NDN Blog

Silk Purse - meet Sow's Ear

Lots of intriguing economic issues bubbling around the press today, much of it summed up rather nicely in the leading Times editorial this morning, Another Mission Accomplished. Following his trip to Chicago, Bush will today wax euphoric over a slightly lower than expected budget deficit of$300bn. If you see some lipstick in the President's pocket, it might well be the beginning of a concerted campaign to pretty up his pig of an economic record.

Yesterday, the President spun the line a little further in remarks at the swearing in of Treasury Secretary Paulson. He put the best possible gloss on the latest job creation and unemployment figures, before concluding that all of this was "leading to higher wages and a higher standard of living for our people."

Luckily for us, the lie of this pig-polishing exercise on these three claims - the economy is doing well, $300bn isn't actually a bad federal deficit, and living standards are rising for "our people" - was nicely disproved before the lipstick was dry, in three excellent papers by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

First, they point out that the current recovery is much weaker than the average for comparable recoveries since the Second World War, with the noteable exception of strong growth in the corporate sector. Second, they point out that any reduction in the federal deficit is a combination of expectations management (previous estimates were on the high side) and a strong tax take from (guess who?) the very richest Americans. Even given that - the administrations claim that the current is low by historical standards only works if you count times of war and reagan's fiscal recklessness. Without those, its a whopper. And, finally, they profile new data on income distribution for the last year in which figures are available. It is here that the President's phrase "higher standard of living for our people" comes into sharpest relief. It notes

"an exceptional jump in income concentration in 2004. The share of the pre-tax income in the nation that goes to the top one percent of households increased from 17.5 percent in 2003 to 19.5 percent in 2004. Only five times since 1913 (the first year that this data set covers), and only twice since World War II has the top one percent’s share risen by as much in a single year (in percentage point terms)."

So, there you have it. In as much as the economy is doing well it is doing well for our [wealthiest] people. Despite this a new campaign is clearly underway to gloss up the President's economic record, going into November. No ammount of lipstick should hide the fact that - for the quiet majority of Americans - this is an oinking economic recovery complete with little trotters and a pink twirl-around tail.

 

 

 

Tuesday Morning Roundup

This one is a little longer than usual, as we have a few good ones left over from the weekend.   

The Times starts the day with an editorial questioning the President’s economic cheerleading, reminding us that deficits are still way too high and the governing Party has little so say about the central economic issue of the day, the decline in wages for most Americans. 

Ratings are in for the World Cup, and they exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Even though Spanish speakers are somewhere between 5-7 percent of the overall population, Univision scored at a third of all the Sunday’s final viewers.  The extraordinary performance of Univision throughout the Cup validates the strategic intent of the NDN Political Fund’s 5 month long "mas que un partido" campaign to speak to Hispanics using the powerful metaphor of soccer.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a close Bush ally, says in a letter to the President that some of the domestic spying by the Administration may have been “illegal;” Talkingpointsmemo has two worth reading: first a reprise of a post from the New Republic blog about the growing sectarian violence in Iraq; second, a compelling entry about an LA Times piece about the utter failure of the Iraqi police.

Gary Kasparov challenges the West to stop coddling the increasingly autocratic Russians; the Post’s Sebastian Mallaby has another in a series of thoughtful op-eds, this one challenging the notion there is little to do to stop global climate change; and as we battle over immigration, a thoughtful NY Times op-ed reminds us that the first permanent settlements of what is now the United States were Spanish.

Appropriately a judge finds the seizure of documents from a Member of Congress’ office legal; the McCain led takedown of Grover Norquist continues, as assertions of his corruption change a conservative movement leader’s reach; a LA Times education blogger discovers the $100 laptop, a device that could change education as we know it.  If Democrats are looking for big ideas I think putting “a laptop on every desk” of every child would be a very 21st century update of a “chicken in every pot.”

And in New York magazine this week, John Heilemann discusses the rise of Kos and the battle over Lieberman.  Features a few quotes from an NDNer. 

Let us know if we missed anything. 

  

Viral and Social Video Online: "A Campaign Game-changer..."

From today's Post, an article on viral and social video and the role they will play in upcoming political campaigns. Excerpts below:

While bloggers played a role in the last presidential election, most advertising and message delivery still comes from campaigns, political parties and interest groups with enough money to bankroll a television blitz. But the YouTube revolution -- which includes dozens of sites such as Google Video, Revver.com and Metacafe.com -- could turn that on its head.

If any teenager can put up a video for or against a candidate, and persuade other people to watch that video, the center of gravity could shift to masses of people with camcorders and passable computer skills. And if people increasingly distrust the mainstream media, they might be more receptive to messages created by ordinary folks.

"YouTube is a campaign game-changer, shifting the dynamics of how to reach voters and build intimate relationships," says Julie Supan, senior marketing director for the small, California-based firm, which by one measure now runs the 39th most popular Web site. "YouTube levels the playing field, allowing well-backed and less-known candidates to reach the same audience and share the same stage."

Even the seemingly simple act of posting footage of a politician's interview on "Meet the Press" or "The Daily Show" has a viral quality, because it can be seen by far more people than watched during a single broadcast...

While the site's amateur contributions range from nasty to uplifting to downright silly, they also restore a measure of fun to politics -- precisely what might appeal to younger people turned off by traditional speeches, ads and rhetoric. Supan says the modest viewing levels for politicians' pages reflect the pedestrian content of standard speeches and ads -- and will likely remain that way until they come up with behind-the-scenes footage or other eye-catching fare.

"At the end of the day," she says, "it's all about entertaining."

Ruth Marcus on the Lieberman race

I've already weighed in heavily over the past few days on the Lieberman race, so I won't be commenting that much more on it other than to comment on the commentary itself.  So much of what has been written about this race has been inaccurate.  An exception was a piece Ruth Marcus had in the Post today.  

In the piece she hits both sides with inconvenient truths.  For the Lieberman world, she makes it clear that the opposition and concern she felt while in Connecticut was something Connecticut voters themselves feel, not something cooked up by outside bloggers or Lamont.  

The Lieberman campaign seems still to be struggling to figure out exactly what happened up there.  But the math is pretty simple.  A third of the country opposed the Iraq war when it happened in 2003.  That means that perhaps as much as half of all Connecticut voters opposed the war when it happened; and this certainly means that more than half of all Democratic primary voters opposed the war three years ago.  And things have dramatically worsened since then. 

For the last three years Senator Lieberman has made his steadfast support of our troubled occupation perhaps his signature issue.  He just wasn't that he stood by the President.  He criticized other Democrats who did not share his view.  

So, he firmly identifies himself as a national spokesman on perhaps the most salient issue of the day; his position is deeply unpopular at home with all voters, particularly Democrats; rather than acknowledging the concerns of voters, and working to accomodate them somehow, he begins his campaign with an ad saying that we will have to agree to disagree on this one; and then gets insulted and angry that people aren't looking beyond this one issue to the totality of his career. 

But don't candidates lose all the time for being on the wrong side of a single, powerful issue?Don't people lose over voting for a tax increase, being anti-choice, even for just being a Democrat? Isn't this part of the game? And aren't all elections about the what you will do for the voters, not what you've done? Ask Winston Churchill, or Al Gore Sr. 

The righteous indignation of Senator Lieberman on the ability of Democrats to challenge him for his public stance on the war is a little much to take.  On this issue, whether he is right or not (and that certainly is not clear), he is wildly out of touch with his constituency back home.  But in her piece today Marcus also points out that the national community of internet activists, bloggers and moveon seemed to have become overly obsessed by this race, and that I agree with.  With so many critical races around the country for Senate, House, Governor and beyond, why is the one battle, over a safe seat, so important?  Much has been written about why the amount of energy put into defeating Lieberman has been worth it.  I think most of it is unconvincing. 

I agree that the way Lieberman scolded his fellow Democrats over the Iraq war, and then last week started collecting signatures for an independent run, have been two extraordinary mistakes - big enough mistakes to prevent him returning to as a Senator.   But given the limited resources we has as a movement, I also believe the amount of national effort going to be oust him is also an unfortunate occurrence.  I wish the passion, the energy, the time, the effort going to oust Joe had been directed in many other places.   But we are way beyond that now. 

Bill Clinton: Football Star?

The NDN blog, like the rest of the world, will soon leave the World Cup behind. Before it does i have one odd story to recount. In between the headbutting, yesterday's final coverage on ABC featured the staple broadcasters cut-aways to politicians, player's wives and random pretty-girls-in-the-crowd. We had a jowly looking Chirac, an anonymous looking Sepp Blatter, and an Italian stepford wife. In the packed bar where I watched the game only one of these got any reaction at all. And that was President Clinton. And what a reaction it was. I kid you not: the President appears, and the crowd errupts in cheers. The whole bar then begins a boisterous chant of "OLE! OLE! OLE! OLE! CLINT-ON! CLINT-ON!". I make no particular political point about this, beyond the fact that i was amazed. A bar packed with Europeans - nay a bar at least half packed with FRENCH Europeans- cheering an American President. It was a pleasant reminder of the way things could be.

It's Italy!

And I was right this am.  Zidane's name is more famous, or perhaps infamous, than ever. 

Hats off to the Italians for overcoming a great deal, and playing a great tournament. 

Your reax to the World Cup?

Sunday musings

Lots of interesting stuff in the papers today.   A theme running throughout the day is the struggle to understand and manage how interconnected we've become through globalization.  We read today of Zidane, and world's obsession with soccer; of the new baby Panda here in DC; of immigration; of the Mexican elections; of a leading Republican's letter to the President raising questions about the use of foreign intelligence gathering techniques being used here at home on Americans; of cell phone use in the Congo. 

Despite rising global threats we live in a time of relative peace and prosperity.  Our time is characterized as a period of rapid flow of ideas, technology, commerce, people and information.  With the end of the Cold War and the Clinton-led effort to bring the former communist and non-aligned world into the global economic and political system, the modernity of the United States is being brought to all parts of the world.  

The Washington Post's remarkable story on cell phone use in the Congo and how it is fundamentally changing the country is the must read of the day.   It reminds us that almost half the world's 6 billion people are now on the global information network.  And that the way most people will access this network in the years to come will be a wireless device like a cell phone, increasingly packed with other features that enable commerce and information exchange. 

As the Congo story shows as the barriers to globalization are overcome, the velocity of its adaption increases.  And this increase of globalization's velocity is I believe the greatest challenge facing the world today.  People, societies, institutions can only handle, easily, only so much change.  With such rapid changes, the norms developed in civil societies become threatened.   Helping our country, and the people of the world understand these changes and manage them effectively seems to me to be the main goal of American policy makers today. 

Here at home let's look at one salient debate through this prism - immigration.  The immigration problem we are facing today really stems from the fact that people are now trying to move with the same velocity as the rest of global capitalism.  Latin Americans like all people want a better life.   Moving up to the US almost guarentees it.  Easy to get there these days.  Why not go?

As more and more people get onto this global network, and experience the velocity of the modern world, we should expect a much greater desire to migrate to places that offer greater opportunity, whether within a country or without.  Hundreds of millions of Latins now know of the opportunity America offers; it is easy to get here; through cell phones you can better stay in touch with family at home, easing the pain of leaving; why not try it? 

Putting 6,000 troops on the border is not going to stop this extraordinary new bi-product of globalization - a global desire to seek a better life, and the power and confidence now to seek it wherever it is offered.  I wrote yesterday of the Republican's utter failure to understand or deal with the realities of our current wave of immigration.  In this case they are acting as true conservatives, fighting against a rapid wave of change that is for many hard to understand.  Their failure, and since they are the governing party, our failure as America to come to grips with the immigration challenge is one of many examples of how hard it is going to be for even advanced, democratic societies to deal with the changes to come from 21st century globalization. 

The bringing of the whole world onto this global network has only just begun, and it will, as we can see from this Post piece on the Congo, start to challenge traditional ideas, assumptions and civil societies in ways we haven't even begun to fathom.  In a few years, as most wireless devices become web-enabled, the rural entreprenuers of the Congo featured in this piece will be able to access this blog, and I hope, leave a comment. 

And it would be appropriate to end this piece with an homage to the most watched television event of our emergent global society - the World Cup final.  With billions tuning in this afternoon, including everyone in my home, it is likely that a son of Algerian immigrants in France will become perhaps the most world's most famous and admired man; and that the name Zidane will become spoken, texted and emailed perhaps more than almost any other word in human history.    Allez les blues. 

Murdoch and MySpace

If you have not had a chance to check it out yet, read the new Wired cover story on Rupert Murdoch, MySpace and News Corp. Murdoch, a 75 year old conservative republican, starts the interview with this....

“To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the printing press, the birth of mass media – which, incidentally, is what really destroyed the old world of kings and aristocracies. Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking control.”

It's a fascinating read and good insight into an old media company trying to get ahead in the new world.

"Today we March..."

"...tomorrow we vote" was the phrase chanted by many protesters for sane immigration reform this year. A good story on the beginnings of this promise being realized from this Reuters News story:

"Two Latino radio hosts credited for mobilizing hundreds of thousands this year in pro-immigrant protests said on Friday they would join the drive to increase the Hispanic and immigrant vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election."

Los Angeles disc jockeys Piolin (Tweetybird) and El Cucuy (the Bogeyman) said they will work with the National Council of La Raza and other organizations to push Latino immigrants living in the United States to become U.S. citizens and register to vote in time to cast ballots in 2008....

An estimated 8 million Latinos are legal residents in the United States who qualify for naturalization as U.S. citizens, including 3 million in California alone, activists said.

National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguia said Spanish-language radio DJs could help add at least another 3 million Latino voters to the 7.5 million who cast ballots in 2004, helping to elect more pro-immigration politicians.

 

Morning Roundup

The news this morning is full of stories about Mexico and the border.  With the Mexican election now officially in dispute, the attention the immigration debate in this country will get - and its salience in the fall election - will continue to grow. 

To me how America responds to the immigration challenge says a great deal about what kind of nation we want to become in the 21st century.  I'm proud of Harry Reid and the Democrats for not taking the easy enforcement-first road.  We've stuck to our guns, and argued that to solve the problem we need a comprehensive approach - tougher border enforcement, tougher sanctions on US employers of undocumenteds, a modest guest worker program and an earned path to citizenship that puts the undocumenteds at the end of the current immigration line.  Many Republicans, including the President and John McCain, agree with this thoughtful approach.  Today's Post has a good editorial re-iterating their support for this path. 

But the Republican House doesn't agree with this sensible path forward.  They've passed a bill calling for the arrest and deportation of the 11-12 million undocumenteds living here.  And now they are openly working to undermine the broad bi-partisan Senate consensus around comprehensive immigration reform by moving only a piece of the plan, tougher border enforcement. 

Democrats have stood firm and offered a plan to solve a vexing national challenge.  The Republicans are offering a plan to solve their own vexing internal political problems.  But this should come as no suprize, as little the Republicans have done since they came to power in 1994 has been about effectively solving problems or meeting the new challenges of the emerging century.  Think deficits, Katrina, Iraq, shorting of funds for education, no action on pensions, health care and energy costs, no conversation or strategy about declining wages, rampant warantless spying on private American citizens.  As a spent and failed governing party, the Republicans are doing the only thing they are good at - playing politics, and focusing on staying in power.  While benefiting them, this approach is not helping America effectively understand or tackle the challenges of our time.  For the majority party it has all become about them and their needs, and not about us, the America people or the country. 

That's why this immigration battle matters so much.  It is a test of whether we still have the capacity to tackle important challenges.  That's why NDN has worked so hard on this issue - in an unprecedented bi-partisan coalition - for the past year.  It is a test of the governing party's capacity to do what is right for us, and not for them.  And of course as of today they are failing this test in a dramatic and disapointing fashion. 

The likely next President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, at his first news conference yesterday criticized the militarization of our common, peaceful border and pledged to find a better way.  The lead anti-immigrant spokesman, Republican Tom Tancredo, fired back that his comments were "insulting." 

Man is this country ready for a new politics. 

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