Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier, who teaches politics at Occidental College, is the author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

The Campus Anti-Sweatshop Movement

Each year of the past five, the annual survey of national freshman attitudes conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles has hit a new record low with students who say it is important to keep up with political affairs. At 26 percent this year, it was down from 58 percent when the survey was first done in 1966. —Boston Globe, February 15, 1999 From: Arne David Ekstrom To: usas@listbot.com [United Students Against Sweatshops listserve] Date: Thursday, April 29, 1999 Subject: U of Arizona STUDENTS AGAINST SWEATSHOPS SIT-IN CONTINUES For those of you who are wondering, the University of Arizona sit-in is STILL GOING ON! We have reached a USAS record of 200 hours and still counting. Negotiations are still going slowly although progress is being made. We could still most definitely use your support in the form of emails, phone calls, and letters. Morale tends to go up and down but support ALWAYS keeps it high! our cell phone: (520) 400-1066 (somewhat unreliable) our email:...

Housing Policy's Moment of Truth

In Washington these days, HUD is about as popular as mosquitoes. But there's a way to make housing more affordable without the old bureaucracy.

A t least one million Americans, including an increasing number of children and working adults, are homeless at some point each year. About half of young families can't afford the American dream of homeownership. Yet both the Clinton administration and congressional Republicans favor dismantling long-standing housing programs for the poor, and some in Congress want to eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) altogether. The moment of truth for federal housing policy has arrived. Hardly anyone can be found to defend the agency. "Politically, HUD is about as popular as smallpox," reports the Washington Post . The department is typically associated with public housing projects, big cities, and the welfare poor, and under Reagan and Bush it became identified with mismanagement and corruption. So conservatives get to look like good-government reformers, even as they throw out the housing baby with the HUD bathwater. The United States devotes more than $100 billion a...

Wild Pitch

For baseball players and fans, winter is the "off-season." But for team owners and their executives, it is the season for deal making. As most fans are looking back on another season of what might have been (except for New York Yankee fans, who get to savor another World Series victory), the deal makers are looking to the future. Usually they have their eye on this question: How might we make more money? Bring in new superstars? Charge more for tickets? Build more luxury skyboxes? Tear down the old stadium? A great part of baseball's allure has to do with its sense of history. But in the business offices, an "out with the old, in with the new" attitude prevails. This is the case even in historic Boston, where the owners of the Red Sox are now drafting plans to tear down Fenway Park and to build a new ballpark. As a baseball fan and former Boston city official, I heard of these developments and wanted to cry, "Say it ain't so." Boston enjoyed a tremendous season, with the Red Sox...

Seismic Stimulus: The California Quake's Creative Destruction

The earth literally had to move to jolt Congress into passing a stiumulus package -- and to lift California out of recession.

In April 1993, Congress rejected President Clinton's proposal for $16 billion of economic stimulus and public investment. Opponents attacked it as pork barrel politics, tax-and-spend liberalism, and a budget-buster. Yet a year later, the same Congress easily passed a series of Clinton proposals to increase the fiscal deficit by spending $9.5 billion on emergency assistance and public works for Southern California. The difference, of course, was the Los Angeles earthquake, an event that revealed a great deal about the nation's ideological fault lines. The disaster that rocked Southern California in January was the costliest in U.S. history. Sixty-one people died. More than 9,000 were injured. The quake destroyed more than $15 billion of property, including 21,000 housing units. It devastated highways in the nation's most auto-dependent region. The federal government provided disaster relief for Southern California, duplicating and expanding actions it took after the Midwest, South...

Moving From the 'Hood: The Mixed Success of Integrating Suburbia

In theory, dispersing the poor to better suburban schools, jobs, and housing was a bipartisan alternative to housing projects and ghetto unemployment. But, surprise, nobody wanted them in the neighborhood.

S axophone player Bill Clinton and blues legend Luther Allison haven't conferred on urban policy, but both are singing the same tune. In his new song, "Move From the 'Hood," Allison wails: I know some of you are doin' your best; You want a good job, not a welfare check. But you gotta move; You gotta move from the 'hood. As politicians and policy analysts revisited the thorny problems of urban poverty in recent years, they seemed to be arriving at a rare consensus: Poor people are hurt by their concentration in large, inner-city neighborhoods that further social isolation and racial segregation. In this view, it would be better to disperse poor people and minorities, putting them in closer proximity to jobs, decent suburban schools, and safe communities. This idea of helping individuals, rather than funneling aid to localities, came to be known as helping "people, not places." In principle, this approach enjoyed bipartisan support. As an instrument of integration and community renewal...

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