Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Are Vouchers Dead?

AP Images/Ben Margot
When news broke Tuesday that the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s voucher system, which uses public dollars to pay for low-income students to go to private schools, the fight over vouchers made its way back into the headlines. The Louisiana program, pushed hard and publicly by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, offers any low-income child in the state, regardless of what public school they would attend, tuition assistance at private schools. It’s something liberals fear will become commonplace in other states in the future if conservative lawmakers get their way on education policy. Yet conservatives have been dominating legislatures since 2010 and there has been little success in creating voucher programs. Louisiana is one of only two states with such a broad program in place. After the 2010 Tea Party wave there was “a big spike in the number of states considering voucher legislation,” says Josh Cunningham, a policy specialist at the National Conference of State...

Congress, the Death Panels' Death Panel

The Affordable Care Act contained many provisions meant to help "bend the curve" of heath-care costs, including cuts to provider payments, incentives for doctors and hospitals to keep patients healthier, and pilot programs to test innovative new ways of providing care. It also included the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a group of medical experts who would evaluate treatments, drugs, and the like to see if Medicare was getting the most bang for its buck. You might remember that, as part of a truly unprecedented campaign of disinformation, prominent health-care expert Sarah Palin declared the IPAB to be "death panels," asserting that despite what the text of the law might have said on Planet Earth, in her reality, the elderly and disabled would have to travel to Washington and come on bended knee before the IPAB's star chamber to beg for their lives. Palin's efforts notwithstanding, the ACA passed and became the law of the land. So what do you do if you're a Republican...

Hillary Clinton Gets Brief Preview of 2016 (If She Runs)

Titanic Belfast / Flickr
Titanic Belfast / Flickr One thing I neglected to mention in today’s post on “ demand-side scandals ” was the attention Republicans gave to Hillary Clinton during yesterday’s hearings over Benghazi. NBC News’ First Read has the details : Wednesday’s congressional hearing probing last year’s attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi revealed this political development: Key parts of the conservative movement are turning their attention from President Obama to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “I find it stunning that four and a half months after the attack, Secretary Clinton still has the gall to say it wasn’t us,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said at yesterday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. Added Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH): “Tell me, who is Cheryl Mills?… She is the fixture for the secretary of state; she is as close as you can get to Secretary Clinton.” In addition, for the first time since Feb. 2008 (when Obama overtook Hillary in the Democratic...

Eight Months Until the End of Job Lock

Flickr/walknboston
For years, even before Barack Obama was elected, one of the many complaints liberals (mostly) had about the current employer-based health insurance system was "job lock"—if you have insurance at your job, particularly if you or someone in your family has health issues, then you're going to be hesitant to leave that job. You won't start your own business, or join somebody else's struggling startup (unless they provide insurance), and this constrains people's opportunities and dampens the country's entrepreneurial spirit. That this occurs is intuitively obvious—you probably know someone who has experienced it, or have experienced it yourself. And today there's an article in that pro-Democrat hippie rag The Wall Street Journal entitled "Will Health-Care Law Beget Entrepreneurs?" Amid the worrying about the implementation of Obamacare in January, and the quite reasonable concern that the news could be filled with stories of confusion, missteps, and dirtbags like that Papa John's guy...

Deficit Reduction Is Ruining America

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
Flickr/Talk Radio News Service It’s official: The spending cuts of 2011 and 2012, pushed by Republicans as necessary given our deficits, have damaged the recovery and kept more people out of work. According to Jackie Calmes and Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times , “The nation’s unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011.” That period, the Times notes, “coincides with the time that Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans have shared governance since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, promising an immediate $100 billion in spending cuts.” And while we didn’t see that level of austerity at the time, the budget compromises of the last year will lower annual discretionary spending to its lowest levels in fifty years. To put that it slightly different terms, if not for two years of deficit reduction, 1.5 million...

Demand-Side Scandals

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Darrell Issa’s control of the House Oversight Committee began with a bold claim . He declared Barack Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times,” and pledged to uncover the assumed misconduct and corruption of the administration. Two years later, and we’re still waiting for evidence. The Obama administration hasn’t been perfect, and it’s disappointed liberals on a wide variety of issues, ranging from national security to the environment. But in its four years, and to its credit, the Obama White House has been remarkably scandal-free. There have been controversies—the tax problems that plagued the administration in its first year, for example—but absolutely nothing on the scale of Whitewater or Valerie Plame. But rather than reevaluate their belief in the administration’s corruption, conservatives have opted—instead—to obsess over anything that could prove wrongdoing on the part of Obama or his officials. It’s not at all hard to find right-wing...

Why Israel Can't Be Part of Obama's Calculus on Syria

AP Photo
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit F rom Tel Aviv, so the usual map sites say, you could drive to Damascus in three hours and 20 minutes, if only there were no borders, barbed wire or war in the way. From vacation cottages in the Upper Galilee, where city people go to find some quiet, you can look across the Jordan to the ridge that barely blocks a view of the Syrian capital. Just past the horizon, impossibly close to us, people are killing their countrymen. Cities are being crushed into rubble. Israel is a place with very little agreement on anything. Perhaps the closest thing to a national emotional consensus is horror at what's happening in Syria. But there's also unusually wide agreement, especially among policy and strategic experts, that Israel can do pretty much nothing to affect the outcome of the Syrian conflict. At most, it can take limited steps to protect narrow Israeli security interests. For now, the government and military appear to be partners in this consensus. Put differently:...

Benghazi Fizzles

A New York Post cover from back when Benghazi was hotter.
Conservatives want, so very desperately, for Benghazi to be Barack Obama's undoing. And you have to give them credit for trying. Yesterday's hearing, hyped like it was the Super Bowl by Fox News, wasn't the first or the second or the fifth on the topic, and each one is supposed to deliver the blockbuster revelation that will finally show America just how evil the Obama administration is. But if you look at the way they've been talking about it, you can see some faint glimmers of doubt. Sure, you can always find somebody to come on Fox and take the speculation to an absurd level ("Did Hillary Clinton order the consulate to be unprotected because Ambassador Stevens knew she's an al Qaeda operative and she wanted him killed? We just don't know"). But I think all that speculation is sapping their spirits. After a while it gets tiresome to keep harping on what might have happened or why, when it would be so much more satisfying if there were some actual incriminating facts you could bring...

That Time Mitt Romney Lost 83 Percent of Minority Voters

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect The Pew Research Center has done its full analysis of the Census Bureau’s report on the diversifying American electorate, and it confirms the big takeaway from the 2012 elections—Republicans are in trouble with minority voters. Mitt Romney won just 17 percent of nonwhite voters in the 2012 election. That includes African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and all other groups that fall under the umbrella of “nonwhite.” If last year were an aberration—if nonwhites were projected to fall as a share of the electorate—this would be a concern, but not a huge one. But the trend is moving in the opposite direction. Nonwhites were 26.3 percent of all voters last year. This is a record high, but it’s still below their overall share of the adult population—33.9 percent. By 2020, minorities will comprise 37.2 percent of all voters, and by 2060 it will be 54.8 percent, according to the Census Bureau. What makes this even more significant is that the fastest...

Unions to Banks: Pay Up

AP Photo/Dominic Lipinski,
AP Photo/Keystone, Steffen Schmidt R ebecca Sandoval hasn't had a raise for six years. She and other home-care workers who work for the state of Oregon and are represented by Local 503 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) make $10.20 an hour to assist people with disabilities and senior citizens, like the 99-year-old woman Sandoval cares for. The state froze wages at 2007 levels to help offset a yawning $855 million budget shortfall caused by the financial crisis. Almost every year since then, Sandoval says, it has further cut back hours, leaving workers with the choice to leave some of their clients' needs unmet or to work for free. “You can't rush a 99-year-old woman with any aspect of her daily living,” she says. Members of Local 503 in different professions have seen similar wage freezes and cutbacks. James Jacobson got a layoff notice after 16 years as an office worker at the University of Oregon's college of education; budget cuts, it explained. He's one of the...

It’s All about the Primaries

AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt
He’s already given political culture one of the great euphemisms ever for having an affair. And now the Appalachian trail walker, Mark Sanford, has become a terrific example of one of the core ideas of political parties and democracy: It’s all about the primaries. Sanford won back his old House seat in a special election on Tuesday. Smart liberal commentators noted that Republicans had little choice. Paul Krugman : Given their preferences, this was the right thing to do. Look, we have an intensely polarized political system, and in Congress, at least, party affiliation is basically all that matters. Kevin Drum concurs : “For all practical purposes, we live in a pseudo-parliamentary system of governance, and the only thing that matters in Congress is what party you belong to.” Party affiliation is so important that indeed, in almost all circumstances voters are smart to support their party’s nominee in general elections, who will represent their interests in a predictable and...

No, Syria Is Not Iraq

AP Photo/Hussein Malla
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit F or those advocating greater intervention in Syria by the United States, the memory of Iraq has turned into a real inconvenience. “Iraq is not Syria,” proclaimed the headline of New York Times editor Bill Keller’s op-ed on Monday, by way of arguing for greater U.S. involvement in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Because of Iraq, Keller wrote, “in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.” Let’s grant that it’s possible to over-learn the lessons of Iraq. The Iraq war, as costly a blunder as it was, should not discredit any and all military interventions, but it should—and has—raised the bar for when such interventions are necessary. What appears to persist, however, is the belief that “bold” U.S. moves—nearly always assumed to be military action—can change the situation for the better, and produce the outcomes that we would like to see. And if those outcomes...

Fast Food, Slow to Change

AP Images/Rui Viera
The strikes of fed-up fast-food workers move westward with the sun. On Wednesday evening, fast-food employees in St. Louis, like their peers in New York and Chicago earlier this spring, staged a one-day strike to dramatize the low wages they, and millions of American workers in the restaurant and food sectors, take home. The job action is one of a series of short strikes that the Service Employees International Union, in conjunction with a range of local community groups, is helping to organize. Similar actions in other cities are slated in coming weeks. The goal of these actions is to catalyze a broader movement of workers in the sector—not with the intent of winning contracts from corporations like McDonald (that’s far beyond the labor movement’s capacity, alas), but in hopes that such a movement could spur city councils and state legislatures to enact higher minimum wages or living wage provisions for workers in specified sectors. At Tuesday’s night annual Hillman Prize...

Ringside Seat: The American People Will See!

Yet again, congressional Republicans have devoted time and energy to hitting the Obama administration over the incident in Benghazi, Libya, where a diplomat and several other State Department employees were killed in an assault by a heavily-armed group. The administration insists that this was a tragic accident, and an investigation has cleared officials of wrongdoing or serious mistakes. But Republicans continue to believe that this was mishandled, to the extent that administration officials are covering up key information. They point to inconsistent talking points from the White House—originally, the attacks were blamed on a video—and the question of security around the compound. For the last nine months, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have tried to prove this point with constant hearings, each aimed at a different facet of the alleged cover-up. And each time, they find nothing. There’s no doubt the administration made mistakes in handling Benghazi, but there’s no...

When Bad Intentions Meet Bad Data

Numbers!
When the Heritage Foundation released that study showing immigration reform would cost American taxpayers a gajillion feptillion bazillion dollars, people were obviously going to pick it apart and reveal its flaws and tendentious assumptions, which they did. But today came something else interesting. Dylan Matthews read the dissertation written by one of the authors, Jason Richwine, in which Richwin writes that "The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations." In order to deal with the problem, Richwine suggests IQ-testing everyone who wants to immigrate, and taking only the smart ones. As Matthews describes it, "Richwine's dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races ... He writes, 'No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have...

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