Monica Potts

Monica Potts is a freelance writer, and former staff member of The American Prospect. A fellow with the New America Foundation Asset Building Program, her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate. She also blogs at PostBourgie.

Recent Articles

The Serfs of Arkansas

Immigrant farmers are flocking to the poultry industry -- only to become 21st-century sharecroppers for companies like Tyson.

(AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)
Shane Tawr doesn't remember exactly why he first decided to try his hand at chicken farming. Tawr had a government job in Milwaukee but wanted relief from the city's bustle. He decided in 2004 to head down to the Ozarks, buy a chicken farm, and work for himself, just as many of his Hmong ancestors had done in Laos. The Hmong, who came to the United States in large numbers as political refugees after the Vietnam War, settled mostly in urban communities in California, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Some raised chickens and tended small vegetable gardens, but many worked jobs that kept them near the poverty line. In the early 2000s, chicken producers such as Tyson, which is based in northwest Arkansas, began courting the Hmong, and advertisements about chicken-farming opportunities appeared in Hmong-language newspapers. Roughly 500 Hmong now live in communities throughout Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma and raise breeder or broiler chickens for a handful of companies that operate in the...

Who Drives Innovation?

Republicans like to argue that private companies are responsible for technological breakthroughs, but that's not true.

Last month, many of us heard the story of Brett Hallman. Hallman's mother was early in her pregnancy when she learned her son would have spina bifida, a neurological disease that affects the spinal cord's development and, in the worst cases, makes children with the disorder unable to walk and have brain damage. But the Hallmans enrolled in a trial that allowed doctors to operate on Brett in utero. The procedure had already used on newly born babies, but doctors found that babies who had surgery before they were born had dramatically improved effects with no increased risk. When Brett was 17 months old, he took his first steps, and doesn't have any of the serious problems usually associated with spina bifida. The trial was funded through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the largest provider of public funding for medical research. Each year, the NIH issues millions of dollars in grants to universities, clinics and research outfits around the country, funding research that...

Q&A: Why the Deficit Doesn't Matter

TAP talks with James Galbraith about the deficit and what we really should be looking for in the president's budget.

House Minority Leader John Boehner wants to slash domestic spending. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
This week, President Barack Obama released a budget that, as promised, cuts discretionary domestic spending in key areas in the name of deficit reduction. But he left big entitlement programs mostly untouched, which fueled fire on Republican-led efforts in the House to slash even more. The cry from most progressives, and many economists, that deficits don't matter while unemployment hovers just under 10 percent has gone mostly unheard by the American people. But there's another cry: that the deficit doesn't matter at all, at any time. TAP talked with James K. Galbraith, the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. chair in government/business relations at the University of Texas at Austin, who might be the country's biggest deficit dove. Why doesn't the deficit matter right now? The deficit is an outcome; it's not a policy tool. The current deficit happened because of the weak state of the economy and because of the international value of the dollar. The notion that you're going to get rid of deficits by...

Clean Energy's Cat-and-Mouse Game

The president's new budget has a lot of proposals for green energy, but what if states fail to implement them?

(Flickr/Peter Grima)
A day after the State of the Union address -- in which Barack Obama outlined a massive public investment in clean-energy infrastructure -- the president went on a trip to Wisconsin. He visited a renewable-energy tech manufacturer, an aluminum manufacturer, and a wind-turbine plant: "It's here in Manitowoc that the race for the 21st century will be won," he said in one Wisconsin town. But just the month before, the state's newly elected Republican governor, Scott Walker, turned down federal money for a high-speed rail line that would have connected Milwaukee to Madison. The money was part of Obama's stimulus plan -- the last time Obama put big money behind programs designed to green the future. Walker said the rail project was an example of excessive government spending: "[It] brought a new cost that we could ill afford at the time; we're going to be crushed in our transportation budget." Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who also won in November, turned down federal transportation...

More Than "Mom-in-Chief"

Despite criticism from feminists, Michelle Obama has shown herself to be a serious first lady.

A few months ago, Prospect contributor Courtney Martin wrote about the frustration feminists felt toward Michelle Obama. Here was a trailblazing career woman, a Harvard- and Princeton-educated attorney at a major Chicago law firm who nonetheless billed herself as "mom-in-chief." For Martin, this branding of Michelle Obama was a calculated political move, an attempt to project an image that did not ruffle feathers or detract from the president's campaign. Some feminists may not be happy with Michelle Obama -- she is inevitably compared to Hilary Clinton, who famously "overstepped" by introducing an omnibus bill that would have completely changed the health-care system in 1994 -- and criticize her for signing on to innocuous-sounding, child-focused programs like her predecessors Barbara and Laura Bush, who promoted literacy, and Nancy Reagan, who told kids to "Just Say No" to drugs. But at its one-year mark, "Let's Move," her initiative aimed at curbing childhood obesity, has come to...