Archive

  • Why the Koch Brothers Are Heroes In Their Own Minds

    AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
    AP Photo/Mark Lennihan David Koch, Executive Vice President of Koch Industries, Inc., attends The Economic Club of New York, Monday, December 10, 2012. W hen Charles E. Wilson appeared before a Senate committee in January 1953 as President Eisenhower's nominee to become Secretary of Defense, he was asked whether his large holdings of stock in General Motors, where he had been president and chief executive, might cause some conflict of interest. " I cannot conceive of one," he replied, "because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country." While Wilson is often misquoted as saying that what's good for GM is good for America, a quote often used as a symbol of corporate arrogance, his intent seemed at least somewhat more benign. But however you interpret it, Wilson was almost certainly sincere in believing that when you get right down to it, the...
  • Bernie Learns His Lesson -- But Have the Rest of Us?

    (Photo: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via AP)
    (Photo: Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via AP) Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders waits to speak to federal contract workers during a rally on Capitol Hill on Wedneday, July 22. “ We want a nation where a young black man or woman can walk down the street without worrying about being falsely arrested, beaten, or killed,” Bernie Sanders told some 8,000 supporters in Dallas on July 19, the day after his contentious encounter with protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement at Netroots Nation. While Sanders, the socialist U.S. senator from Vermont who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, appeared to have learned his lesson quickly, the same cannot necessarily be said for some of his most ardent followers, or for the progressive movement more broadly, where power rests primarily in the hands of white men. When Sanders announced his candidacy, I welcomed it—and I still do. Standing far to the left of likely nominee Hillary Clinton, Sanders’s presence in the race, coupled with...
  • Why Donald Trump Matters

    (Photo: AP/Charlie Neibergall)
    (Photo: AP/Charlie Neibergall) In Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Saturday, Trump said to his supporters, "I'm very good with contracts. Don't you want that?" T he political press is struggling over how exactly to report on Donald Trump. On one hand, we absolutely love covering him—Trump's intoxicating combination of boorishness, ignorance, tactlessness, and overconfidence, all wrapped up in a gold-plated package, is utterly irresistible as copy. On the other hand, we feel a little guilty about it, as though we know it's bad for us and bad for the public. Which is what produces the endless assurances that, despite his rather remarkable strength in the polls, you should rest assured that he is not going to be his party's nominee. You see that judgment made about other candidates all the time, but seldom repeated so often and almost never for someone who is leading in all the primary polls. And while it might be true, we've now moved beyond the point where we don't have to take Trump seriously. It'...
  • Why Netroots Nation Was Exactly the Right Place for a #BlackLivesMatter Protest

    (Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin)
    (Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin) Black Lives Matter and Black Immigration Network activists shout down Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders during the presidential candidates' forum at Netroots Nation on Saturday, July 18. W hen protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the presidential candidates’ forum at an annual gathering of progressives from both grassroots movements and the professional left, a predictable response was heard from many white liberals and progressives: Why are you picking on us? We’re your allies! If movement needed any more fuel, it was granted as much by the mysterious death, just days before, of Sandra Bland, which occurred while she was in custody of the sheriff of Waller County, Texas. Her arrest seems to have been prompted by her defiance of a state trooper’s order to put out her cigarette after he pulled her car over for Bland’s alleged failure to use her directional signal while changing lanes. The trooper’s dash-cam video shows the officer...
  • Why Liberals Have to Be Radicals

    (Photo: AP/Charlie Neibergall)
    (Photo: AP/Charlie Neibergall) Democratic presidential candidates stand on stage during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on July 17 in Cedar Rapids. From left, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Hillary Clinton, and Lincoln Chafee. J ust about nothing being proposed in mainstream politics is radical enough to fix what ails the economy. Consider everything that is destroying the life chances of ordinary people: Young adults are staggered by $1.3 trillion in student debt. Yet even those with college degrees are losing ground in terms of incomes. The economy of regular payroll jobs and career paths has given way to a gig economy of short-term employment that will soon hit four workers in 10. The income distribution has become so extreme, with the one percent capturing such a large share of the pie, that even a $15/hour national minimum wage would not be sufficient to restore anything like the more equal economy of three decades ago. Even the mainstream press acknowledges...
  • The Real Debt Problem

    (Photo: AP/Rex Features)
    (Photo: AP/Rex Features) Demonstrators protest the recent deal imposed on Greece by the European Union outside the German Embassy in London. Note: This is adapted from the new preface to the just-published paperback edition of Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility . (Vintage) I n the era when it was common to throw people in jail as a punishment for debts they could not pay, the result was perverse for both debtor and creditor. The debtor’s economic life ended—in prison there was no way the inmate could earn money to repay debt; thus there was no way the creditor could be made whole. The invention of bankruptcy in 1706 during the reign of Queen Anne of England offered an ingenious solution. A magistrate would evaluate the assets of the bankrupt party; creditors would be repaid at so many pence on the pound; the debt would be considered discharged and the debtor could get on with his life. This was the origin of the modern Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which a...
  • If the Pope Wanted to Help the Poor, He’d Be a Feminist

    (Photo: Alfred Borba)
    (Photo: Alfredo Borba) Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square B y all accounts, Pope Francis can claim his recent tour of South America as a great success. News reports were largely fawning, and the throngs who greeted him came away feeling that he heard their plight, addressed in his message decrying the ravages of capitalism . Likewise, environmentalists of all (and no) religious convictions are enthralled by the pontiff’s evangelism on the topic of climate change , a development destined to irritate right-wing Catholics in the United States, who take with theological certainty the lies advanced by the mouthpieces of the fossil-fuel industries—those laughable claims that the warming of the earth, and all of the disruption that comes with it, have little or nothing to do with the effects of carbon emissions. But as the pope’s messages on climate and capitalism enchant progressive types, their enthusiasm for the man in white poses a harsh danger to progress for women, and to economic...
  • Andrew Jackson's Dark Legacy Belongs to All of Us -- Democrat and Republican Alike

    (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
    (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) D uring the height of the 2008 presidential campaign, I paid a visit to what was then an annual gathering of the Conservative Caucus, a right-wing group founded by the late Howard Phillips, who also helped found the religious right. Unlike his compatriots among the religious right’s founding fathers, Phillips, a large man with the voice of a radio actor, relished the use of extreme language to characterize his perceived enemies: Gays were “sodomites” and “perverts”; Planned Parenthood was “Murder Incorporated.” He also cozied up in public to neo-militia groups such as Missionaries to the Pre-Born. In a small meeting room at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, the Conservative Caucus convened for its yearly Constitution Day awards event, a notably low-budget affair with nothing on the menu but hotel-supplied hard candies and pitchers of water—and vitriol, no small measure of it trained on the surging Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Receiving the...
  • 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...
  • Should We Relitigate the Iraq War in the 2016 Campaign? You Bet We Should

    (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images News)
    View image | gettyimages.com I f all goes well, in the 2016 campaign we'll be rehashing the arguments we had about the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003. You may be thinking, "Jeez, do we really have to go through that again?" But we do—in fact, we must. If we're going to make sense of where the next president is going to take the United States on foreign policy, there are few more important discussions to have. On Sunday, Fox News posted an excerpt of an interview Megyn Kelly did with Jeb Bush in which she asked him whether he too would have invaded Iraq, and here's how that went : Kelly : Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion? Bush : I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got. Kelly : You don't think it was a mistake? Bush : In retrospect, the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. And in...

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