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

Immigration Returns

President Obama's call for reform is putting the hot topic back on the map. Can he shift the rhetoric?

President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform at American University in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The American public was fed up with hordes of aliens pouring into the country, speaking foreign tongues and threatening to take jobs from native-born citizens. So Congress took decisive action, and passed the Emergency Quota Act. It was 1921, and the new law, designed to solve the country's immigration problem, limited immigration from any one country to 3 percent of the population from that country counted in the 1910 census -- so if there were 100,000 immigrants from a particular nation already here, then only 3,000 more could be admitted per year. But countries in the Western Hemisphere were exempt -- as many Canadians as wanted could immigrate, and the doors were wide open to Mexicans, Salvadorans, Brazilians, and everyone else from Latin America. At the time, the invaders that threatened to dilute the American character were thought to come from our east (especially southern Europe) and west (China) but not our north and south. It was neither the first nor last time that concerns...

The Varieties of Nazi Analogies

Adam has touched on this, but here's a bit more Nazi analogies: If the Internet has brought us anything, it's the opportunity to contemplate the nature of Nazi analogies at length. But yesterday's argument about it is actually instructive. Briefly: Jeffrey Goldberg defends the invasion of Iraq by noting that the Kurds were quite pleased by it; Glenn Greenwald criticizes Goldberg by noting that every invasion, including those perpetrated by the Nazi regime, found some people in the invaded country who welcomed it; Joe Klein , with whom Greenwald has a pre-existing feud, goes crazy on Greenwald for comparing America to Nazi Germany. Kevin Drum sensibly notes that we shouldn't say a priori that all Nazi analogies are out of bounds. There are really two kinds of Nazi analogies that are worth distinguishing here. The first is the meta-argument, which goes something like this: You have argued X. Your argument is unpersuasive, because I could take that principle and use it to defend...

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...

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