Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is the editor-at-large at The American Prospect and a columnist for The Washington Post. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org

Recent Articles

The Reform That Isn't

Accustomed though they were to Republican abuses of legislative practice, Democrats were nonetheless taken completely by surprise at the April 27 meeting of the Senate Rules Committee. With senators still settling into their seats, the “markup” session to revise the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law had barely begun when Alaska Republican Ted Stevens, noting that he had to leave early, moved to report the bill to the Senate floor -- before the committee actually took up its language and considered amendments. The Democrats were stunned -- so stunned that initially they didn't react at all. In best Alice-in-Wonderland fashion, Chairman Trent Lott called the question, and the bill -- its contents yet to be determined -- was forwarded to the floor. After a few minutes, Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York (who arrived after the vote) objected, Schumer going so far as to remove his name as a co-sponsor. It wasn't just the cart-before-the-horse aspect of...

Divided and Falling

The dissident unions of the AFL-CIO are meeting in Washington today to announce that they are building a halfway house. The Change to Win Coalition -- and boy, is that ever a provisional-sounding and utterly clunky name -- will begin life neither entirely within nor without the AFL-CIO. One of its founders, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the AFL-CIO's largest affiliate, passed a resolution last weekend authorizing its top officers to take the union out of the federation when they deem it appropriate. All signs indicate that will happen soon. The other founders -- the Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), both million-member unions; UNITE-HERE (the apparel and hotel workers union); and the Laborers -- have each (well, all but the Laborers) made noises about decamping from the federation unless more money is devoted to organizing and incumbent President John Sweeney is replaced at the AFL-CIO's July convention. But Sweeney and his allies command a...

Public-Sector Enemies

America has a problem with its public employees. They are not downwardly mobile enough. Policemen, firefighters, teachers, hospital nurses -- they still belong to the one part of the U.S. economy where the New Deal hasn't been repealed. Fully 90 percent of them have defined-benefit pensions as of old. In the private sector, just 60 percent of employees have retirement plans, and a scant 24 percent still cling to defined-benefit plans. Fully 86 percent of public employees are covered by on-the-job health insurance; in the private sector, the rate has fallen to 66 percent. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, public employees make on average $49,275 a year. A sub-princely sum, that, but better than the $34,461 that is the average annual income of private-sector workers. There are a number of reasons public employees have been able to preserve the kinds of benefits and, in some instances, living standards that were once more common to American workers generally, but...

Divided We Stand

Well, at least the French aren't mortally afraid of the Germans anymore. At one level, French voters' decisive rejection of the European Union's constitution shows that the first phase of the project of European unification -- the binding of Germany to France and its other neighbors through a series of ever-stronger links -- has succeeded to the point where it's no longer an issue. It was the French (in particular Jean Monnet) who conceived this project in the waning days of World War II. And now it's the French, freed from all fear of an aggressive German neighbor, who have brought any further moves toward unification a halt. As expected, the Dutch joined them yesterday. The rejection of a more unified Europe is understandable, but from the standpoint of superpower politics and global social models, it's regrettable. Whatever the divisions between the United States and Europe, two democratic superpowers are better than one -- not least because Europe, at its best, espouses values of...

Arnold Meets His Match

The Great Republican Overreach has hit a wall. In the Senate, Bill Frist's plan to ram through a succession of hard-right judges by eliminating the filibuster has been undone by a coalition of centrists. Meanwhile, the president's plan to privatize Social Security has been relentlessly losing support as the American people balk at the notion of trading in their insurance for a retirement based on risk. And in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval ratings have plunged 20 points -- to 40 percent -- in the wake of his singularly reckless attack on the pensions and working conditions of the state's nurses, police officers, firefighters and teachers. Republicans must now even confront the possibility that a Democrat could unseat the Great Orange Hope next year. (Somehow, the governor has retained his metallic glow -- the word "tan" doesn't really describe it -- during the wettest year California has known in a century.) The D.C. GOP has mistaken its narrow but effective control of...

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