Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

How Would a Minimum-Wage Increase Affect the Economy?

401K / Flickr

Besides universal preschool, the most overtly progressive policy proposed by President Obama last night was a large minimum-wage hike, from the current rate of $7.25 per hour—instituted in 2009—to a new rate of $9 per hour. Not only is this higher than the minimum wage in every state other than Washington, but when adjusted for inflation, it’s the highest minimum wage since 1981.

The Return of the Balanced Budget Amendment

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell says Senate Republicans will unanimously support a balanced-budget amendment, to be unveiled Wednesday as the core of the GOP’s fiscal agenda.

There’s no chance of passage so why are Republicans pushing it now? “Just because something may not pass doesn’t mean that the American people don’t expect us to stand up and be counted for the things that we believe in,” says McConnnell.

African Americans and Immigration, Continued

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect

A few weeks ago, I noted the extent to which President Obama’s push for immigration reform created real tension with some African Americans, who see Latino immigrants as direct competitors for jobs and other resources. Writing for McClatchy, William Douglas and Franco Ordonez examine this tension, highlighting Al Sharpton (who supports immigration reform) and a radio host whose listenership oppose new immigration:

The President's Dream State

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

By any measure, President Obama’s first term was consequential. In four years, he signed an $800 billion stimulus and infrastructure investment program, laid the foundation for universal health insurance, secured new regulations on the financial sector, repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and put the United States on the path back to economic recovery.

The State of Our Union in 28 GIFs

Hey, it's almost time to get started!

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Any minute now...
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Still clapping ... (Is the livestream stuck on a loop?)
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Marco Rubio Is Thirsty ... for America

Marco Rubio reaches for his water

It's not his fault, really. Maybe it was understandable nervousness—after all, here he was just a few days after being anointed "The Republican Savior" in a Time magazine cover, following the President, but without an applauding crowd to feed off. Or maybe it was that the room was hot and dry. Whatever the cause, after trying to wipe the sweat from his brow and face for twelve long minutes and repeatedly moving his tongue around his mouth to get some moisture going, Marco Rubio decided he just had no choice but to bend down and grab that tantalizing little bottle of water that lay just out of reach.

So don't blame him for that, even though he'll no doubt get plenty of mockery for it today. You can blame him, however, for the insipid speech he delivered, a combination of calumny and cliché that demonstrated just why Republicans are having such problems appealing to voters.

Same Old, Same Old SOTU

The president shall, Article II Section 3 of the U. S. Constitution reads, "from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient," so here we arrive at the yearly State of the Union address. George Washington delivered the first in 1790, but Thomas Jefferson thought it sufficient to send his thoughts on the union's state in writing, and presidents did the same until Woodrow Wilson went before Congress in 1913 to describe with his mouth how the country was doing.

Why Asian Americans Are So Democratic—In Three Charts

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect

Apropos of this morning’s post on the Democratic Party’s overwhelming strength with Asian Americans, it’s worth looking at why Asians are so supportive of Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular.

What Will Actually Happen at the SOTU

As you well know by now, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight. In case you plan to be busy giving the dog a bath or getting a jump on your taxes, here's what will happen:

America's Long Experiment in Racial Quotas


Racial inequality in housing, health, and education is still a fact of American life, but many of the programs and policies meant to combat it are on the chopping block.

The Public and the Drone War

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect

It’s a near certainty that President Obama will continue his drone war, including targeted strikes against American citizens. Why? Because, at the moment, there’s not much of a political price to pursuing the strategy. To wit, today’s survey from CBS News is just the latest in a list of polls that show wide support for drone strikes, and smaller—but still significant—support for strikes against American citizens. Overall, 57 percent of Americans approve of how President Obama has handled terrorism, as opposed to the 31 percent that disapprove. Seventy-one percent favor drone attacks against suspected terrorists, with overwhelming support from all partisan groups:

The GOP's Big Asian-American Problem

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect

Still overlooked in the immigration discussion are Asian Americans, who are the fastest growing demographic group in the country—and one of the most diverse. The bulk of Asian American immigrants (83 percent) come from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. At present, they’re 5.8 percent of the total population, nearly half of whom live in the West, with a large concentration on the Pacific coast. Seventy-four percent of Asian American adults were born outside of the United States, and in 2009—according to the Pew Research Center—Asian American immigration outpaced Hispanic immigration for the first time in recent history:

If He's For It, I'm Against It

(AP Photo/Tim Sloan, Pool)

Over the past few years, folks like me have pointed out many times that Republicans have, almost as one, changed their minds on the wisdom of a number of important policies, for no apparent reason other than the fact that Barack Obama embraced them. The most notable ones are "cap and trade," which used to be a conservative way to harness the power of markets to address climate change, but then became a sinister government power grab to force everyone to huddle in the cold as the useless solar panels on their roofs provided only enough power to run a tiny hotplate; and the individual health insurance mandate, which used to be a Heritage Foundation-crafted idea to use the power of markets to achieve universal private insurance coverage and avoid single-payer health care, then became the greatest threat to freedom the world has seen since Joseph Stalin was laid to rest.

Yet for all the (deserved) ridicule, there's something almost rational lying underneath these changes in position. While it's true that the individual mandate was born at the Heritage Foundation, it isn't as though more than a few conservatives had particularly strong feelings about it prior to 2009. By now, of course, they've had lots of time to consider it, so they should be able to see clearly what it is and isn't. But as a general matter, the less you've thought about an issue, the more your partisan attachments should function as a heuristic to help you decide what you believe. After all, if you're a conservative, Barack Obama does indeed have different values than you on many matters, and if he is for something, there's at least a fair chance that, if you had all the time and information in the world, you'd decide you're against it.

Which brings me to an interesting poll the Washington Post just released, in which they tested people's opinions on four issues, but randomly assigned respondents to hear a particular position described with and without Barack Obama's name attached to it. The results were pretty striking:

Not a Shot in Hell

Flickr/Catholic Church of England and Wales

Distilled to their essence, elections turn on the rigidity of numbers, concrete and comforting, imposed onto the chaos of human opinion. We stew when they do not go our way, but in these matters, majorities rule, minorities shout, and votes rarely occur without the employment of cajoling and cunning by candidates.