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

A Tale of Two Texans

Forty years ago tomorrow, Lyndon Johnson took the presidential oath on the steps of the Capitol, and American -- and inaugural -- politics have not been the same since. Before Johnson became president, the United States had not had a president from the South since Zachary Taylor died in office in the summer of 1850. In the 40 years since Johnson's landslide victory, southerners have been president for 24 years -- at least if we grant Poppy Bush's claim that he was really a Texan. By ending southern exceptionalism, by steering to passage the great laws that ended legal segregation and enabled southern blacks to vote, Johnson made it possible for southerners to run for president freed from the burden of defending a profoundly racist system. He made it possible for them to win. The young Johnson entered politics as the most avid of New Dealers, and the New Deal, as historian Jordan Schwarz in particular has demonstrated, was in good measure directed at bringing living standards in the...

Time's Up for the NUP

It was one of those classic strange-bedfellow alliances. When the New Unity Partnership (NUP), a consortium of five international unions, formed in summer 2003 (as first reported by The American Prospect in September 2003), it brought together three of labor's most progressive unions -- the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), UNITE (the clothing and textile workers union), and HERE (the hotel employees union) -- with two unions from the more conservative side of labor's spectrum: the Laborers and the Carpenters. Indeed, the Carpenters, having hosted several Labor Day events with President George W. Bush, was the only significant American union that boasted of its ties to Bush's decidedly anti-union administration. What the five unions did have in common, though, was a commitment to organizing. In recent years, all five had substantially reallocated resources into organizing campaigns (the Carpenters created a sizable backlash among locals that had lost their autonomy). They...

New Labor?

For a life-and-death debate about the future of the labor movement, the current conflict over the structure and role of America's unions got off to a singularly inauspicious start. A week and a day after John Kerry's -- and the unions' -- defeat at the hands of George W. Bush, the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO convened in Washington for a postmortem. The day had been filled with staff reports -- federation operatives briefing the assembled union presidents on the details of the election-day program, by far the most extensive in labor's history. (“You'd have thought we won,” one union president commented when the meeting was done.) Only at the end of the day did AFL-CIO President John Sweeney turn to the president of the federation's largest affiliate -- Andy Stern, of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) -- for new business. In his allotted 10 minutes, Stern laid out a series of radical proposals. Like everyone in the room, Stern knew that labor's effort...

President of Fabricated Crises

Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had September 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too. But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none. So Iraq became a clear and present danger to American hearths and homes, bristling with weapons of mass destruction, a nuclear attack just waiting to happen. And now, this week, the president is embarking on his second great scare campaign, this one to convince the...

Another Other America?

Once upon a time, in a land that stretched from one great sea to another, half the elderly were poor. When their work life was done, they retreated into their rented room or their trailer, or their room at their children's home, or even the county poorhouse. Their rulers looked at their plight and concluded that, "at least one-half of the aged -- approximately eight million people -- cannot afford today decent housing, proper nutrition, adequate medical care . . . or necessary recreation." And the name of this nation, and the unimaginably distant time when half the elderly lived this way? The United States of America in the year 1960. We have come so far in such a short time that's it's hard for people who aren't seniors to imagine an America in which old age was all but synonymous with desperation. In 2003 just 10.2 percent of Americans aged 65 or older lived in poverty -- a figure two points lower than the national poverty rate of 12.4 percent. Once the age group with the highest...

Pages