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NSA Snooping’s Negative Impact On Business Would Have The Founding Fathers ‘Aghast’

December 20th, 2013

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James Madison would be “aghast.” That was one of the incendiary charges leveled at the National Security Agency and its mass surveillance activities by Judge Richard Leon in his December 16 opinion ordering the government to stop collecting some of the data that it’s been gathering on private citizens here and abroad.

But Thomas Jefferson might be horrified as well, because the NSA collection efforts are having a fairly profound effect on American business and its efforts to sell goods and services abroad. Jefferson, a big believer in the American “taste for navigation and commerce,” would be dismayed that our government was doing things that could hurt our competitiveness and our ability to set the terms of global trade.

To be sure, there has always been some tension between U.S. high-tech industries and our national security. In the 90s, the rules were fairly primitive, such as limitations on exports of high-performance computing designed to prevent countries from developing weapons of mass destruction. Those restrictions were quickly rendered outdated by Moore’s Law, but had they remained they would have prevented the exports of game consoles like Xbox.

Since then, increased globalization and the rise of terrorist organizations operating in the shadows and across national boundaries have complicated both the security and economic issues. The current debate about Edward Snowden’s intelligence revelations may seem like an unlikely place to see that tension emerge, but beyond the discussions of civil liberties and counterterrorism, it is becoming clear that the post-9/11 surveillance apparatus may be at cross-purposes with our high-tech economic growth.

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A Deal on Social Security Hiding in Plain Sight

October 23rd, 2013

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Starting this year, seniors new to Social Security can expect to be pickpocketed. While Congress was fighting over default, the Congressional Budget Office quietly moved up its projected date for Social Security insolvency to 2031. In that year, without a fix to the program, recipients will take an immediate and draconian 23 percent cut in benefits.  So a majority of new retirees today will face a meaningful cut in payments in their lifetime.

We need to fix this, and the newly created budget conference appointed at the conclusion of the debt ceiling crisis is the place to do it. It may seem impossible for a dysfunctional Congress to touch the “third rail” of politics given its disappointing performance in all areas. But a deal on Social Security may not be as far-fetched as it seems.
First, there is more agreement on Social Security solutions among Democrats and Republicans than meets the eye. And second, a deal to fix Social Security may be the only way to make progress on every fiscal issue that concerns Democrats and Republicans—from sequester to the debt ceiling—providing an incentive for both parties to act.

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Why left should seek a fiscal deal

November 8th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on Reuters.

“I am looking forward to reaching out,” President Barack Obama said Tuesday night after he had won reelection, “and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together.”

The progressive community must understand this and put aside its rigidity to help him meet this goal. As Obama also said early Wednesday morning, “We’ve got more work to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Absolutely. Absolutely wrong.

October 4th, 2012

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While Big Bird slept peacefully in his nest, 50 million viewers turned to the first presidential debate hoping for some clarity in the decision looming on November 6th. Between anniversary wishes and tax accusations, there was a serious moment of clarity that can be summed up in one word: “Absolutely.”

LEHRER: About the idea that in order to reduce the deficit, there has to be revenue in addition to cuts.

OBAMA: There has to be revenue in addition to cuts. Now, Governor Romney has ruled out revenue. He’s ruled out revenue.

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Look, the revenue I get is by more people working, getting higher pay, paying more taxes. That’s how we get growth and how we balance the budget. But the idea of taxing people more, putting more people out of work, you’ll never get there. You’ll never balance the budget by raising taxes.

So what does this mean? Romney confirmed—he “absolutely” confirmed—that he has completely embraced the far right of the Republican Party, which argues that the way to put our country on sound fiscal footing is to simply slash the federal government.

While “absolutely” might make for a good sound bite, the truth of the matter is that these types of ideological talking points are the major obstacle to getting a balanced deal to avoid the fiscal cliff and reign in our nation’s deficit. This absolute ideology is what sank the big and balanced deal to reduce the deficit that President Obama nearly reached with Speaker Boehner in 2011.

But we actually ran the numbers…and Mitt Romney’s math doesn’t add up. In our recent analysis, we ran three scenarios—all of which rely solely on spending cuts and no new taxes—to bring deficits to a sustainable level.

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Tough love: Why Democrats must cut entitlements

August 9th, 2012

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This piece was originally featured on Politico.

It’s brother against brother.

Democrats launched two great economic initiatives in the 1960s that would change the country. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society declared a war on poverty and ushered in two of the nation’s most crucial entitlement programs – Medicare and Medicaid. A few years earlier, President John F. Kennedy embarked on the New Frontier, an investment agenda to make the United States the world leader in space, communications, science, education and infrastructure.

Fifty years later, these two children of Democratic presidents have taken radically different paths. The younger child, the Great Society, has grown to be fat and happy. Counting Social Security, the three major entitlements grew from 15 percent of federal spending in the ‘60s to nearly 50 percent today. The older child, investments, is starved. NASA, the New Frontier’s crown jewel, is a shell. Total spending over all federal investments, from highways to space stations to defense, has declined from one-third of our budget to one-seventh today. Is it any wonder our schools are average, our roads clogged and our scientists mostly imported? Read the rest of this entry »

Toddler-Care

June 28th, 2012

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I have a two-year old son, and the Affordable Care Act is way too hard for him to pronounce. We’re still celebrating “cookie” and “Elmo”. But today’s Supreme Court decision will have a massive impact on him—and millions of other toddlers who will one day carry forward the American Dream. Read the rest of this entry »