Monica Potts

Monica Potts is a senior writer for The American Prospect and 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

Using Religion to Promote Birth Control.

The Associated Press reported that mullahs in Afghanistan, which has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world, are promoting the use of birth control: Quotes were used from the Quran to promote breast-feeding for two years, while local religious leaders, or mullahs, joined community and health leaders to explain the importance of spacing out births to give moms and babies the best chance at good health. In total, 37 mullahs endorsed using contraceptives as a way to increase the time between births, some delivering the message during Friday prayers. The mullahs' major concerns centered on safety and infertility, the report said. While Islam doesn't object to birth control the way that Catholicism does, it's nice to see a religious argument for the idea that spacing out children is better for the health of the children. And in the past, when women breast fed children longer and exclusively, they're pregnancies were spaced apart. The outreach program in Afghanistan was...

Going After Food Packaging.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration called out food companies for misleading nutrition labeling. Seventeen companies received a letter on their health claims, including baby-food makers Gerber and Beech-Nut and fruit juice purveyor POM Wonderful. The FDA also targeted companies that claimed their foodstuffs had no trans fat even though these products were high in saturated fat. From the New York Times : “The F.D.A. is not merely firing a shot across the bow; it is declaring war on misleading food labeling,” said Bruce A. Silverglade , director of legal affairs of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that had pushed for stricter rules. Front-of-package health claims made on packaged foods have been the target of healthy-food advocates for some time. And the FDA's director, Dr. Margaret Hamburg , said preventing misleading labeling was especially important now with the rising incidence of obesity. The labeling problem also underscores a flaw in the...

Balancing Oklahoma's Budget.

In Oklahoma, where the budget gap equals 15 percent of the state budget, Democratic lawmakers are blocking a budget agreement because it doesn't pay for a nutrition program for senior citizens. Republicans warn that the stalemate will result in state trooper and prison guard furloughs, but Democrats say Republicans can find another way to free up the cash. Child welfare programs to prevent child abuse and neglect are also on the chopping blog in Oklahoma, and some say those programs have reduced abuse cases. But at least one lawmaker wants to cut tax exemptions, including those on corporations, instead. The effort could raise about $260 million, which isn't quite enough to cover the entire gap. Still, you probably won't see lawmakers increase taxes during a recession, despite evidence that it might hurt less than spending cuts. And the choice between worker furloughs and feeding senior citizens is a tough one. But at some point, the costs become more than monetary. Some goals are...

Studying the American Marriage.

A new study has found that, despite all the conservative hand-wringing over the decline in marriage, most couples who live together before marriage eventually get married. Two-thirds of marriages last 10 years, though that depends a lot on the couple: The factors that determine whether a marriage lasts have stayed the same over the past decade. You're more likely to hit the 10-year mark if you marry someone much like you: similar in race, background and education; if you're over 26; if you are college educated, with at least a bachelor's degree; and if you have a child during the marriage. Whether you have a college degree also makes a big difference on your income level, and apparently maturity matters despite all exhortations to the contrary. Lately, there have been a number of articles on marriage and women, particularly black women, as if the behavior of the American couple were fodder for a Discovery-channel nature show. But people don't get married because they're enacting some...

School Reform vs. School Choice.

A former champion of No Child Left Behind has written a book criticizing the policy as a failure, especially because it relies on standardized testing. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch also says school choice is a bad idea: "There should not be an education marketplace, there should not be competition," Ravitch says. "Schools operate fundamentally — or should operate — like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what's [been successful] for them. They're not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block." The idea of school choice fuels the charter school and voucher systems, and the hope is schools become better through a sense of competition. A steady, if unproven, criticism of school choice systems is that the best schools simply enroll the best students. Even if...

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