NDN Blog

Republicans are the party of...?

It's about that time again. Just before the August recess and Congressional Republicans are trying to get something accomplished. However, when I was reading the Times this morning, I was perplexed. Instead of the usual push for a ban on gay marraige or the triumphant return of the flag burning issue, we have minimum wage on the floor possibly tomorrow.

Says the Times:

"Mr. Boehlert and others have argued that Republican support for an increase in the federal wage is essential to shore up the party’s strength among blue-collar and low-income workers who could decide critical House contests in the Northeast and Midwest.

The willingness of the leadership to relent on a wage vote after months of reluctance illustrates Republican nervousness about the November elections, and a desire to break for the August recess on a politically positive note. Although many states now require higher wage levels, the federal minimum wage has remained at $5.15 an hour since 1997."

A curious realization that $5.15 times 40 times 52 is well below the poverty line. Senator Kennedy nicely illustrates the difference in the party lines here in the Post article covering the bill, asserting "we should be rising above politics" on such important issues.

And this is an important issue. The Economic Policy Instute has a quick snapshot showing that almost 60% of the workforce is covered at the state level by a higher minimum wage. Even at the city level, just two days ago the Chicago City Council voted to up the minimum wage gradually to $10/hour for certain stores in the city.

But turning back to politics, minimum wage simply shows the fracturing of the GOP - a party that quickly raised it's own salary, yet struggles to raise the ceiling for those at the bottom. Certainly not a party willing to rise above politics and do what's right.


Met a very interesting guy this morning, Steven Starr, the founder and CEO of Revver.  What is Revver? Check it out.  A good place to start is the now famous Extreme Diet Coke and Memtos Experiment.  More on this exciting new idea soon.

House Republicans and Energy Policy: When Will the Politics End?

I woke up this morning in an inexplicably good mood.  Thankfully, all I had to do to remove the bounce from my step and restore my equilibrium was open up a newspaper and read about the House Republican energy bill.  So put on your seatbelt and get ready to leave the reality-based community behind for a liquefied-coal powered ride into the world of desperate Republican politicking.

In contrast to the bi-partisan energy bill moving through the Senate, House Republicans are scurrying to pass a divisive energy bill in the 3 weeks before Congress goes into recess.  The plan may sound familiar, or it may just sound like a broken record, because once again Republicans are trying to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  This time they seem to realize that ripping up ANWR is not going to end our over-dependence on foreign oil.  They must have read the Energy Information Agency report which reveals that at peak production, twenty years from when drilling begins, oil from ANWR would only meet 1%-2% of domestic energy needs.   

In an impressive case of mission creep, House Republicans have given up emphasizing the minimal and far-off economic impact of drilling in ANWR, and are instead arguing that royalties collected from oil companies could be used to finance an “Energy Independence Trust Fund.”  You may remember the idea of an Energy Trust Fund from 2004, when it was at the center of John Kerry’s energy proposal.  House Republicans should try to arrange a photo-op with the junior Senator from Massachusetts to celebrate their slightly belated support for his energy plan.  Perhaps not though, as their trust fund would support greenhouse gas-producing coal and ethanol technology, whereas Kerry’s called for strengthening fuel efficiency, retooling factories and providing incentives to buy hybrid vehicles.  Of course, we could have that trust fund today if Congress would collect reasonable royalties from companies already drilling on federal land and rescind the $2.8 billion dollars in tax cuts and incentives that oil executives admit they don't need.  Just a thought. 


NDN in the News

NDN's Joe Garcia is in the Miami Herald today discussing President Bush's sinking approval rating among hispanics

''He's looking for reassurances, his numbers are down everywhere,'' said Joe Garcia, director of NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center and former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation. ``George Bush's mismanagement of the immigration issue has angered their base and the Hispanics they spent so much time cultivating. Clearly they are trying to reconnect with a group they've lost standing with.''

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.


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. 



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