Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Be Like Janet, Dammit

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
AP Photo/Susan Walsh Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano testifying on comprehensive immigration reform before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday. S peaking about the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, California, on Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano assured the audience that "the border is secure ... I believe it is a safe border," an assessment she reprised yesterday in a Senate hearing on immigration reform. "I often hear the argument that before reform can move forward we must first secure our borders, but too often the ‘border security first’ refrain simply serves as an excuse for failing to address the underlying problems," Napolitano said. "Our borders have, in fact, never been stronger." In advance of the administration's push for immigration reform, the secretary has quietly been making the case that after a decade-long ramp-up in investment, the wave of unchecked immigration that began in the 1990s has come to an end. Indeed, in the last...

The Grand Old Jurassic Party

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service T he Republican Party is a presidential election away from extinction. If it can’t win the 2016 contest, and unless it has bolstered its congressional presence beyond the benefits of gerrymandered redistricting—which is to say not only retaking the Senate but polling more votes than the opposition nationally—the party will die. It will die not for reasons of “branding” or marketing or electoral cosmetics but because the party is at odds with the inevitable American trajectory in the direction of liberty, and with its own nature; paradoxically the party of Abraham Lincoln, which once saved the Union and which gives such passionate lip service to constitutionality, has come to embody the values of the Confederacy in its hostility to constitutional federalism and the civil bonds that the founding document codifies. The Republican Party will vanish not because of what its says but because of what it believes, not because of how it presents itself but because...

Drinking the Poland Spring

The snark firestorm that exploded after a dehydrated Marco Rubio ran a duck-and-cover water-grabbing operation in the middle of his State of the Union rebuttal turned the senator's big debut into a big blah. Republican savior? Not quite—the wet whistler became the latest in an eminent line of has-beens who saw their stars flicker and fade as a direct result of giving a lackluster rebuttal. Or so we heard from the Internet, which saw a drab speech full of stale bromides—only one flux capacitor away from the 1980s, marred by that fateful sip of water—and not much else. However, non-conservative pundit opinions of Marco Rubio—whether progressive, centrist, or only adhering to the ideology of clicks—are as easy to predict as the Weekly Standard 's views on the president's marquee policy speech. On the other end of the spectrum, it doesn't matter that Rubio's speech was void of any novel policy proposals, or that it made egregious misstatements about Obama's plans, or that dehydration left...

Inaugural versus SOTU

Rex Features via AP Images
President Obama did not say last night that “the state of the Union is strong” a favorite phrase used in past State of the Union speeches. Instead he said, “The state of the Union is stronger.” That phrase points away from “the rubble of crisis” and toward a brighter future. In that respect, the address shared much in common with the president’s Inaugural, which presented a broad, liberal vision for Barack Obama’s second term and set policy goals for years down the road. In his address to the join session of Congress, the president was able last night to lay out more specific proposals than he could in his Inaugural speech. But did the president stay true to the ideals he set out in January while delivering his sometimes technical and wonky address last night? We investigate that question – point by point – below. Education During his Inaugural address President Obama said “a modern economy requires … schools and colleges to train our workers” suggesting we should improve schools by...

Republicans Will Appeal to Latinos by Opposing Policies They Support

Alex Campbell / Medill News Service
In something that shouldn’t come as a surprise, at all Republicans have already announced their opposition to a minimum-wage hike. Here’s House Speaker John Boehner, throwing cold water on the proposal: “I’ve been dealing with the minimum wage issue for the last 28 years that I’ve been in elected office,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference, arguing that raising the minimum wage would hurt people trying to climb the “ladders of opportunity” that Obama mentioned in his speech. “When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it. At a time when Americans are still asking the question, ‘where are the jobs?’ why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?” he said. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell complained that President Obama “spoke of workers’ minimum wages, instead of their maximum potential,” and Florida Senator Marco Rubio did the same when asked about the issue on CBS This Morning: “I don’t think a minimum-wage law...

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. As is true whenever politicians propose a minimum-wage hike, there is concern over the effect on business and hiring. The traditional line —pushed by Republicans and business groups—is that an increase will cost jobs and harm small businesses. But if two decades of research are any indication, the actual effects of a minimum-wage hike are minimal and in some cases, positive. In 1992, economists Alan Krueger (now co-chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors) and David Card took advantage of a natural experiment —New Jersey increased its minimum wage by 18.8 percent, while neighboring Pennsylvania remained...

The State of the Kindergarteners Should Be Strong

Flickr/SFA Union City
Flickr/US Army Africa O bama gave the country a glimpse of his new pre-K initiative in last night State of the Union address—and reason to hope that he’ll bring the rest of the country toward the national models set by states such as Georgia and Oklahoma . About halfway through the roughly hour-long speech, the President proposed “working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,”—an ambitious goal, given that only 27 percent of four-year-olds are currently in public pre-K. With his comment that “Most middle-class parents can't afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool”—which was met with an emphatic “that’s right” from the audience—Obama gave voice to a huge frustration of parents across the political spectrum. Those close to the issue had already been tipped off to the new initiative at a January meeting with Health and Human Services official Linda Smith, who estimated that the expansion of pre-K would reach some 1.85...

The Return of the Balanced Budget Amendment

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
S enate 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. The more honest explanation is that a fight over a balanced-budget amendment could get the GOP back on the same page—reuniting Republican government-haters with the Party’s fiscal conservatives. And it could change the subject away from social issues—women’s reproductive rights, immigration, gay marriage—that have split the Party and cost it many votes. It also gives the Party something to be for , in contrast to the upcoming fights in which its members will be voting against compromises to avoid the next fiscal cliff, continue funding the government, and raising the...

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: Ingram says many of his listeners see Obama’s attempt to push forward on immigration as a reminder of what the president hasn’t done to improve economic conditions for African-Americans. “I would say a bulk of my listenership is anti-immigration,” he said. “You have to understand that in the community in which I live the percentage of African-Americans who are unemployed. They look at what’s going on with immigration as an affront to African-Americans who can’t pay their mortgages because many of the immigrants come here, they are hired at less than minimum wage.” The...

The President's Dream State

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak President Obama at last night's State of the Union address B y any measure, President Obama’s first term was consequential. In four years, he signed an $800 billion stimulus program into law, laid the foundation for universal health insurance, secured new regulations governing the financial sector, repealed "don't ask, don't tell," and put the United States on the path back to economic recovery. For his second term, he has an agenda that’s just as ambitious and—reflecting the coalition that re-elected him—unambiguously progressive. Other than a de rigeur nod to deficit reduction—he mentioned “the deficit” ten times—the speech ticked off a litany of liberal policies: Universal pre-school, a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions, a higher federal minimum wage (set at 9$ an hour, the highest it’s been since 1981), and billions more in new infrastructure spending to repair roads and bridges. That’s to say nothing of comprehensive immigration reform (with...

The State of Our Union in 28 GIFs

Hey, it's almost time to get started! Any minute now... Still clapping ... (Is the livestream stuck on a loop?) Aaaand, let's hear it for the middle class! We must keep promises we’ve already made so our young people aren't left holding the bag. “Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.” Everyone likes the idea of a smarter government. It's just vague enough to work! MACS MADE IN AMERICA! Would you like some new jobs, former manufacturing workers? Finally, a shout out to fighting climate change. Boehner is not amused. Preschool for every child in America! + Immigration reform sounds awesome! Until you realize that "back of the line” means ... never? HEY GIRL, how'd you like a paycheck fairness act? Yes, and a reauthorized Violence Against Women Act, too, thanks! It's time to tie the minimum wage to cost of living. Was that dainty clap sarcastic, John Boehner? Who doesn't love our brave men and women in the military? We've got the most serious generals. And the best...

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 12 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. Let's start with this: Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free...

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. And then technology spread the State of the Union to the masses: Calvin Coolidge's 1923 State of the Union was the first to be broadcast on radio, Harry Truman's 1947 SOTU was the first on television, and Lyndon Johnson made it an evening affair in 1965 to maximize the TV audience. The next year saw the first opposition response, in which Everett Dirksen and Gerald Ford lit up the screen responding to President...

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. One answer is the anti-immigrant politics of the Republican Party. It’s not that Asians are liberal as much as it is that—as a largely foreign-born community—they’re turned off by the GOP’s overt hostility toward immigration. But a poll taken before the election complicates that picture. In the survey , conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, only 7 percent of respondents saw Mitt Romney as hostile toward Asian Americans. Romney used anti-immigrant rhetoric, but it didn’t create an impression of hostility toward the Asian American community writ large. And even if it did, rhetoric alone isn’t enough to explain Obama’s wide advantage with Asian Americans For that, you have to look to ideology. In its 2012 survey on the beliefs and views of Asian Americans, the Pew...

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: 1. The speech won't be the longest in history, but it'll probably still be a little long for your taste. 2. Democrats will interrupt Obama with applause approximately four-thousand times, including 850 standing ovations, which will stretch out the speech far beyond the length it needs to be (see number 1). 3. Knowing that this is one of the only times he has something close to the whole nation's attention all year, the President will briefly mention a wide variety of policy issues. After the speech is over, commentators will complain that this was a "laundry list" that they found boring. The viewing public, on the other hand, will be perfectly fine with hearing it. 4. Most of the speech will be taken up with arguing for the same policies Obama has advocated for years. But there will be...

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