NDN Blog

Going Forward, Not Back – Support NDN in 2018

Dear Friends,

As is our tradition, we come to you with asks for support only a few times a year, and only when it matters.  We are aware of how critical it is that our collective political capital stays focused on the upcoming elections, which are perhaps the most important in my many years in politics.  So we are not asking to divert too much of your limited capital today towards NDN – just enough to keep us doing the important work we do to get ahead, tackle the next challenge, define the terms of coming debate – the work we’ve been doing for more than a decade now.

To meet that work is more important than ever because whatever Trump represents he has jumbled the issue and political landscape of the country.  Everything is different now, and many long held assumptions need to be rethought completely.  For the center-left to succeed in the coming years, we will need a comprehensive response to Trump, and one that cannot be about restoration but more about reinvention and innovation – going forward, not back. 

Going forward, not back – that is what this organization has been about in its many forms for many years now.  We have always been guided by a simple belief that the world was changing – globalization and the “rise of the rest,” advances in tech, large changes in our demography and our media – and these changes required new and compelling responses.  We may have to add another disruption – the Trump presidency itself – to that list of disruptions if we are to be successful in the coming years.  Which is why we keep doing our work, offering data-driven thoughtful analyses to help guide our leaders through these turbulent times. 

If you want to keep supporting our important work, please do so today.  Any amount matters – $25, $50 or more.  Our goal is to raise $25,000 from our community in the coming weeks, and if we can do so we can make our budget targets for the spring and keep contributing to the national debate in ways that add value, and move things forward.  Join with us in any way you can, today, and thanks again for your interest and support of our work.

Best, Simon

GOP Agenda "An Albatross" - Simon's Quick Take on Lamb's Big Win

In a thread this morning Simon offered his quick take on PA-18.  Greg Sargent of the Washington Post described it this way:

The Trump/GOP agenda may be a big albatross for Republicans. Republicans had banked heavily on selling their tax cuts to voters as proof that they’re getting things done for working- and middle-class people. But in the final days, Republicans dialed down their messaging about the tax cuts, because it wasn’t working. Lamb appears to have kept GOP foe Rick Saccone’s margins down in the deep-red counties while also doing very well in the Pittsburgh suburbs, suggesting that the tax plan is not working as planned either among blue-collar white Trump voters or among more-educated suburban whites, who were supposed to respond to it by suppressing their gag reflex about Trump and voting on taxes instead.

Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg suggests that the results show not just that the GOP tax plan is failing, but also that the whole Trump/GOP agenda is an albatross for Republicans. Trump has fully embraced Paul Ryan’s plutocratic agenda — trying and failing to repeal a huge chunk of the safety net and passing a huge permanent tax cut for the wealthy and corporations — while continuing the drumbeat of racist and xenophobic cultural provocations (with a hasty, haphazard gesture toward protectionism in the form of the tariffs thrown in). But Lamb won back large numbers of disaffected blue-collar Democrats — exactly the people who are supposed to believe Trump when he tells them his tax plan is good for them — and the surge of suburban voters against Trump appeared to continue. In short: The pluto-populism isn’t working.”

Moving on From Discourse

As some of you may know, I’ve been working for the past several months outside of NDN to get a new company off the ground in the info/disinfo space.  Called Discourse Intelligence, it did good work in both the Virginia and Alabama races last year, and is gearing up to play a major role in 2018.  The company grew out of research NDN commissioned last year from our long-time friend and collaborator, Tim Chambers.  You can read his compelling paper here

Unfortunately, due to unresolvable disagreements among the founders about direction and strategy, this week I decided to leave this promising company.  These things happen in startups, and I felt it best to walk away before these disagreements became even more debilitating to the company and its important mission. 

I have learned a lot about the new media ecosystem in working with the talented team at Discourse over the last few months, and intend to apply it aggressively in my work with NDN and others in the days ahead.  

All of us have to do our part in the coming days to make our democracy and our discourse far healthier.  With your help, we here at NDN will continue to try to lead the way.  

Best, Simon

Thank you for joining us for our Feb. 8th "Patriotism and Optimism" event

Thank you to everyone who joined us for today's luncheon event.  We appreciate you taking the time to discuss what we at NDN believe is the important need to own the successes of the Obama and Clinton Administrations. This is NDN's part in the much larger project of developing a comprehensive response to the rise of Trump's new politics and the building of the future of the Democratic Party.

We hope you join us again soon and please stay in touch!  You can always check the next showings on our schedule, and please invite your friends to join!

As requested, we are making two graphs from the deck available below and as a PDF attachment:

 

 

Job Prospects for Working Class Americans Continue to Deteriorate

This essay was posted originally at The Pointwww.sonecon.com

Many political observers still seem flummoxed by the fact that millions of working-class Americans voted for Donald Trump after supporting Barack Obama not once but twice. One important reason may lie in certain large-scale changes in America’s job market over the last decade. The growing role of a college degree in landing a job is well documented. Now, new household employment data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that over the last decade, Americans with college degrees can account for all of the net new jobs created over the last decade. In stark contrast, the number of Americans with high school degrees or less who are employed, in this ninth year of economic expansion, has fallen by 2,995,000.

We use the household employment survey here instead of the business establishment survey, because it tracks the education of everyone who gains or loses a job month by month. In the latest survey covering December 2017, the number of college graduates with jobs jumped by 305,000 – while the numbers of employed Americans with no high school degree fell by 132,000, high school graduates with jobs dropped by 38,000, and employees with some college but no degree declined by45,000. That’s a window into what’s happened across the U.S. economy throughout this business cycle.

The near decade from January 2008 to December 2017 covers every facet of the current business cycle, except its very end. The first five years from January 2008 to January 2013 included the recession and financial crisis followed by a modest recovery, and the second five years from January 2013 to December 2017 have seen a reasonably steady expansion. In a normal cycle from recession to recovery, economists expect to see substantial job losses followed by offsetting job gains. In the aggregate, that is just what happened in the first five years of this cycle: Millions of jobs were lost from January 2008 to December 2010; but by January 2013, the number of employed Americans had recovered to nearly the same level as in January 2008.

But the composition of that workforce – who lost their jobs compared to who landed new jobs – changed in decisive ways. From January 2008 to January 2013, millions of people without college degrees lost jobs and never regained them, while all of the job gains went to the one-third of the labor force (as of January 2008) with at least a B.A. degree. (See the Table below.) So, while total employment in January 2013 was just 341,000 less than in January 2008, the number of Americans without a high school diploma who were employed fell by more than 1.6 million, the number of high school graduates with jobs fell by more than 2.8 million, and the number of working people with some college training but no BA degree fell by 227,000. Over those same five years, the number of college-educated Americans with jobs increased more than 4.3 million.

In the following five years of economic expansion, employment rose rapidly. From January 2013 to December 2017, the BLS household data show that the number of Americans with jobs increased by 10,997,000, for net job growth of 10,656,000 (10,997,000 – 341,000). Every educational group saw net job gains – but the distribution of those gains very badly short-changed Americans without college degrees.

Consider, to start, the country’s high school graduates. In January 2013, they comprised 27.3 percent of the labor force – but their job gains of 720,000 from that time to last month account for only 6.8 percent of all employment growth. Similarly, Americans who attended college but didn’t earn a B.A. degree accounted for 27.9 percent of the U.S. labor force in January 2013, and they claimed only 15.3 percent of the subsequent job gains. Strikingly, people without high school diplomas found jobs in this period at a rate that more nearly reflected their share of the labor market: They comprised 8.2 percent of the workforce in January 2013 and claimed 7.0 percent of net new jobs created from that time to the present. The only big winners were college graduates. They accounted for 36.5 percent of the U.S. labor force in January 2013; yet, they claimed 71.0 percent of the net new jobs created since then: Of the 10,656,000 net new jobs created from January 2013 to the December 2017, 7,564,000 went to college graduates.

Changes in the Employment of Americans, by Education, 1/2008 to 12/2017

As these above show, the skewed distribution of job opportunities has affected the composition of the labor force. As job opportunities have increased for college-educated Americans, their share of the U.S. labor force climbed from 33.6 percent in January 2008 to 36.5 percent in 2013 and 39.9 percent in December 2017. Similarly, as job opportunities narrowed for non-college educated people, more became discouraged and bailed out of the labor force. Over the last decade, the share of the U.S. labor force comprised of people without high school diplomas fell from 9.3 percent to 7.3 percent, the share with no more than a high school degree fell from 28.9 percent to 25.7 percent, and the share with some college training but no B.A. fell from 28.2 percent to 27.1 percent. Too often, the downward spiral has not ended with joblessness. Researchers have found that nearly half of working-age men who have left the labor force use pain killers on a daily basis. Moreover, new research shows that on a county by county basis, each percentage-point increase in unemployment is now accompanied by a 7.0 percent increase in hospitalizations for opioid overdoses and a 3.6 percent increase in opioid-related deaths.

 Americans without college degrees, who continue to comprise 60 percent of the labor force, are now effectively penalized in every phase of the business cycle. From the first month of the last recession in January 2008 to December 2017, well into year nine of this expansion, the number of employed Americans with high school diplomas contracted by 2,095,000, and the number of people working without a high school diploma fell by 900,000. Further, the share of all job gains claimed by Americans with some college but no B.A. degree was just over half their share of the labor force. Through it all, the number of college-educated Americans with jobs jumped by 11,909,000. That’s 1,253,000 more than the total 10,656,000 net new jobs created across the economy, suggesting that college grads are also now claiming new jobs that used to go to people without a B.A. degree.

Invite: Sept 26th - Patriotism and Optimism Webinar

We are excited to invite you to join us on Wednesday, September 26th at noon for a webinar showing of Simon's compelling new deck, "On Patriotism and Optimism – Thoughts On The Future of America's Center-Left." The webinar will run from noon to 1:15 pm and you can RSVP here

In the presentation Simon will make the case that America is not in decline and is in fact doing as well as it has in any point in its history. It is meant to be an implicit rebuttal to the core argument Trump is making about America and its decline, an argument which is malevolently selling America and its people short every day. 

This deck, and the arguments within it, are Simon's effort to help fashion a comprehensive response to the rise of Trump’s new politics. It has evolved over dozens of showings over the web and live in person to policy makers here in Washington and around the country.

Do join us - we promise you will leave feeling better about this challenging moment in our history. 

Background Readings for "Patriotism and Optimism" Presentation

Can Trump Keep America Safe? Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 7/16/18. Simon argues that Trump has been unable to fulfill the most basic of Presidential duties: keeping Americans and our democracy safe.

Things Are Better Under Trump? Data Suggests Not, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 7/13/18. In a new op-ed, Simon asks whether middle class Americans are better off under Trump. Data suggests that they are not.

The Case for Optimism: Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism, Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 6/2/17. In an essay that originally was published on Medium, Simon argues that the great rationale of Trump's Presidency  –  that America is in decline – simply isn't true, and must be challenged more forcefully.  This is the piece that spurred the creation of the presentation. 

Chin Up, Democrats, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/20/17. In his column Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics. This one is very relevant to the presentation itself. 

Does Science Prove that the Modern GOP Favors the Rich?

This essay was posted originally at The Pointwww.sonecon.com

Virtually everyone outside the Trump administration agrees that the GOP tax plans passed by the House and the Senate will aggravate income inequality. In fact, the party-line votes on both plans are the latest instance of a remarkable fact: Over the last 40 years, income inequality has accelerated when Republicans held the White House, the Congress or both, and slowed when Democrats were in charge.

No one is claiming that the GOP created America’s dramatic increase in income inequality. In a recent study issued by the Center for Business and Public Policy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, our analysis showed that changes in the U.S. and global economies and technology did most of that.

Between 1977 and 2014, the average pre-tax income of the bottom 50 percent of Americans—everyone below median income – increased just 1.7 percent, inching up from $15,948 to $16,216 (2014 dollars). Over the same years, the average pre-tax income of the top one percent soared 207 percent, jumping from $424,631 to $1,305,301.

During these years, Washington stepped in with new spending and tax credits that modestly helped the bottom half of Americans: Their average post-tax income rose 22 percent, from $20,390 in 1977 to $24,047 in 2014. But tax and spending changes had little effect on the top one percent, whose average post-tax incomes still rose 196 percent, from $342,328 to $1,012,429.

Partisan politics also played a major role: The actual income paths of both groups from 1977 to 2014 depended on whether Republicans or Democrats controlled the White House and/or Congress. For example, when Republicans held the presidency, the top one percent’s rising share of all post-tax income accelerated on average by 0.4 percentage-points, while under Democratic presidents their rise correspondingly slowed by 0.4 percentage points. Similarly, the bottom 50 percent’s falling share of post-tax income accelerated under GOP Presidents by an average of 0.5 percentage-points – and again, their decline decelerated by that much under Democratic presidents. 

The story is the same with Congress. During years of GOP control, the decline of the bottom half’s share of national income accelerated, on average, by more than 0.5 percentage-points – and then slowed by about that much when Democrats were in charge of Congress. Party control of the legislative branch had the least effect on the income path of the top one percent: Their rising share of post-tax income accelerated by an average of 0.3 percentage-points during GOP Congresses, and decelerated by that much during years of Democratic control.

Finally, the results when either party controlled both the White House and Congress were the sum of the results for each branch.

This isn’t conventional wisdom dressed up as science; it is a scientific demonstration of how much elections matter. To test the limits, we also conducted a thought experiment: What would the incomes of the bottom half and the top on percent look like, if one or the other party had controlled both branches of government for the entire 37 years? We assume here that the economy’s course was unaffected by our hypothetical one-party government, and that each party maintains the distributional tendencies in tax and spending policy uncovered in our analysis.

With these assumption, we calculate that if Democrats had been in charge the entire time, the post-tax income of the bottom 50 percent, on average, would have been an estimated $526 higher per-year or a total of $19,539 more for the whole period. Moreover, the top one percent would have taken home $14,226 less per-year, on average, or $526,373 less for the whole period.

Operating on the same assumptions, we calculate that Republican control of both branches for the entire period would have increased the post-tax income of the top one percent by $28,029 per year, on average, or $1,037,086 for the whole period; while the incomes of the bottom 50 percent of Americans, on average, would have been $563 less per year, or $20,848 less for the entire period..

Helping the rich and letting those in the bottom half fend for themselves, it seems, is now part of the modern GOP’s DNA – and moderate resistance to that course seems to be embedded in the Democrats’ genes.

Schedule for "On Patriotism and Optimism - Thoughts About the Future of America's Center-Left"

We have given dozens of showings of the presentation. The next showing is a lunchtime presentation scheduled for Wednesday, July 11th at 12:00 pm (EST). Please use this registration page to sign up for the upcoming webinars and the following registration page for the July 11th luncheon.

2018 Schedule

Friday, January 12th at 3:00 pm (EST)

Thursday, January 25th at noon (EST)

Thursday, February 8th at noon (EST)

Thursday, February 22nd at noon (EST)

Tuesday, March 13th at noon (EST)

Wednesday, March 21st at noon (EST)

Wednesday, April 11th at noon (EST)

Wednesday, May 2nd at noon (EST)

Thursday, June 7th at noon (EST)

Wednesday, July 11th at noon (EST)

Rebutting Trump’s Ridiculous Arguments on Immigration, Crime and Jobs

This essay was originally published on the website Medium.

For the last few months Donald Trump has continually attacked his political opponents as being weak on the border/immigration and crime, and bad for the economy. He did so again today in this intemperate tweet about “Chuck and Nancy.” The problem with these attacks, of course, is that during the Presidency of the last Democrat, Barack Obama, crime and the flow of undocumented immigrants into the country plummeted, and the economy grew — tens of millions of jobs were created, incomes went up, the stock market boomed and the annual deficit came way down. Today the President repeated a new version of his attack on Democrats — that they want to raise taxes. Not only have the Democrats not embraced a plan that would do so, that the GOP plan will raise taxes on tens of millions of Americans is the central Democratic critique of the awful GOP proposal stumbling through the Senate this week. The level of dishonesty being exhibited by our President is literally jaw-dropping, and deserves a forceful rebuttal.

Let’s look a few graphs which tell a very different story about what happens on these matters when Democrats are in power:

Flow of undocumented immigrants slowed way down after many years of rapid growth, and was actually net negative under Obama:

In 2016 there were almost a million fewer undocumented immigrants in the US than in 2007.

Dramatic drop in crime America has experienced over the past generation continued under Obama:

In this new age of globalization the US economy has done far better under Democratic Presidents than their GOP counterparts. Let’s look at the job creation record (not even a close call):

Incomes grew under Clinton and Obama, fell under both Bushes:

Stock market has performed far better under Democratic Presidents, including Trump:

And while Republicans have caused the annual deficit to rise, Democrats have brought it down:

So spare us the desperate attacks Mr. President. The Democratic Party you describe is one that exists only in your mind. The one you are facing everyday and will face next year in the elections is one that has governed responsibly when in power, and left the country far better than they found it. It is impossible for us to imagine saying the same thing about your time in office, as short as it may be.

TrumpRussia and the Weakening of American Democracy

As the gravity of Trump's historic betrayal of our nation weighs further upon us this week, NDN firmly plants itself in the camp that believes those of us in the center-left should be making the issues around Trump and the GOP’s degradation of our democracy front and center in American politics. Whether it is Trump Russia, the attacks on a free press, unprecedented official corruption and malicious lying, restricting people’s ability to vote, illegal gerrymandering and racial discrimination, the stealing of a Supreme Court seat or Congress’s unwillingness to hold hearings, use CBO scores, conduct de minimus oversight or other abuses of their power the issue of the modern GOP’s abandonment of its commitment to democratic norms is a grave threat to our understanding of what a democracy is and should be.

Proud patriots here in the US will be working to renew and repair our democracy for years if not decades to come. This will become one of the central responsibilities of those who will serve in elected office, and we should begin this conversation with the American people today. It borders on recklessness to leave these tasks to Robert Mueller and the courts, as history has shown that even in strong democracies like ours there is no guarantee these institutions can withstand a sustained assault from an autocrat and his enablers in the legislature.

Still have doubts that Trump colluded, coordinated, conspired, partnered with Russia in 2016? Read this thread. It is no longer in doubt. 

For more on NDN’s views on these matters be sure to check out our vertical, Renewing Our Democracy.

- Simon Rosenberg, Nov 2017

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