NDN Blog

This morning's papers

Simon is off in California this week, so i'll step up and post of few interesting stories from around the media this morning. First up, the Wall St Journal has a new poll. The President inches up to a mighty 39% approval rating. Other indicaters on the economy, iraq and the "right track / wrong track" look positive for the Democrats. And yet, as the paper points out, the party gets its lowest favourability rating for a decade or more, with only 32% viewing the party positively. Clearly, there is work to be done on convincing voters that Democrats are more than an anti-bush protest vote. Beyond the popular wedge issues - minimum wage, stem cells and so forth - there doesn't yet seem to be much traction on the party's alternative agenda. Whatever this might be. 

The Post has an intriguing piece about demography, profiling William Frey, a boffin at Brookings. Frey "has pinpointed three [future] Americas -- the multicultural "melting pot" states, the predominantly white heartlands and the "New Sunbelt" -- that are pulling in young suburbanites." Its worth a read, not least for its claim that ethnic differences will become less important, rather than more over the coming decades. This is deeply counterintuitive, but it makes sense on at least one level. Political scientists tend to believe that many cross-cutting social cleavages - or lots of groups with weak identities - tend to make for more stable social organisations than a few groups with a few very powerful cleavages. (Think about Northern Ireland, for instance.) So as America becomes much more of a mixed race society, perhaps the sharp divide of white, black and hispanic will fade? 

Finally, The rumbles and recriminations from the collapse of the Doha round continue. The consensus seems to be that agricultural interests on both side of the Atlantic are to blame. President Bush gnomically is reported as thinking that the talks are "neither dead nor alive.". Whatever this might mean, Jagdish Bhagwati - a respected and very sane economist- is quoted in the FT as saying that "There is no doubt that Mr Bush remains deeply committed to trade liberalisation and to Doha ... But he cannot afford to make himself hostage to the Democrats before the midterm elections. There can be little doubt he will try to revive Doha after that." Depressing that the issue could be construed in this way, but nice to see someone being optimistic that matters might be revived. And with that thought, let us set about the rest of the day.........

The Millennial Voters

College Democrats of America, the college arm of the Democratic National Committee held their 2006 Convention in St. Louis, Missouri this past weekend. Chairman Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Governor Vilsack and General Wesley Clark were among the many speakers in Missouri, where students received trainings by DNC staffers in voter contact, fundraising, event planning and GOTV. I was lucky enough to attend convention with my fellow Pennsylvania College Democrats.

In 2004 young people truly did “rock the vote”, according to a University of Maryland research institute, CIRCLE, which estimated that “at least 20.9 million 18 to 29-year olds voted on November 2--nearly 4.6 million more than in 2000, when only 16.3 million turned out to vote”. Because of this, candidates in the midterm elections are looking to capture the votes of young people across the country through new media like Facebook and MySpace. Last week, The Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb had a fairly decent article about youth voter turnout in which he said the youth vote is generally left-leaning, but acknowledges that it is not necessarily the Democrats to keep.

In the past, politicians have seemed to overlook the youth vote, complaining that voter turnout for young people has been entirely too low. The 2004 election was a clear indication that 18-20-somethings were ready for elected officials to hear their voices and ideas. Politicians use of such new media like Facebook and text messaging, goes hand in hand with NPI’s toolbox of political ideas for 2006. If politicians begin re-shaping the way they reach out to voters, it is likely that the youth vote will continue to improve in the coming elections. Check out Peter Leyden's article on the Millennial Generation for more information.

Rubin Where it Itches

I promised an update on the Hamilton Project event yesterday, but Steve Pearlstein of the Post got their first. His artilce explains the most entertaining moment in a generally ho-hum event. The final panel featured Rob Rubin, Larry Summers and Roger Altman, three of the biggest beast of 90s economic policy making. Their remarks were genial in tone, almost relaxed. They all agreed the Globalization was happening, that there were a few problems with inequality, and that while deficits were generally bad, trade was generally good. All of this was taken in good part, until a questioner named "Steve" - who it now appears was the Post's Pearlstein - took them to task, asking then "if any of them would be willing to support the idea of a "time out" on new free-trade initiatives until there was some tangible progress toward greater economic security for U.S. workers." The genial giants demured a couple of times, before a lion-like Summers finally lost patience and slapped down impudent young-pup "Steve" for ideas that were "dangerous", earning a round applause.  Despite this, it seems pretty clear that the three Rubinomists - with all their talks of trade, deficit reduction and higher saving rates - didn't realize quite how their economic orthodoxy has become controversial within the Democratic party. As a side note, despite the FT coverage, they didn't really mention wages much either.      

Beyond that exchange, the most interesting point of the afternoon was raised in the first panel, a debate between centrist Gene Sperling and less centrist Larry Mishel, of the Economic Policy Institute. One of them - i forget which - noted that that the problem for the Democrats interested in promoting a roll for the state (and most specifically in relation to trade) is that voters demand most vocally those things which the state is least good at delivering: protecting their jobs, and identifiying which industries will provide them with good jobs in the future. Instead, the argument was made that the state must talk up the things it can do well, namely providing simple, universal programs that help workers feel less anxious about losing their jobs. Sperling also mentioned that the sharp end of Globalization was felt less keenly in countries with more such programs like the UK; where losing a job - albeit temporarily - did not mean losing benefits like healthcare. Some to mull on. 

New Globalization Memo - Wages

Following this morning's piece in the FT, Simon and Rob Shapiro have put together a new memo (now with new and improved snazzy graphics) to build NDN's case on the ongoing debate about wages and productivity:

The Emerging Progressive Economic Concensus on Wages

I'll put up a little bit more about today's Hamilton Project event when i get a chance, tomorrow.

Protecting IP the Chinese Way

Jumping off James' earlier mention of intellectual property, I came across this very interesting article in the NY Times from last week.

Instead of the FBI or Moby checking Limewire and suing Napster (to the chagrin of many high school and college students), "the Hong Kong government plans to have 200,000 youths search Internet discussion sites for illegal copies of copyrighted songs and movies, and report them to the authorities" -- an interesting tack for a country with extraordinary levels of piracy.

While the effectiveness of such a program may be in question, Hong Kong looks to long-term goals: "Educating youths to respect copyrights is a central goal of the program, officials said." Despite the long term goals, this certainly represents a different, and I use that term loosely, method to solving a growing problem on both sides of the Pacific.

NDN in FT

The Financial Times this morning prominently quotes Rob Shapiro, the Director of our Globalization Initiative, on the launch of the Hamilton Project's latest tranche of work. In something of a confirmation of arguments Rob and the rest of us have been making, the FT reports that this morning news: "Summers and Rubin to highlight lagging US wages".

Larry Summers, the last Treasury secretary of the Clinton administration, will on Tuesday join Robert Rubin, his immediate predecessor, in a high-profile drive to highlight stagnation in wage growth for the majority of workers in the US economy.

The article goes on to look in some detail at the recent dismal performance on incomes, which we and others have reported here before. The piece quotes Rob twice, in the first of which he links the wages issue back to Globalization

“What we are seeing is a major structural shift in the way the US economy works,” says Rob Shapiro, head of the New Democrat Network’s Globalisation Initiative, a centrist advocacy group. “The ripple effects caused by the supply shock of the entry of hundreds of millions of Chinese workers into the global economy has changed the way American workers benefit from trade.”

I'll be attending the Hamilton event. I'll have some reflections on it later. Rob and Simon are also planning a new Memo, which we will release later today and post on the blog, giving our updated thinking on some of these economic issues. 

 

 

Doh

Various interesting things around the newspapers this morning. The President's startlingly sucessful approach to trade policy continued yesterday with the final collapse of the Doha round. We all knew it was coming, but its still disappointing. We can't be too partisan on this issue. Its deathly complicated, and not exactly anyone's fault in particular that it failed.  As the Economist pointed out last month, the President pretty much signalled he'd given up on it when he moved Portman to OMB. (Given the failure, though, it is certainly legitimate to ask if the President's political decision to impose Steel tarrifs - which we know cost consumers millions of dollars - were worth the cost.) What we can say for sure is that the failure is a victory for fear over leadership; politicians in Europe, America and elsewhere have largely caved to their producer interests, rather than acting in the long-term interest of growth in the global economy. And, as the WAPO points out, it does tend to be exporters of commodity goods in the poorest countries that lose out most. Given the state the negotiations seem to be in, this means there is precious little chance of making progress until after the next election. With luck, though, that means a different party will be in charge. 

Elsewhere, NDN's Globalization Initiative is planning to do more work on Intellectual Property in the future, an under covered political issue. To that extent, its good to see a piece in the FT this morning highlighting how Europeans are understanding that "Patents are key to taking on China."Given the current administrations poor record of prosecuting international IP issues through the WTO and elsewhere, we can only hope they might also begin to make protection of IP more of a priority. 

The Quality of so-called Bottom-Up Video

If you have not done it yet, you should just go to youtube.com and check out various videos in order to get a sense of what this bottom-up video phenomenon is all about. A random visit runs the risk of you only coming across silly things that are poorly done – and that lead you to believe that the whole development is useless. Don’t fall into that trap. There are all kinds of gems sprinkled in there, and they point towards more amazing productions to come.

I came across this random video from two young guys who probably are worth keeping an eye on. It shows how the simple tools of digital cameras and inexpensive editing software can come up with very funny and well-done pieces. These guys might be on their way to making a living doing this, or maybe it will remain simply a creative outlet. Either way, it proves the point. This new video distribution system is going to open up the playing field for many new talents, either professional or amateur. And those new players are bound to impact politics.

Peter Leyden

Political "Web Widget" from Sunlight Labs

I really like the idea behind the "Sunlight Labs" effort:

"Sunlight Labs is a Sunlight Foundation pilot project to prototype tech ideas to improve government transparency and political influence disclosure. We also provide technical support to Sunlight Foundation sponsored projects.

Lab projects are experiments. Play with them, even add them to your website if you feel brave. We like to collaborate with others to pool resources and facilitate sharing of data and technologies. A current major focus is working with the such partners developing APIs — Application Program Interfaces — which allows one program to talk to another and share data."

I specifically like their first project a web app, politician popup web service...

"Imagine pressing one button and finding everything you need and want to know about a member of Congress, or a corporation, labor union or individual trying to influence her. Web 2.0 technologies - Web services, API's, XML, AJAX, RSS - now make that possible."

It allows any blogger or website to include a little more than one line of code to their sites and then they get an "AJAX-based widget that adds mini-profiles with links of Members of Congress to your page that appear when you mouseover [a hyperlink of their name]."

In some ways you have to see it in action to really get it. But it is a cool distriubted web service -- and the first overtly political webservice I've come accross -- and is available for anyone to use.

The Sunlight labs project page goes on in more depth on the future of this project:

"Sunlight Labs is readying various flavors of the widget for increased scalability. The basic widget can be added to a web site or blog by simply adding the Javascript and style sheet to the page's headers and then manually adding a properly formed linked to each members of congress name where a popup is desired....Other flavors include local server-side PHP code to automatically search and replace members of congress's names with the necessary links. Sunlight has built a Drupal plugin that does this for our own site, www. sunlightfoundation.com, and also built a WordPress 2.0 plugin as well. Plugins for the major blogging and CMS platforms are planned and SunlightLabs is eager to find open source developers to help accomplish this and extend the the plugin."

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