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

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teachers, hospital nurses -- they still belong to the one part of the U.S. economy where the New Deal hasn't been repealed.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...

Labor's Civil War

On Tuesday, May 3, 167 of the AFL-CIO's 426 employees reported to work to find that their positions had been eliminated. Whole divisions were being scrapped, publications abolished, programs terminated. Some departments were being consolidated, and 61 new positions being created within them, but the house that Federation President John Sweeney had built was, by Sweeney's own decree, being partially torn down. The Field Mobilization Department -- a nebulous division that employed 67 field reps for disparate assignments across the nation -- was being merged into the political program, with 30 positions eliminated outright. The federation's monthly magazine, America @ Work , was being discontinued. The policy office was being reduced in size and merged into a joint operation with the legislative office. The International Affairs Department, which director Barbara Shailor had transformed from the planet's last bastion of Cold War vigilance into its most effective proponent of global social...

An Unlikely Ascent

If you look at Antonio Villaraigosa's resume line-by-line, you'd conclude that, time and again, he bought that one-way ticket to political Palookaville. It wasn't his doing that he grew up in the projects in East L.A. But after that, his choices : agitating for immigrant workers (in the 1970s, when this interested nobody but the fringe types); the obligatory volunteer work in Cuba (where he learned that Castroism was way too authoritarian for his taste); organizer for the teachers' union; president of the board of the local ACLU. Schlepping this resume, he entered a 1994 race for state assembly in a district just north of downtown Los Angeles. The Latino establishment in that largely Latino district (with significant enclaves of white liberals) had a candidate who happened to be white: the chief-of-staff to the outgoing incumbent. The c.o.s. had more money and endorsements; Villaraigosa had stunning charisma, an ability to make a majoritarian case for progressive ideas, a growing...

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