Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect

 

 

Recent Articles

Get What You Give.

If you've been reading The American Prospect or TAP Online, or both, you probably recognize that we offer something a little different from a lot of progressive sites or blogs. I think Adam Serwer captured our attitude well in an aside in a blog post a couple of months ago: "Maybe there's a political advantage in highlighting just how completely nuts the right's most prominent spokespeople sound," he wrote, "but I think all it does is distract from the case liberals need to be making for reforming the health-care system." I'll admit that sometimes we too get distracted by the latest nuttiness from Sarah Palin or Michael Steele . It's hard not to. But the Prospect will never lose sight of the main goal: a more just society, and all the policies, and therefore all the politics, that will get us there. We don't just make the case for reforming the health-care system, the financial system, or restoring civil liberties -- we also try to help our readers understand how those reforms would...

Just Bob and Frank, Talkin' About Deficits.

Like Tim Fernholz , I'm at the joint conference on "how progressives should think about the deficit," put on by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Center for American Progress. Tim notes that the presence of Franklin Raines , former president of Fannie Mae, and Bob Rubin , formerly of Treasury and Citigroup might "offend those both on the left and the right." Tim's an awesome reporter, but he left out a key detail: Rubin and Raines weren't on any of the conference panels. They were just hanging out in the audience and listening, like me and Tim -- just another two guys who didn't need to be in the office this morning. And when they asked questions, Rubin identified himself as, "Bob Rubin of the Council on Foreign Relations," and Raines as "Frank Raines, formerly of OMB." As Tim reports, Paul Krugman was very much the outlier to a general consensus that, as Bob Greenstein of CBPP put it, "Deficit reduction is not antithetical to progressive values." Among the more...

Reconciliation Myths.

"A Primer on Reconciliation," put together by Ken Strickland of NBC at First Read does a nice job of explaining the arcane process and some of the limits that will make it both difficult and risky to push health reform through that process, despite the appealing feature that it can bypass Republican obstruction. However, Strickland repeats a common misperception about the history of the process, and getting that history right is useful for understanding the limits. Strickland writes, "In 1974, in an effort to cut the nation's soaring deficits , Congress passed a law creating a procedure that could NOT be filibustered and would only need a simple majority of 51 votes to pass. Without a filibuster-proof procedure, lawmakers reasoned, the Senate would face difficulty passing bills that would make cuts in Medicare and Medicaid." The thing is, deficits were not "soaring" in 1974. The federal budget deficit that year was $6 billion, or four-tenths of 1 percent of GDP. This year's deficit...

My Model City

To a kid imbued with the idealism of "reform," Dahl's was a bracingly sanguine view of machine politics.

Who Governs?, by Robert Dahl (Yale University Press)
New Haven, Connecticut, at the tail end of the 1970s was a pretty good place for a precocious kid to get a political education. The city contains all the ethnic and social dynamics of New York City or Philadelphia in microcosm. But it's small enough that a 15-year-old with a ten-speed could get to any neighborhood to knock on strangers' doors before an election or a primary, of which there were dozens. The city loved politics and was then embroiled in a fierce battle between "the reformers" and "the machine." To make it a real education, there was a library shelf full of books about New Haven and its politics, with titles like Model City and The Mayor's Game . First among them was a long-established classic of political science that still describes the city well: Who Governs? by Yale's Robert A. Dahl, based on a close study of the city in the late 1950s. Dahl used New Haven to answer a question he traced back to Aristotle: "In a political system where nearly every adult may vote, but...

Whose "Crisis of Legitimacy"?

In the column that Adam and Michael Kazin already demolished, David Brooks quotes the libertarian econo-blogger Arnold Kling : "One could argue that this country is on the verge of a crisis of legitimacy. The progressive elite is starting to dismiss rural white America as illegitimate, and vice-versa." One could argue that. The thing is, we know what a crisis of legitimacy looks like: we just had eight years of what in a less-stable country would have been an actual crisis of legitimacy: A president who got fewer votes than his opponent, a war based on lies, that sort of thing. We lived through it, and in 2008, we seem to have come out of it, with a president and government that had won not only a clear majority in a democratic vote, but the consent of a far broader majority. But Kling's term is one I'd been thinking about also. What unifies the right-wing reaction, from the Birthers, to the Tea-Partiers, to the Town Halls, to the crusade against "Czars" seems to be a concerted effort...

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