Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Four Fundamental Econ Facts Missed By Economist Cantor-Slayer David Brat

AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch
AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch Dave Brat speaks to hundreds of supporters after beating Republican Congressman Eric Cantor in Tuesday's Republican primary for the 7th Congressional District in Virginia, June 10, 2014. O n MSNBC Wednesday morning, Chuck Todd asked David Brat, the Eric-Cantor-slayer, Ayn Rand acolyte, and chairman of the economics department at Randolph-Macon College, about his viewpoint on the minimum wage. Here’s their exchange: TODD: S hould there be a minimum wage in your opinion? BRAT: I don't have a well-crafted response on that one. All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation's productivity. Right? So you can't make up wage rates. Right? I would love for everyone in sub-Saharan Africa, for example— children of God—to make $100 an hour. I would love to just assert that that would be the case. But you can't assert that unless you raise their productivity, and then the wage...

Should We Be Concerned About Privatization of the V.A.?

Flickr/Coast Guard
Yesterday, the House passed a bill to address problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs on a 421-0 vote, a kind of unanimity usually reserved for resolutions honoring astronauts or declaring Necrotic Hangnail Awareness Week. The Senate's version is likely to be voted on in the next couple of days. It happened because of some features of this particular scandal : that both sides sincerely wanted to fix the problem, and that the opportunities for demagoguery were limited. While the bill has a number of provisions including steps to replace the outdated intake system and to hire more doctors and nurses, the one most directly intended to address the backlog of patients would allow veterans who haven't been able to get an appointment, or who live 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, to get care at private medical providers. Is this something for liberals to be worried about? Since we embrace nuance here at the Prospect , the answer is: maybe. It's important to remember that...

Beth Schwartzapfel Wins Sidney Award for Prospect's Prison Labor Exposé

The Sidney Hillman Foundation, which "honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good," bestowed its monthly Sidney Award for June on Beth Schwartzapfel, author of The American Prospect magazine's longform investigation of prison labor, " The Great American Chain Gang ," in our May/June issue. "[E]xcluding prisoners from employment statistics skews our picture of unemployment," Schwartzapfel tells Lindsay Beyerstein of the Hillman Foundation, in an interview at the foundation's website. "If you include prisoners, and count them as unemployed, the already-dismal employment rate of young black men without a college education plummets fifteen percentage points, from 65 percent to 50 percent. I was—and still am—stunned by this information. But then I thought, wait a minute: Inmates aren't really jobless. It's just that no one is counting their jobs. " Schwartzapfel's exposé was assigned and edited by executive editor Bob Moser. "Beth is one of the finest criminal-justice...

Eric Cantor Defeated and Nothing Changes -- Not Even Prospects for Immigration Reform

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia listens at right as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Cantor lost his congressional primary to David Brat, a political newcomer backed by Tea Party groups, among which Cantor was once popular. J ust a few weeks ago, I described the Tea Party challenge to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as "pesky," because that's what it seemed like—unpleasant for Cantor, but ultimately futile. Well it turned out to be something more, as Cantor lost his primary yesterday to the colorfully named David Brat, a professor at Randolph Macon College. As of their FEC filings in the middle of May , Brat had spent $122,793, while Cantor had spent $5,026,626, or over 40 times as much . Brat won easily, which can happen when you have a low-turnout primary in which angry people are more likely to turn out than contented people. But since the second-highest-...

Republican Rhetoric and Right-Wing Terrorism: 10 Troubling Incidents

Flickr/Andrew Partain
On Sunday, Jerad and Amanda Miller killed two Las Vegas police officers and a shopper at a nearby Walmart, then took their own lives. When authorities investigated, they found that the two were likely motivated by their hatred of government. " There is no doubt that the suspects have an ideology that's along the lines of militia and white supremacists," said an assistant sheriff on Monday. After shooting the officers, they draped the bodies with Gadsden flags; the Millers had also spent time at the standoff at the Bundy ranch. Yesterday, I asked in a piece at the Washington Post how much the hyperbolic rhetoric of which we've heard so much from so many on the right in recent years contributes to creating an atmosphere in which this kind of violence becomes more likely. After hearing some reactions and having a little more time to think about it, I have some more to add. But first, what I said was that the problem isn't just the violent rhetoric we sometimes hear from the likes of...

The American Prospect Continues

When we started The American Prospect with Robert Reich in 1990, our aim was to foster a “plausible and persuasive liberalism” by bringing together journalists and scholars into a public conversation about the future of American society and politics. In nearly 25 years, the Prospect has undergone numerous changes both in print and online, but as we return to a more direct role than we have had in recent years, the Prospect ’s mission remains the same—cultivating the ideas and the reporting needed to help build a democratic politics and a decent society. We are committed to keeping the Prospect as a strong and vital voice, both as a magazine (in both print and digital forms) and as a website. The magazine will continue its blend of analytical essays and deeply reported articles on politics, economics, and culture. The website will continue with fresh material to be updated daily. We will maintain our writing fellows program, which has helped to launch the careers of many of the best...

Why the GOP Is the Party of Creative Thinking

Flickr/opensource.com
Over the weekend, Republicans in Virginia pulled off an extraordinary feat. Faced with a state senate deadlocked at 20-20 and a battle with Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe over whether to accept the expansion of Medicaid, they apparently persuaded a Democratic senator from a conservative district to retire, thus giving them a majority and making it even less likely that McAuliffe will be able to get 400,000 low-income Virginians health insurance. And all it took was delivering a couple of jobs : RICHMOND — Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy...

Twelve Years Later, Hillary Clinton Still Struggles to Explain Her Iraq War Vote

Flickr/Marc Nozell
Back in 2002, many liberals (myself included) thought that all the Democrats who voted for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq did so out of a simple craven fear of being tarred as soft on terror, not because they actually believed Iraq was a terrible threat to the United States. Whether that is true of Hillary Clinton is something we'll never know, but when she ran for president in 2008, she struggled mightily to explain her vote in favor of the war. Barack Obama, on the other hand, was pure in voters' eyes on this question—not only hadn't he been in Congress to vote on it, he had opposed it as a state senator. I'm guessing that Clinton didn't expect she'd have to revisit this question over and over as she approached a 2016 presidential run, but with Iraq now mired in a new civil war (can we call it that yet?), it's coming up again. And yesterday, she gave this answer to a question about when she decided to finally declare her vote for the war to be a mistake: I...

Have Republicans Moved So Far Right They Left Their Own Voters Behind?

This chart could blow your mind.
It's been true for many years that Democrats have an advantage among the electorate on most issues. Whether it's economics, or health care, or foreign policy, the position held by elected Democrats is usually (though not always) more popular than the one held by Republicans — sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. It's a tribute to Republicans' political dexterity that they've managed to win lots of elections despite this fact, in part because they've always understood that issues are only a part of how voters decide for whom to cast their votes. But a new Washington Post poll shows something qualitatively different. Instead of what we've come to expect—Republicans have the support of their voters, Democrats have the support of their voters, and they fight over the few independents in between—on a couple of extremely important issues, elected Republicans have gone so far to the right that they've left their own voters behind. With the important caveat that this is only one poll, I...

Bring On the Stupid

The offending fowl from Bruce Braley's TV ad.
If you ask any candidate how they plan to win, they'll respond: "I'm just going to talk about the issues and how we can make Washington work for us instead of the special interests. This election is about the future of our state and our country, and I firmly believe that when voters hear my vision for the future, we'll be successful." Here's what they don't say: "Well, eventually my opponent or his campaign will say or do something dumb, at which point I'll pretend I'm super-mad about it and we'll get a whole bunch of press coverage of him trying to defend it, and that's how I'll win." The latter more closely resembles how campaigns actually proceed, shuffling from one inane made-up controversy to the next. And the last couple of days have given us two of the dumbest in recent memory. In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, is on the defensive after her campaign sent out to reporters a preview version of a newspaper ad it was planning to run,...

The Inexorable March of Big Government Health Care

Click inside to behold this chart in all its glory.
According to data released yesterday by the federal government , due to the Affordable Care Act, 6 million more Americans now have insurance through Medicaid. That's a victory for the law and for the Obama administration, and it's also a victory for our national soul, despite the fact that we still have some distance to go before we reach the goal of universal coverage. I want to elaborate on something I discussed this morning at the Washington Post with regard to these and other numbers: The conservative nightmare of a nation of moochers suckling at government's teat for health insurance has, to a substantial degree, come true. As you might expect, I have a chart. But first, let's go over a few numbers. With these six million new members, enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program) is now at 64 million. Add in the 52 million seniors on Medicare and the 9 million veterans in the Veterans Health Administration, and 125 million Americans, or 39 percent of...

Maureen Dowd Gets Way Too High

Do NOT let Maureen near that—she'll eat the whole thing! (Flickr/animakitty)
While I usually try to abstain from writing posts about how something an op-ed columnist wrote was stupid—not an unworthy endeavor, but if I don't do it many other people will be there to pick up the slack—today I'm going to make an exception for Maureen Dowd. That's not only because her column in today's New York Times is particularly inane , but because there's a lesson hidden there, really there is. So stick with me. But first, on to Dowd's glorious tale. Seems she was in Denver and decided to sample some of this "marijuana" she's been hearing so much about. Like any sensible person trying a drug for the first time, she made no attempt whatsoever to determine how much of it she should consume to reach her desired state of consciousness. Instead, she bought a cannabis candy bar and ate the whole thing. The results were unsurprising: But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state...

The Bowe Bergdahl Situation Is Complicated. Let's Not Pretend Otherwise.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong A "Bring Bowe Back" sign honoring captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is seen through a POW-MIA flag in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. B efore long, we'll surely be hearing that Barack Obama arranged for the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to distract the country from Benghazi. Or maybe the theory is already making the rounds on talk radio; I'm not sure. But this messy episode reminds us of how little the people who fetishize "toughness" and want desperately for the War on Terrorism to extend into eternity actually grasp about where we find ourselves in 2014. But before we get to that, if you go to any conservative site today, you'll see one piece after another attacking Bergdahl, with the implied or stated conclusion that we should have just left him there. Some of the people with whom Bergdahl served say he was a deserter. And they may turn out to be right. But there was enough uncertainty about what he did, and why, to make the idea of just...

The Supreme Court and the Power to Make Treaties

Website of the Supreme Court of the United States
Given the ongoing Republican assault on essential federal powers, It is generally not good news when the Supreme Court narrowly construes a federal statute in deference to state authority. Monday's ruling in Bond v. U.S. , however, is an exception. A majority of the Court refused to accept conservative arguments that would severely limit the power of Congress to enforce treaties signed by the United States. The dissents by Justices Scalia and Thomas, conversely, show that this case could have been a vehicle for a major new limitation on federal power. The facts in Bond , summarized in an excellent story by Newsweek 's Pema Levy, are the stuff of soap opera. Carol Bond, a microbiologist, put highly toxic chemicals on various surfaces at the home of Myrlinda Haynes, her erstwhile best friend and husband's lover. Haynes escaped the dangerous trap set for her with only minor burns. Nonetheless, Bond was prosecuted under Section 229 of the federal Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation...

Facial Recognition and the Loss of Anonymity

You're not fooling anyone, kid. We know who you are. (Flickr/Glen)
With all the attention given to the Obama administration's new regulations on carbon emissions, you may have missed the latest revelation from the documents obtained by Edward Snowden, which came out over the weekend. The latest news is that the NSA is now increasingly relying on facial recognition in its surveillance, and gathers millions of images a day from emails, social media, and other sources, and it isn't alone. Here's an excerpt from a report that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday : State and local law enforcement agencies are relying on a wide range of databases of facial imagery, including driver’s licenses and Facebook, to identify suspects. The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its "next generation identification" project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data. The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing...

Pages