David Callahan

David Callahan is a senior fellow at Demos and editor of PolicyShop, the Demos blog.

Recent Articles

The Single Best Argument Against Inequality

Progressives have typically attacked economic inequality on fairness grounds, arguing that it's just not right that so much national wealth is funneled to the top even as millions struggle to get by. Americans are definitely open to this argument, especially during times like now when a warped, anemic economy is mainly just raising the yachts, and not the boats of ordinary people. This is a key finding of Leslie McCall's recent book, The Undeserving Rich , which carefully scrutinizes years of public opinion polls on inequality. The problem, though, is that when economic times are fairly good, the fairness critique of inquality tends to lose traction. We saw that in the late 1990s and also the Bush years. The yachts were soaring into the stratrosphere, but ordinary boats were also inching up just enough that it was hard to raise concern about near-record levels of inequality. We could easily see this same movie again in coming years. Recent public concerns about inequality could...

The Big Donors Behind the Shutdown

The big donors behind the crisis in Washington are finally being called out by the mainstream media. Yesterday, the New York Times had a major investigative piece about how the Koch brothers and other major conservative donors pushed the Republican Party toward its current extreme strategy of trying to stop Obamacare. I have been saying the same thing for some time, citing the key role played by the Club for Growth in threatening House Republicans with electoral retaliation at primary time if they don't go all out on Obamacare. But the Times story breaks new ground by spelling out exactly how deep pocketed donors are using their clout with Republicans in Congress. These donors have made defunding Obamacare a litmus test and have directed intense fire, in the form of TV and Internet ads against Republicans seen as not falling in line behind this push. This stands in contrast to the usual narrative about the government shutdown, along with debt ceiling brinksmanship—which is that it's...

Hey, Wall Street—The Club for Growth Is Not Your Friend

Here we go again: Financial markets are plummeting thanks to the threat of a government shutdown and, beyond that, another debt ceiling crisis. One of the great bull markets of recent years is being derailed by a bunch of extreme conservatives in Congress. But Wall Street shouldn't just blame the Tea Party for ruining a good thing. It should blame big donors from its own ranks who are bankrolling groups like the Club for Growth who are also responsible for the crisis. As I have noted here before, the Club has been fanning shutdown brinksmanship by urging members of Congress to toe the far right line on Obamacare. This is no passing suggestion, given that the Club has been a main funder of primary challenges to moderate Republicans. So the story here, in part, is the Club for Growth vs. stable financial markets and an ongoing economic recovery. That's pretty ironic given the group's name. But it also points to an important internecine conflict within America's wealth elite. In fact,...

Obama Just Changed the Most Racist Law in the Country

You may have missed it, but yesterday President Obama dramatically altered one of the most racially damaging laws in America when the Department of Labor announced that it would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. To say there's a backstory here would be a wild understatement. Seventy-five years ago, Franklin Roosevelt achieved a historic victory—but a morally compromised one—when he signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The law created the modern labor regulations that we're all familiar with today, including the minimum wage, overtime pay, and much more. Yet getting the FLSA passed entailed a major concession to southern Democrats, who successfully fought to exclude agricultural and domestic workers. Why? Because, as legal scholar Juan Perea has shown in his illuminating history of the law, that exclusion was seen as crucial to preserving a southern way of life that hinged on exploiting cheap African-American labor—both in the fields...

Obamacare a Boon to Entrepreneurs

(Wikimedia Commons/Pete Souza.)
The most often repeated attack on the Affordable Care Act is that the law is a "job killer"—an anti-business spool of red tape that will strangle free enterprise from coast to coast. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles that entrepreneurs face when starting a new business is affording health insurance. Leaving a job where you have coverage to do your own thing has been very costly—since individuals have tended to face the highest premiums in a deeply dysfunctional insurance market. Now, thanks to Obamacare, that is going to change. Yesterday, New York officials announced dramatically more affordable health insurance options for individuals. According to the New York Times : State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $...