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


If you're wondering why we only fear terrorism at airports, it's because al-Qaeda is failing.

Passengers wait at a security checkpoint at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. (Flickr/Josh Hallett)

During the 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry was asked what it would take for Americans to feel safe from terrorism. "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," he said. Comparing this potential future to the way we now feel about prostitution and organized crime, he went on, "It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

Ten Things to Watch in the Health-Care Reform Conference

It's not just about abortion and the public option. Every decision Congress faces while merging the Senate and House health bills will give it the opportunity to make reform better.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, accompanied by Sens. Tom Harkin and Barbara Mikulski, speaks during a health care news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Schoolhouse Rock undersold the excruciating difficulty involved in making a bill a law. As the health-care reform process nears its merciful end, many important questions must still be decided, most of which have received only passing attention by the media.

If you only watch television news, you might think that the conferees tasked with merging the House and Senate bills really only need to work out the public option and the abortion provisions. The truth, though, is that those matters are pretty much settled. There will be no public option, and the Senate's incredibly restrictive language on abortion will probably win out over the appallingly restrictive House version.

The Health-Care Ultimatum

Some progressives have called health-care reform without a public option worthless. Here's why they're wrong.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., talks with reporters following the announcement that he will support the health-care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

There is a classic economics experiment called the "ultimatum game," which demonstrates how our decision-making process isn't solely determined by rational calculations. In the experiment, one subject is usually given a small sum of money and told to divide it however he wants between himself and another subject. If the second subject accepts his offer, they both keep the cash. But if the second subject rejects the offer, neither of them gets anything. Rationality suggests that the second subject should accept any offer, since even $1 is better than nothing.

The Exchanges, the Mandate, and the Opt-Out.

I’ll be saying more about this in my column on Tuesday, but as this new uprising among progressives like Howard Dean, Markos Moulitsas, and Keith Olbermann against the health-care bill has emerged, much of the fire has been directed at the individual mandate, the requirement for everyone to be insured. This often takes the form of “people are going to be forced to buy crappy insurance from evil insurance companies, and they won’t have a public option.” While the last part is true, and the second part (about the companies being evil) is basically true, there are elements to the first part that haven’t been addressed enough.