Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is executive editor of The American Prospect. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Wal-Mart Comes North

Wal-Mart, as everybody knows, began in the backwaters of the rural South -- though not everybody knows just how rural, how southern, how backwater. Wal-Mart's southernness, however, is precisely what sets the chain apart from the handful of other companies that once dominated the American economy: Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, General Motors, IBM. None imposed upon the nation values so parochial or living standards so threadbare as Wal-Mart's. Before Wal-Mart, no nationally dominant company had ever come from the nation's most backward region, let alone clung so stubbornly to that region's casual barbarities. Indeed, the massive resistance Wal-Mart has encountered in recent years as it has moved from the rural South to the urban North can be seen as an attempt by the North to preserve the legacy not only of the New Deal but also of its long-ago victory over the southern way of doing business. Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in 1962 in Bentonville (still the corporation's headquarters...

The Long Slog

No one has ever described David Obey as phlegmatic. The Wisconsin Democrat, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, combines long-standing liberal passions with a keen sense for the deals that must be cut to turn those passions into law. And on occasion, people who don't share Obey's assessment of where, and whether, the deal should be cut have been subjected to an Obey outburst. Last week, as he was working to build support for amendments that would impose a 2008 deadline on U.S. combat activities in Iraq, Obey was accosted by Tina Richards, an anti-war activist and mother of a Marine. With YouTube immortalizing the encounter, Richards asked Obey why he was supporting the supplemental war appropriations bill to which the amendments would be attached and why Congress couldn't just defund the war and bring the troops home now. Obey erupted. "We can't get the votes," he shouted. "Do you see a magic wand in my pocket? We don't have the votes for it." "We're trying to use the...

The Family Values Sham

As conservatives tell the tale, the decline of the American family, the rise in divorce rates, and the number of children born out of wedlock all can be traced to the pernicious influence of one decade in American history: the '60s. The conservatives are right that one decade, at least in its metaphoric significance, can encapsulate the causes for the family's decline. But they've misidentified the decade. It's not the permissive '60s. It's the Reagan '80s. In Saturday's Washington Post , reporter Blaine Harden took a hard look at the erosion of what we have long taken to be the model American family -- married couples with children -- and discovered that while this decline hasn't really afflicted college-educated professionals, it is the curse of the working class. The percentage of households that are married couples with children has hit an all-time low (at least, the lowest since the Census Bureau started measuring such things): 23.7 percent. That's about half the level that...


CAN THE AFL-CIO COUNT VOTES, OR WHAT? Speaking to the AFL-CIO's longtime communications honcho Denise Mitchell on Tuesday, I asked her how many votes she thought the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which was coming up for a vote in the House two days hence, would get. "I dunno," she said. "How about 241?" This afternoon, EFCA passed with 241 votes. When Denise Mitchell says she doesn't know, do not proceed to a wager. --Harold Meyerson

Can Free Trade Be a Fair Deal?

Within the past year, an important new debate has taken shape, though it's not likely to be the focus of any forthcoming presidential debates as such. It is likely, however, to distinguish liberal from centrist thinking for decades to come. The debate begins at the familiar flash point of trade -- more particularly, with the realization of business elites and their political champions that the nation's free-trade policies have become threatened by growing public anxiety over our economic future. While corporate profits soar, individual wages stagnate, held at least partly in check by the brave new fact of offshoring -- that millions of Americans' jobs can be performed at a fraction of the cost in developing nations near and far. November's elections, in which voters sent to Congress a freshman class composed almost entirely of free-trade skeptics, rang alarm bells on both Wall Street and K Street. In reaction not just to November but to reams of economic data showing that the U.S...