From the Executive Editor
For as long as the U.S. economy has been in recession, we?ve heard the call, "We need another WPA" -- a massive, government-funded job-creation effort. Editor-at-Large Harold Meyerson decided to find out why it hasn?t happened: Is it just a failure of political courage, or are there larger obstacles? Much has changed since the days when New Dealer Harry Hopkins could simply will into existence a program that put more than 4 million people to work, but we still need to think in ambitious terms.
In this month's special report on financial regulation, some of the most prominent voices in that field -- including Elizabeth Warren and Simon Johnson?outline the long-term agenda for reform, beyond the current legislation. And Tim Fernholz explores New York City?s groundbreaking effort to create a safe, simple banking option so that lower-income people can save for the future rather than become the victims of financial exploitation.
For her first full-length feature in the magazine, Web Editor Phoebe Connelly wonders what happened to the public discussion of safe sex and finds that, indeed, between general complacency and conservative projects such as abstinence-only education that pushed honest discussion of sex back behind closed doors, safer sex has fallen off the agenda, with consequences for young people?s health.
Finally, first-time contributor Jessica Weisberg traces the history that has created an odd political coalition -- a handful of small organizations that call for curtailing immigration for what they consider environmentalist reasons. It?s a fascinating saga that goes back to the green movement?s 1970s concerns about overpopulation and a single figure who has fostered one organization after another to promote this view, aligning himself with white nationalists along the way. -- Mark Schmitt
Responding to Peter Dreier's piece ("Lessons from the Health-Care Wars"), Michael Karpman at the blog Democratize the Progressive Movement has a less sanguine take on the efficacy of progressive organizing: "The health care battle shed light on just how ineffective the progressive movement is, particularly if you look outside of the labor movement. Sometimes, I feel like there has been a lot of smoke and mirrors in portraying the passage of health care reform as some sort of miracle. This portrayal obscures the fact that for more than a year, we have had a Democratic president, a 60- and then 59-seat Senate majority, and a massive House majority. Health care was perhaps the top campaign issue throughout the primary and general election in 2008, and it would have been political suicide for Democrats not to pass some kind of bill. Is it so miraculous for Democrats to pass a very centrist piece of health-care legislation?"
BUSH VS. OBAMA
Will Inboden at Foreign Policy takes Spencer Ackerman to task for crediting the Obama administration for Bush-era initiatives: "Ackerman identifies two main pillars of the Obama Doctrine: global 'dignity promotion' and overcoming the alleged 'politics of fear' from the Bush years. Yet as he attempts to describe what is meant by 'dignity promotion,' it quickly becomes clear that he is just putting a new label on some of the main tenets of the -- you guessed it -- Bush administration. Namely, promotion of human rights and democracy, economic development based on incentives rather than handouts (e.g. Millennium Challenge Corporation), innovative new humanitarian efforts (e.g. HIV/AIDS relief), and economic integration through free trade. Ackerman even cites in this regard the elevation of the G-20 as the primary multilateral economic organization, conveniently neglecting to mention that the first gathering of G-20 heads of state was convened by the Bush White House in response to the global economic crisis."
BOTH SIDES NOW
Reader Donald Mintz argues that Alex Halperin?s piece on hydrofracking, "Drill, Maybe Drill?", is too easy on natural-gas drilling proponents: "There is no longer any question about the serious environmental degradation caused by hydrofracking. By suggesting that there are two sides to this story, Halperin has misrepresented the situation and done a serious disservice to all of us in and around the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier of New York."
Halperin's piece was also the recipient of The Hillman Foundation's Sidney Award, which is given each month to highlight reporting that "fosters social and economic justice." Sidney Award judge Charles Kaiser said, "Halperin?s piece does a great job of illuminating a burgeoning national issue?the quick expansion of a barely regulated industry whose environmental dangers are only beginning to be looked at, particularly in New York state."
Corrections: A piece in our May issue, "An Unnatural Alliance," erroneously reported that former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth was elected in 1977. He was elected in 1974. In "Lessons from the Health-Care Wars," the Progressive Change Campaign Committee was mistakenly identified as the Progressive Change Congress Committee.