The Obama Administration

The Revolving Door Is Spinning Out of Control. Can It Be Slowed?

New legislation targets Wall Street's influence in Washington. 

(Photo: Office of Tammy Baldwin)
(Photo: Office of Tammy Baldwin) Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin announce the introduction of the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act on July 15. F ive years to the day after the Senate passed the Dodd-Frank Act, Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland gathered for a press conference in the Capitol to announce legislation that would strengthen ethics in the executive branch and work to reduce Wall Street influence in Washington, D.C. “We can’t afford to have a revolving door working to stack the deck in favor of Wall Street and against hard working Americans who are struggling to get ahead,” Baldwin proclaimed as she introduced the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act on July 15. “The American people deserve to have trust in the fact that government is working for them and that the system is not being rigged against them.” Soon after entering office in 2009, President Obama ordered...

Federal Contract Workers Are Demanding a Big Raise. But Will They Get It?

The Fight for $15 comes to Washington. 

Good Jobs Now
Good Jobs Nation J ust outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, hundreds of workers wearing blue shirts that said "Strike!" rallied for more pay. Leaders led chants in English and Spanish, from "Hey, hey, ho, ho, $10.10 is way too low," to " ¿ Que queremos? Quince y un uni ó n ." These workers were striking for a day against companies contracted by the federal government to ring up powerful politicians’ lunch orders in the Senate, clean offices in the Pentagon, and cook food at the Smithsonian museums. As the Fight for $15 has gained traction across the United States, workers—supported by a coalition of unions, labor advocates, and politicians—are saying that it’s time for the federal government to become a model employer. A cadre of progressive politicians, including Senator Bernie Sanders, also used the event to introduce legislation that calls for a national $15 minimum wage. But with legislative success along those lines unlikely, advocates are calling on President Obama to take...

What We Talk About When We Shout About Iran

The real argument isn't about the fine print. It's about Obama, Netanyahu, and the value of diplomacy.

(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) President Barack Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference at the White House on July 15. I n the week since the Iran deal was announced, we’ve been watching the political theater of reactions to it. As with most theater, the first thing for the audience to remember is that the dialogue is deceptive. The characters skirt what's really on their minds. In the Iran drama, America and Israel have become virtually one stage. Ostensibly the argument in both countries and between them is whether the agreement is a success or a surrender. But if it were a real debate about the accord itself, there would have been a long silence after the Vienna press conference, as ex-diplomats, retired generals, and the Strangelove-ian community of nuclear arms experts pored over the dense 159-page text. Instead, a host of politicians, lobbyists, and talking heads responded almost immediately. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu...

The Latest Indication of Obama's Lack of Commitment to Financial Reform

The new Fed nomination signals the administration's belief that Dodd-Frank solved everything.

(Photo: AP/Evan Vucci)
(Photo: AP/Evan Vucci) In this October 2014 photo, Obama sits with financial regulators including Fed Chair Janet Yellen (left). W ith the fifth anniversary of Dodd-Frank, you will hear a lot about the Obama administration’s commitment to financial reform. And you can certainly break down what the law did and find successes on discrete issues. But even supporters will agree that a financial regulatory law is only as good as the people conscripted to implement and oversee it. And so the Obama administration said more about their position on financial reform with a key nomination on the day before the anniversary than they did with any subsequent rhetoric. The White House nominated Kathryn Dominguez, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, to fill the final open seat on the seven-member Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Dominguez teaches a class called “Jane Austen and Economics” along with courses in macroeconomics and international financial policy...

How Obama Could Crack Down on Dark Money Without Congress

The White House is considering an executive order aimed at the undisclosed political contributions of federal contractors. 

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci A combination of pressure from progressive organizations, support from congressional Democrats, and legal assurance from the courts could compel President Obama to levy his first blow to the secretive scourge of dark money in American politics. All it would take is an executive order that requires all federal contractors to disclose their dark-money spending—contributions to shadowy 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6) nonprofits. The only question that remains: Will he put his pen to paper? Advocates of the action argue that for Obama, this is a chance to further define his legacy on an issue that he’s notably spoken out against yet has so far refrained from any real action. At a 2010 DNC rally, Obama declared that special interest groups that pour money into attack ad campaigns without ever having to disclose their spending are “a threat to our democracy.” In his 2015 State of the Union address, the president called for political reform: “A better politics is one where we...

A Good Week for America

On a number of fronts, real progressive change is on the horizon. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin From left, Annie Katz of the University of Michigan, Zaria Cummings of Michigan State University, Spencer Perry of Berkeley, California, and Justin Maffett of Dartmouth University, celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hat an extraordinary week in the political and spiritual life of this nation. It was a week in which President Obama found the voice that so many of us hoped we discerned in 2008; a week in which two Justices of the Supreme Court resolved that the legitimacy of the institution and their own legacy as jurists was more important than the narrow partisan agenda that Justices Roberts and Kennedy have so often carried out; a week in which liberals could feel good about ourselves and the haters of the right were thrown seriously off balance. Yet this is one of those...

The Real Meaning of Obama's Trade Defeat

Labor is just part of the story. 

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster President Barack Obama walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, right and House Minority Assistant Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, as he visits Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 12, 2015, for a meeting with House Democrats. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he labor movement won big in the defeat of the trade package Friday. But a lot of the commentators are somewhat mystified. After all, the labor movement is a smaller fraction of the workforce than it was when NAFTA was approved over labor's opposition in 1993. And the industrial workforce today is a much smaller percentage of the total. How could this have happened? Noam Scheiber, writing ( an excellent piece ) in The New York Times , quotes a puzzled John Murphy, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which suffered a big loss when the trade deal went down. Murphy wondered why service sector unions were part of the opposition. "...

Derailment on the Fast Track

Passing TPP just became a lot more difficult.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais President Barack Obama speaks during his meeting with leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries on the sidelines of the APEC summit, Monday, November 10, 2014 in Beijing. Editor's Note: On the afternoon of June 12, the House defeated Trade Adjustment Assistance , 302 to 126 with only 40 Democrats voting in favor. Although House Speaker John Boehner vows to hold another vote on TAA next week following the House's passage of trade promotion authority, also on June 12, the vote puts the larger Trans-Pacific Partnership into serious jeopardy. I t’s now looking increasingly like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will go down to defeat. The first hurdle is the House vote scheduled for Friday on trade promotion authority, popularly known as fast-track, giving the executive branch an up-or-down vote in Congress on its Pacific trade deal. In recent days, as President Obama turned up the heat on about a dozen House Democrats, it looked as if...

The Cyber Conundrum: A Security Update

Recent events confirm that we need to rethink our approach to cybersecurity.

 

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File The National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Maryland. I n the wake of the debate over the renewal of the Patriot Act, Americans should consider a related problem with implications for their privacy and security: the assumptions behind cybersecurity policy. Several new developments bolster the argument in “ The Cyber Conundrum: Why the Current Policy for National Cyber Defense Leaves Us Open to Attack ” (published in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect ). These developments reinforce the view that U.S. cybersecurity policy is primarily based on the military’s framing of the security problem, at the expense of the online security of the private sector and ordinary citizens. During the Cold War our approach was to undermine Soviet security systems while bolstering our own, but the problem isn’t so simple in an age of shared global technology and online infrastructure. Today, the military’s Cyber Command continues to see...

The Cyber Conundrum

Why the current policy for national cyber defense leaves us open to attack. 

Kristoffer Tripplaar / Sipa / AP Images
Kristoffer Tripplaar / Sipa / AP Images President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson discussed efforts to improve government collaboration with industry to combat cyber threats at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, last January. This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . A follow-up to this article by Joshua A. Kroll will appear on June 4. Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . T he devastating cyberattacks against Sony Pictures in 2014 resulted in disabling of equipment, release of employees’ sensitive information, disclosure of company secrets and unreleased movies, and ultimately the departure of one of the studio’s top executives. The FBI blamed the Sony attacks on North Korea, and the attackers may have been operating in Sony’s systems undetected for more than a year. Many Americans were left...

Marco Rubio's Far-Right Foreign Policy Gambit

The GOP hopeful wants 2016 to be all about Iran and Cuba. 

AP Photo/David Goldman
AP Photo/David Goldman Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio speaks at the Georgia Republican Convention, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Athens, Georgia. I f the GOP field seemed obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act in 2012, there’s a good chance that 2016 will be all about undoing President Obama’s foreign policy. With the ACA now firmly entrenched in the American political psyche—not to mention American law—Republican frontrunners have taken aim on Obama’s record on Iran, Cuba, and Syria. Like the battle over who was more vigorously opposed to Obamacare, Republicans will first use foreign policy as a way to whittle down their own crowded playing field, writes Steve Inskeep at npr.org. Naturally, this strategy is a risky one. Competing to see who can go furthest right on foreign affairs may play well in the primaries, but it can make the GOP nomination that much less palatable come November 2016. If there’s a progressive silver lining in this story, it’s here:...

Why Everyone Wants the Military Budget to Be Bigger

It's not about "defense." 

Vito Palmisano/Getty
Vito Palmisano/Getty N ow that we've finally ( almost ) clarified who would have invaded Iraq and who wouldn't have, it's time for a little perspective. Yes, it's a good thing that elite Republicans are moving toward agreeing with the rest of us that invading Iraq was a mistake, even if they base their argument on the myth of "faulty intelligence." But there's another consensus in Washington, one that says that our military should never be anything short of gargantuan, ready to start more wars whenever a future George W. Bush wants to. At the end of last week, the House passed a defense authorization bill worth $612 billion, a number that was possible to reach only with some budgetary hocus-pocus involving classifying $89 billion of it as "emergency" spending, thereby avoiding the cuts mandated by sequestration. While the White House has objected to the way the bill moves money around, that $612 billion number is exactly what President Obama asked for. Even the guy who's supposedly...

Women as the Loyal Opposition

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senator Elizabeth Warren, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Senator John Kerry's nomination to be secretary of state on January 24, 2014. A version of this article first appeared at The Huffington Post . L ong ago, when I began writing newspaper columns, a wise editor advised me that a column is about one thing. I am about to violate that rule. This piece is about three different things (which are connected if you look hard). One is a 25th anniversary; the second is some Mother's Day musings; the third is the latest in a string of losses for the left, namely the trouncing of the British Labour Party in Thursday's election. Let me explain. In 1990, Robert Reich, Paul Starr and I founded a new progressive magazine, The American Prospect , to try to breathe some intellectual spirit and political backbone into American liberalism. At the time, liberals were getting whacked both by...

Mother's Day, For Real

In the real America, the lives of women—especially black and brown women—are no bed of roses.

In partnership with The OpEd Project, The American Prospect presents this series, curated by Deborah Douglas, examining aspects of life unique to women, on one of greeting card industry's biggest days. (Photo © Christopher Futcher: iStock) Why There Are No Children Here: A Mother's Day Lament DEBORAH DOUGLAS “What have you ever done right?” That was the question that dominated my mind one night two years ago as I lay in my bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a sleepy Yorkie at the foot. This wasn’t one of those self-denigrating moments I engage in when I internally chastise myself for not writing enough that day or holding my temper tighter, or not giving one of my journalism students much-needed grace under the pressure they face to prepare for an industry that asks them to do everything at once masterfully. No, this was a true thought experiment to force myself to fully identify the things I’ve gotten right in my life as a way of charting a course to build on something righteous...

Ever the Protectors, Moms Seeking Asylum Need Protection, Too

Obama failed to specify that his enthusiasm for mothers is strictly limited to American moms.

(AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)
(AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca) In this September 10, 2014, file photo, an unidentified immigrant from Guatemala who declined to give her name, is interviewed, while her son paints on a whiteboard at the Artesia Family Residential Center, a federal detention facility for undocumented immigrant mothers and children in Artesia, New Mexico. This essay is published by The American Prospect in partnership with The OpEd Project's Public Voices Fellowship. It is part of a package of commentary pieces centered on Mother's Day 2015. I n last year’s Mother’s Day Proclamation, President Obama recommended we put our moms first “because they so often put everything above themselves.” He said we should “extend our gratitude for our mothers' unconditional love and support” because “when women succeed, America succeeds.” Obama should have specified that his enthusiasm for moms is strictly limited to American moms. Last summer, his administration systematically locked up over a thousand mothers and...

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