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

Six and Two

When I was in college, during Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America," I had a classmate who is the person I always think of when I try to imagine the young George W. Bush. (Although the comparison is terribly unfair to this person, since unlike Bush, he has considerable accomplishment to show for his first 45 years on this planet.) This guy had a little motto, typical of the privileged-punk campus conservatism that was then just taking hold, and that would dominate the next two decades: "U.S.A!," he would declare, pumping a fist in the air, "We're five and one in major wars!" I'm not sure how he derived the tally (I think the War of 1812 is considered a draw), but it was actually kind of sweetly ironic. After all, the "one" -- the defeat -- was the most recent and very much a presence at that time. Ours was not the Vietnam generation, but we were close enough to it that our camp counselors, when we were kids, could tell us their draft numbers and our cool young professors had gone to...

GIULIANI -- "MELLOWER THAN MCCAIN?"

GIULIANI -- "MELLOWER THAN MCCAIN?" As a New Yorker for most of the Rudy Giuliani era, it's hard for me to see him as anything other than a vain and dangerous authoritarian. This goes back to his years as a prosecutor, when he invented the "perp walk" by which he shamed the minor Wall Streeters he indicted by bringing in cameras to watch them handcuffed at their desks and dragged to court. (Salon's Cintra Wilson had a good account of the whole arc of Giuliani's career , from the "vainglorious" perp walks through his horrible response to the murder by New York police of a man named Patrick Dorismond in 2000, one of a series of incidents that had New Yorkers of all stripes ready to be done with the man before 9/11 wiped his Etch-a-Sketch clean.) But what's interesting to me is that much of the right doesn't see or chooses to ignore this side of Giuliani, maybe because they've only heard about it indirectly. So they draw a subtle, and to my mind bizarre, distinction between Giuliani's...

STOP! NO MORE HEALTH CARE PLANS!

STOP! NO MORE HEALTH CARE PLANS! I have not yet read John Edwards 's health care proposal. I'll trust Ezra that I would basically like it. And I'm very happy that he was willing to talk about raising taxes. But let me go public with the one sure thing I learned from my own miserable six months working on a presidential campaign -- Do Not Put Out A Health Care Plan. Just resist. Put out some clear basic goals, some non-negotiable elements, some basic sense of the mechanisms you would favor, and some examples that show that it can be done. Right now is a great opportunity, because you have so many good examples to cite. Just say, �If a conservative Republican can propose universal coverage, we Democrats should not shy away from it. I think Governor Schwarzenegger 's plan has some good ideas, some of them more specific to California; I think Senator Wyden' s put out some good ideas; there's a lot that I like in the Medicare For All proposals. As president, I'll take the best of those...

"WHAT MAKES OBAMA RUN?"

"WHAT MAKES OBAMA RUN?" That's the title of an article I was e-mailed yesterday. But it didn't refer to Obama's presidential hopes. The dateline on the article was December 8, 1995 . It appeared in the Chicago Reader. at the time Barack Obama was first running for state senate in Illinois. Obama, the article reminds us, began as a community organizer. And a community organizer in Chicago, the birthplace of community organizing. Traditionally, organizing has had, at best, a tense, and often a completely arms-length relationship to electoral politics. The Alinsky tradition treats electoral politics not as a vehicle for change, but as an external fact, with elected officials responsive only to pressure and organized power, such as the "accountability sessions" at which organizers put officials on the hot seat. This is a broad statement, as there are various schools of thought about organizing, and some believe that the constituencies they organize need to work within the electoral...

THEY WORK HARD FOR THE MONEY, SO YOU BETTER TREAT 'EM RIGHT.

THEY WORK HARD FOR THE MONEY, SO YOU BETTER TREAT 'EM RIGHT. I didn't have any luck getting anyone to join my last crusade , and I've given up on it myself, so here's another, inspired by the Tyler Cowen Times op-ed on inequality that J. flagged this morning: I'm willing to accept a considerable level of income inequality as a price we pay for a dynamic economy. But can we please, please banish from discourse the idea that people who earn much more money do so because they work so much harder? Cowen says that "the high earners are working hard for their money and perhaps they are having less fun," and attributes inequality to "highly motivated breadwinners." He then argues that "inequality of happiness is usually less marked than inequality of income," and that "a man earning $500,000 a year is not usually 10 times as happy as a man earning $50,000 a year." Which may or may not be true. But isn't it even more true, and demonstrably true, that inequality of work effort is less marked...

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