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

Getting Women to Run for Office.

Dana Golstein interviewed the new president of Emily's List , the group that raises money for progressive female candidates, about the dearth of women in political office. While Stephanie Schriock says that women aren't obligated to vote for women who run for office, she points out the stark numbers showing just how important it is to vote for women, who make up only 17 percent of Congress. While giving money to selected candidates early can help women overcome daunting fundraising barriers, there are still many reasons women aren't highly represented in politics. In a 2008 paper, Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox wrote that there's a gender ambition gap in electoral politics: We link this persistent gender gap in political ambition to several factors. Women are less likely than men to be willing to endure the rigors of a political campaign. They are less likely than men to be recruited to run for office. They are less likely than men to have the freedom to reconcile work and family...

Court Fees, Sales Taxes, and Other Regressive Ways to Balance a Budget.

A sheriff in Lawrence County, Arkansas, is working to collect $500,000 in unpaid court fees from those previously convicted of felonies, according to an Associated Press story. If they don't pay, they could be jailed. This type of push by local and state courts began a year ago. The New York Times reported a story from Florida about the state's efforts to crack down on those who don't pay fines as a way to close budget gaps. Many states considered following Florida's lead. The Times told the story of Valerie Gainous , a single mother of four who wrote bad checks. She had otherwise paid her restitution and performed community service, but she faced going to jail over $240. If society decides it's important to prosecute those who write bad checks, then society should pay for it. But charging court fees on top of meting out punishment helps hide the true cost of pursuing that prosecution. It also targets a state's poorest citizens, and it doesn't raise a lot of money. And it's just...

Lifting Wages With Government Money.

As part of his effort to reform the way government contracts are rewarded, Obama plans to favor companies that offer higher wages and better benefits packages in government contracts, reports the New York Times . It would also reinstate controls started by Clinton and rolled back by Bush that prevent the government from doing business with companies that frequently violate regulations. Not surprisingly, the plan is drawing fire from business groups, who say it's an excuse to reward big labor and will hurt small businesses. What's most astounding, though, is how this policy can have the effect of pushing wages up across the economy: Because nearly one in four workers is employed by companies that have contracts with the federal government, administration officials see the plan as a way to shape social policy and lift more families into the middle class. It would affect contracts like those awarded to make Army uniforms, clean federal buildings and mow lawns at military bases. John...

Defending the Poor.

The Justice Department has launched a program to help states bolster and repair their legal defense systems for people who cannot afford a lawyer. While all states have a system in place for indigent defense, as it's known, the design of the programs and their quality vary from state to state. A Harvard constitutional lawyer, Laurence Tribe , will head the effort: During a speech at a recent indigent defense symposium in Washington, D.C., Attorney General Eric Holder said the system is in 'crisis.' The conference was the first such Justice Department-sponsored event in a decade. To support it, the federal government paid to fly more than 200 indigent defense experts from around the country to Washington. 'Some might wonder what the United States attorney general is doing at a conference largely about the defense that poor people receive in state and local courts,' Holder told the symposium audience. 'Although they may stand on different sides of an argument, different sides of a...

The Tea Party Grievance.

E.D. Kain protests the sometimes elitist dismissals of tea-party folks, and -- as Jamelle Bouie points out -- some of what he says is fair. But Kain sets up an either/or dichotomy. Either you believe the tea partiers have valid concerns, or you think they're racists. Both ignore the possibility that the tea partiers' have concerns that sound valid and aren't explicitly racist, but are rooted in a history that is. Kain writes: Is it possible that people in general have simply been more in control over their own destinies in the past, making most of their decisions at a local or state level? Then, as the federal government becomes increasingly stronger and more pervasive, that local and community control becomes more and more diminished? This isn’t a question of power over others, then, but one of power over ourselves. But what Jamelle argues against, and what I co-sign on, is how Kain ignores the racist underpinning in local determinism: But for all the sympathy I have for rural whites...

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