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An Election Democrats Can Win

By Bill Schneider

Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win.

Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work.

But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.”

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The Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led actions in the United States. In 1996, students at the University of Virginia organized the first Day of Silence in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests with over 150 students participating in the inaugural event. In 1997, organizers took their effort nationally and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. Since then, the Day of Silence has proved to be an exceptional event, reaching students from small town America to the other side of the globe in New Zealand, Singapore, Russia and everywhere in between. 

Here’s what we here at Third Way are doing to end the silence around anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Join the movement, share your selfie! 

‘Back to the Future’ Foreign Policy

By Ben Freeman and Mieke Eoyang

President Ronald Reagan reviews a military honor guard at Andrews Air Force Base in 1989.

The 1980s are all the rage once again—from neon clothes to Robocop and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even America’s 1980s foreign policy is back in fashion amongst Neo-Cold Warriors longing to return to the Reagan era.

President Barack Obama quipped to Mitt Romney during the 2012 election that, “The 1980s called—they want their foreign policy back,” and he’s giving the military more money, even adjusted for inflation, than President Ronald Reagan ever did. But, the Neo-Cold Warriors still can’t abandon their Reagan nostalgia, especially after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, which has led some to ask “Was Mitt Romney right about Russia?”

Obama’s military outspends Russian President Vladimir Putin’s by more than seven to one. Yet, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) rails against the president because, “For decades, defense spending made up roughly 50 percent of the federal budget. Today, it’s just 18 percent.” While ignoring the fact that defense spending hasn’t made up more than 50 percent of the federal budget since we put a man on the moon, Ryan is also concerned about the decline in defense spending as a percentage of GDP. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., similarly bemoans the fact that America’s defense spending falls short of the 6% percent of GDP it was under Reagan, and The Wall Street Journal claims that by this metric Obama will leave his successor a “weaker” country than he inherited.

Whether or not you think the current level of spending is sufficient, defense spending as a share of GDP measures militarization of our society, but that does not necessarily mean strength.  Applying Reagan’s magic percentage today ignores changes in our economy, the threat environment, and our capabilities.

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Millennials are drifting away from party loyalty and they are now identifying themselves as independents. Our Senior Political Analyst Michelle Diggles spoke to The National Journal about how the next generation of voters is finally starting to produce its own new breed of independent political candidates.

Historians will look back on the debate over Obamacare since its enactment and wonder, why all the fuss?

David Kendall, Third Way Senior Fellow for Health and Fiscal Policy

Republicans have been clamoring for the repeal of Obamacare since it was passed four years ago, but in his op-ed for Washington Monthly, Don’t Tell Anyone, But Democrats and Republicans Actually Agree on Health Care Policy Kendall explains the three fundamental similarities between the ACA and the Republican-backed Medicare Part D. As Kendall points out, “History may well show that in terms of real differences over health policy, the fight was much ado about nothing.”

In this weekend’s New York Times, we proposed a Savings Plan for Universal Retirement (SPUR) account, the centerpiece being a 50-cent per hour minimum retirement contribution from all employers to virtually all employees. Someone who begins work at age 22, receives only the minimum contribution, and retires at age 67 would have an account of $160,000, in 2013 dollars. This is on top of Social Security.

As we showcased in a recent report, a middle class job doesn’t buy a middle class life. Nowhere is this more true than retirement. A SPUR account would give everyday Americans the benefits of the world economy rather than being at the mercy of it, and it would dramatically improve the fortunes of the working poor and middle class forever.

The Congressional Budget Office is deservedly the official umpire of Washington… But even the best umpires can miss a call.

Alicia Mazzara, Policy Advisor for Third Way’s Economic Program

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office says that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will cost 500,000 jobs. Not everyone agrees. Half of all workers already live in a state with a minimum wage above the federally mandated $7.25 an hour. Economists Andrajit Dube, William T. Lester, and Michael Reich recently surveyed hundreds of adjoining counties with different minimum wages over the course of more than a decade and found that modest wage increases did not result in job losses—not in retail, accommodation, or in food services. 

Learn more by reading our new memo: "Does Raising the Minimum Wage Really Kill Jobs?" 

The high price of middle-class membership

By Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post

The economic insecurity felt by middle-class Americans is as widespread as it is well known. While folks are one paycheck from slipping out of the middle class, we also know that such a slip isn’t permanent. A Census report released in January showed how fluid membership in the vaunted middle class is. But a report from the centrist think tank Third Way released that same month showed that a middle-class job no longer supports a middle-class life.

The six-page report by Jim Kessler and Gabe Horwitz featured an arresting chart to illustrate how serious this problem is.(Third Way)

The four tickets to a middle-class life are owning a home, sending a kid to college, having health insurance and saving for retirement. As the chart shows, the costs of three of the tickets outstrip inflation, which also is more than income. And income has risen nowhere near fast enough to pay for them or save for retirement.

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What’s the Matter with Kids Today? 
Our latest infographic compares Millennials with their Silent Generation grandparents on hot topics including marriage for gay couples, legalization of marijuana, immigration reform, and the role of government. It may surprise you which issues they agree on and which issues they decidedly do not.

What’s the Matter with Kids Today?

Our latest infographic compares Millennials with their Silent Generation grandparents on hot topics including marriage for gay couples, legalization of marijuana, immigration reform, and the role of government. It may surprise you which issues they agree on and which issues they decidedly do not.

Think Congress is missing the mark on climate policy? Show ‘em how it’s done! Third Way & MIT’s Climate CoLab have launched a contest to find new ways to fight climate change and keep clean energy policy moving forward. 

What’s the prize? We’ll promote the winning idea with policymakers and advocates in Washington D.C., as well as feature the proposal in our energy policy PowerBook. The winner will also present their idea at the Climate CoLab’s fall conference for the chance to win a $10,000 grand prize.

Enter your ideas now and please share this contest with your friends, students, colleagues, and anyone else who may be sitting on the next big idea!

The Verdict on Obamacare (to date)
The Kaiser Family Foundation has been tracking public approval of Obamacare for four years now. Negative opinion has usually outweighed positive opinion by a small margin, though disapproval increased markedly after the disastrous rollout of the website last fall. Since January of this year, approval has been trending slightly up. The March figures show 38% of the public with a positive view of Obamacare and 46% negative –an 8-point negative margin. In January, the negative margin was twice as large (50% to 34%).
So what do people want Congress to do? Just get rid of it? Only 18% say that. Get rid of it and replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative? Another 11%. Keep it just the way it is? Ten percent.
The prevailing view: keep Obamacare in place but work to improve it (49%).
The March Kaiser poll reveals the same thing it has been showing for four years. Every provision of Obamacare is popular—guaranteed enrollment, subsidies, dependent coverage, preventive services, Medicaid extension. Except one: the individual mandate.
Get rid of the mandate and the public would embrace Obamacare. But get rid of the mandate and the law won’t work.
This piece is from Bill Schneider’s March 2014 Inside Politics Newsletter.

The Verdict on Obamacare (to date)

The Kaiser Family Foundation has been tracking public approval of Obamacare for four years now. Negative opinion has usually outweighed positive opinion by a small margin, though disapproval increased markedly after the disastrous rollout of the website last fall. Since January of this year, approval has been trending slightly up. The March figures show 38% of the public with a positive view of Obamacare and 46% negative –an 8-point negative margin. In January, the negative margin was twice as large (50% to 34%).

So what do people want Congress to do? Just get rid of it? Only 18% say that. Get rid of it and replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative? Another 11%. Keep it just the way it is? Ten percent.

The prevailing view: keep Obamacare in place but work to improve it (49%).

The March Kaiser poll reveals the same thing it has been showing for four years. Every provision of Obamacare is popular—guaranteed enrollment, subsidies, dependent coverage, preventive services, Medicaid extension. Except one: the individual mandate.

Get rid of the mandate and the public would embrace Obamacare. But get rid of the mandate and the law won’t work.

This piece is from Bill Schneider’s March 2014 Inside Politics Newsletter.

It’s the Terrain, Stupid.

By Bill Schneider

“We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture [the Senate],” Nate Silver writes in his FiveThirtyEight blog. Most analysts agree. But why? Is it because of President Obama’s diminishing popularity? The disastrous rollout of Obamacare? Concern over Russian aggression?

Actually, it’s the terrain, stupid. The most hotly contested Senate races this year are being fought on territory hostile to Democrats.

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President Obama has offered his own explanation. “In midterms we get clobbered,” the President told a Democratic congressional fundraiser, “either because we don’t think it’s important or we’ve become so discouraged about what’s happening in Washington that we think it’s not worth our while.”

That’s certainly what happened in the 2010 midterm. The number of voters in congressional elections dropped by nearly 35 million from 2008 to 2010. Democrats lost 27 million of those votes. Two years later, in the 2012 presidential election, Democrats picked up 21 million House votes while Republicans gained 13 million.

The New America constituencies that President Obama rallied don’t seem to care much about congressional elections. Young people, African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, working women, single mothers, and gays will come out to vote for a champion like Obama (and possibly Hillary Clinton). But it may be difficult to get them out to save other Democrats like Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Pryor (AR) or Natalie Tennant (WV).

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