Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

What Campaign Cash Buys

Just how much will the unprecedented amount of corporate money poured into ad buys this election matter?

Citizens United President David Bossie outside the Supreme Court after it ruled on the campaign-finance reform case (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
"If men were angels," James Madison wrote in Federalist #51 , "no government would be necessary." And if Americans were attentive and informed about the workings of government and current debates about policy, campaigns would barely be necessary. We could just peruse the documents on candidates' websites, read their résumés, perhaps watch a debate or two, and we'd all know for whom to vote. Contemplate that fantasy world for a moment, then turn on your TV for the 6 o'clock local news if you happen to be in a state with a contested Senate or governor's race this year. What you'll see, of course, is a deluge of advertising, telling you why a person seeking office is either the embodiment of all human virtue or a vile character quite possibly spit out from the very fires of hell. What's different this election season is the sheer volume of ads, driven higher than ever by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision issued earlier this year. In striking down the McCain-Feingold campaign-...

No Retreat, No Surrender.

If Democrats end up losing the House next week, as seems likely (though not certain), it's obviously going to bring a period of calm, reason, and cooperation to Washington. Just kidding, of course -- as I argued last week, the Republicans who get elected are going to be even more conservative than the already extremely conservative caucus, and less willing to compromise. Not only that, the ones who've been around for a while will be terrified of getting a primary challenge from the right, and so will be even more likely to give in to their base's demands. And what will they be demanding? No compromise with the administration on anything, which in practice will mean shutting down the government. As Jon Chait pointed out on Friday, the Republican leadership presumably knows that shutting down the government is a really bad idea, but they may not be able to resist the demands from their base not to sign on to any Obama-approved budget. And that's what shutting down the government means...

Disgust and Democrats.

Yesterday's New York Times contained an interesting article by a couple of psychologists detailing some experiments they've done on the political effects of disgust: In an experiment conducted recently by Erik Helzer, a Cornell Ph.D. student, and one of us (David Pizarro), merely standing near a hand-sanitizing dispenser led people to report more conservative political beliefs. Participants who were randomly positioned in front of a hand sanitizer gave more conservative responses to a survey about their moral, social and fiscal attitudes than those individuals assigned to complete the questionnaire at the other end of the hallway. In another experiment one of us (Dr. Pizarro) was involved in, a foul ambient smell — emitted, unbeknownst to test subjects, by a novelty spray — caused people answering a questionnaire to report more negative attitudes toward gay men than did people who responded in the absence of the stench. Apparently, the slightest signal that germs might be present is...

More on Being Evil.

To follow up on Tim 's post below: One complaint conservatives often make about American tax rates is that the corporate rate is so high (35 percent) that it prevents investment and destroys jobs. Liberals counter that 35 percent may be the nominal rate, but once corporations are done exploiting all the loopholes, they don't pay anything near that. In fact, many don't pay anything at all. Let's take General Electric -- they made $10.3 billion in profits in 2009, and how much did they pay in taxes? Nothing. Or rather, you paid them -- they got a $1.1 billion rebate from the IRS. ExxonMobil, which made a profit of $45.2 billion, paid taxes in other countries, but not a penny to Uncle Sam ( read more here ). But before you start thinking that it's just oil companies, defense contractors, and other corporate meanies who demonstrate this lack of patriotism, take a look at who else does it : Google Inc. cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most...

If the Dunce Cap Fits...

The young'uns among our readers may not remember, but a few years back there was this show called The West Wing , in which a president who was not only a liberal intellectual -- a Nobel Prize-winning economist at that -- but also extraordinarily eloquent, principled, and politically savvy, went about pursuing liberal goals and meeting crises with aplomb. It was a liberal fantasy, since President Bartlett was everything we wanted a president to be. And in one series of episodes, Bartlett actually went after his opponent for re-election for being a simpleton who advocated simplistic solutions to complex problems. Here's a sample: OK, we all know that isn't how things really go. But I have to object to this article in Politico by Ben Smith, which goes after Democrats for criticizing their opponents for being simpletons who advocate simplistic solutions to complex problems. The main piece of evidence seems to be that liberals will be attending the Stewart/Colbert rally, and "in doing so,...

Pages