NDN Blog

The Infrastructure Bill Is A Big Deal

The Infrastructure Bill Is A Big Deal– Universal broadband. Modernization of roads, bridges, rail, public transit.  Dramatic upgrades of our water systems, electricity grid and EV charging networks, and the electrification of all school buses in America. Huge, important first steps in developing a true national strategy to tackle climate change. This thing is a big deal.  It is exciting. It means millions of new middle class jobs over a long period of time.  It is going to reverse decades of decline in public investment, the kinds of investments Treasury Secretary Yellin will argue today are essential for our competitiveness and long term economic success.  Every American will benefit from this legislation.  We are all going to be better off, more prosperous, stronger because of it.  There is much to celebrate here, and it is why we need to pass it through both Houses of Congress and have the President sign it as soon as possible.  

As it is also bi-partisan, it shows that Washington, our democracy, can work, do big things again. But it also does something else I think we need to be really honest about – it gives the Republican Party, still under the thrall of MAGA extremism, something positive, constructive to talk to their voters about.  It is part of a national strategy we all have to employ to give the GOP off-ramps from MAGA, and get them to get used to spending more time again in the real world and not the dark world of MAGA.  These kinds of initiatives are critical to once again help the GOP do its part to make America successful and over time wean itself from MAGA.  This too is a big deal, and hats off to the GOP Senators who hung in there and dragged their party back to a constructive place. 

Hats off to the President too for understanding the long game here, and why we have to keep attempting to provide the GOP off ramps, while causing them more political pain when they choose radicalization.  To wean the GOP from MAGA we have to do both - provide off ramps, and make their radicalization something they need to politically run from.  As we learned in 2020, winning elections are not sufficient to do this, which is why NDN applauds the direction the DCCC is heading in, which is to make their radicalization something central to the poltiical dialogue in key races across the country in the coming months. 

So, yes, this infrastructure bill is a big deal, indeed. 

Bold Action on Evictions, But Also A Reminder That Governing is Very Hard

Bold Action on Evictions, Need To Learn From What Happened Here– We applaud the President for stepping up and crafting an important interim fix for the lapse in the eviction moratorium, particularly given the return of COVID here throughout the US.  But the Administration and the Democrats need to learn from what happened here, and make sure it informs our work in the coming months.  

The ACA, a program at its core that has brought health insurance to 30m people, took years of work to get right after it launched.  There was time built in to prepare the states and get HHS ready before it launched.  There was adequate funding to make it work.  It was a smart and well-designed bill – but even with that time, money and intelligent design it struggled in its early years.  Not everything worked as intended, and adjustments needed to be made to get it right.  Law suits challenged it, and knocked out key parts.  But in part because its well designed and went through months of Congressional deliberation, it has worked as intended and done extraordinary good for the country as a whole. 

What President Biden is attempting to do now could be seen as trying to launch 4 or 5 ACAs all at the same time, some with far less Congressional deliberation and time to prepare for implementation.  Not surprisingly, we are starting to see design and implementation problems emerge.  States have not spent allocated American Rescue Plan rental relief funds, nor have they spent tens of billions of child care funds.  Expanded unemployment insurance saw historic and unacceptable levels of fraud.  The child tax credit as good as it is, is struggling to reach those most in need.  Supply chain disruptions could go well into next year.  The flow at the border remains worse than anticipated. Governing is hard on a normal day, and it is really hard when working in the midst of a global pandemic and we are trying to do so much all at the same time.  

So, we should be up front and honest about the struggle in making all this work and put in place mechanisms to make it more likely our well intentioned programs are successful.   During the crafting of reconciliation, we should make sure as much of it goes through regular order and the committees of jurisdiction as possible.  We should look at institutionalizing and expanding the American Rescue Plan oversight capacity being spearheaded by Gene Sperling.  We should consider creating some kind of support system for states to improve their capacity to absorb allocated monies and implement new and sometimes complex programs.  We should consider launching a “reinventing government” program which takes a once every generation look across government and recommend ways it can “work better, cost less,” reinforcing that we neither want big or small government but a modern, smart and effective one that delivers every day for the American people.  Annie Lowry’s excellent new article in The Atlantic is a powerful reminder of how much work there is to do to make government do better in serving those it is trying to serve.  And this will be particularly true as it attempts to do a lot more, quickly. 

In any institution there are practical limitations to how fast you can grow or change.  Right now the Biden Administration is pushing the limits of what our legislature and federal and state governments can do.  We need to be honest about this, and take prudent steps to make sure that all that we are doing is not just well intentioned but successful.  The American people should expect nothing less from us.  

Biden Should Consider "A Fireside Chat" About COVID

The President Should Address the Nation, Hold A “Fireside Chat” About COVID– Last week we suggested that the President would be wise to address the nation in the coming weeks about COVID.  Do a check in with the American people about this deadly pandemic, and the reality that we will be living with it, and perhaps other pandemics to come, for years into the future.  He should lay out the progress we’ve made, be honest about the ongoing struggles ahead including keeping schools open this fall, and make very clear what his plan is to defeat COVID here and everywhere.  He should once again ask every American to do their part – it is within our power to end COVID here, if we all work together, in the coming months. The end is in sight.  

While there is so much to do now, defeating COVID remains job #1 for President Biden and the Democrats.   

NB: Simon is quoted in a new Politico story making the case for a Presidential prime time address on COVID.

A Good Week for Joe Biden

A Good Week for Biden, More To Do–This has been a good week for Joe Biden.  GDP came in at a roaring 6.5% annual rate for q2; the historic bi-partisan infrastructure bill made significant progress in the Senate; the House Committee on Trump’s attempted coup began its essential work; and the President began to putting in place a far more aggressive plan to counter the dangerous rise of the delta variant.   When you add in 3m new jobs, millions gaining health insurance, the tens of millions beginning to get their child tax credit it’s pretty clear Joe Biden is meeting the central commitment of his campaign – he is making things better for the American people.     

While there is much on the President’s plate, it is our hope that in the coming days the President does a prime time address to the nation about COVID and delta.  While the government acted this week, there is still a great deal of confusion about where we are and what we should be doing. Prior to kids returning to school the President should lay out in plain simple terms what we should be doing now and why; remind people of the very real progress we’ve made, and make clear the steps he and others are taking to counter delta. He should explain why global COVID has made supply chains harder to stand back up, and that some inflation is to be expected due to our rapid recovery.  He should announce an expansion of our work overseas to help bring COVID’s reign of terror to an end everywhere.   

The President needs, in our mind, to go back a bit onto COVID war footing, and offer a clear plan on how we are going to win the war.  Defeating COVID is and will remain job #1 for Joe Biden until it is defeated here and everywhere.   

NB: Simon is quoted in a new Politico story making the case for a Presidential prime time address on COVID.

NDN at 25 - Thank You

Thank you.  I write today to express bottomless gratitude for everyone who has made this journey possible.  NDN turns 25 years old this month.  Yes, it is hard to believe.  And as it was always conceived of as a network, and not an organization, it really has been about the work we’ve done, the relationships we made, the projects we’ve undertaken, the policies we’ve fought for, the candidates we’ve helped elect, the good we’ve done - together.  Together.

From day one NDN has always been about trying to chart and win the future for the American center-left.  We did it first by investing in and championing hundreds of forward -looking candidates at all levels of government, including such current stars as Gavin Newsom, Mark Warner, Debbie Stabenow, Bob Menendez, John Hickenlooper, Cory Booker, Ken Salazar, Adam Smith and Kamala Harris.      

We’ve done it by advancing new ideas and new thinking, some of it our own, but often by showcasing the work of other innovative voices, on everything from global trade liberalization to immigration reform to clean infrastructure to bettering our approach to Cuba and Mexico to restoring the health of the Internet to, in recent years, the vital work of defending democracy here and around the world. 

We’ve done it by encouraging and helping launch new institutions including the New Democrat Coalition in the House and the investor consortium The Democracy Alliance; and by providing material aid to, in the early days, of now established organizations like Media Matters, Daily Kos and Democracy Journal. 

We’ve done it by pioneering new strategies and tactics for advancing our politics, including introducing Spanish language polling and advertising to the center-left, popularizing the idea that there was a rising generation called Millennials, promoting the transformative power of online engagement and fundraising, and recently in creating some truly important insights into how to best counter the rising threat of disinformation. 

And we’ve done it by seeing our incredible staffers go on and make remarkable contributions of their own, like becoming Members of Congress, holding critical positions in the White House and throughout the federal government, advising dozens of Members of the Senate and House, anchoring their own cable news show, and channeling NDN’s entrepreneurial spirit by starting their own organizations and companies; and all of them going on, in the spirt of this still plucky start up, to be big citizens giving back and leading in their communities in whatever ways they’ve been able.

NDN began with a low key gathering of Members of Congress and supporters in July of 1996 at the Music City Roadhouse, a great old Georgetown bar and restaurant which is sadly no longer with us.  Together over these many years we’ve helped modernize the American center-left, providing it with the courage and foresight to as President Obama often said, move forward, not back.  And together we’ve helped make the American center-left arguably the most successful of any nation in the developed world in the Post-Cold War era, both in terms of governing and winning more votes repeatedly in national elections.  In an age where so much is uncertain, this is no small thing. 

Friends, we’ve done a lot of good, together, and I am immensely proud of it.  I can think of no better way to have fought the good fight then to have done with all of you these past 25 years.  And as good and successful as we’ve been, I think we all understand that in many ways our most important work still lies ahead (as it always does). 

As we are a network which looks forward, not back, there will be no celebrations of this considerable milestone.  Just a hearty thank you, and an expression of hope that the next 25 years will be even better for America than the last 25 have been.  It is what this great country, and our kids, deserve.  

Onward, Simon

Defeating COVID Remains Job #1

It’s all happening now – infrastructure, reconciliation, defending our democracy, ransomware/cyber, Cuba/Haiti, Afghanistan, extreme heat and drought in Western states, COVID rates rising again here and across the world…….this month is going to be an incredible test for Joe Biden and his team.  NDN still believes we have three priorities above all others – defeat COVID, defend our democracy, keep creating jobs/build back better – and as we wrote last week, we hope that defeating COVID becomes once again Joe Biden’s #1 domestic and foreign policy priority.  COVID is doing lasting harm to not just people and families but the fabric of societies around the world – and it is in the vital national interest of America, and the President’s broader autocracy vs democracy agenda, to end the degradation of civic life we are seeing across the world today by bringing COVID’s run to a rapid end.  

A story in Politico today has this passage:  

……Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic operative, said the White House’s move to bring everything under Build Back Better was a smart course correction.

“It connects people back to the President’s two core and most important promises — defeating Covid and leading the country through the recovery — and it is a simple clear statement about what he’s doing,” Rosenberg said. “All the various plans got confusing — this makes it all simple, and powerful, again.”

Simple.  Core priorities.  Clear.  These are important words now as we head into this incredible period.  We worry that team Biden for all its good intentions has taken on too much.  That the system doesn’t easily allow this much legislating, about this many issues, with this much money, to happen so quickly particularly with the backdrop of rising COVID rates here and across the world.  And there is a strong argument to be made that Congress in trying to do so much should be more careful and deliberate about what it is doing. As we’ve learned from both the ACA and vaccine rollouts in recent years, designing and implementing big, complex government programs is really hard; doing many of them all at once is almost an unimaginable undertaking, legislatively and administratively. Isn’t slowing down a bit, making we sure get trillions and trillions of dollars of spending/investment right something that we should consider? 

As we wrote recently, we think it would be wise for the President to get his infrastructure bill done this summer, and come back and tackle reconciliation in the fall.  It would give us time to get the policy and politics right for reconciliation; allow a clear plan to pass federal democracy legislation to come together; and free up some of the White House’s time to reinvigorate our campaign to defeat COVID, including making sure schools across the country can re-open without incident and fear this August and September.  

Defeating COVID remains job #1 – you can’t build back better until COVID is truly on the run, here and everywhere.  Delta is reminding us every day that job is not yet done, and that Presidents, even one as experienced as Joe Biden, cannot do everything all at once

Video: DNC's Tim Durigan on Countering Disinformation (7/20/21)

On Tuesday, July 20th we were excited to host a discussion about countering disinformation with one of the best in the business, Tim Durigan, who runs the DNC's countering disinformation program.  Tim's bio and some recent stories about him and his work are below.  Yiou can watch the discussion here.  For anyone wanting to learn more about this important subject, do watch - Tim did a terrific job. 

Background/Clips

Washington Post: The Technology 202: Online disinformation has changed. Now the DNC is updating its response unit.

Social Media's Misinformation Mismatch | by Timothy Durigan | DNC Tech Team

CNN: Frustration and bewilderment: Emails show tension between Facebook and Biden campaign

Vox: How fake news aimed at Latinos thrives on social media

Tim Durigan Bio

Timothy Durigan leads the DNC's Counter Disinformation Program, where he oversees the DNC's efforts to track and combat online mis- and dis-information, build resilience within Democratic campaigns & state parties, and advocate for reform at social media companies. Prior to his work at the DNC, Tim supported Democrats' efforts to win a House majority in 2018 as a Deputy Director of Data and Reporting at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and lives in Washington, DC.

Video: Briefing On Biden Climate Agenda w/WH's Kieve, Flegal (7/13/21)

NDN is excited to share with you an in-depth briefing on President Biden’s climate agenda with two people working on it every day in the White House, David Kieve and Jane Flegal.  Our discussion took place over Zoom onTuesday, July 13th at 1pm ET.  You can watch it here.

We’ve asked David and Jane to come talk to our community about the important climate and energy related items in the Senate bi-partisan infrastructure framework, and the other parts of the President’s agenda we hope to see enacted in the years ahead including in the fall’s reconciliation process.  David is the Director of Public Engagement at the White House’s Council of Environmental Quality, and Jane is the Senior Director for Industrial Emissions there.

NDN is very excited with the far-sighted leadership President Biden and his team are providing on climate, infrastructure and in modernizing our energy systems.  It has been many years since NDN has advocated for making infrastructure investment central to our politics again, including a big commitment to climate friendly clean infrastructure.  NDN was also an early supporter of a carbon tax and of reforms that would make it easier for American utilities to make the transition to a low/post carbon future.   

It was a really terrific event, and hope you will take the time to watch. 

Video: Globalization, the US and Economic Nostalgia w/Adam Posen (6/29/21)

A few weeks ago NDN came across one of the more fascinating and provocative essays we'd read in a while, "The Price of Nostalgia: America's Self-Defeating Economic Retreat" by Adam S. Posen (bio) of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. There is so much in here to discuss that we invited Adam to come talk to us about the article on Tuesday, June 29th.  It was, as expected, a lively and thoughtful conversation about the best path forward for the US economy in a global age.  I'm particularly pleased we got to spend so much time talking about President's ambitious economic agenda, and how it all fits into Adam's thinking.  You can watch a recording of our discussion here.

An excerpt from his essay: “In reality, the path to justice and political stability is also the path to prosperity. What the U.S. economy needs now is greater exposure to pressure from abroad, not protectionist barriers or attempts to rescue specific industries in specific places. Instead of demonizing the changes brought about by international competition, the U.S. government needs to enact domestic policies that credibly enable workers to believe in a future that is not tied to their local employment prospects. The safety net should be broader and apply to people regardless of whether they have a job and no matter where they live. Internationally, Washington should enter into agreements that increase competition in the United States and raise taxation, labor, and environmental standards. It is the self-deluding withdrawal from the international economy over the last 20 years that has failed American workers, not globalization itself.”

In preperation for the event, we took a look back at the very first paper NDN published when it transitioned from a political organization to think tank back in 2005, Crafting A Better CAFTA.  In it we argue that to create space for more economic liberalization, we need to do more to ensure Americans weren’t being left behind, and offered the following agenda:

• Fully fund education reform, especially our poorest schools which have been received $30 billion less than President Bush promised in the No Child Left Behind Act

• Ensure that all Americans have health insurance, and find ways to slow the increase in health care costs

• Raise the minimum wage

• Make quality child care and universal preschool accessible to all families

• Adopt a national strategy to ensure universal broadband access, upgrade our wireless networks, and develop the next generation Internet

• Strengthen community colleges and other workforce development programs

• Expand trade adjustment assistance to cover service workers, to help them retrain for new jobs

• Create a clear path to legal status – and better worker protections – for immigrants already working in the U.S.

• Support initiatives which encourage U.S. students to pursue math, science, and engineering and improve math and science teaching

Hope you can watch this important conversation, and thanks for your interest. 

Adam Posen's Bio

Adam S. Posen has been president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics since January 2013. Over his career, he has contributed to research and public policy regarding monetary and fiscal policies in the G-20, the challenges of European integration since the adoption of the euro, China-US economic relations, and developing new approaches to financial recovery and stability. He was one of the first economists to seriously address the political foundations of central bank independence and to analyze Japan's Great Recession as a failure of macroeconomic policy.  While at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during 1994–97, he coauthored Inflation Targeting: Lessons from the International Experience with Ben Bernanke, Thomas Laubach, and Frederic Mishkin.

During Dr. Posen's presidency, the Peterson Institute has won global recognition as the leading independent think tank in international economics, including repeated top rankings from the Prospect Think Tank Awards and the Global Go To Think Tank Index.  Under his leadership, PIIE has expanded to include 42 world-renowned resident and nonresident fellows and increased its endowment by 50 percent.  Since 2013, PIIE has developed high-level recognition and research partnerships in the People's Republic of China, while deepening longstanding ties with policymakers in other East Asian, European, and North American capitals.  The Institute also has broken new ground in providing accessible economic analysis to the general public.

Posen has been widely cited and published commentary in leading news and policy publications, including the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Handelsblatt, Die Welt, Harvard Business Review, and The International Economy.  He appears frequently on Bloomberg television and radio, among other media programming.

Memo: Some Thoughts on The Path Forward (6/28/21)

The Path Forward- In an essay we posted a few weeks ago, we suggested that Democrats have three big things to do this summer – defeat COVID, defend democracy and keep creating jobs.  On balance things seem to be going pretty well on these fronts, but there is a lot more work to be done…..

Defeating COVID– We start with celebrating our extraordinary progress here.  All measures of COVID’s strength here in the US have plummeted, and we are close now to 70% of all adults having gotten at least one shot. But the fears of what the new delta variant may do to unvaccinated Americans in the coming months – including the disruption of schools and youth sports – reminds us that half of all Americans are still unvaccinated, and we still have a great deal of work ahead of us to defeat COVID here at home. 

Effectively mobilizing to bring in the next layer of vaccine hesitant people is yet another big opportunity for Republicans to take an off ramp from MAGA crazy, and do the responsible thing here.  The correlation between support of Trump and low vaccine rates is very high - simply Republican leaders need to step up now and do their part to support the ongoing work of the Biden Administration and bring an end to COVID’s ongoing threat. Of all the terrible stuff we’ve seen in the Trump/MAGA era, the GOP’s COVID denialism is perhaps the very worst of it all, and we all need to be loud about challenging them to do better, do the right thing there. 

Globally, the spread of the delta variant reminds us that until COVID is defeated everywhere it is not really defeated here in the US.  It remains our belief that the Biden Administration should be doing more to mobilize American resources to accelerate a high profile global campaign to defeat COVID. Make it an American crusade/obsession; it is not only the right thing for us, but can do so much to strengthen the liberal order and restore America’s standing in the world.   As we’ve been writing we feel that this period right now is a bit more like 1944-45 than 1932-33 or 1964-65.  The world is suffering from a dangerous and destabilizing global trauma, and America needs to, as only it can, lead the global effort to defeat COVID and the effort to build back better, everywhere. 

Keep Creating Jobs– Biden’s early plans to defeat COVID and reboot the economy are clearly working, as the US is creating jobs now at a blistering pace – over 2m in Biden’s first four months.  As the graph below shows this is a very rapid pace of job creation, and is by comparison, more jobs created than in the 16 years of the last GOP Presidents COMBINED.  

But as Rob Shapiro’s new essay in the Atlantic about the recovery warns us, the trauma of the pandemic here in the US is causing people to return to spending much more slowly than in a traditional recovery.  Not really unexpected, but as Rob argues it means the recovery could stall out this fall and winter as many of the programs targeted at individuals come to an end. This is why Democrats would be wise to get the two bi-partisan bills which have emerged from the Senate – the US Innovation and Competition Act and the infrastructure bill – to the President’s desk before the summer recess.  The reconciliation bill, and whatever ends up in it, can come this fall as it just isn’t as far along as these other two packages. 

We here at NDN want to marvel at what the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, have agreed to in recent weeks – a national electric vehicles charging station network, enormous investments in roads/bridges/public transit and our energy infrastructure, creation of truly universal access to broadband, the replacement of all lead pipes to improve our nation’s drinking water, historic investments in all kinds of advanced research and to help America compete and win in technologies of the mid 21st century and beyond…..(much of this will disproportionately benefit underserved communities btw).

It is critical that Democrats take these extraordinary and far sighted packages, couple them with the already successful work of the President’s American Rescue Plan, and let the American people know just how important the election of 2020 was, and how much better we already are and will continue to be because of it.  Passing these packages, and selling our success, will give President Biden more running room to be aggressive with the reconciliation package to follow in the fall.  

Defending democracy– As we discussed with the great Norm Ornstein last Tuesday, we cannot be happy with the state of our efforts to defend democracy here at home.  Our discussion with Norm is well worth watching in its entirely – it was simply one of the best articulations of the challenges ahead we’ve heard.  His ideas about how to best reform the filibuster are particularly compelling.

Working backwards from the UN General Assembly this fall, we believe President Biden should give a series of speeches fleshing out his ideas about the autocracy vs. democracy framework he has advanced.   Americans need to have a better understanding of what’s at stake here, as the President seeks to mobilize them for what could be a very long – decades – struggle to ensure autocrats do not gain the upper hand abroad, or here at home. 

As urgent as the climate crisis is for America and the world (116 degrees in Portland), it’s our belief that maintaining the open, transparent global liberal order is a prerequisite for fighting and winning the sustained battle against climate change.  We will have more to say about this in the coming months but we aren’t backseating climate here – we just believe there are things that must be done first to make that very consequential fight more likely to be successful.  And yes we agree that the parts of the President's climate agenda not covered in the infrastructure package should land in reconciliation. 

Finally, we want to acknowledge that the President has gotten the Republicans to agree to two big packages full of his priorities.  Rather than the relentless nihilism of recent years, Joe Biden has successfully gotten the GOP to take off ramps from radicalization/MAGA, something reinforced by the very constructive appearances on yesterday’s Sunday shows by GOP Senators involved in the infrastructure package.  We all have to be eyes wide open here, and recognize that working with the Rs while they continue to attack our democracy is highly risky, as we risk legitimizing a party still in the thrall of an authoritarian MAGA.  But as NDN has written, our collective societal goal has to be to attempt to get the GOP to start and keep taking off ramps from MAGA; to learn, slowly, painfully, how to be just a right or center right party and not a radical one.  Joe Biden has done that in recent weeks, and while so much more needs to be done, helping remove radicalization from democracies is something at the very center of Joe Biden’s democracy agenda.  For if democracies fail, autocrats win.  

In a recent essay in the Washington Post Greg Sargent does a good job looking the risks Democrats are taking now in treating the GOP as a traditional American political party as it continues to wage its deeply un-American and dangerous assault on our democracy.  Let us all hope that Biden’s grand strategy is successful here, and that we are seeing is the beginning of the end of MAGA – all while advancing huge parts of our own agenda.  

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