Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The Debt-Ceiling Doomsday Device

Republicans threaten to bring down the economy if they don't get what they want.

Even if you're a political junkie, chances are you never gave much thought to the debt ceiling before the last couple of months. It was nothing more than an occasion, once a year or so, for a brief and little-noticed protest vote on the part of some members of the opposition party. They could make a floor speech about the administration's misplaced priorities, proclaim their hope that federal spending and taxes would be reordered to their liking, cast their not-so-dramatic no vote, and move on to the rest of the day's business. Members of both parties were able to cast this protest vote (as President Barack Obama did as a senator in 2006) safe in the knowledge that the increase would pass and no actual economic damage would result. But today, for the first time we stand in a place where Congress might actually fail to raise the debt ceiling, an action that could have truly catastrophic consequences. The debt ceiling will be raised -- of that, there is no question. The question is what...

Absolutely Intended to Be a Factual Column

It takes satire to hold a lying politician accountable.

Sen. Jon Kyl, of Arizona (AP Photo/Matt York)
Something unusual happened last week: A politician suffered harm to his public reputation for telling a lie. It happens less often than it ought to -- sit through even a single afternoon of cable news or a session on the floor of one of the houses of Congress, and you're bound to hear multiple false claims without anyone jumping up to object. Only rarely does anyone pay a real price for shading the truth or even telling an outright whopper. And the way this offender -- Republican Sen. Jon Kyl -- came to his comeuppance was what made it notable. Goodness knows, journalists have been looking for ways to get politicians to tell the truth for as long as politicians have been lying. Their efforts have been noble, serious, conscientious, and largely ineffective. So what happened to Kyl is something worthy of celebration. Friday before last, the Arizona senator went to the floor of the Senate to argue that Planned Parenthood should be banned from receiving Title X funds, which pay for a...

It's Only Going to Get Worse

By claiming credit for the $38.5 billion cut in federal spending, President Obama has bought into Republicans' government-gutting agenda.

President Obama at the White House after averting a government shutdown last Friday (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
When you listen to Barack Obama these days, it sometimes seems as though his words are crafted with the intention of driving those who were once his most passionate supporters crazy. So after agreeing under threat of a government shutdown to painful cuts to domestic programs, he goes in front of the cameras and hails "the largest annual spending cut in our history," as though that were a good thing. And before the deal was worked out, Obama said repeatedly that the controversy represented "the usual Washington politics" -- in other words, just some partisan bickering, of which one can assume both parties are equally guilty. But there is nothing "usual" about the project Republicans have undertaken, as unwilling as the president and many Democrats are to say it out loud. The truth is that we are witnessing something consequential. Two years ago, the GOP adopted a brand of unprecedented procedural radicalism by filibustering any and every piece of legislation in the Senate, and now they...

It Gets Harder and Harder to Be a Republican

With an ever-expanding list of Republican dogmas to adhere to, it's not just harder to stay in the party -- it's harder to win a general election.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
In 1986, a young anti-tax activist had an idea. What if instead of just encouraging legislators not to raise taxes, you made them promise never to do so? And made them actually sign their names to such an agreement? After all, if they accepted, they would be bound by the promise (at least politically), and if they refused, they could be accused of harboring secret pro-tax fantasies, something no good Republican would want. And so, that young activist -- Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform -- unveiled The Pledge , a campaign asking legislators to sign a document promising that they would "ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." Yes, you read that last part right -- they even had to swear not to eliminate loopholes. Twenty-five years later, The Pledge is going strong...

Elitism Is for Real

The question shouldn't be whether politicians are elite. It's what they do that matters.

(Flickr/Dave77459)
The most popular book in America right now is the inspiring true story of a 4-year-old boy who visited heaven during his emergency appendectomy. Upon recovering, young Colton Burpo told his parents about how he had met Jesus, who rides on a "rainbow horse." His father, an evangelical pastor, was astonished. The boy's story couldn't possibly be the product of a dream or his imagination -- after all, there are "rainbow colors described in the book of Revelation, which is hardly preschool material," and Colton described Jesus as having marks on his hands and feet. How would a 4-year-old living in a pastor's house have picked up that information? Heaven Is For Real is No. 1 both on Amazon and on The New York Times bestseller list of combined print and e-book nonfiction lists. Apparently, millions of Americans find the story so compelling that they will gladly hand over 10 bucks or so to pore over all its 163 large-type pages revealing glorious truths about the nature of existence. If I...

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