David Callahan

David Callahan is a senior fellow at Demos and editor of PolicyShop, the Demos blog.

Recent Articles

One Month at the SEC Shows Ongoing Financial Fraud Epidemic

Judging by all the complaints about the Dodd-Frank Act, you might think that Washington over reacted to the financial excesses of a few years ago and that the Feds can now ease up on Wall Street. In fact, though, bad behavior among America's money men -- and yes, those doing wrong are typically men -- continues onward at a furious pace. Consider just the past month at the SEC: On September 19, the SEC charged an Atlanta-based financial advisor, Angelo A. Alleca, with a Ponzi-like scheme that ripped off 200 investors to the tune of $17 million. On September 20, the SEC announced action against three insider traders in two separate cases. On September 24, the SEC charged Tyco with bribing foreign officials and fined the company $26 million. On September 27, the SEC charged Goldman Sachs and former executive at the firm with “pay-to-play” violations involving campaign contributions to then-Massachusetts state treasurer Timothy P. Cahill. That same day, the SEC brought another insider...

Direct Democracy, for Billionaires

(Flickr/ehoyer)
Over a century ago, progressive reformers were deeply worried about how wealthy interests had hijacked American politics populating state legislatures with cronies who did as they were told and otherwise steamrolled the will of the people. To level the playing field, reformers worked to create mechanisms for direct democracy through state referendum and ballot initiatives, allowing voters to bypass corrupted political systems. Now, in a classic case of unintended consequences, these mechanisms for popular power are routinely used by the rich to change state laws—or try to, anyway. Again and again in recent years, wealthy individuals or interest groups have poured fortunes into ballot initiative campaigns. As the Progressive States Network has shown, the deep-pocketed right has been especially effective in using ballot initiatives to cut taxes, limit government, restrict affirmative action, and ban gay marriage. Regardless of what the rich want, the ability of a single wealthy person...

Why Schumer Is (Mostly) Right on Taxes

(Pete Labrozzi/Flickr)
Senator Schumer offered a much needed intervention in the tax debate in a speech on Tuesday. What Schumer said is that revenue-neutral tax reform was a fantasy and that any big Congressional deal on tax reform had to include higher rates on the wealthy, as well as more revenue overall. Yes and yes to both points. As Schumer pointed out, one major distortion in today's tax code that needs to be fixed is its favorable treatment of the wealthy, particularly through the historically low rate of taxes on capital gains—the source of much income for the wealthiest Americans: Over time, our tax code has widened the nation’s wealth gap. Reversing this trend ought to be a top goal of tax reform; at a minimum, we certainly should not make the tax code any less progressive than it would be if the high-income tax cuts expired. The basic goal of several tax reform plans, including Mitt Romney's, is to lower top rates and make up lost revenue by closing loopholes. But Schumer rightly points out that...

Hey! Hey! Government Is Hiring Again

(Demos DataByte)
Here's one very interesting piece of news from today's jobs report : The public sector has stopped firing people and started hiring. According to the report, government at all levels has added 68,000 workers in the past three months. This hiring spree comes after three years of nearly non-stop government layoffs, with over 600,000 public sector workers losing their jobs—including over 200,000 teachers or other school workers. The downsizing of government amid hard times has been one of the most preventable aspects of the unemployment crisis. Americans have wanted government to solve this problem, and instead government made it worse—specifically, by Congress's failure to provide enough federal assistance to states facing shortfalls. More government hiring suggests that revenues of state and local governments are picking up again. But these entities are not out of the woods by a long shot and federal aid is still badly needed if Washington is truly interested in speeding up the...

Obama and Romney: What About Inequality?

(Flickr/PaulSteinJC)
Just a year ago, Occupy Wall Street commanded attention from the media and politicians alike. Yet last night the central concern of that social movement—one shared by a majority of Americans—wasn't even mentioned as both candidates and the moderator ducked the problem of economic inequality. Yes, Obama did say several times that America does best when the middle class is growing. But he never overtly talked about the growing chasm of income and wealth—or how a big reason that ordinary people are not doing so well is because so much new prosperity created in today's economy gets channeled upward to a tiny sliver of the population. Not mentioning inequality when talking about the plight of the middle class is like not mentioning poaching when discussing the future of elephants. Obama's omission was especially notable in that his campaign is one of the most populist in memory, with nonstop attacks on Romney as part of the plutocratic problem and repeated calls for higher taxes on the...

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