Our statement today on the new income data

Rob Shapiro and I released the following statement today:  

The Census Bureau's disappointing report on U.S. income released yesterday reinforces the pressing national need for a new economic strategy that makes globalization work for all Americans.

The sobering fact that the median income of American families is still $1,000 less than when George Bush took office demonstrates the failures of the current Republican economic strategy, which has consisted largely of tax cuts for the privileged and has never provided what the American people need in a more competitive global economy.

Moreover, a New York Times editorial today notes that real improvements to Americans' economic situation may remain elusive in the medium-term:  "Sputtering under the weight of the credit crisis and the associated drop in the housing market, the economic expansion that started in 2001 looks like it might enter history books with the dubious distinction of being the only sustained expansion on record in which the incomes of typical American households never reached the peak of the previous cycle. It seems that ordinary working families are going to have to wait - at the very minimum - until the next cycle to make up the losses they suffered in this one. There’s no guarantee they will."

The new economic data - median incomes still trailing 1999 levels; a fall in real median earnings of full time workers for the third consecutive year; more Americans with no health insurance; and little change in the poverty rate - make clear that more must be done to help  the many Americans struggling harder to get ahead. 

In a recent paper for NDN, we offered the following three-part recommendation for a new economic strategy for America:

  • Modernize our health care and energy policies - Reduce pressures on workers' wages and jobs through reforms that reduce the rate of increase in employers' and workers' medical insurance costs, and lessen upward pressures on energy prices and U.S. dependence on foreign energy.
  • Invest in people - Enact a comprehensive new strategy to better ensure that every worker and child in the 21st century has real opportunities to succeed; focus significant new investment on giving all Americans the skills and knowledge needed to operate productively in an idea-based economy; initiate a new national commitment to offer all Americans training in information technologies and affordable access to the evolving global communications network itself.
  • Foster and accelerate innovation - Support the development and spread of technological and business innovations throughout the economy by promoting the formation of new businesses, increasing support for basic research and development, upgrading our infrastructure, and aggressively protecting American intellectual property rights in foreign markets.

To read the new report, please visit the Census Bureau's website.


Time for progressives to stand against "the misery strategy" for resolving our immigration crisis

The Times weighs in with an excellent, though incomplete, editorial today.  Called "The Misery Strategy," it begins:

The path the country has set on since the defeat of immigration reform in the Senate in June enshrines enforcement and punishment above all else. It is narrow, shortsighted, disruptive and self-defeating. On top of that, it won’t work.

What it will do is unleash a flood of misery upon millions of illegal immigrants. For the ideologues who have pushed the nation into this position, that is more than enough reason to plunge ahead.

It then details a new program being rolled out this month whose goal is to make it much harder to employ undocumenteds.  What the editorial leaves out is a point made very clearly in a Times story yesterday - that these new efforts are creating a national climate of discrimination against all Hispanics, legal or not.  This new initiative will have the specific effect of discouraging the employment of legal Hispanics workers as employers will not want to take the risk of punishment if one of their "legal" workers turns out not to be so. 

A Sunday Times Magazine cover piece does a very good job describing how efforts to target undocumenteds can quickly become anti-Hispanic crusades.

Fixing our broken immigration system remains one of the most urgent governing challenges facing our political leaders today. Given this misery strategy described by the Times, it is also turning into one of the great moral challenges of our time, one that our leaders are simply not stepping up to meet.  It is time for our leaders, particularly the progressives, to do more than sit by and watch a new and virulent form of racism spread across our great nation.

New work rules targeting undocumenteds are going to hit legal immigrants hard

In an excellent piece in the Times today, Julia Preston shows how new federal work rules designed to crack down on the false papers of the undocumenteds will end up increasing discrimination against all Hispanics. 

The human toll of the failure to pass immigration reform mounts, and will for many be too much to bear.  "Open season" on immigrants - legal or not - continues apace.


Tapping the Resources of America's Community Colleges: New paper and event in DC tomorrow

In a new paper released today by NDN Globalization Initiative Director, Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, we lay out a simple plan to provide tens of millions of American workers with essential IT training. Under this proposal, America's community colleges would receive federal grants to keep their computer labs open three nights a week, staffed by instructors who would provide basic - and free - IT and computer instruction to any person in the community who walks in and requests it.

The new paper, Tapping the Resources of America's Community Colleges, is the second in our Series of Modest Proposals to Build 21st Century Skills. The first paper, A Laptop in Every Backpack, called upon the federal government to equip every U.S. sixth grader with a laptop, so that students - the workforce of tomorrow - have the tools necessary to access the internet and build IT skills. Alec Ross, of the remarkable advocacy group, One Economy, and I co-wrote this paper.

Taken together, these papers urge the U.S. government to make a new national commitment to giving all American workers and students the skills needed to use modern information technology and navigate the emerging global communications network. Providing these skills is one component of a broader economic strategy advocated by NDN to ensure that globalization works for all Americans.

Please visit our website to read these papers and the accompanying introduction. For those of you in Washington, we invite you to attend our event tomorrow on IT Skills and Training for the 21st Century Economy. The event will be held in the Capitol, room H-122, from 10:30-11:45 (*please note the new room change). Additional event details may be found on our website.

Helping to make sure that all Americans benefit from the opportunities of today's economy is one of the greatest challenges facing American policymakers. For the last several years NDN's Globalization Initiative has been offering original and compelling thinking about how we can best meet this important challenge. I am proud of our work, and hope you will find this new paper, and its companion, helpful.




NDN in the Politico today on immigration reform

I'm quoted today in a Politico story on how the collapse of immigration reform may end up hurting the GOP in 2008.   Other examples of this story can be found by clicking on the immigration tag above and reading through previous entries in the section.   There should be little doubt that Hispanics already had blamed the GOP for the tone of the immigration debate before this year; that the Senate bill collapsed largely through the work of a handful of Republican Senators; that the already damaged GOP brand has been and will be further degraded in the Latino community, the fastest growing in the nation; and as in CA in the 1990s, the rejection of the GOP by Latinos could spell electoral doom for them nationally for a generation to come. 

You can find our statement on the collapse of the immigration bill here.

However, I'm not sure that my quotes in the final graph as are clear as I would have hoped.  What I was trying to say is that if Democrats want to take advantage of the GOP stumble it would be wise for them to do more than blame the GOP for the collapse of the immigration bill. Democrats will have to make it clear over the next two years that they will work to do more than play politics with the issue - they need to show that they can deliver on the promise to reform the immigration system.  This means spelling out, in detail, a plan, and doing everything they can to pass it, or at least make significant progress on it, now.  

What is the Democratic vision here? Do Democratic leaders want to return to the framework of McCain-Kennedy, rejecting the point sytem, the nutty guest worker plan and "touchback?" What about H1Bs and other programs for highly educated workers? Is there a set of principles that can bring together the Democrats in both chambers?

My argument in the Politico piece was that for Democrats to take full advantage of the great Republican stumble they will need to make clear what kind of immigration reform they are for, and commit to doing more than just talking about it in the months to come.  Just saying that Democrats are less bad than the Republicans is not a strong message to take to any community.  

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