Monica Potts

Monica Potts is an Arkansas-based writer, currently writing a book about the women of her rural hometown.

Recent Articles

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...

Making Homes Affordable.

HUD announced yesterday that it would give grants to nonprofit agencies that help low-income families buy, build, or rehab new homes. In exchange for grants averaging $15,000 per dwelling, each homeowner has to volunteer 100 hours in work on the home. The idea, called sweat equity, is one that Habitat for Humanity, one of the recipients, has implemented for a long time. Relying in part on volunteer labor is a real way to make housing more affordable. That, plus the federal grants that go directly toward housing, is obviously a better way to ensure families can afford to buy homes than relying solely on mortgage lenders to do so. It certainly won't solve the problem of low-income housing, but it can help. -- Monica Potts

Daddy Issues

Obama is putting action behind years of talk about fatherhood and poverty.

(White House/Pete Souza)
Of the many biographical details that shaped Barack Obama as a political figure, perhaps none is more prominent than the absence of his father during his upbringing. The president's public effort to understand Barack Obama Sr. began with the publication of his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father , shortly after he finished his term as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review . In the book, Obama describes how difficult it was to grow up without a relationship to his Kenyan father, the man who gave him a name and a heritage but was not around to help him navigate America's complicated racial divide. In The Audacity of Hope , written after he became a senator, Obama describes his own struggles as a political father who is often physically separated from his family. At the height of the Democratic primary in 2008, Obama gave a Father's Day address at a predominantly black Chicago church. Single-parent homes are more common in the black community, and his speech encouraged young...

College on Credit Cards.

Many view the Credit CARD Act provisions that prohibit those under 21 from getting cards if they don't have an income or a parent to co-sign as the kind of law they wish they'd had. But that depends upon the idea that college students are only digging big holes for themselves during those four years, and the years immediately following, without a good reason. We imagine college students are only using credit cards to make excessive, irresponsible purchases. But not everyone is going into debt to buy TVs, clothes, or trips to Cancun. Some may use them to buy books and plane tickets home. Youth Radio's Asha Richardson reminds me that many students might face a real need for a credit card. The new rules can certainly save college students from unwise financial choices. But Richardson asks : As a first year college student I think it’s a great idea, except what about students whose parents don’t have good credit? Will they have to wait until they are older and will their parents credit...