NDN Blog

March 18 - Senator Mark Warner to Address NDN on Economic Competitiveness and Innovation

WarnerOn Thursday, March 18, Senator Mark Warner will join NDN to address America's economic competitiveness in a rapidly changing global economy. He will discuss the role of innovation in creating prosperity and offer his perspective on the Senate's work to craft a new economic strategy for America, which includes reforming the nation's health care and financial sectors.

Warner, a former Governor of Virginia, sits on the Senate's Banking, Budget, Commerce, and Rules Committees and the Joint Economic Committee. An early leader in the cellular telephone industry and long-time NDN friend, Senator Warner has distinguished himself as an important national voice for 21st century economic and innovation policies.

Senator Mark Warner on American Economic Competitiveness and Innovation
Thursday, March 18
Lunch served at 11:45; Event begins promptly at 12pm
NDN: 729 15th St. NW, 1st Floor
A live webcast will begin at 12pm
RSVP  |  Watch webcast

A question and answer session will follow Senator Warner's remarks. I hope you will join us for this important event on March 18.

NDN Seeks Electricity 2.0 Staff Director/Project Coordinator

NDN and the New Policy Institute seek a Washington, DC based Staff Director/Project Coordinator to help launch and manage our Electricity 2.0 Project.

Electricity 2.0 is a vision for an open, connected, modernized electricity network capable of allowing the innovation necessary to foster a clean technology and renewable energy revolution.  We are seeking a Project Coordinator who shares this cutting edge vision and is committed to playing a key role in launching a multi-year campaign to make it a reality.

Responsibilities include:

  • Overall in-house coordination of the Electricity 2.0 project
  • Providing key operational and logistical support to the Electricity 2.0 Chairman, Senior Fellow, and other principals;
  • Helping to represent the project and vision to Washington DC stakeholders, Congress and the Administration through advocacy, arranging meetings, designing and executing events, and other outreach;
  • Performing ongoing outreach to and communication with project partners, regional stakeholders, and Electricity 2.0 evangelists;
  • Managing a communications strategy that includes traditional press, new media, and coordinating public speaking opportunities for project principals;
  • Producing, coordinating, and contributing substantively to written content and research, including white papers, blogs, essays and op-eds on the subject of Electricity 2.0 and related topics;
  • Producing and coordinating the production and promotion of operational content, including fundraising proposals, press releases, and marketing materials;
  • Working with the rest of the NDN and New Policy Institute team to advance Electricity 2.0 and the mission of NDN and the New Policy Institute.

Job Requirements:

  • 3+ years experience in the electricity, utility, clean technology/renewable energy, and/or policy fields;
  • Deep knowledge of and desire to reform the nation's electricity system;
  • Knowledge of smart grid, clean and renewable technology and clean energy space;
  • Connections to Washington-based policy community and/or stakeholders;
  • Writing ability and experience; proficiency with computer and web tools and software; good communications skills;
  • Academic degree in economics, political science, technology or energy policy, or related field.

Additional Qualifications:

  • Masters degree in public policy, energy policy, or related field
  • Political/Administration/Hill/Campaign experience
  • Salary commensurate with experience and qualifications. Excellent benefits provided.

Please submit resume and cover letter to jberliner@ndn.org.

House Passes Payroll Tax Cut to Promote Job Creation

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a version of Jobs Bill recently passed by the Senate. The legislation contained a payroll tax cut similar to one advocated by NDN. Specifically, the bill included:

  • A payroll tax holiday for businesses that hire unemployed workers, to create some 300,000 jobs and an income tax credit of $1,000 for businesses that retain these employees 
  • Tax cuts to spur new investment by small businesses to help them expand and hire more workers 
  • Extension of the Highway Trust Fund allowing for tens of  billions of dollars in infrastructure investment 
  • Provisions -- modeled after the Build America Bonds program – to make it easier for states to borrow for infrastructure projects, such as school construction and energy projects 

For more on the payroll tax cut, please see:

The Economist Weighs in on the Lost Decade

We've long argued that the last ten years have been a Lost Decade for Everyday Americans. A number of publications have joined in as well. Now, The Economist weighs in, noting:

In terms of employment growth, the 2000s were also a lost decade. In the years between 1940 and 1999 the number of Americans employed outside farming grew by an average of 27% each decade. In the one just past it fell by 0.8%. In January this year, the number of people who had been jobless for more than six months reached 6.3m. And though the economy has grown for each of the past two quarters, the unemployment rate has only just begun to inch downwards. Though the recession is now supposedly at an end, the pain of the noughties’ miserable economic performance will be felt for a long time to come.

Economist Lost Decade

Obviously the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression mean that overall GDP growth for the decade looks very weak. It's worth noting that before the Great Recession, GDP growth for the decade was relatively strong, but job creation and incomes were just not keeping up with GDP or productivity growth the way we generally expect. 

Senate Jobs Bill Achieves Cloture with Five Republican Votes

A Senate measure designed to spur job creation moved forward last night, as five Republicans joined with their Democratic colleagues to push measure over the 60 vote procedural barrier. At the core of this proposal is a measure similar to one proposed by NDN, Senators Schumer and Hatch, and the White House that puts 13 billion dollars into temporarily reducing the payroll tax for new hires. 

The Senate’s newest member, Scott Brown, led the way for Republicans to join the measure, and was followed by Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, George Voinovich, and Christopher Bond. What’s curious is that Orrin Hatch, who coauthored an op-ed proposing the measure with Schumer, and that many other Republicans did not vote for the measure. After all, it’s a tax cut for small businesses.

The Senate should be congratulated for moving this measure forward, as should those who voted for it from both parties.  I remain confused by exactly what kind of tax cut needs to be proposed to get more Republicans than three from New England and two who are retiring to vote for it.

For more on this measure, please see:

The Tremendous Cost of Oil Dependence

The good people at the Truman National Security Project are out with a new study today on the costs to American security of reliance on oil. Truman COO and Iraq veteran Jon Powers' op-ed on Huffington Post previews the study and includes a telling quote from former CIA Director James Woolsey:

Except for our own Civil War, this [the war on terror] is the only war that we have fought where we are paying for both sides. We pay Saudi Arabia $160 billion for its oil, and $3 or $4 billion of that goes to the Wahhabis, who teach children to hate. We are paying for these terrorists with our SUVs.

From an economic perspective, the reliance on oil is also tremendously costly. This graph (via calculatedrisk) illustrates that more than half of America's trade deficit now consists of imported oil:

The Stimulus, One Year In

On the one year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, David Leonhardt assesses it as an objective success. Despite the political hits the act has taken, there’s no way that, when all is said and done, the stimulus doesn’t put the President on the right side of economic history.

From the Leonhardt piece:

Of course, no one can be certain about what would have happened in an alternate universe without a $787 billion stimulus. But there are two main reasons to think the hard-core skeptics are misguided — above and beyond those complicated, independent economic analyses.

The first is the basic narrative that the data offer. Pick just about any area of the economy and you come across the stimulus bill’s footprints.

In the early months of last year, spending by state and local governments was falling rapidly, as was tax revenue. In the spring, tax revenue continued to drop, yet spending jumped — during the very time when state and local officials were finding out roughly how much stimulus money they would be receiving. This is the money that has kept teachers, police officers, health care workers and firefighters employed.

Then there is corporate spending. It surged in the final months of last year. Mark Zandi of Economy.com (who has advised the McCain campaign and Congressional Democrats) says that the Dec. 31 expiration of a tax credit for corporate investment, which was part of the stimulus, is a big reason.

The story isn’t quite as clear-cut with consumer spending, as skeptics note. Its sharp plunge stopped before President Obama signed the stimulus into law exactly one year ago. But the billions of dollars in tax cuts, food stamps and jobless benefits in the stimulus have still made a difference. Since February, aggregate wages and salaries have fallen, while consumer spending has risen. The difference between the two — some $100 billion — has essentially come from stimulus checks.

The second argument in the bill’s favor is the history of financial crises. They have wreaked terrible damage on economies. Indeed, the damage tended to be even worse than what we have suffered.

Around the world over the last century, the typical financial crisis caused the jobless rate to rise for almost five years, according to work by the economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. On that timeline, our rate would still be rising in early 2012. Even that may be optimistic, given that the recent crisis was so bad. As Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson (Republicans both) and many others warned in 2008, this recession had the potential to become a depression.

Yet the jobless rate is now expected to begin falling consistently by the end of this year.

For that, the stimulus package, flaws and all, deserves a big heaping of credit. “It prevented things from getting much worse than they otherwise would have been,”Nariman Behravesh, Global Insight’s chief economist, says. “I think everyone would have to acknowledge that’s a good thing.”

Vice President Biden also has an op-ed in the USA Today arguing that “The Best is Yet to Come.”

And the Obama team has been pushing this graph, which basically says "we didn't break it, and we're doing a pretty good job fixing it."

Update: Sometimes Greg Mankiw's blog is filled with the wisdom of a superb Harvard economist. Other days, it includes the thoughts of a conservative political operative. This blog, which argues that stimulus opponents are not hypocrites for holding political events touting stimulus projects, is an example of the latter.

I don't know the facts of the case, but the logic of the Democratic position baffles me.  It seems perfectly reasonable to believe (1) that increasing government spending is not the best way to promote economic growth in a depressed economy, and (2) that if the government is going to spend gobs of money, those on whom it is spent will benefit.  In this case, the right thing for a congressman to do is to oppose the spending plans, but once the spending is inevitable, to try to ensure that the constituents he represents get their share.  So what exactly is the problem?

Here's a fact: stimulus opponents did not say, "this bill might not be the best way to increase GDP in a catastrophic recession, let me propose an economically literate alternative." Instead, they argued that the recession might not be that bad and that Obama was some sort of socialist. But now, a year later, these same elected officials are trying to take political credit for something they have and continue to decry.

I give you the words of Senator Jim DeMint, who led the effort to craft what he called a "stimulus," but was actually a series of permanent tax cuts (a stimulus, by definition, is temporary):

This bill is not a stimulus, ladies and gentlemen; it is a mugging. It is a fraud. Conservatives who fear proponents of this bill want to inch our economy closer to European-style socialism are kidding themselves. The proponents of this bill want to strap a big rocket on the back of our economy and launch it all the way to Brussels! 

This massive spending bill is fatally flawed. It will not rescue our economy; it will strangle it. That is why this bill must be stopped dead in its tracks. It cannot be fixed in he Senate by adding a few tax cuts or taking away a little spending. It must be scrapped entirely. 

I have yet to see DeMint trying to take credit for stimulus projects, but Rep. Paul Ryan, who claimed he had a stimulus proposal to create "twice as many jobs at half the cost" and often partners with DeMint on such proposals, has been asking for economy strangling stimulus dollars. If I were an elected official, I'd never show up at an event to tout something that I thought would "strangle" the economy. But that's just me.

White House Releases the Economic Report of the President

Last week, the White House released the Economic Report of the President. Released annually, the document lays out the White House's vision for where the nation has come from on the economy and where the President intends to lead us. Plus there are some nice graphs.

It's available here, and, if you have an e-reader, you can download it for free.

President Obama's Weekly Address Outlines Plan for Job Creation

President Obama's weekly address today focuses on his plans to create jobs and aid small businesses:

For more background on the tax credit the President cites, please see:

Electricity 2.0 Featured in SF Chronicle, Paper Release Today

UPDATE: Michael Moynihan's new policy paper, Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network, is now available online. 

This morning, readers of the San Francisco Chronicle opened to page A-10 and saw this op-ed from NDN Green Project Director Michael Moynihan:

To get clean energy, upgrade to Electricity 2.0

While clean energy has captured the imagination of everyone from Silicon Valley venture capitalists to President Obama, it has yet to fulfill its job-creation promise. Non-hydro renewable power accounts for just 3.5 percent of electricity in the United States, compared with 28 percent in Denmark, a leader in the transition to renewable energy. In a study released today, I examine why progress has been so slow in the electricity industry - the network at the center of the wider energy network. The answer turns out to be that our highly regulated system, uniquely complex by global standards, is blocking progress.

Put simply, only by upgrading from Electricity 1.0 - the closed, highly regulated network created a century ago - to Electricity 2.0 - an open, distributed network - can America unlock the potential of clean technology and experience a renewable energy revolution.

It is often said that an inadequate electric grid is slowing the rollout of clean renewable energy. But why is the grid inadequate? Because the regulatory regime of Electricity 1.0 guarantees the current state of affairs. While the industry research consortium, Electric Power Research Institute, has done an outstanding job in improving the reliability of the network, utilities do virtually no research and development. Laws bar them from trying new business models, innovating and taking risks. This bias against innovation prevents utilities from purchasing technologies developed by others. Thus, entrepreneurs find the gates of the network closed. It should not be surprising that a highly regulated industry cannot lead a revolution.

So, how can America upgrade to Electricity 2.0? As with telecom reform, Electricity 2.0 will require nothing less than a Big Bang that includes federal legislation as well as close cooperation with the states to harmonize rules of the road. Partial reform, such as has taken place in Texas and California, is a start, but it is not enough. What's needed is an entirely new plug-and-play architecture that opens the grid to everyone, making connection the norm not the exception.

Read the full piece.

For more on Moynihan's compelling vision for Electricity 2.0, join NDN at 12pm today for a presentation of the paper. Copies of the paper, entitled "Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network," will be available for distribution. 

Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network
Thursday, February 4, 12 p.m.
NDN: 729 15th St. NW, 1st Floor

If you are unable to join us in person, a live webcast will begin at 12:15 p.m. ET.

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