Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The Return of the Tax Fairy

Conservatives gear up to defend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.

Statue of Alexander Hamilton, first secretary of the Treasury, in front of U.S. Treasury building. (Flickr/winged photography)
"The apportionment of taxes," wrote James Madison in Federalist No. 10 , "is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets." Things have gotten quite a bit more complicated since Madison's day, and today one can look at his warning in different ways, depending on where one sits. It could mean simply that we ought to watch out for legislators twisting the tax code to benefit those who don't deserve it. Or it could mean that we ought to forever guard against the rabble putting too great a burden on that most oppressed of all minorities, the wealthy. The idea of legislators shaping policy to directly benefit their own personal bank accounts is largely a relic of a bygone era. It may happen from time to time, but today's...

Don't Trust 50,000.

(Flickr/ lrargerich ) If someone told you that 50,000 people were murdered in ritual Satanic sacrifices every year in America, would you think that sounded frightening, or ridiculous? This weekend's On the Media featured a pair of interesting stories about the use of numbers in journalism, showing how fuzzy they are. Reporters love to put statistics in their stories -- it gives the stories an authority and precision they wouldn't have otherwise. And reporters almost never have the time or expertise to investigate whether the source of the numbers produced them in a defensible way; what they tend to do is evaluate the source ( i.e. , "This study was done at a major university") and use that to decide whether to use the figures the source produced. That's not a bad way of judging whether you can trust a number, since it would be impossible for each of us as news readers to make an independent evaluation of every statistic we encounter on a daily basis. Unfortunately, some numbers take...

Exposing the Secret Socialist in the Oval Office

It's hard to be rational about a politician when you disagree with nearly everything he or she does. That's a problem that plagues all of us who comment on politics. But those of us who want to be honest try to keep the danger of losing our grip on reality in mind as we evaluate what happens day to day. One of the ways that danger manifests itself is in the way we deal with new evidence -- particularly that which might contradict the conclusions we've already come to. For instance, there was ample reason to conclude that Dick Cheney was a dark-hearted, sinister character with no trace of human feeling, based, among other things, on his apparent lust for war and torture. On the other hand, Cheney was (and remains) one of the only people in his party to favor marriage equality for gay people. Having a gay daughter -- a human relationship -- convinced him to extrapolate his personal affection into a belief in just public policy. How do you deal with that when making a general evaluation...

Gridlock Caused by Unidentifiable Forces.

The image at right is a screenshot of Yahoo News from this morning, with stories about the fact that a package of programs to boost small business was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate. You'll notice that while some of the stories make clear who actually killed this bill, many do not. The facts are clear: Democrats want to pass the package, and Republicans don't. Republicans filibustered. Democrats have been unable to overcome the Republican filibuster. But to read many of these articles, you'd barely be able to figure out that there's a difference between the parties on this question. Instead, what we get is a lot of passive-voice construction about procedural matters and a hamstrung institution. The clearest case may be this ABC News article , which says the bill "failed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate" and that "the bill has languished in the Senate because of partisan gridlock." Needless to say, this is precisely the storyline Republicans want. They obstruct...

The Unfortunate Success of Sarah Palin's "Death Panel" Lie.

A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows support for the Affordable Care Act building, but it also shows some other interesting things, including this: On the other hand, large shares of seniors mistakenly believe the law includes provisions that cut some previously universal Medicare benefits and creates “death panels.” Half of seniors (50%) say the law will cut benefits that were previously provided to all people on Medicare, and more than a third (36%) incorrectly believe the law will “allow a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare.” Keep in mind that when it came to the "death panels," the press pretty much did its job. Not perfectly, by any means, but most of the time, when it was mentioned, reporters pointed out that the claim was, in fact, false. But let's also remember that in an act of cowardice, Democrats knuckled under and eliminated the provision that spawned the "death panel" lie, which would have reimbursed Medicare...

Pages