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

Compromising Position

If the House and Senate conferees assembling this week to negotiate a prescription drug benefit and Medicare reform bill do in fact come up with a final product, the only thing certain is that they will have built a house divided against itself. The bills that the House and Senate have sent to the conference committee would legislate two irreconcilable visions of health insurance and the roles of the state and the market. House Republicans, who passed their bill on almost a straight party-line vote, authorized tax subsidies to seniors who choose to opt out of Medicare to join HMOs. Those seniors whom the HMOs don't want -- the sicker ones, with chronic conditions -- will be left behind in Medicare, which will perforce become a more rickety, less sustainable program unable to compete with the private insurers. The Democrats, by contrast, want to expand Medicare's reach by having it pay for seniors' prescription drugs. In the Senate, led by liberal warhorse Edward Kennedy, most of them...

Phobe Home

Antonin Scalia is raging against the coming of the light. Scalia's dissent from last week's epochal Supreme Court decision striking down Texas' anti-sodomy statute confirms Ayatollah Antonin's standing as the intellectual leader of the forces arrayed against equality and modernity in the United States. In establishing the deep historical roots of anti-gay sentiment in America, for instance, Scalia took pains to note the 20 prosecutions and four executions for consensual gay sex conducted in colonial times. He noted, approvingly, that even today, "many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools or as boarders in their home." Actually, back in 1978, a California electorate far more conservative than today's massively repudiated an initiative seeking to ban gays from teaching school, but this inconvenient fact -- and other evidence of a massive shift in...

Janitorial Justice

Americans may have divided over the war in Iraq this spring, but one thing that brought them together was their health coverage. It was shrinking. From state to state and sector to sector, job-based health insurance either covered less or cost more or -- the insurance companies were loath to force a choice on us -- both. One group managed to evade this bonding national experience, however: the janitors who clean the high-rise office buildings in America's downtowns. I know this sounds preposterous. Many janitors are immigrants, and many are here without legal status. They have no apparent power. Many don't speak English. So how is it that this spring, while the two-thirds of Americans who have health coverage were being told they would have to pay more to keep it, the janitors were getting their coverage upgraded? If this runs counter to everything you know about power in America, you probably have forgotten about unions. At minimum, you have forgotten about unions that organize so...

The Indispensable Advocate

Varsha Patel works in the stockroom at the Cintas industrial laundry plant in Piscataway, N.J., sorting dirty uniforms as they come in for cleaning. For eight hours she remains standing as she separates the damaged cloths from the merely dirty; at the end of the day, she says, "My hands, feet and legs are sore." For this she is paid a princely $7.94 an hour. Varsha Patel (not her real name) has worked for Cintas, America's largest uniform rental company, since 1997, and it has not been the happiest of associations. Six months ago, her co-workers who hang clothing on racks positioned well above their heads had to hang 1,700 uniforms a day. Now they have to hang 2,000. And if she or her fellow workers take more than six sick days in a year, they'll be summarily fired. The work force at Piscataway isn't notably young; most of the plant's 145 production workers are women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, almost all of whom make between $6.50 and $9 an hour. Many, like Varsha Patel, are...

Past Tense

The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party convenes here today at a national conference sponsored by the liberal Campaign for America's Future. The gathering comes not a moment too soon, not only because the party's progressive base needs to assert and renew its principles, but also because it has come under assault lately from its intra-party adversaries. In a recent memo addressed to "Leading Democrats," Al From and Bruce Reed, the leaders of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, have all but read the party's activists out of the human race. Purporting to dispel some noxious myths about the Democrats, they write, "Real Democrats are real people, not activist elites." When exactly party activists ceased to be real people they do not specify. It's easier to identify when the DLC began to demonize the Democrats' foot soldiers: That began in 1985, in the wake of Walter Mondale's overwhelming defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan. That the Democrats needed some midcourse...

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