The 2012 presidential race will be dominated by discussion of the economy -- why it collapsed in 2008, why it continues to struggle, and what we might do to improve it. Since Republicans are generally opposed to large-scale government intervention to improve things, their solutions tend to revolve around taxes. They'll say that cutting government spending and trimming regulations will help, and they'll justify various other policy moves they favor in economic terms, but in today's GOP, taxes is where the economic action is.
Last week, the housing market took another dive. Unemployment remained at about 9 percent, where it's hovered since January, and the economy added just 54,000 jobs -- far fewer than expected. The private sector added 83,000 new jobs, but continued government layoffs pushed the net number down.
Last week, the federal government announced an unprecedented funding commitment of $216 million to programs -- old and new, rural and urban -- designed to alleviate homelessness nationwide. The grants exceed last year's total by $26 million, with more than $16 million for novel approaches.
Last week, we experienced a funny study in our public dialogue on race. On Monday, a video of Chris Rock -- in which he discussed how backward it is to say the nation had made "progress" in racial relations because, in fact, white people had "become less crazy" -- went viral. By Thursday, Donald Trump was bragging about his solid relationship with "the Blacks."
Perhaps this week Chris Rock will have to release a statement rescinding his previous vote of confidence in "the Whites" and while he's at it, apologize to disability rights activist who have long been fighting for people to stop using words like "crazy."
"You campaign in poetry and govern in prose" is a pretty fair adage for delineating the poles of political life, and it most surely delineates the poles of Barack Obama's presidency. Few presidents have been able to evoke visions of a decent society as well as he, and particularly as well as he did in his speech yesterday afternoon at George Washington University. The America that Obama argued for is a socially cohesive America, a land where we rise and fall together as beneficiaries not only of our own labors but of the labors of others and the collective labors of the nation, fostered, funded and in some cases performed by its government.
(Former Congressman Tony Hall/The Alliance to End Hunger)
In 1993, when Tony Hall was serving as a congressman from Ohio, he fasted for 22 days to protest the elimination of the House Select Committee on Hunger. That effort led to the establishment of the Congressional Hunger Center, an advocacy organization that educates members of Congress on hunger issues, and an increase in aid to the United Nations World Food Programme. So, when Republicans began threatening to cut $32 billion from the federal budget, with the cuts hitting anti-poverty programs the hardest, Hall decided to fast again.
Give Paul Ryan credit. When word leaked last week that the House Budget Committee chair's vision for an austere 2012 would primarily rely on some $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years to Medicaid, the federal program that provides health care to the poor and disabled, the conventional wisdom was that he was taking the easy way out. Poor people, after all, don't vote Republican, and ever since the GOP started pandering to the elderly voters they increasingly depend upon -- remember the screams of "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" at countless town halls? -- it seemed that Republicans had decided it was better not to poke the sleeping bear: cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Conservative Democrat Mike Ross of Arkansas (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Blue Dog Coalition -- a group of self-identified moderate Democrats in Congress -- has become the latest group trying to establish its bona fides as "serious" about reducing the deficit. Echoing Republican calls for austerity as we face the worse economic recession since the Great Depression, earlier this week, the coalition released its own proposal to rein in "out of control" federal spending. But as with Republican blueprints that also call for drastic cuts to discretionary spending, the Blue Dog plan offers little hope of ensuring real economic stability.
Each morning, Sherita Rooney wakes up around 6 a.m. She gets her 14-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son ready for the day. She makes breakfast and gets her children to school before driving an hour to West Chester University outside of Philadelphia, where she recently transferred after graduating from Montgomery County Community College.
Every day is difficult, but Tuesdays are especially so. She works from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. before class from 2 to 7. She picks up her kids, then brings them home and puts them to bed. As a math education major, she takes challenging classes that keep her up late studying. She goes to sleep around 2 each night. The next day, she gets up and does it over again.
Fred Stokes is a former cattle rancher who now runs a small family farm, mostly for his own use, in Mississippi. Stokes' county, Kemper, has only about 10,000 people, and Stokes, who is 76, says his small town has been shrinking; all the farmers are aging, most of the agricultural land is owned by one company, and it's almost impossibly hard to make a living as a rural American. "I'm not one of those who wants to reconstruct the Little House on the Prairie and be overly romantic," he says. "Mainly, I see the landscape being restructured in a very negative way."
A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love With Rebellion in Postwar America, Grace Elizabeth Hale, Oxford University Press, 386 pages, $29.95
Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America, John McMillian Oxford University Press, 277 pages, $27.95
Around 1950, Americans began to see signs of a new kind of discontent. A generation of young rebels started popping up in fiction and films -- Holden Caulfield, the characters played by Marlon Brando and James Dean -- who were fleeing from or revolting against the phoniness of American life and white middle-class adulthood.
After the policemen had sodomized the bus driver with a broomstick, and after one of the officers had sent a cell-phone video of the attack to other bus drivers in downtown Cairo to make clear that the cops could do as they pleased, and after someone had given the video to Wael Abbas, who posted it on his blog, something unusual happened -- at
A Nigerian oil disaster (Flickr/Sosialistisk Ungdom -- SU)
As the world's eyes remain fixed on political change in the Arab world, it's worth looking back to where the crisis began -- unrest over higher food prices in grain-importing countries -- to get a sense of the fundamental challenges facing the region. In the short term, the run-up in food prices was mostly driven by bad harvests in Russia and Australia. In a deeper sense, however, raising prices for both food and other commodities such as oil are all driven by a fundamental shift in the world's pattern of economic growth.
Kelly Wood offers her guest a cup of tea from a kettle already boiling on the stove, a gesture that is automatic here in Burlington, Vermont. Nothing, though, could make this condo in a modest subdivision homier than it already is. A thin layer of dog hair on the couch matches the beige living-room carpet. Gardening books line a shelf next to the stairwell, ready to be consulted before Wood digs up the compact backyard.
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses a panel on women's health and security at the U.N. Women's Conference in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1995. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
In 1995, then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stood before the U.N. Women's Conference and declared, "Women's rights are human rights." It was a profoundly radical assertion. A little over 15 years later, it's accepted wisdom.
(And, not to be overlooked, that first lady in a cotton-candy-pink suit and a long blond flip is now the secretary of state who tells reporters to keep their questions to themselves when they ask her who her favorite designer is.)