drug benefit--are still there, just as things you have charged to your VISA don't go away if you make only the minimum monthly payment. What George W. Bush has done has been to shift taxes from the present to the future--and also made future taxes uncertain, random, and thus extra-costly from a standard public finance view.

Remember, at the same point during the Clinton years - after four years of strong economic growth, the budget deficit was just about gone. So, as this graph from Reuters's shows all too obviously, there is a clear $200bn gap between where the public finances are, and where they should be under a responsible government. All the more shameful, then, that Republican candidates accross the country are robotically trotting out tax-and-spend liberal attacks against any opponent who even dares to suggest that, one day, someone is going to have to fix this mess. So tomorrow i think most economist's will be listening to this President's claims, but thinking of words attributed to another: "'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."




A Fence That Won't Work - Yours For $10.57bn

Somehow i missed this story about fence-building lunacy in this morning's Post, but the prolific Ezra Klein over at TAPPED didn't. He makes a good point:

The Post recounts the sorry history of the fence separating Tijuana and San Diego. That barrier, which is only 14-miles long, was originally estimated to cost $14 million. Instead, the first nine miles have required $39 million, and the DHS has appropriated another $35 million for the rest. Proportionally, that would mean that this longer, larger fence -- which will go through much less populous areas, requiring much more construction, landscaping, and even road building -- will end up costing $10.57 billion, not the $2 billion appropriated. And that doesn't even get into maintenance costs, flood protection, the chance that the newly flatted ground and constructed roads will aid migrants, the opposition of the city of El Paso and the Texas Border Sheriff's association, the environmental lawsuits, or anything else. What a boondoggle.

Having dug out my copy of the paper, I see there a fabulous map, that sadly isn't on their website. Washington residents should dig their copy out of the trash, and have a look. 

Everyone Hates George Bush's Foreign Policy

This lunchtime i undertook my latest cross-party trek accross, to the CATO institute. Most rewarding it was too. Anatol Leiven and John Hulsman discussed their new book, Ethical Realism.

This might sound like a contradiction in terms, like dry rain or compassionate conservative. But the two make a convincing, intriguing partnership. Lieven is a democrat, a multilateralist and a brit. Hulsman is a republican, a realist and an American. And yet they teamed up for a bi-partisan foreign policy tag-team to tell the world they both think George Bush and his Neo Conservative henchman are, broadly speaking, nuts. The case the two author's make is exceptionally persuasive, while their anaylsis of Iraq, in particular, is anything but heartening. Both think the situation is unsaveable. Lieven said the policy persued by the administration is "as close to geopolitical madness" as it was possible to get, and that a partition or confederated solution was now "frankly unavoidable." There didn't seem to be much disagreement about this from anyone in the room. This suggests to me, at least, that it is now an open secret that the foreign policy establishment is just toughing through one more month of hypocritcal 'stay the course" until November 7th. After that everyone - John Warner and his electorally convenient timetable included - expects a significant change of course to correct a failed mission.

The picture painted of the neo-conservative strategy towards Iran was equally withering, as was their view of liberal hawks like ex New Republic supremo Peter Beinart.Most strikingly, Hulsman told the following story, reprinted in a previous OpenDemocracy article, during his remarks:

A number of years ago a leading and very intelligent neocon said something to me (off the record) that I've thought about a great deal since. When I asked what would happen to his movement if Iraq did not go according to plan, he said chillingly: "Well, then I will say its all the president's fault, it was the execution and not the premises of the neocon agenda that let us down, that all is needed is a more competent president and team, and we will regroup around John McCain, who many of us favored in the first place."

Lets hope McCain, and the rest of them, aren't to be taken in.

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