Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and founding chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. 

Recent Articles

Frances Kelsey: The Government Bureaucrat Who May Have Saved Your Life

Kelsey's crusade for tougher drug regulations remains a powerful symbol of good government. 

Rex Features via AP Images
In our current culture, the phrase “government bureaucrat” is often used as an epithet, but Frances Kelsey—who died on August 7 at age 101—was a career government bureaucrat who was also a genuine American heroine. In the early 1960s, Kelsey, a doctor and research scientist with the federal Food and Drug Administration, almost singlehandedly took on the pharmaceutical industry. She stood up to the manufacturer of a dangerous medicine—thalidomide—and saved tens of thousands of babies from birth deformities. If you are in your 40s or 50s, Kelsey, working quietly in her FDA office, may have saved your life, by making sure that your doctor didn't prescribe thalidomide to your mother. Kelsey's battle with the makers of thalidomide is an inspiring tale of how one individual's expertise and courage protected the public against the greedy drug companies. Equally important, Kelsey's stance inspired Congress to revise the rules for approving new drugs...

Racism on Camera

The recent wave of police violence isn't anything new. It's just been caught on video. 

Texas Department of Public Safety via AP
If you’ve regularly watched the nightly news over the past few years, you might think that the recent arrest and jail-cell death of Sandra Bland in Texas is part of a growing wave of police abuse of black citizens. Some news reports have even called it an epidemic of police violence against African Americans. But the harsh reality is that there has been no sudden upsurge of racial profiling, arrests, beating, and killing of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers. Rather than an abrupt recent rise in police mistreatment of black Americans, we’ve become more aware of the problem, in part because more incidents of police abuse are being captured on camera. The series of deaths of black Americans has made more white Americans aware of how different their lives can be. A turning point occurred in 1991, when the brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King by four Los Angeles Police Department officers was videotaped by a nearby resident from his balcony,...

Is Bernie Sanders Too Radical for America?

Although pegged as a fringe candidate, Sanders' views are surprisingly mainstream. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin In this photo taken May 20, 2015, Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders poses for a portrait before an interview with The Associated Press in Washington. Now that Bernie Sanders is rapidly climbing in the polls and attracting huge audiences to his campaign events, his opponents are starting to attack him for being too radical. After all, Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist. Of course, few Americans know what “socialist” means. Some mistakenly associate it with Communism. In fact, Sanders has often said that he favors the kinds of policies favored by the Scandinavian democracies. Asked about this last month by George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC News’ This Week , Sanders said : In countries in Scandinavia like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries. Voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States. In those countries, health care is the right of all people; college education...

Read More: 20 Women Who Should Appear on the $10 Bill

Inside the lives of 20 courageous women who changed history and fought for social justice. 

Public Domain
In a speech last year in Kansas City, President Barack Obama said he received a letter from a nine-year-old girl that included a list of possible women to put on America’s paper bills and coins, “which I thought was a pretty good idea." In March of this year, Barbara Ortiz Howard and Susan Ades Stone started a campaign called Women on 20s to demand that the government replace former President Andrew Jackson’s image on the $20 bill with a woman from history. Now, the Obama administration is following through, although not in the way that the two women and the many followers they galvanized had hoped. Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that in 2020—the 100th anniversary of the 19 th Amendment granting women the right to vote—a woman will appear on the $10 note, not the $20 bill. Lew explained that the $10 bill was already scheduled to be redesigned to deal with counterfeiting threats. The new currency will feature state-of-the-art security and...

Which Woman Should Adorn the $10 Bill?

A shortlist of agitators, activists, and other influential top contenders.  

Public Domain
In a speech last year in Kansas City, President Barack Obama said he received a letter from a nine-year-old girl that included a list of possible women to put on America’s paper bills and coins, “which I thought was a pretty good idea." In March of this year, Barbara Ortiz Howard and Susan Ades Stone started a campaign called Women on 20s to demand that the government replace former President Andrew Jackson’s image on the $20 bill with a woman from history. Now, the Obama administration is following through, although not in the way that the two women and the many followers they galvanized had hoped. Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that in 2020—the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote—a woman will appear on the $10 note, not the $20 bill. Lew explained that the $10 bill was already scheduled to be redesigned to deal with counterfeiting threats. The new currency will feature state-of-the-art security and...

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