NDN Blog

Time For Congress To Directly Challenge Trump's Tariffs, Pass Bicameral Bill Reining In His Tariff Authority

Today's extremely poor job growth data reinforces the trend also echoed this week in Europe that we are heading for a sharp deceleration in economic activity and a potential recession.  The Atlanta Fed now sees only 0.5% growth in Q1, while Goldman Sachs projects a growth rate of just 0.9%. On top of that, manufacturing output, a key leading indicator of growth and a major priority for the President, has fallen sharply in recent months and is now at its lowest level since November 2016. 

Much of the blame for this significant deceleration lies at the feet of Trump's reckless trade policy, which has seen new tariffs imposed on over 20% of all US imports. This policy has led to a significant deceleration of global growth, including a near recession in the euro area, as well as a loss of key demand markets for US manufacturers and farmers. All told, the tariffs have led to thousands of US jobs being lost and have contributed to the recent declines in the stock market. 

As a result, removing Trump's tariffs is a key growth imperative for the US economy. This reinforces the need for Congress to more forcefully challenge Trump's trade policy, particularly the illegal national security authority Trump has used to unilaterally impose tariffs. One important way we recommend doing this is the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA), Gallagher (R-WI), and LaHood (R-IL) in the House. The legislation provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President's Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Challenging the President on his trade policy is especially important in light of his new rent-seeking "plan" to charge our NATO and East Asian allies the full cost of US troops deployed in their countries plus an extra 50% premium. This idea is nothing short of extortion of our close allies, and if enacted would shake the transatlantic alliance to its core. If the President also unilaterally imposes auto tariffs on the European Union, a move likely to push the euro area into recession, the transatlantic alliance could witness a very rapid, and potentially fatal, unraveling. These moves can only be seen as intentionally trying to destroy the alliances that have created decades of peace and prosperity around the world. It is our belief, therefore, that directly challenging Trump's ability to impose these tariffs is a critical part of the fight against illiberal authoritarianism both at home and abroad.

With all of the warning bells ringing for the American and global economies, it is time now for Congress to engage and directly challenge the President on his reckless tariff policy.

Related Writings:

Trump's Trade Deal W/China Looks Toothless, 2019 Growth Stagnates - 3/6/19 - The potential trade deal with China looks likely to only increase some purchases of US goods, while doing little to reduce Chinese structural trade abuses. Meanwhile, the trade war has led to a large deceleration in US growth, while stimulus from the tax cut has weakened significantly.

Trump's European Tariffs Would Weaken The US Economy And The Transatlantic Alliance - 2/14/19 - Auto tariffs on the EU would destroy thousands of US manufacturing jobs, raise car prices across the country, and weaken our alliance with our European partners. Congress must act to challenge this looming trade war.

NDN Supports Bicameral Tariff Bill - 2/8/19 - NDN is pleased to endorse and support the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, legislation which provides critical Congressional oversight on the President’s ability to use national security as a justification to impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Trump's Tariffs Are A Growing Threat To The American, And Global, Economies - 11/28/18 - US growth expectations have fallen, manufacturing and agricultural firms now face higher costs and weaker demand, and the trade deficit has surged. With a President unwilling or unable to grasp the risks of a broader trade conflict, it is up to Congress to challenge Trump far more directly on his reckless trade policies.

Iowa, Trump, and the Politics of Globalization/Tariffs - 10/12/18 - Trump’s trade policies are hurting the Iowa economy. His tariffs are unpopular there, and his party is performing badly in the fall elections. Some thoughts on what this means for the Democratic presidential race starting soon. 

Trump's Trade Deal W/China Looks Toothless, 2019 Growth Stagnates

In pursuing his trade war with China, Trump promised American workers and farmers that the tens of billions of dollars lost from reduced export access and higher costs would be made up by a comprehensive deal that dealt with the structural advantages China gave to its own industry. In recent weeks, however, it has become increasingly likely that a potential trade deal with China will not do that, and instead will only involve some increased purchases by the Chinese government. The New York TimesWall Street Journal, and CNBC all report that any language in the deal requiring changes to China's intellectual property or industrial subsidies will likely be too vague to have any real effect, and will have few mechanisms for enforcement. This represents a startling defeat for the President. If Trump only wanted an increase in US exports, he could have simply signed the TPP trade deal on his first day in office, which was projected to increase US exports by over $350 billion annually by 2030 (compared to at most an additional $200 billion in annual exports to China under this deal, although even that would be offset by fewer exports elsewhere due to the resulting appreciation of the US dollar). Instead, he has significantly weakened both the US and global economies for gains that could have been accomplished two years ago. 

Furthermore, while fourth quarter GDP came in above expectations at 2.6% (but still below the White House's "long term projection" of 3%, less than a year after the tax cut), early projections for 2019 growth show a significant reduction in growth. The Atlanta Fed sees only 0.5% growth in the first quarter of 2019, while the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs both project 0.9% growth. These growth downgrades come on the back of new data showing that in February manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level since November 2016. Trump's economic policies are largely responsible for this economic slowdown. His trade policies have led to a significant deceleration of global growth as well as a loss of key demand markets for US manufacturers and farmers, both of which have reduced US exports and production. In addition, his tax cut has now clearly failed to lift business investment as was promised by the administration. Non-defense capital spending today is at a lower level than it was in May 2018, and business investment has grown at an annualized average of 4.4% over the past two quarters, compared to a quarterly annualized average of 6.3% in 2017 before the tax cut was enacted. NDN has written a series challenging Trump's reckless trade policy for its harmful effects on the US and global economies, which you can find here. As well, you can read NDN's work detailing how the overall Trump economy has underperformed the strong Obama economy of 2015-16 here

Weekly Notes On The Economy is a weekly column that NDN writes on the most recent economic news, policy, and data.

Trump's Hold on DC, US Politics and the GOP Is Weakening

The central dynamic in US politics today, and perhaps even the politics of the world, is the growing awareness of how weakened a figure Donald Trump has become.  He was beaten badly in the 2018 elections, and saw both parties come together in Congress to reject his strident demands on his central domestic issue, the border.  In essence no one is scared of him anymore.  

The opposition to him is becoming more pronounced in official circles here and abroad.  On Venezuela, China and Russia came together to support a pro-Maduro coalition, directly challenging the President’s very aggressive policy there.  The open hostility towards him was on full display in both Warsaw and Munich last week.  And here at home, prominent Republicans have not only challenged him on the border, but also on NATO, tariffs, Russia, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. 

The President’s unfortunate decision to declare a national emergency on the border when none exists may weaken him further.  As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports this morning, early polling on the emergency declaration is very bad for the President, even among his supporters.  After weeks of improvement on 538’s polling aggregate, the President’s approval rating has turned sharply more negative in recent days.  The sense that our President is failing, adrift, a bit crazy and potentially in imminent, grave legal jeopardy is taking hold here and across the world.  Domestically it means more direct challenges to his power, and more anger, lashing out; globally however it may mean even more aggressive actions against US interests, as this New York Times article about escalating Chinese and Iranian cyberattacks against American businesses details.  As I wrote this weekend, the President has left America dangerously isolated and not focused on the most serious threats facing us today – Russia, cyber exploitation of our open society, climate change and the corrosive geopolitics of oil wealth – but his profound new weakness is an additional threat to our security now too. 

Finally, with this wierd period from early October to last week when the political focus was on the elections and then the shutdown coming to an end, the focus now will be now on more conventional governing challenges - the economy, foreign policy, health care, the deficit, etc.  Given that virtually every metric about the health of the nation has worsened under Trump, and our standing abroad has taken a huge hit, the return to reality we may be about to experience is going to be unpleasant for Trump.  I don't know how he is going to handle it all - his decline, the willingness to challenge, the growing gravity of the legal cases, the reality that he's been a crappy President - but one should expect more distractions from it all, and more dark and challenging days ahead. 

Trump’s European Tariffs Would Weaken US Economy, Transatlantic Alliance

This is the ninth article in a series produced by NDN challenging Trump’s tariffs.

On Friday, Nancy Pelosi will head to the Munich Security Conference with dozens of Congressional Democrats to reaffirm America’s security and economic commitments to our European allies. Since the end of the Second World War, the transatlantic alliance has played a critical role in defending liberal democratic values and ensuring widespread economic prosperity throughout the West, particularly in the United States. Today, over 7,000 European troops serve alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan, and exports to the EU support over 2 million jobs in the United States each year. While the Democrats reiterate America’s support for this critical alliance this weekend, however, Donald Trump will be preparing to drive a stake into its very foundations. On February 17th, the Department of Commerce will release their report on the national security implications of auto imports from the EU, which will almost certainly rubber stamp Trump’s claims that the EU is taking advantage of the US on trade. Following the report’s release, Trump will have 90 days to impose tariffs on EU auto imports as leverage to negotiate a trade deal, something that Sen. Grassley said Trump “is inclined to do” in an interview last month. Such a move would be devastating to the transatlantic system both economically and geopolitically, and Congress must decisively challenge such a decision.  

The imposition of auto tariffs of 25% on $65 billion worth of imports from the EU would be devastating to the US economy. First, the move would certainly lead to a trade war with the Europeans, and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom already said last week that any tariffs on European auto exports would be met with reciprocal tariffs on tens of billions of dollars worth of American auto, agricultural, and industrial exports. As a result, auto production would fall significantly in the United States as exports fell, causing an estimated loss of over 700,000 jobs in the industry and a reduction in US GDP of $62 billion. This is on top of billions of dollars of lost earnings reported by Ford and GM as a result of Trump’s already imposed steel and aluminum tariffs, and would likely lead to negative earnings for the major American automakers in 2019. Second, the US tariffs act as a de facto tax on all American consumers. European-made cars would immediately skyrocket in price, but European-made auto parts are an integral part of American automakers’ supply chains, meaning that the price of US-made cars would also increase. The Center for Automotive Research estimates that the average price of a car would increase by $3,500 as a result of the tariffs. Not only would price increases reduce the disposable income of Americans, they would also reduce the number of overall cars sold per year in the US, causing significant job losses in the auto transport and dealership industries. Indeed, LMC Automotive estimates that the tariffs could cause US auto sales to fall by 2 million vehicles per year. The car sales industry employs over 1 million Americans, and a major slowdown in sales would lead to large employment losses there. What effect would a trade war over auto tariffs have on the US then? Tens of thousands of lost manufacturing jobs, and a big reduction in the disposable income of American workers.

Even worse, the auto tariffs could be the decisive blow that sends an already weak Eurozone economy into recession, something that could spark a global recession given already weakened global growth as a result of the US-China trade war. Over the past six months, growth in the euro area has weakened significantly as a result of global trade tensions, Brexit uncertainty, and fiscal issues in Italy. Last week, the European Commission slashed its growth projection for the Eurozone in 2019 from 1.9% to 1.3%, and Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, only narrowly avoided a technical recession in Q4 2018 while Italy, the bloc’s third largest economy, entered a recession last quarter. The imposition of auto tariffs by Europe’s most important trading partner would likely tip the weakened euro area into recession. Germany is by far the largest driver of growth in the bloc, and auto exports alone account for 5% of German GDP. Considering that German GDP growth was actually negative in the second half of 2018, a major shock to its most important industry would reverberate throughout its entire economy. Indeed, Barclays estimates that a 25% tariff on auto imports could lead to a 0.4 percentage point reduction in euro area growth in 2019. The result of a Eurozone recession would be very negative for the global economy, already in the midst of a slowdown from US-China trade tensions. The euro area is the 3rd largest source of global demand after the US and China, so a major slowdown there would lead to further weakness in global exports, and potentially a global recession.

Outside of the significant economic consequences of a trade war with the EU, such a move by Trump could tear the biggest hole in the transatlantic alliance since the end of the Second World War. America’s standing in the eyes of Europeans has already fallen enormously during the Trump administration, with “confidence in the US President to do the right thing regarding global affairs” falling by 75 percentage points in Germany, 70 in France, and 57 in the UK. Furthermore, Trump has consistently attacked the European Union as an entity (both in his support for Brexit and his support for far-right German parties opposed to Merkel) and has supported authoritarian, anti-Semitic regimes in Poland and Hungary even while the EU has attempted to sanction them. A unilateral American attack on the economy of the EU, however, would be a step beyond all of these actions, striking at the core quality of life of European citizens. The move would demonstrate that the United States under Trump fundamentally doesn’t care about Europe and the transatlantic alliance, and that Congress is either unable or unwilling to stop Trump from causing material harm to the EU. Further, the trade war is all the more harmful to EU-US relations because it is so clearly based upon fantasies created by Trump and his trade advisor Peter Navarro. Rather than taking advantage of the US on trade issues, the EU actually has a lower average tariff rate than the US according to the World Bank (2.35% in the EU vs. 3.36% in the US), and there have been no allegations of EU dumping or industrial subsidies regarding its auto exports as have been the case with China with furniture or solar panels for example. Trump is willing to significantly harm the EU’s economy to fix a make-believe trade problem that even his hawkish trade representative Robert Lighthizer says is a distraction from the real problem of China. With this in mind, the EU is likely to rethink their relationship with the US, and adopt a more “go-it-alone” strategy as has already started to become the case.

A new imposition of auto tariffs on the EU would likely devastate the US auto industry, cause a recession in the euro area and inflame the global growth slowdown, and significantly widen the growing schism in the transatlantic alliance. And what is Trump likely to get in return for such a move? Likely very little. Trump has justified the tariffs as needed leverage in future trade talks with the EU. However, the EU has clearly stated that they are not interested in a broad trade deal, and especially not one that includes agriculture. Furthermore, they have a strong incentive to not give in if Trump imposes auto tariffs, even if there is significant economic hardship: such a move would only encourage Trump to hold the EU’s economy hostage in the future for other negotiations, and being seen as subservient to Trump, the most unpopular US President in generations in Europe, would be politically disastrous for European leaders. Furthermore, as we saw in the Canada-EU trade negotiations that were almost derailed by half of the Belgian government over agricultural regulations and the failed TTIP negotiations, negotiating a trade deal with the EU involves harsh sacrifices by both sides that can fall apart at even the slightest hint of trouble, let alone a significant attack on the EU’s economy. And so the EU negotiations are likely to go about as well as the China negotiations – little progress made while the global and American economies suffer. But this time, the global economy starts from a much weaker position than it did in June 2018, and the Europeans are our critical allies, not our strategic rivals like China. In the face of these risks to global economic prosperity and the essential alliances that have created 70 years of peace and prosperity in the West, Congress must act to challenge this looming trade war and reaffirm our essential relationship with Europe. Doing so at Munich this weekend would be a great way to start.

NDN Hails Progress Towards 2020 Pact on Disinfo, Hacking

Feb 12th - In anticipation of the DNC meeting here in Washington later this week, NDN is calling on the DNC, the State Parties and the 2020 Presidential campaigns to forge a pact agreeing to forgo the use of illicit campaign tactics in the upcoming Democratic Presidential primary. 

In this new pact, it is our hope that all the Democratic campaigns will pledge to forgo the use of bots, trolls, troll farms, fake accounts, fake sites, deepfakes and faked images, hacking and use of hacked materials; for the campaigns to pledge to be vigilant about reporting illicit activity to the proper authorities, the social media platforms and the DNC; and to discourage the use of these tactics by their supporters and allied institutions. 

The use of these tactics has no place in modern democracies, and the Democratic Party should take a very clear stand against their use in the 2020 election.  Negotiating and adopting a pledge like this will send a very strong signal that Democrats want the American people to conduct a debate and choose their leaders without interference from foreign or inauthentic actors.

You can learn more about our idea for a party-wide pact here

Feb 22nd - Great to see chorus growing louder, much louder for new norms and committments for how we will manage our politics in the social media age.  A broad consortium of European parties signed on to a pledge; Joe Biden endorsed the pledge concept; and all the early Dem 2020s agreed to never use hacked materials this cycle. 

This story from Natasha Korecki of Politico dives into a new report showing early and aggressive disinformation tactics being used already against 2020 Democratic candidates.  It is a reminder that the 2020 election is not happening next year - it is happening now.  It has already begun.  And the big question still remains - are we ready? What are we doing to prevent 2016 from happening again? This is not a question for next year - it is a question for right now, today. 

Feb 26th - Politico is reporting that the 4 early state Democratic Party Chairs - IA, NH, SC and NV - have sent a letter asking other party leaders to work together with the 2020 candidates towards a party-wide pledge to combat disinfo and hacking.  Very promising development.

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent offers a very smart take on the importance of the four early state Dem chairs pushing the party into a debate about these issues.  

April 23rd - Three exciting developments today.  Sen. Gillibrand pledged to forgo use of stolen or hacked materials in her campaign and challenged other 2020s to do the same.  According to the CNN story "the campaign hopes this pledge will launch a conversation that will allow all the presidential candidates, the Democratic National Committee and state parties to come up with a common strategy, ideally before the debates begin this summer."

Additionally, in a letter to her House colleagues today about the Mueller Report, Speaker Pelosi wrote "The For The People Act addresses the sweeping election protection, ethics reforms, and voting rights protections that the public has demanded to ensure that each voter has an equal voice and that their votes are counted as cast. We continue to urge our Senate colleagues to take up these reforms. And in light of the President’s defenders arguing in defense of receiving and weaponizing stolen emails, we continue to press our Republican House counterparts to take up our pledge to refuse to use stolen, hacked, or falsified information in campaigns because the American people deserve honest debate." Great to see the idea of a "pledge" - the establishment of new norms in this age of disinformation - so prominently referenced in this historic letter. 

Finally, DNC Chair Tom Perez in an open letter to the RNC called for both parties to establish new norms in the current elections.  Was an important early step in this process by Perez. 

Related Writings/Media from NDN

Protecting The 2020 Dem Primary From Disinformation, Bots and Hacking - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 1/29/19 - Democrats must come together now to prevent what happened in 2016 from happening again this time. NDN is calling for all 2020s to sign a pledge forgoing the use of illicit campaign tactics in the Democratic Presidential primary. 

Simon Discusses Protecting The Democratic Primary From Disinfo And Hacking On MSNBC's Joy Reid - Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 2/2/19 - Simon appeared on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show last Saturday to discuss his ideas for how Democrats should be working to protect the 2020 Presidential primary from bots, disinformation and hacking.

Trump Doesn't Take Russian Electoral Interference Seriously. This Is What Democrats Did To Oppose It In 2018 - Simon Rosenberg and Aaron Trujillo, NBC News, 12/18/18 - The U.S. and its politics are not powerless to stop the kind of foreign hacking and disinformation tactics we saw in 2016. In the 2018 midterms, the DCCC developed a series of tools and strategies for reducing the influence and impact of malicious actors. Far more can now be done to protect our democracy and our discourse — and doing so should be a very high priority for the new Congress in 2019.

A Primer on Social Media Bots and Their Malicious Use in US Politics - Tim Chambers, NDN, 9/13/17.  This new and compelling paper by long time NDN collaborator Tim Chambers explains what bots are, looks at their malicious use in US politics and offers some ideas on what to do about it in the days ahead.  

The RNC's Russia Problem - Simon Rosenberg, US News, 5/14/17.  The RNC was instrumental to the success of Russia's interference campaign in 2016.  It should take the lead to make sure nothing like this every happens again. 

Calling All Patriots - Simon Rosenberg, US News, 10/13/16.  In a new essay Simon calls on the RNC and other GOP leaders to stop aiding the ongoing Russian effort to disrupt and influence our election. 

Other Related Writings/Media

Every 2020 Candidate But Trump Promises: No Stolen Data - Sam Stein/others, Daily Beast, 2/21/19.  Every 2020 Presidential candidate agreed to not use hacked material in the 2020 elections except one - Donald Trump. 

Biden Calls on Candidates Not To 'Aid and Abet' Foreign Election Interference - Josh Rogin, Washington Post, 2/21/19.  Joe Biden joins the call for US Presidential candidates to forgo use of illicit campaign tactics in the 2020 election. 

2/16/19 Update - A new European initiative has adopted this "pledge" construct for the upcoming European wide elections.  Is an exciting development. 

Can American Political Candidates Help Stop the Flood of Disinformation with a Pledge? - Justin Hendrix, Just Security, 1/31/19.  A smart new piece which dives deeper into the idea of a pledge, or pact, among politicians and political parties as a way of countering hacking and disinfo.

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest

This analysis was originally published on election night in 2018 and has been updated for release today.

As President Trump and Beto O'Rourke hold dueling political events in El Paso today, it is worth noting just how much the Southwest - an area which for the purposes of this analysis includes AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV and TX - has eroded for the GOP since Trump was nominated in 2016.  This erosion remains one of the most significant recent developments in American politics, as it involves a large region of the country which includes our two largest states. 

As background the three states which saw the biggest movement towards the Democrats in 2016 were, in order, CA (7pts), TX (6.8pts) and AZ (5.5pts). Polling throughout the 2018 cycle showed significant weakness for Trump in the region, and the bottom fell out here on election night 2018.  In Texas, Beto O'Rourke got within 2 1/2 points of Ted Cruz, helped Dems win 2 Congressional seats and many down ballot races, and held 6 GOP reps to 51% or less (TX-10, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 31).  Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988, and Dems now hold a 5-4 advantage in the AZ Congressional delegation. Democrats had very good/blowout nights in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, so much so that there are questions about whether these states will remain in the Presidential battleground in 2020.  Democrats picked up 12 House seats previously held by Republicans in the Southwest, including 7 in California alone, a state where the GOP didn’t even have a Senate candidate on the ballot and where voters with no party preference now outnumber Republicans in registration (and the home of the two most significant GOP Presidents in the past 50 years).  We saw intensity too.  AZ, NV and TX saw more people vote early this year than voted in all of 2014, the only 3 states to see that level of increase.  All in all it was just a huge and game changing wipeout in this region for Trump.

Trump has remained extremely unpopular in the region since November 6th. According to Morning Consult's state polling project, Trump's approval was -18, -18, and -13 in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada in January 2019. Perhaps ever more worrisome for Rs, he was -7 in purple Arizona, and -1 in red Texas. These current ratings represent significant falls in Trump's approval even since his loss in the midterms. Compared to November 2018, his net approval today has fallen by 8 points in each of Colorado, Nevada, and Texas, and by 3 and 5 points in New Mexico and Arizona.

Over the last two years there was always this sense that while the President’s thunderous championing of white nationalist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies was hurting him in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the US, it was the key to unlock the Rustbelt and Midwest.  Given the really bad election the GOP had in the northern part of the US in 2018 that no longer appears to be true. Trump may have used the caravan to win in very red and rural places like Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee, but Democrats made significant gains in critical 2020 battlegrounds IA, MI, PA and WI. 

Trump's big play on the border appears to be a very costly failure for him and the GOP - it hasn't locked up the industrial north as they hoped, it has caused what I believe to be a structural shift against Republicans in a big region of the country and his overall poll numbers are far below where he was on his dismal election night in 2018.  Recall that as recently as 2004 Bush won AZ, CO, NM and NV and Senator Kerry didn't even contest CO that year.  Trump has accelerated the movement of the heavily Mexican-American part of the US from lean R to deep blue and purple now.  If CO, NM and NV are now gone for Republicans, and Arizona and Texas have become true 2020 battlegrounds, the political costs to the GOP of Trump's Presidency will have been significant. 

Related Writings:

Backlash To Trumpism Brewing In The Border Region - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 5/7/18 - There is a growing body of evidence Trumpism is hurting the GOP brand in the border region. Big implications for 2018, 2020 too. 

Trump Is Right To Be Worried About Arizona (And Texas Too) - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 8/21/17 - It is instructive that some of the most powerful opposition to Trump's agenda is coming from Arizona. He is right to be worried about it.

The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas - Simon Rosenberg, U.S. News & World Report, 10/27/16 - Texas has a higher percentage of both millennials and Hispanics today than California, suggesting that with a significant investment in the coming years Texas could indeed follow California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and now Arizona from red to blue.

NDN Supports Bicameral Tariff Bill

“NDN is pleased to endorse and support the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, introduced on January 31st, 2019 in the House and Senate. The legislation provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President’s Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs on our close trading partners. The bill will require that such a justification emerge from our defense community at the Department of Defense (rather than the Department of Commerce) and that any use of national security-based tariffs is approved by Congress before implementation.

The legislation was introduced by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA) and Gallagher (R-WI) and LaHood (R-IL) in the House. 

This legislation is consistent with NDN’s calls for Congress to challenge what we believe to have been the President’s repeated, illegitimate use of Section 232 authority to impose tariffs on our close allies. You can find NDN’s entire series challenging Trump’s tariffs as illegal, recklessly ignorant, and economically destructive here.”

The Trump Economy Is Not Working For Average Americans

At his State of the Union address this evening, Trump is likely to make grandiose claims about the state of the American economy. In just the past few months, he has claimed that the economy today is better than it has ever been, and that he has accomplished more in his first two years than any President ever. However, these claims are transparently false, and indeed, the economic performance of the US economy over Trump’s first two years has not even been better than that of Obama’s last two years, much less all of American history.

First, jobs growth. Although January’s payrolls report showing 304,000 new jobs was undoubtedly strong, we can’t let this cloud the fact that jobs growth has slowed under Trump (and indeed, monthly job growth was 300k or higher 4 separate times in 2015-16, compared to only twice in 2017-19). During the last 25 months of Obama’s second term, monthly jobs growth averaged 213,000. In the first 25 months of Trump’s term, meanwhile, it has slowed to 205,000 jobs per month.

Second, real wage growth. During the first 24 months of Trump’s term, real hourly wages have increased at a monthly average (annualized) of 0.9%. By contrast, real wages increased at a monthly average (annualized) of 1.35% during the last 24 months of Obama’s term.

Furthermore, median household income (which includes both private income and government taxes/transfers) grew by 1.76% in Trump’s first year, compared to growth of 5.15% and 3.13% in 2015 and 2016 under Obama.

Third, the deficit. When the economy is near full employment, traditional Keynesian economics would prescribe a reduction in the deficit, to provide the fiscal room for stimulus in the future. As a result, the deficit as a % of GDP fell under Obama from 9.8% of GDP in 2009 to 3.1% in 2016. Trump has reversed this trend, increasing the deficit from 3.1% of GDP in 2016 to 3.9% in 2018, and a projected 4.2% in 2019. Deficits this large while the economy is strong are unprecedented in US history. Trump’s budget deficits of 3.4%, 3.9%, and 4.2% in 2017, 2018, and 2019 will be the largest deficits while the unemployment rate is under 6% since 1950.

Fourth, the trade deficit. Perhaps Trump’s most signature promise was to end the so-called “foreign theft of American wealth” that he thought the trade deficit represented. Regardless of the lunacy of such thoughts, how successful has the President been in reducing the trade deficit? In fact, Trump’s policies have led to a surge in the trade deficit, as growth in imports has increased significantly while US exports have struggled. In June-October 2018, the average monthly trade deficit was 28% larger than during Obama’s second term.

Finally, access to health insurance. Trump promised expanded access to healthcare coverage during the 2016 campaign and argued that Obamacare was stopping people from accessing quality insurance. In office, however, Trump has down the opposite, eliminating the individual mandate, reducing federal government subsidies to individuals on the exchanges, and encouraging work requirements for Medicaid that have kicked tens of thousands off of the program. As a result, 2017 was the first year that the uninsured rate didn’t fall since 2009, and the uninsured rate actually rose by 0.3% for households earning less than $100k/year. By contrast, the uninsured rate fell by an annual average of 1.6% in Obama’s second term, and by 1.7% annually for households making under $100k/year.

After two years of the Trump administration, then, how has the US economy performed? Jobs and wage growth have fallen, even in the face of a surging fiscal deficit. The trade deficit has increased significantly thanks to Trump’s own trade policies. And the most vulnerable Americans have seen their access to healthcare worsen for the first time in a decade.  

Protecting the 2020 Dem Primary from Disinformation, Bots and Hacking

In a long thread this past weekend, I called on the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates, the DNC and the State Parties to band together to fight disinformation and illicit campaign tactics in the Democratic Presidential primary.  Among the things I called for is for the Presidentials to sign a pledge committing to forgo use of bots, trolls, troll farms, fake accounts, fake sites, deepfakes and faked images, hacking and use of hacked materials; and for the campaigns to be vigilant about reporting illicit activity to the proper authorities, the platforms and the Party, and to discourage the use of these tactics by their supporters. My hope is that either the DNC or the State Parties will demand they sign such a pledge, or for the campaigns to make their own pledges now, without delay, and not wait for the Party to get involved. 

I know the DNC is in the process of standing up a disinformation unit - it should be given ample funding and broad support to become a leader in this space and not a laggard.  This unit can help all the campaigns stand up their own disinformation teams, something which is now, unfortunately, a requirement in today's politics - a must to have, not a nice to have. 

Simply, we cannot let what happened in 2016 happen again.  As we learned at the DCCC in 2018, we are not powerless.  We got the social media platforms to do takedowns, refered illegal activity to the FBI and helped train our campaigns how to protect themselves and win in a fast changing information landscape.  Healthy democracies cannot accept the poisoning of their discourse, and must do everything they can to let the residents of their nation drive the daily debate not inauthentic voices from inside or outside the country.  

For more on the work we did at the DCCC this past cycle battling disinformation, see this NBC News op-ed I wrote with DCCC Chief of Staff Aaron Trujillo; this Washington Post article about our strategy to first "flood the zone" to make it harder for disinfo to work; a Reuters story which looks into one of our major take downs; and a great NBC News piece recounting right wing trolls complaining about the more aggressive countermeasures coming from the platforms - in this case the take down they were complaining about was a multi-platform campaign the DCCC found and worked with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to mitigate.  Here is a link to the DCCC's pledge" from the fall of 2018, and a smart deep dive from the Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand on the pledge and the GOP's refusal to sign on even after months of negotiation. 

NDN originally dove into this world through a paper we published back in the fall of 2017 on bots and disinformation, and I worked on a project in the fall of 2017 which deployed bot detection technology for the Democratic candidates in both the Virginia Governor's race and the Alabama Senate race.  Articles about that work in Virginia can be found in the Washington Post and Politico.  And this Alabama work should not be confused with the illicit campaign waged as a test by some Democrats - we were working for Doug Jones not the other guys. 

Finally, my vision for how we counter disinformation and illicit tactics goes far beyond a pledge.  What we learned in 2018 is that we are not powerless; using modern tools and being smart about hunting disinfo organizations and campaigns can provide an effective counter.  It is my belief that what must happen in the next two years is that parties, campaigns, governments, NGOs, and even the media must go on offense here, be louder and smarter on the Internet and social media, and learn how to better manage the discourse in their own particular areas of debate and discussion.  If all of us do our part we can together eliminate a lot of the low hanging fruit, the easy stuff.  The platforms while they have much more to do have made things harder.  But we can't wait for them, or for governments, to act.  We all need to do our part to clean up our areas of the Internet and social media, and ensure that authentic and well intentioned voices prevail.  The tools to counter disinformation are cheap and readily available - it is more about learning how this all works and making a true commitment to win debates in a very new and changing information landscape. 

Fri, 2/1 Update - Justin Hendrix has taken this pledge concept and turned into a thought piece on the Internet.  Go check it out and offer feedback.  He also discusses this idea in this new piece on Just Security.

Mon, 2/4 Update - Got to talk about all this stuff on Joy Reid's MSNBC program on Saturday.  Check it out - was a very good segment. 

In New Global Age, Dems Have Produced Prosperity, the GOP Decline

This essay originally appeared on Medium.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg News published a new analysis of America’s economic performance under the past seven Presidents. The report ranks the economic progress made during each Presidential term since 1977 based upon 14 gauges of economic and financial activity, from wage growth to job gains to economic growth. On aggregate, Clinton and Obama take the top two spots, followed by Reagan and H.W. Bush in third and fourth, with Carter, Trump, and W. Bush coming in fifth, sixth, and seventh. Perhaps most importantly, this ranking shows the deep discrepancy in economic performance between the two parties. The last two Republican Presidents have overseen the two worst economies since 1977, while the last two Democratic Presidents have managed the two best economies. In this new age of globalization since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the two Democrats (Clinton and Obama) rank one and two, while the three Republicans (H.W. Bush, Trump, and W. Bush) rank three, four, and five. For all his bluster about “the best economy ever,” Trump ranks second-to-last behind even Jimmy Carter, and ranks above average among the seven Presidents on only 2 of the 14 metrics.

Source: Bloomberg

This study is consistent with the big argument that NDN has been making through our Patriotism and Optimism Project that the two parties’ recent performances while in the White House are not symmetrical, particularly on economic issues. While Trump’s central argument about the economy has been that this new age of globalization has failed to deliver economic prosperity to most Americans, regardless of which party has been in power, it is actually the case that Democrats have made the new global economy work for everyday Americans, while Republicans have failed to do so. Since 1989, the two Democratic Presidents (Clinton and Obama) have overseen strong and inclusive economic growth, while the three Republican Presidents (H.W. Bush, W. Bush, and Trump) have seen economic under-performance and even recession and decline. Rather than broad economic trends, it is the wide difference in economic management between the two parties that has shaped America’s economic fortunes.

Aggregate data that NDN has compiled for our Patriotism and Optimism Project confirm the startling asymmetry between the two parties on the economy. On job growth, Clinton and Obama have overseen almost 4 times the yearly gains as H.W. Bush, W. Bush, and Trump (averaging an increase of 2.12 million jobs per year compared to only 0.63 million jobs per year for the three Republicans). In total, the two Democrats oversaw an increase of 34 million jobs during their tenure, while the three Republicans saw only 9 million new jobs.

Source: BLS

On median income growth, meanwhile, Clinton and Obama averaged growth of 1.2% per year, whereas the three Republicans averaged a decline of 0.4% per year. All the more alarming is that even though the Republican Presidents achieved poor job and income growth during their tenures, they did so while also increasing the budget deficit significantly more than the Democratic Presidents. H.W. Bush, W. Bush, and Trump increased the deficit by an average of 0.5% of GDP per year, whereas Clinton and Obama reduced the deficit by an average of 0.4% of GDP per year. As can be seen, the difference in economic performance between Democrats and Republicans has been stark and significant.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Looking over the data, it is clear that the Democrats have been the party of economic progress and fiscal sustainability, whereas the Republicans have boosted deficits while achieving poor job and income growth. It is unsurprising, then, that the two generations that have grown up since 1989 (Millennials and Gen Z) are strikingly Democratic-leaning. In the 2018 midterms, voters under age 29 supported Democrats by a 35-point margin, and voters under 45 by a 25-point margin. For these voters, who will soon make up the majority of the electorate, America has succeeded both economically and socially under two successful Democratic Presidents, whereas Republicans have had three consecutive failed Presidents.

Syndicate content