Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Better than Bernie

Rick Perry might think Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme," but if it is, it's one that has kept generations of senior citizens out of poverty.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Judith Odyssey sets up her weekly medication, in Hartford, Maine. Odyssey, who has congestive heart problems, fibromyalgia, asthma, and arthritis, gets $674 a month in Social Security.
On January 31, 1940, the United States government cut a check for $22.54 to a 65-year-old woman from Rutland, Vermont, named Ida May Fuller. Ms. Fuller, who had spent most of her career as a legal secretary, was the first American to receive a monthly Social Security check. Millions upon millions of those checks have gone out since, protecting older Americans from the fate that characterized old age prior to Social Security's creation: an almost inevitable descent into poverty that made retirement anything but "the golden years." As we enter a new round of debates on the program -- in a context in which the Republican Party's zeal for undoing it is greater than it has been in some time -- it is critical that we understand what Social Security has accomplished, the philosophy it embodies, and what its actual challenges are. The attack on Social Security depends for its victory on misunderstandings about the program's success and what shape it is in now. If enough people can be fooled...

Get Out the Hate

A lot of political participation is driven by simple dislike for the opposing party.

(Flickr/Jordan Davis)
As much as we bemoan our polarized politics, dislike for one's political opponents is one of the most powerful engines that drives political participation. It isn't necessarily wrong to be mad or think that the other side is nuts -- all of us do, at some point or another. But that belief can lead partisans to some places that don't do them any favors when it comes to making their case to the public. We saw how last week, when the most memorable moment of a Republican presidential debate came not from one of the candidates but from the audience. As part of a question to Rick Perry about Texas's administration of the death penalty, Brian Williams noted that during Perry's tenure, the state has executed 234 prisoners, more than under any governor in America since the death penalty was restored. At the mention of this statistic, the crowd of Republicans burst into applause. Some commentators saw this as an expression of bloodlust, the evidence of something dark and ugly within the souls...

Glory Days

Forget women voting, civil rights, workplace protection -- conservatives want to bring back the 19th century.

If Democrats and Republicans agree on anything, it's that the other side is radical. Each party looks at the other and sees people driven by a dangerous ideology that would prove disastrous were it to be realized. There may be no precise measure of radicalism that everyone can agree on, but there are a few clear markers. Radical ideas are, when introduced, usually supported by only a small minority of people. They propose to fundamentally alter things, not by making adjustments to the existing order but by transforming it. They would affect large numbers of people, if not everyone, and do so in profound ways. Radical ideas can be wise or foolish, and of course, they're a moving target; today's radical idea becomes tomorrow's mainstream position, or vice versa. The current Republican Party has embraced radicalism in full, adopting goals that just a few years ago many in their own party would have found shocking. A longtime GOP congressional staffer wrote last week upon retiring that...

I Welcome Their Hatred

Shooting a guy in the face, and other stories from Dick Cheney.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Dick Cheney's In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir is a book as dull and unimaginative as its title. Readers wouldn't have expected the former vice president and his daughter Liz (his co-author) to be a pair of subtle prose stylists, and they won't be disappointed. Slog through the early chapters on Cheney's life growing up in Wyoming (he fished, he played football), and you'll eventually reach more momentous events, which Cheney is able to render equally lifeless. That's in part because of the way Cheney confronts the controversies that have attended so much of his public life. His descriptions of events tend to run as follows: Some things happened. Our critics said we were wrong. But they don't know what they're talking about, because we were right. Nevertheless, interesting tidbits pop up now and then, when scores are settled, enemies are skewered, and one can detect the occasional flash of something resembling human emotion. Herewith, some excerpts to relieve you of the...

Lucky Duckies In the Crosshairs

Ed Kilgore explains that the working poor have become the new "welfare queens": Underlying this assault, there seems to be a current of genuine anger at the working families who no longer receive "welfare as we knew it," but remain beneficiaries of some form of redistribution, even if it’s only progressive tax rates. You can debate back and forth endlessly about whether there is a racial element in this hostility, as there definitely was in the old "welfare wedge" politics. The iron-clad conviction of many conservatives that race-conscious federal housing policies caused the housing and financial meltdowns is not an encouraging sign, in any case. But it is clear that the social peace so many anticipated in 1996—after it had been established that no one receiving public assistance could be accused of refusing to work—has now been broken. Work is no longer enough, it seems, to avoid the moral taint of being a "welfare bum." The only thing that's missing is a pithy moniker to refer to...