Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger, and a contributing editor. 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

Super-Competent Citizens and Tax Policy

(Flickr/ amagill ) Jonathan Chait has been having a back-and-forth with some folks at National Review over whether tax cuts during a recession should be temporary or permanent. What I find interesting about conservatives' arguments on matters like this is that they seem to think that Americans are extraordinarily sensitive to even the smallest changes in tax rates, and make dramatically different personal decisions based on things like whether a tax cut they've been given is permanent or will sunset in a few years. Problem is, this conception of people's awareness of taxes -- that among the things they use to make their consumer decisions is whether they think a tax cut will sunset in five years -- is just absurd. Quick: what was the marginal rate you paid last year? Do you know? Unless you're an accountant or a tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, chances are you have only the most general idea. If your next paycheck was a bit higher, you'd notice, but the idea that you'd...

Waterwhating?

Andrew Sullivan points us to a paper demonstrating that until the American government started doing it, waterboarding was almost always referred to as "torture" in elite American newspapers, but in the time since, it is almost never referred to as "torture" -- for example, from the 1930s to 2003, The New York Times referred to it as "torture" on 44 of 54 occasions, or 81.5 percent; but between 2004 and 2008, they referred to it as "torture" in only 2 of 143 articles, or 1.4 percent. This shouldn't be all that surprising if you've been paying attention, but it does highlight something important about our media. It isn't just cowardice -- it's not as though they said, "Now that the administration has decreed waterboarding to no longer be torture, we must describe it thusly." Instead, it shows how it's possible for one of the two parties -- especially if they're unified, and Republicans were on this point -- to almost instantaneously change the terms of debate. Once Republicans decided...

But Seriously, Folks ...

One of the ways we criticize people on the other side is to say they aren't "serious" about some policy matter, or about policy in general. Even though I've used it myself, it's a problematic thing to say, because what it essentially says is, "There is no need to listen to anything this person says." People who thought it was a bad idea to invade Iraq were derided for lacking seriousness about foreign affairs, for instance, a claim usually made by those who turned out to be spectacularly, embarrassingly wrong about the thing they were claiming such seriousness about. Nevertheless, we are now confronted with an entire army of people running for office who seem rather unserious when it comes to the whole "making laws" thing. They seem to be so intensely ideological that they haven't bothered to think about policy. When you start asking them questions, they very quickly reveal themselves to have a shockingly superficial understanding of things. So after Rand Paul reveals his own...

Vote for Me, Because Pshew Pshew Pshew!

This (via Andrew Sullivan ) is my new favorite campaign ad of 2010, for one Pamela Gorman , who's running for a congressional seat in Arizona. Watch, and then we'll discuss: Except for the "I'm Pamela Gorman and I approve this message" at the end, Gorman is mute during the ad, either staring glassy-eyed into the camera or shooting guns of various types. In fact, there are no fewer than six separate shots of her shooting. While we do learn that she hates taxes -- a real policy issue! -- what this ad is mostly about is that Pamela Gorman loves shooting. Let's all look at her shooting. There she is, shooting. Am I the only one who sees this and thinks of those videos in the bargain bin at Blockbuster with titles like "Hot Chicks and AKs" that consist of nothing but girls in bikinis shooting assault rifles? You can call that sexist, but if you think the ad's producers didn't have something like that in mind, then I've got a bridge you might be interested in. It isn't easy to come up with...

Congressional Staffers: Just Like Us? Who Knew!

Matt Yglesias calls this article in Politico "the most pointless article ever written," and it would be hard to disagree. I'll save you a click: It's about how a young man who works for a member of Congress decided to make himself a home-cooked pizza last weekend. Yes, that's really what it's about. Is it a parody? It wouldn't be out of place at The Onion , although they would have given it a bit more verve -- perhaps something like, "Local Man Ignores Crushing Meaninglessness of Existence in a Godless Universe, Makes Pizza." Bear with me here -- I'm going to pull something out of this, just you wait. This article appears on Politico 's "Click" site, which bills itself as "The premier destination for news and gossip on D.C.'s social scene." Here's the thing about gossip, though. To grab our attention, gossip should be about events that are inherently interesting -- a sordid tale of betrayal and murder, say -- or it should be mundane but involve inherently interesting people. Hollywood...

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