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

The Tao of Newt.

Newt Gingrich , the Republican Party's "man of ideas," has been all over the place in the last couple of days, coming up with inventive new arguments against health reform. First, he said that the attempt to pass reform constituted "suicidal hubris" on the part of Democrats, particularly since congressional staffers "who have never had a real job, who spent their entire life being arrogant to visitors from back home" are incapable of writing legislation. Then, he took up the issue of passing a fix to health-care reform through reconciliation, in which the Senate, like the House, would pass the bill when -- cover the children's ears -- a majority of the chamber's members voted for it . This is apparently an unconscionable act in a democracy, and Newt is sure that good Americans won't stand for it: "The United States is not going to tolerate a group of people trying apply kind of a Hugo Chavez majoritarian rule in the Senate," he said. You're only tempted to point out that Newt was...

Meddling Bureaucrats and the Health-Care Summit.

During the health-care summit, both Obama and Biden tried to make the point that both Republicans and Democrats agree that there should be some government regulation of health care; they're just disagreeing about exactly how much. As they observed, GOP members of Congress have signed on to certain kinds of regulation (the popular kinds), like ending recissions (where your insurance company kicks you off your policy when you get sick) and even outlawing denials for pre-existing conditions, which is a large change with serious implications. Nevertheless, Republican rhetoric in criticizing the Democrats' plan continues to be about "putting Washington in charge" of health-care decisions, "putting a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor," and so on. This is supposed to be in contrast to "letting patients and doctors decide." The problem is this last part -- they have a vision of a fantasy world where insurance companies don't exist. You go to your doctor, you and she decide on...

The Amazing Vegetable Oil Jet

TAP talks with The Department of Mad Scientists author Michael Belfiore about the government agency where being outlandish is part of the mission.

The DarkStar, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-designed unmanned aerial vehicle on display at the Smithsonian. (Flickr/Cliff 1066)
The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs , by science and technology journalist Michael Belfiore , takes readers behind the scenes at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which created things like GPS, stealth technology for airplanes, and real-time speech translation now being used by soldiers in Iraq. And oh yeah, the Internet. I spoke with Belfiore about his experience reporting on DARPA and what the agency is up to now. From reading your book, I got the impression that the folks at DARPA weren't all that happy about you nosing around. But it certainly seems they could do a better job of promoting themselves. Why don't they? I was told that about 50 percent of everything DARPA does is classified and thus, off limits to reporters. So the agency is used to working in secrecy; it's part of the culture there and almost reflexive in many ways. On the other hand, since the program managers who run the place turn...

The Fundamental Dynamic of the Health-Care Debate.

At today's Health Care Smackdown ("You'll pay for the whole seat -- but you'll only need the edge!") and in the postmortems, both sides will likely charge that the other side is being dishonest about their intentions. Democrats will say that Republicans are pretending that they are open to reform, but all they really want is to kill the bill, for reasons both substantive (they don't particularly think health care should be reformed) and political (they don't want Democrats to get a victory). For their part, Republicans will charge that Democrats pretend they are open to bipartisanship, but in truth they just want to pass their bill, and they don't care whether Republicans come along or not. And you know what? They're both right. And in this at least, they're both taking a legitimate position. It's perfectly fine for Republicans to oppose reform -- they're the opposition, after all. And they've opposed pretty much every attempt at health-care reform in the last seven decades. That's...

Reconciliation Context Alert!

NPR today, engaging in a shameless act of journalism, gives us some context on just how crazy and unprecedented it would be for Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process to enact changes to a piece of health-care legislation that has passed both houses of Congress (provided they can get the House to pass the Senate's version of health-care reform, this is the strategy Democrats will probably pursue to improve on the Senate's bill). Republicans are shocked, shocked that their opponents would contemplate such a thing -- after all, it's one thing to pass enormous tax cuts aimed at the wealthy through reconciliation, as they did when George W. Bush was president -- but it's something else to use the same majority-rule process for health care! But actually it isn't. As NPR's chart shows, health-care changes have been made through reconciliation plenty of times before, most notably with the creation of COBRA, the program that allows you to stay on your old employer's health plan...

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