Laura Maggi

Laura Maggi is a reporter in the Capital bureau of The Times-Picayune.
She is a former writing fellow for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Bad Hair #2

This March, primary voters in Youngstown, Ohio, have the opportunity to weed out the worst haircut in Congress. Said haircut belongs to Representative James A. Traficant, Jr., a Democrat who faces his first stiff re-election challenge in a 16-year congressional career. Traficant has won a fair amount of national media attention--and has become a favorite among C-SPAN junkies--for his bombastic one-minute speeches on the House floor, which he usually concludes with the phrase "Beam me up, Mr. Speaker." A self-styled populist with a disheveled coif and thrift-store suits, Traficant uses these early-morning tirades to rail against NAFTA, foreign steel imports, and the IRS. Especially the IRS. In one speech last fall, he proclaimed, "I say it is time to literally abolish both the IRS and the progressive un-American socialistic income tax. Audit this. I yield back the socialism of our income tax program." The tax agency is of very personal interest to Traficant. Just as he was winning his...

The Greening of Giuliani

T his June found New York City's crusading public advocate Mark Green courting financial support at a fundraising "comedy gala" in honor of his 55th birthday. To raise around $1 million for his 2001 mayoral bid, Green culled a selection of celebrities finely tuned to appeal to the sensibilities of the left-leaning (yet moneyed) baby boomer. Aside from a performance featuring the comedic stylings of Al Franken and Chevy Chase, participants who forked over $5,000 or $10,000 could attend a private cocktail reception--presumably to grouse about the excesses of the Giuliani administration with the likes of Marlo Thomas, Buck Henry, Tony Randall, and the eldest Baldwin brother. Mark Green is climbing back onto his horse. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's decision to bow out of the Senate race against Hillary Clinton was not only a major letdown for political journalists already bored with the presidential race, but also a blow for Green, who...

Pork, Sweet, and Sour

Word was out in May that the Clinton administration was offering enticements to undecided congressional Democrats in order to win enough votes to permanently normalize trade with China--which the White House had singled out as key to the Clinton foreign policy legacy. After all, during the North American Free Trade Agreement vote in 1993, the Clinton White House threw open the legislative pork barrel, offering up tasty items to encourage hesitant Democrats to sign onto the free trade agreement. This time, Representative Martin Frost, notably the third-most powerful Democrat in the House, came up a winner. Frost secured an agreement to preserve 5,000 jobs at a Northrop Grumman plant in his central Texas district. An aide said the company had been considering moving out of its outdated Navy-owned facilities. After timely negotiations with the Navy, the company agreed to continue operating in Grand Prairie, Texas. But for the most part, the kind of favors being doled out this time were...

The Squeeze

I n most city neighborhoods, the flight to the suburbs continues--with families leaving the city the moment they acquire the means. However, in a handful of trendy cities, there's been a movement in the opposite direction. This may be just what the cities thought they wanted, but it often leaves the poor with nowhere to live. Rents are surging not just in New York, but in the hot housing markets of San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston, where lots of well-off people are vying for a limited number of apartments and houses. Among the rich and the upper-middle class, incomes may be keeping pace with the bounding rents, but incomes at the bottom are not. In each of these cities, housing activists report seeing increasing numbers of poor families shelling out 50 percent or more of their income in rent or crowding more than one family into an apartment. Across the country, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates, 5.4 million households now live in these...

Death, Taxes, and Fees:

Every year around this time millions of the working poor send their tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service, applying for an end-of-the-year bonus known as the earned income tax credit (EITC). For people struggling to support their families on salaries that typically hover around the poverty line, the couple thousand dollars they might receive is often counted on to clear up debts or make a necessary big purchase. Expanded by President Clinton as a key component of his anti-poverty program, the EITC is a tax benefit designed to benefit low and moderate-income workers. For people struggling to make ends meet with low paying jobs, the EITC helps make work more attractive than welfare and provides an important income supplement. All told, around 20 million people receive the credit each year. However, it looks like chunks of the credit aren't going to the working poor at all, but instead to behemoth tax-preparing agencies -- agencies...

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