David Callahan

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

Recent Articles

Taxes to the Rescue

Obama came out looking like the loser in the budget bout, but he can still win in Round 2.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Oil-company executives testify before the Senate Finance Committee in May.
Lobbyists, don your loafers: The biggest tax-reform debate in decades is about to begin. While the debt-ceiling deal didn't include any tax increases, the next phase of negotiations is sure to explore raising new revenues through tax reform. That's because, by law, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of 2012, putting the issue of revenues squarely on the table -- but with the White House holding more cards this time around. Tax reform offers something for everybody. Republicans can avoid raising rates, which would never fly with the Tea Party legions, but they can still bring in major new revenue by closing tax loopholes -- a compromise many in the GOP can live with. For President Barack Obama, tax reform offers a path to bigger revenues without explicitly violating his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. Tax reform could also deliver even bigger gains to the president if he handles the issue correctly. A killer problem for Obama is that he is now seen by many...

Also Too Big to Fail

Even after Sunday's debt-ceiling deal, the federal government isn't getting any smaller.

(Flickr/DruhScoff) The U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C.
If the Tea Party backlash to big government reached a high-water mark when Republican and Democratic leaders struck a deal on the budget Sunday, history should judge the movement as a failure. Big government lives on. The American public still wants -- and, under this deal, will still get -- a public sector that will be larger over the next decade than it has been at most points since World War II. As with Reagan-era conservatives and the Republican majority in Congress during the 1990s, the legacy of the Tea Party will only be to stall government's growth; this latest push from the right won't substantially downsize -- much less starve -- the beast. On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner said that the deal "shows how much we've changed the terms of the debate in this town." That may be true if your memory only reaches back two years, but things look different in the larger sweep of history. Consider some numbers. Before the debt-ceiling deal was reached, the Congressional Budget...

The Best Offense Is a Cheaper Defense

Republicans are open to significantly slashing the defense budget. Too bad the president isn't pushing for it.

(Flickr/gregwest98)
Progressives don't need more reasons to be disappointed with President Barack Obama's handling of the deficit talks, but here's another failing that has not gotten much play: The administration has been so timid on defense cuts that some leading Republicans are now well to the president's left on this issue. Sharply downsizing the Pentagon -- which is projected to otherwise spend over $7 trillion through 2020 -- is one of the most obvious ways to reduce deficits. Yet without the strong backing of the commander in chief -- not to mention the negotiator in chief -- big defense cuts will never happen. Given the secrecy around the debt-ceiling talks, it is hard to know the administration's exact stance on defense cuts. But earlier this year, the president presented a plan that saved just $400 billion over 12 years by slowing the growth of -- not cutting -- Pentagon spending. This sum, never impressive, has come to look embarrassingly puny as deficit talks have intensified. Most recently,...

Carded at the Polls

Will the Justice Department stop the assault on voting rights for minorities, the elderly, and the poor?

One consequence of Republican victories last November has been an onslaught of state legislation to require voters to show photo identification at polling places. This push builds on GOP efforts over the past decade to tighten ID requirements; at least 18 states have enacted more stringent rules since 2003, including, most recently, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Last week, 16 U.S. senators signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether the new ID requirements comply with federal law. Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a Democrat, is gathering signatures on a similar letter from House members and held a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill with civil-rights leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, to draw attention to her effort. Research shows that voter fraud is very rare, so these laws are best understood as an underhanded form of partisan warfare. The roughly 11 percent of citizens, or 20 million...

Killing Dodd-Frank Softly

Congress goes after the financial-reform law on all fronts.

(Flickr/David Berkowitz)
If Jim DeMint gets his way, the Senate will vote any day now on repealing the historic Dodd-Frank financial-reform law. While Senator DeMint is receiving a big assist from conservative lobbying groups, his amendment is sure to fail given the Democratic majority. Still, the tireless war against Dodd-Frank - a law that marks its first anniversary next month - will go on. Like the assault on the health-care law, the campaign to roll back financial reform is a sophisticated operation bolstered by big money and animated by ideological fervor. What's different is that cracking down on Wall Street is popular with the American public, and so - DeMint's frontal assault aside - much of the push to destroy Dodd-Frank has been carried on over power lunches and in the back offices of congressional committees. Opponents of financial reform have mounted a three-pronged attack. First, Republican lawmakers hope to block the funds that executive-branch agencies need to implement Dodd-Frank. The...

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