Amy Burke

Amy Burke is a Brandeis University Ph.D. student and former American Prospect assistant editor.

Recent Articles

Why Americans Go Broke

America's high bankruptcy rates suggest the recent economic boom is less than it appears. Changing bankruptcy law, which is what Republicans in Congress are threatening to do, won't help.

I nflation is under control and unemployment is at a 25-year low. Corporate profits and the Dow Jones Industrial Average have, at least until recently, been soaring. Despite the spreading "Asian Flu" and the stock market's recent queasiness, many economists and politicians believe the national economy remains in fundamentally good health. So why did more Americans than ever file for bankruptcy last year? According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, personal bankruptcy filings set new national records each year between 1984 and 1992. While in fact the economic downturn of 1991 reduced personal bankruptcies during 1993 and 1994, the number has been increasing since then, with each of the last two years setting new records. In 1997 a stunning 1.35 million Americans—one in 70 families—filed for personal bankruptcy, a 20 percent increase over 1996. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts recently reported that nearly 342,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy during the first quarter...

Shoot the Messenger

T he Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) is probably one of the least known victims of federal downsizing, but the effect of its elimination at the end of September 1996 was significant. Without the ACIR, local, state, and federal officials have less contact with each other, and there is a shortage of data about the impact of federal programs on state and local governments. At a time when local and state governments are being called upon to pay for more of their services with less support from Washington, the only government agency charged with evaluating the impact of government policies and programs on states and localities has been zeroed out. Though the ACIR was resuscitated last spring to conduct a study for the government's commission on gambling, it is now a mere shadow of its former self, with little hope of being permanently reauthorized. From its creation in 1959 through 1996, the commission provided a wealth of information about the fiscal well-being...

Party Decline

A lthough the Republic's Founders dreaded the divisiveness of "faction," political parties have proved essential to the promise of American democracy. Parties bridge the structural bias against government activism in the constitutional separation of powers and allow ordinary citizens who lack economic influence to aggregate political power. Hence, a strong party system is more crucial to liberals than conservatives. Yet parties have long been in decline, supplanted by media, money, interest groups, and candidate-centered politics. The party platform, once the fulcrum of great national debates, scarcely matters today. And, paradoxically, some of the very reforms that progressives designed—to clean up politics, empower ordinary people, and buffer the excesses of a market economy—have weakened parties, thus making it harder to elect durable progressive governing coalitions. It remains to be seen whether parties can recover, or whether liberals can thrive without them. A century ago,...