Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014, 9:00 AM

Berkeley Over Bloomberg

This election season, the residents of Berkeley (where I live) are voting on “Measure D,” which would impose a one cent-per-ounce tax on many of the sugar-sweetened drinks which contribute to obesity and diabetes, including sodas, energy drinks, and presweetened teas. Mother Jones has an amusing rundown of the panicked response from the sweetened-beverage industry, which has spent nearly $2 million to fight the law and blanket the city with “No on D” ads. But Measure D has some powerful friends, including Michael Bloomberg, who earlier this month countered the “No” campaign with an initial donation of $85,000—and more, possibly, to follow. Reports of these recent contributions have, understandably, linked Bloomberg’s donation to the notorious “soda ban” he attempted while mayor of New York. But there’s a crucial difference: New York’s soda ban was a crummy idea, and Berkeley’s soda tax is a pretty good one.

Friday, Oct 24, 2014, 7:54 AM

What’s Behind Joni Ernst’s Welfare Complaint?

GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst recently argued, echoing a familiar right-wing complaint, that Americans “have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do.” Taking the long view, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig notes that the supposedly-lost ideal—a world in which welfare provision comes entirely from private charities and churches—probably never existed. Even in the Middle Ages, she notes, when the Church was considerably more powerful, “charity was neither asked to solve large-scale problems nor expected to.”

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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014, 8:28 AM

American Democracy After Torture

The Huffington Post has a deeply reported, behind-the-scenes look at the delicate three-part negotiation taking place among the White House, the CIA, and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the latter’s forthcoming report on Bush-era torture programs. At one level, the piece is about personnel: The Obama Administration, it notes, clearly ascribes huge importance to these discussions, as evidenced by the heavy involvement of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (who already has “a broad array of urgent responsibilities” and is not, to say the least, the only national security expert in the Administration). But this observation about personnel is just one part of the article. It also illustrates, in damning and subtle detail, the rancid legacy of Bush-era abuses.

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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014, 8:30 AM

Why Can’t Conservatives Get Serious About Inequality?

Years from now, when the definitive history of American politics in the Obama era is written, some analyst will explain why conservatives, when faced with issues that were merely unfriendly, chose instead to make them unwinnable. Climate change is probably the chief example: Confronted with a problem that, on its face, seems friendlier to the environmental left, conservatives could have settled for a market-based solution (like cap-and-trade). Instead, they’ve launched a hopeless crusade against scientific consensus, one that can only end in ignominious defeat—while doing great harm to the planet in the process.

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Friday, Oct 17, 2014, 9:00 AM

Arguments Q+A: Isabel Sawhill, Author of Generation Unbound

The culture wars have made many progressives suspicious of appeals to “marriage” and “family”—often, the words are deployed by champions of outmoded gender roles, defenders of abstinence-only sex education, or opponents of LGBT equality. But social conservatives are not the only Americans who should care about changes in marriage and parenting: as economist (and Democracy Editorial Advisory Committee member) Isabel Sawhill shows in her new book, Generation Unbound, changes in marriage and parenting affect the well-being and social opportunities of children, the ability of single mothers and poor couples to enter the middle class, and inequality and social mobility. Sawhill’s book reports that among American women under 30, half of all babies are now born outside of marriage, and
a majority of births to unmarried young women under 30 are unplanned. The cost and disruption that these unplanned children introduce into the lives of women—especially women with lower levels of income and education—make this an important economic issue. Sawhill’s chief suggestion: We should encourage the widest possible use of Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)—especially IUDs, which would safely allow women to control when they want to have children.

Sawhill, who served as an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton Administration, is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, where she co-directs the Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities project. We spoke earlier this week about her latest book.

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Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014, 11:00 AM

Should Democrats Fear a Little Populism?

Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The current Democratic President, who handily won a second term, has accomplished a long list of priorities important to both liberals (health-care reform, new Wall Street rules, stimulus spending, new rules on carbon emissions, and the promotion of gay rights) and centrists (education reform, deficit reduction, and the promotion of a compromise immigration reform). And the GOP, despite some likely gains this November, is facing down an unimpressive slate of 2016 presidential candidates and, more seriously, a long-term demographic crisis. So why is Politico dispensing advice on “how to save the Democratic Party from itself”?

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Thursday, Oct 9, 2014, 9:30 AM

Dear Helpless Moron Reader

French novelist Patrick Modiano has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Admittedly, I had never heard of him before Thursday morning. So I suppose this article was directed at people like me:


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