Deepak Bhargava

Deepak Bhargava is the executive director of the Center for Community Change.

Recent Articles

Change We Can Believe In

Strategies that rely on insider influence can't deliver large-scale change -- but mobilizations outside government can.

As activists confront the disappointments of the Obama era, a troubling sense of malaise and despair has crept into some parts of the progressive movement. This political state of mind is arguably even more of an obstacle to progress than the very large policy challenges or specific failures we face, because it tends to produce either apathy on the one hand or unstrategic ranting on the other. While we are no doubt in a tough spot, despair is not warranted. And, if we learn the right lessons from organizing efforts over the last year, we can recapture the momentum for progressive causes. In some ways, the scorecard on the Obama administration's policy agenda is more mixed than some progressive critics would like to admit. The economic stimulus package -- while smaller and less efficiently targeted at recovery than it should have been -- represents the greatest investment in anti-poverty programs in 40 years. Four million kids will have access to health insurance as a result of the...

Winning by Losing Well

The torrent of bad legislation coming out of Washington won't end anytime soon: an appalling budget; a throw-grandma-from-the-train Social Security proposal; hair-raising judicial appointments; bankruptcy, environmental, and tort-“reform” bills written by and for corporate patrons; and shredding what's left of the safety net. Here's the trillion-dollar question for national liberal organizations and the Democratic Party: How do you play the game when you're losing most of the time? Although it's hard to admit, we're going to lose most battles at the federal level in the short run. But it matters profoundly how we lose. Do we lose by making clear what we stand for, and building support for the future? Or do we lose by making incremental and technical improvements in dreadful legislation and policy? Many liberals in Washington have long approached our work as a technical exercise. We created a model of advocacy built on insider access and legislative expertise. The now-extensive network...

How Much Is Enough?

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations , posed the question of how to define an adequate standard of living. “By necessaries,” he wrote, “I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for support of life, but what ever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without.” We've been debating what's indispensable, what's indecent, and what it means to be a “creditable” person within the sphere of our common moral concern ever since. So what does it take to live at a minimal level of decency in America today? And what is the government doing to make it happen? The answers to those questions are not heartening: It takes much more income than millions of Americans have today, and the government is not doing enough to change that. The patchwork of programs that do exist are inadequate for nearly everyone in the bottom third or bottom half of the nation's wage earners. Public subsidies offered are not enough...

Why Not a New War on Poverty?

T he debate in Washington over welfare policy has taken an unfortunate turn: Republicans and many Democrats seem to be in a battle over who can be tougher on poor people rather than who can be tougher on poverty. It's too bad, because in the early days of the Bush administration there seemed to be a glimmer of hope that the president might follow up on the lofty words in his inaugural address. "In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation's promise," Bush said then. And in fact, to the surprise of those who expected little from a Republican administration and a Republican Congress, some significant steps were taken in the fight against poverty. As a silver lining in the otherwise indefensible tax bill passed by Congress last year, there was the enactment of a new refundable tax credit for low-income parents, who will receive $8 billion in income support each year. This is the largest antipoverty program created in nearly a decade...