Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

Trying Times

The capture of Saddam Hussein may have implications beyond giving President George W. Bush a modest ratings boost. It raises questions about whether the U.S. government can guarantee (or even wants to give) a fair trial to a one-time collaborator. As was true with former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Suharto of Indonesia and a score of others, Hussein used state power to commit criminal acts. And like his fellow dictators, Saddam Hussein, the human-rights abuser, enjoyed decisive support from Washington -- while he was useful. For Bush, a nightmarish scenario looms: Hussein on the stand before the November elections, spilling the proverbial beans about his 1980s relations with current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. As President Ronald Reagan's emissary to Iraq, Rumsfeld, according to declassified documents, helped Hussein acquire material for his weapons of mass destruction. A now-ubiquitous photo shows Rumsfeld shaking Hussein's hand...

Foot Fault

Phil Knight, Nike's founder and CEO, just lost a major court battle over his company's allegedly misleading ads about conditions in its overseas factories. Then Nike agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement to what the media called a "worker rights" group that monitors sweatshops. So how did Knight and Nike escape more or less unscathed from the entire episode? The group in question is called the Fair Labor Association (FLA); it is controlled by the apparel industry, including Nike, which is represented on FLA's 15-member board along with Reebok, Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Liz Claiborne and Polo Ralph Lauren. In other words, Nike -- the world's largest athletic shoe company, with annual revenues of $10.7 billion -- is handing a $1.5 million check to the fox for guarding the chicken coop. Most major media outlets in the country (and many others throughout the world) reported on the settlement, but we could find only one -- the San Francisco Chronicle -- that didn't miss the irony. To be...

Presidential Legacy

President George W. Bush was an affirmative-action beneficiary, at Yale University and then at Harvard Business School. Now he wants the University of Michigan to end its policy of considering applicants' race, among other factors, in admitting students. According to Bush, this approach "amounts to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based on their race." Bush was admitted to Yale in 1964 under an affirmative-action policy for children of alumni -- what colleges call a "legacy" system. Legacy preferences still exist , of course, at most selective schools, including Michigan and Yale. But they no longer carry quite the same weight they did at schools such as Yale, Princeton University and Harvard University when Bush was applying to colleges in 1964. The president never released his high-school grades from Andover -- an elite New England prep school that his father had also attended -- or his SAT scores. But several years ago, The New Yorker got hold...

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...

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