Monica Potts

Monica Potts is a freelance writer, and former staff member of The American Prospect. A fellow with the New America Foundation Asset Building Program, her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate. She also blogs at PostBourgie.

Recent Articles

Autism Study Retracted 12 Years Too Late.

The Lancet has finally, finally withdrawn a long-discredited study linking autism to vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella. The ethical problems behind the research have long been noted , and other studies have failed to repeat the findings. But the retraction comes too late to stop the 1998 study from doing damage. Money is diverted to studying vaccines rather than finding the real causes of and solutions to autism, and parents are refusing to get their children vaccinated. That's led to an increase in diseases we know definitely hurt children, like measles, in developed countries that had long seen them disappear. It's also helped perpetuate the idea that people like Jenny McCarthy know what they're talking about and that personal perceptions are good substitutes for research and evidence. Unfortunately, a retraction isn't going to change the minds of the true believers. -- Monica Potts

Refusing to Pay for Street Lights.

When I became a reporter for the daily newspaper in Stamford, Connecticut, one of the controversies we were covering concerned garbage collection. Residents were upset about service cutbacks -- so much so that one of them sued. You might think garbage collectors were limiting days for pickup, or limiting the amount of trash each household could leave on the corner. But no. The controversy was that trash collectors were no longer going into people's backyards to cart their trash cans all the way to the truck. That's right. These residents were up in arms that they now had to cart the bins across their yards themselves. The longer I covered the town, the more this turned into a sore spot for me. Residents constantly complained about how high their taxes were yet seemed unable to comprehend the very high level of service the city provided. Aren't the nice sidewalks, big parks, and good schools the reasons they moved to the suburbs? I was reminded of that when I read that Colorado Springs...

The Women Who Don't Live.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about college football star Tim Tebow's upcoming Super Bowl ad that will likely tell us about his mother's complicated pregnancy in the Philippines and her refusal to get an abortion despite her doctors' advice. In the post, I argued that triumphal stories like the Tebows' obscure all the stories about women who die trying to obtain abortions. William Saletan at Slate brought up another good point, (and I very, very rarely agree with Saletan when he writes about abortion) in his Human Nature column yesterday. Pam Tebow could have very easily died, and many women die from the condition she had. On Sunday, we won't see all the women who chose life and found death. We'll just see the Tebows, because they're alive and happy to talk about it. In the business world, this is known as survivor bias: Failed mutual funds disappear, leaving behind the successful ones, which creates the illusion that mutual funds tend to beat market averages. In the Tebows' case, the...

A Quick Look at the HUD Budget.

Most immediately, the proposed 2011 budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development calls for a 5 percent reduction in its budget from last year, which in turn was a 9 percent increase from the year before. In the introduction, Secretary Shaun Donovan writes that last year's increase was necessary because of the declining economy and because the agency had been neglected.This year they had the ability to make more targeted reductions and increases, he said. Donovan says in the introduction that funding from the stimulus bill and other new sources make up for some of the cuts but that some programs will have to seek funding elsewhere. Housing programs for the disabled and the elderly are among those affected. At the same time, the introduction is full of buzz words about fiscal discipline and streamlining rental assistance programs. I'll be digging in later today. Happily, though, there are funding increases for programs focused on rental housing, including $1 billion for...

Reforming the Meat Market

As the USDA's latest appointee, Elisabeth Hagen has been charged with keeping our food safe. But can one person fix a system that in some ways still resembles The Jungle?

(Flickr/Xose Castro)
Last week, after leaving the post vacant for a year, President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Elisabeth Hagen to be undersecretary for food safety at the Department of Agriculture. The appointment comes after years of food-borne illness outbreaks spread by everything from spinach to peanut butter, and after George W. Bush weakened biotechnology oversight as he was headed out the door. During the time the post was unoccupied, The New York Times revealed that much of the ground beef we consume contains ammonia -- an additive meant to kill E. coli and salmonella, of course. That kind of lax regulation of the industrial food chain is exactly the kind of thing food-safety advocates hoped Obama would change. Those same advocates are a bit unsure about what to think about Hagen, a physician who's served as the Department of Agriculture's chief medical officer, since she's been a behind-the-scenes player in the department who also worked at its Food Safety and Inspection Service. Tom Laskawy at...