Disaster relief is not a slam dunk anymore because an issue of basic decency has become entangled with a renewed assault on federal power and a belief that cutting the budget is the nation's single highest priority.
We know American politics are dysfunctional. But after a week of scandal obsession during which the nation's capital and the media virtually ignored the problems most voters care about -- jobs, incomes, growth, opportunity, education -- it's worth asking if there is something especially flawed about our democracy.
Perhaps the Almighty did inspire those who drew the boundaries of South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. They packed it with so many Republicans that Mark Sanford was able to engineer a comeback in the polls by debating a flat piece of cardboard bearing the image of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
To pretend that the president can magically get an increasingly right-wing Republican House and Senate contingent to do his bidding is either naive or willfully misleading. The GOP really does hope that blocking whatever Obama wants will steadily weaken him. But the president also needs to ask himself why even his supporters are growing impatient.
Perhaps because the cynicism that dominates contemporary political discourse militates against taking any politician’s words at face value, surprisingly little analysis is devoted to what President Obama actually says in his principal public addresses. Americans are so busy figuring him out, they have stopped hearing him.
The presidents with whom Barack Obama is often compared, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, did not face the obstacles he does. Obama has every right to be frustrated: When Republicans obstruct, he takes the blame. But even though his assessment of the situtation is correct, his response to it should be different.
Why is it that conservative Republicans who freely cut taxes while backing two wars in the Bush years started preaching fire on deficits only after a Democrat entered the White House? Probably because their central goal is to hack away at government. Then along come academic economists to bless the anti-deficit fever with the authority of spreadsheets.
The blood runs cold when one fully appreciates how vulnerable Western policymakers are to slogans and magical thinking. The Reinhart-Rogoff case is the latest, and certainly will not be the last, in which the credulity and carelessness of experts wreak havoc among millions of ordinary people.
A Wondrous Bundle of Contradictions
Bills deceptively described as “technical fixes” to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform law have both Republican and Democratic backers. So far, neither the White House nor the Treasury Department has taken an active role in opposing these bills, which threaten to undermine one of the most important legislative achievements of President Barack Obama’s first term.
Assessing the legacy of Margaret Thatcher in this piece from the January 11, 1991, issue of Commonweal, E. J. Dionne Jr. wrote that the prime minister was far more popular in the United States (especially among the American right) than she was in Britain, for reasons both good and bad.
Obstruction of legislative measures that a majority of voters support reveals the deep structural tilt in our politics to the right. This distortion explains why election outcomes and the public's preferences have so little impact on what is happening in Washington. At the moment, our democracy is not very democratic.
Rand Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky, has inadvertently called our attention to a deep contradiction within American conservatism.
It is now nearly forty years since the bishops of the Appalachian region of the United States published This Land Is Home to Me, a historic pastoral letter “on powerlessness in Appalachia.” Two generations later, poverty in Appalachia remains.
With signs of cooperation on gun control and immigration, and Rand Paul's filibuster against President Obama's drone policy shaking philosophical categories in a healthy way, life and substance are returning to our political debates.
There are, believe it or not, grounds for hoping that the sequester, stupid as it is, might open the way to ending our budget stalemate. It starts with Senate Republicans like Lindsey Graham and others who are open to President Obama's outreach.
The old formula held that when government was divided between the parties, the contending sides should try to "meet in the middle." But the current Republican leadership doesn't know the meaning of the word "middle," so intimidated has it become by the tea party. Here's what President Obama can do.
Washington is wasting time on an artificial crisis driven not by economics but by ideology, partisan interest, and an obsession over a word -- "sequester" -- that means nothing to most Americans. But from the perspective of Republicans, the more months we fritter away on this dumb, fake emergency, the better.
The idea of politics as all-ideology, all-the-time is a relatively recent invention. Education reform, for instance, was a thoroughly bipartisan cause in the 1980s. But it will take considerable courage for Republicans to move their party back to a time when conservatives and progressives did not have to disagree on everything.
Free from the need to save an economy close to collapse and illusions that Republicans in Congress would work with him readily, President Obama has made clear his determination to shift the center of gravity in the nation's political conversation away from anti-government conservatism.
Recent comments from Republicans like Bobby Jindal and Eric Cantor suggest awareness among the leadership that the party moved too far to the right, and the GOP now seems to be backing off long-standing positions on tax increases, guns, and immigration. But does the new flexibility really signal a change in direction?
Conservatives who excoriate government "intervention” in the economy miss this point. Government does not just “intervene” in markets; government defines markets by creating their rules. Prudent rules shape the market so that it minimizes conflicts between self-interest and the common good.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, perfectly encapsulated the effort to diminish the importance of all else (including growth) when he declared that "deficit and debt" constitute the "transcendent issue of our era." No, it's not.
Like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama's inaugural address, built not on a call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history.
That President Obama has shed any illusions about his unique gifts as a national healer will increase his capacity to help us leave behind many of the debates that have torn our political world asunder. Tempered by the struggles of his first term, he now seems more at ease declaring exactly what he is for and what he is seeking to achieve.
The Deficit Scolds' Unsound Logic
We are about to have a major foreign policy debate in the guise of a confirmation battle over Chuck Hagel's nomination as secretary of defense. President Obama should use this opportunity to stand up for his broader vision of how American power can be sustained and used.
Should our politicians dedicate themselves to solving the problems we face now? Or should they spend their time constructing largely theoretical deficit solutions for years far in the future to satisfy certain ideological and aesthetic urges?
A lot was wrong with how Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, dealt with the so-called fiscal cliff. But in the end, some very important and positive things happened: A significant number of Republicans voted to raise taxes, the tax code has become more progressive, and an election had real impact on public policy.
At a moment when prominent American politicians are promoting a vision in which society is little more than a collection of individualists in competition with one another, John Paul II's image of life as a common banquet seems particularly apt.
Capitalism & the Good Life
Beware of any entitlement reform described by its advocates as “win-win.” Such proposals are almost always too good to be true. The proposal to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from sixty-five to sixty-seven is a good example.
Conservatives who were once genuinely interested in finding market-based alternatives to government-provided health insurance have, since the rise of Obamacare, continued to make choices that are dysfunctional, even from their own point of view.
One school of thought on the right rejects adjusting to a new electorate; strategies for future victories are based on a naked use of government power to alter the political playing field. Michigan's Republican-led right-to-work law is an example.
Breaking with the Present?
The truth is that costs for most medical interventions are going down. It's the spending that's going up, thanks to the very effectiveness of modern health care.
President Obama's victory blew up the framework created by the 2010 elections, which forced him to play defense. Now, he finally has room to move. That's the only way to understand the ongoing budget talks.
Without making a single substantive concession, Republicans get loads of praise just for saying they are willing to ignore those old pledges to Grover Norquist. But kudos for an openness to compromise should be reserved for those who put forward concrete proposals to raise taxes.
Rightward Tilt Clouds the Christian Message
When disaster strikes, swift relief and just recompense are expected for survivors. How best to compensate victims is rarely clear. Kenneth Feinberg has spent his career sorting through such conundrums.
Barack Obama should not be afraid to consider the hopes and expectations of the people who voted for him. But he should also think about the worries of those who voted against him. The two groups have more in common than we (or they) might imagine.
As Republicans dig out from a defeat that their poll-deniers said was impossible, they need to acknowledge many large failures. But President Obama and his party need to understand the difficulties they may face.
Revisiting ‘Economic Justice for All’
It is said after every election that the victors should put politics aside and work for the good of the country. If President Obama believed this pious nonsense, he would put his second term in jeopardy.
What Can Obama Do in a Second Term?
With the election over, responsible members of both parties acknowledge that a long-term budget deal, one that gets entitlement spending under control but also increases tax revenue, is necessary for the health of the economy and for restoring confidence in the nation’s political institutions.
Barack Obama took on a militant conservatism intent on reducing the responsibilities of government and cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. In the process, he built an alliance of moderates and progressives who still believe in government's essential role in regulating the marketplace and widening the circle of opportunity.
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
If Teddy Roosevelt fought against the policies of the Gilded Age, President Obama is fighting a Republican Party determined to bring the Gilded Age back and undo the achievements of a century.
As the 2012 campaign closes, "working together" is in vogue because the few voters still up for grabs tend to be more moderate and less ideological. But beneath the embrace of comity lurks a central fact about American politics now: Democrats believe in compromise far more than Republicans do.
A Partisan Abuse of the Church’s Moral Teachings
President Obama almost certainly needs states like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin to win re-election, and if he does, manufacturing is destined for a larger role in the American economic conversation.
It turns out there was no profound ideological conversion of the country two years ago. If Mitt Romney thought the nation was ready to endorse the full-throated conservatism he embraced to win the Republican nomination, he wouldn't be throwing his past positions overboard.
Ayn Rand, an atheist, considered charity a sign of weakness. Paul Ryan’s Randian views—notably his budget plan’s drastic cuts to food stamps, which now aid 46 million—have not sat well with many Catholics.
While Barack Obama may lack a crisp set of sound bites, he's been far more straightforward about challenges like the deficit than Mitt Romney--whose own five-point plan is quite vague and looks a lot like the five-point plans put forth by earlier Republican presidential candidates.
Starving the Government Won't Work
For Barack Obama's supporters, the fact that the president played offense and had a strategy was reason enough for elation. But the most electorally significant performance was Mitt Romney's: Under pressure this time, the former Massachusetts governor displayed his least attractive sides.
New Mitt Romneys appear on a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis. His campaign has been an exercise in identifying which piece of the electorate he needs at any given moment and adjusting his views, sometimes radically, to suit this requirement.
What a difference a week makes. Vice President Joe Biden stayed in Rep. Paul Ryan's face for the entirety of Thursday's vice presidential debate. In the process, he forced Ryan, and by extension the Romney campaign, onto the defensive for a large part of the evening.
Many factors will influence the outcome of the election. Swing states matter, as may voter turnout and voter-suppression efforts, job numbers, and events abroad. But is race playing any role in the 2012 election?
Sen. Sherrod Brown seems to invite the hostility of wealthy conservatives and deep-pocketed interest groups. He can live with that: His uncompromising advocacy on behalf of workers and progressive policies on other issues have helped him build a formidable organization across Ohio.
Translating Moral Principle into Public Policy
In this year’s first presidential debate, Mitt Romney told a great many half-truths about his platform and his record, but he told them all with stunning self-assurance. No one seemed more stunned than Barack Obama.
Who better than a group of women who have consecrated their lives to the Almighty to remind us that our decisions in November have ethical consequences? Those who serve the impoverished, the sick and the dying know rather a lot about what matters -- in life, and in elections.
Having campaigned as a moderate when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney veered to the right to win the Republican presidential nomination. But with polls showing him behind in the swing states, he used the debate to remake himself one more time, deciding to sound concerned about the middle class.
In this week's debate, Mitt Romney has too much to do. President Obama has a great deal to lose. Romney's is the most difficult position. Obama's is the most dangerous.
In Tampa, Republicans reveled in the glories of private enterprise. In Charlotte, Democrats celebrated togetherness. But in the weeks after Obama’s acceptance speech, interest in the election as horse race has nearly blotted out the substance of the president’s address and its relation to the broader themes of the campaigns.
In his impatience with those he accuses of casting themselves as "victims," Mitt Romney misses the real story of government in the lives of most Americans. So often, we combine our own exertions with a little assistance along the way -- the GI Bill, Social Security survivors' benefits, public education -- to become self-sufficient and independent.
Polls showing an Obama upturn since the conventions suggest the Obama-Clinton politics of balance is far more popular than ideological conservatism, and it seems part of` a trend toward moderation in many countries.
Christopher Hayes argues that our highly competitive social and economic system is decaying, turning our elites into an increasingly socially isolated ruling class that passes its privileges on to its often mediocre children. And many of those undeserving heirs fail, causing Americans to lose trust in their leaders.
A specter is haunting the affluent societies of the West. Across the rich countries, and across the political spectrum, there is an unstated but palpable longing for a return to the 1950s.
That Bill Clinton played such a central role at the convention reflected the extent to which it should be seen as a three-day tutorial designed not only to defend President Obama's economic stewardship, but also to advance a view of government for which Democrats have often apologized.
Like his recent predecessors, President Obama has moved on policy and personnel in ways designed to avoid the time-consuming gridlock that sometimes results from procedures mandated and constraints imposed by the Constitution. But in this election season, candidates on both the left and right need to show humility, restraint, and patience.
The Obama Democrats who gather in Charlotte this week have a big advantage over Tampa's Romney Republicans: Last week's GOP convention gave President Obama a peek at Mitt Romney's playbook.
Having given conservatives everything they had asked for -- from switching his positions on abortion and immigration to picking their favorite as his running mate -- Mitt Romney used his acceptance speech to try to convert some of President Obama's 2008 supporters into Republican voters.
Something odd is happening in Mitt Romney's Republican Party. The GOP is marketing the concept that a great many Americans need to suffer before they can prosper.
President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen running mates who reflect their political philosophies. Both vice presidential candidates are also Roman Catholics, the first time this has happened in American history. Yet despite the obvious sincerity of their faith, their moral and political views reflect the positions of their political parties more than those of their church.
In 1964, George Romney walked out of the Republican National Convention during Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech, protesting his party's sharp turn rightward. This week, Mitt Romney is set to achieve what his father never could. But this family triumph will not represent a vindication of his father's principles.
Why hasn't one of this year's most exciting Senate candidates put the election away? Because Massachusetts voters like Scott Brown, a Republican incumbent who is making them forget that he's a Republican.
There is a difference between Obama saying that Romney and Ryan want to alter Medicare fundamentally, which is true, and the GOP saying that Obama wants to undercut Medicare, which is not.
If conservative ideologues are over the moon at having their favorite conviction politician as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, many Republican professionals -- particularly those running this fall -- are petrified.
Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan underscores how liberals and conservatives have switched sides on the matter of which camp constitutes the party of theory and which is the party of practice. Americans usually reject the party of theory, which is what conservatism has now become.
Here's your chance, conservatives. If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, put your money where your ideology is and return those rebate checks you'll get from your insurance companies.
Progressives should put aside their disappointment with Barack Obama. The alternative is a presidency that would shred safety nets and regulations while running the country according to the cruel and primitive forms of individualism not seen since pre-New Deal America.
The Republican Party seeks to eke out a narrow victory in November on the basis of a radical program. It's a gamble that could pay off.
With the Siena conference on euro reform ending in an even divide, the survival of the European Union seems at ever greater risk.
Cutting back government, gutting unions and reducing taxes on the rich won't re-create an America of opportunity. On the contrary, we need more active and thoughtful government policies to become again the nation we claim to be.
Banks in Control of Their Customers
Two Colorado moderates and an Ohio liberal identify the keys to creating a philopsophically coherent cross-coalition of critical blue-collar and middle-class voters.
Voters are showing resistance to the core conservative claim that job creation is primarily about rewarding wealthy investors and companies through further tax cuts and less regulation.
The real lesson from Europe is not that we should all tighten our belts and endure more pain, but that we need to get the global economy moving.
Ongoing Analysis & Opinion
President Obama's Cleveland speech highlights the fundamental difference between his vision of the future and Mitt Romney's.
Events of recent weeks suggest that if progressives do not speak out on behalf of government, they will be disadvantaged throughout the election-year debate.
Let's try an experiment: Can we at least reach consensus on the sort of debate between now and November that could help us solve some of our problems?
JPMorgan’s recent blunder is yet another sign that there are worse crises to come if Washington continues to let Wall Street write its own rules.
The perils of income inequality
Conservatives are not accustomed to being on the defensive. They have long experience with attacking the evils of the left and the abuses of activist judges. They expect their progressive opponents to be wimpy and apologetic. Not this time.
Can conservatives finally face the fact that they actually want quite a lot from government, and that they are simply unwilling to raise taxes to pay for it?
Super PACs Place Their Bets
I’m a 65-year-old African American. I was excited enough by the election of the nation’s first black president that I would have cut him a thousand miles of slack. But the last thing I expected was that I would watch him meekly accept humiliation by his political opponents. And the second last thing I expected was that I would go into 2012 looking at the upcoming presidential election as a lesser-of-two-evils affair.
How Bad Policies Brought Us a New Gilded Age
The great economic crisis has given birth to a smaller and tighter monetary union in Europe, under the influence of a Germany that is undergoing a certain estrangement from its European partners. This amounts to a possibly dangerous wager on what the European Union will ultimately become, which not everyone may like.
Two pols who speak their minds
The problems the United States faces are large but not insoluble. Yet sensible solutions can't be enacted. Why? Because an ideological bloc that sees every crisis as an opportunity to reduce the size of government holds enough power in Congress to stop us from doing what needs to be done.
The small-government movement has created resistance to the reasonable proposals in the recent Vatican statement on financial reform. Yet, separate from the many strengths of the statement and the many problems in the way it’s been received in this country, there remains a significant hole in official Catholic social teaching on the economy.
The deficit hawks in Congress are ardent promoters of the economic well-being of future generations. And yet, when you look at the cuts, both those proposed and those enacted by these wizards of finance, you have to ask what kind of future they imagine will follow from their slashing frenzy, if not for their own children and grandchildren then for everyone else’s.
How Americans can save themselves from plutocracy
If Congress simply fails to act between now and January 1, 2013, the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire, $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts go through under the terms of last summer's debt-ceiling deal, and a variety of other tax cuts also go away. Are you still sure that a "failure" by the congressional supercommittee to reach a deal would be such a disaster?
This week's elections around the country were brought to you by the word "overreach," specifically conservative overreach. Given an opportunity in 2010 to build a long-term majority, Republicans instead pursued extreme and partisan measures. On Tuesday, they reaped angry voter rebellions.
Nearly three years ago Dennis Blair, President Obama’s director of national security, garnered headlines when he reported to Congress that the most serious threat to the United States and to world peace was not terrorism, or Iran, or the rise of China, but the economic crisis. Blair worried about a backlash against the United States, and especially against its promotion of increasingly unregulated financial and commercial markets. The Vatican, as it turns out, appears to agree with much of this assessment.
Americans are waking up to income disparity
Can Americans Save Their Country from Plutocracy?
Paul Ryan Decries the Politics of Division
When the Vatican Confounds Conservatives
This is a party that was once innovative in thinking about affirmative uses of government. The GOP instituted the Homestead Act and created land grant colleges, the interstate highway system, student loans, the Pure Food and Drug Act and, yes, a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. What happened?
In which our reporter joins Wall Street's new occupants
Zero and 9.1. Those figures aren’t the won-lost record of the Red Sox during the final week the season. They are the Labor Department’s statistics for the number of jobs created in August, followed by the official unemployment rate for the same month. No wonder President Obama belatedly hastened to propose a major job-creation plan to a joint session of Congress.
Why Elizabeth Warren Makes George Will Nervous
Why hasn't there been a Tea Party on the left? And can President Barack Obama and the American left develop a functional relationship? That those two questions are not asked very often is a sign of how much of the nation's political energy has been monopolized by the right since Obama took office.
When socialism saves capitalism
Our political system is not accustomed to the kind of battle that is going on now. President Barack Obama has been slow to adjust to it. The voters are understandably mystified and frustrated by it. In the meantime, the economy sits on the edge between stagnation and something worse.
How workers vanished from our national consciousness
President Obama should not be constrained by what the Tea Party might allow subservient Republican leaders in Congress to do. He should state plainly, eloquently, and in detail what he thinks needs to be happen. Neither history nor the voters will be kind to him if he lets caution and political calculation get in the way.
The first week of August 2011 will be remembered as a singularly irrational, wasteful, and shameful moment in the political and economic history of the United States. It reflected much of what is wrong with the priorities of our political elites and the obsessions of those who now hold effective veto power over our government.
Up with moderation
The debt 'crisis' distracts from the real problem: unemployment
In the second part of the interview, Cardinal Francis George discusses the recent study of the "causes and context" of the sexual-abuse crisis, the bishops' role in assessing the Catholic identity of institutions, and retirement.
Time for the GOP to cut the Tea Party loose
The debt 'crisis' has kept the government from doing its job
Danger remains in the the debt debate
Four Myths about Government Spending
When the Tea Party comes home to roost
Why won't the GOP budge in the debt talks?
Why Paul Ryan is losing the argument
The atomization of American society
The U.S. government faces few challenges more important than renewing people’s trust in the honesty and fairness of our financial institutions and economic system.
We’re still debating whether what we’re doing in Libya can rightly be described as war, though bombs dropped amid an “intervention” are just as deadly. But where’s the debate over whether it’s fair or accurate to assert that Republicans in Congress have not-so-stealthily declared a “war on women”?
Saving Motown worked
The GOP candidates might be more formidable if President Obama were less strongly favored. And over time, what Congress does will be shaped by the campaign's direction. Views of 2012 are heavily influenced by the metaphors that prognosticators invoke. Will it be 1984, 1988, or 1992?
The American ruling class is failing us—and itself.
President Obama has finally decided to take his own side in the philosophical struggle that is the true engine of this nation's budget debate. After months of mixed signals about what he was willing to fight for, Obama laid out his purposes and his principles.
In the weeks since Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has spewed contamination and displaced thousands. It has also rekindled fears across the globe about the risks of nuclear power and at least temporarily slowed the industry’s revival in the United States.
What budget cuts can tell us
In no serious country do threats to shut down the government become a routine way of doing business. Yet in our repertoire of dysfunction, we are on the verge of adding shutdown abuse to the abuse of the filibuster in the Senate. The GOP, however, was rewarded for going to the brink.
Will Obama take on the GOP's irresponsible budget plan?
The GOP is using a bogus metaphor to cut programs & bust unions
What Wisconsin can teach Washington
Wisconsin is said to have a large budget deficit, which makes it no different from the federal government, most other states, and probably most municipalities in the United States. What makes Wisconsin different is that Gov. Walker is trying to cut costs by redefining the relationship between the state and public-sector unions.
This book proposes a new narrative for understanding the past three decades of our democratic life, a “thirty-year war” in which a long slow struggle through much of the 20th century for greater equality of income and wealth has been reversed.
The rich have recovered—the country hasn't
What can we do to prevent another Tucson?
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has chosen the low road.
Consider the political conversation in our nation's capital. You'd never know that it's taking place at a moment when unemployment is at 9 percent, when wages are stagnating, and when the United States faces unprecedented challenges to its economic dominance.
Obama & the failure of the deficit hawks
After Obama delivers his budget proposal to Congress today, it will be hard to pretend anymore that the president and House Republicans even live in the same political galaxy, let alone have a chance of reaching lots of bipartisan agreements.
When the paper trail disappears
Are we committing economic suicide?
After a tough 2008 and 2009, Wall Street and big companies made a strong comeback in 2010. By conventional wisdom, that is a harbinger of a broad, strong recovery. But these are strange times, and we may be seeing the economy of the super-rich finally decoupling from the rest of us.
Is the GOP interested in solving real problems?
There is already a standard line of advice to Speaker-to-be John Boehner that goes like this: Democrats overreached in the last Congress by ignoring "the center." Republicans should not to make the same mistake, lest they lose their majority, too. That counsel is wrong.
How are we to square the achievement of so many goals that have long been on progressive wish lists with the resounding defeat suffered by supporters of these measures in November?
The country's desire to reverse its sense of decline was central to Obama's victory. Consider his emphasis on "Hope" and "Change We Can Believe In." Those sentiments were responses to fears of lost supremacy and explain the religious overtones of the Obama crusade.
What does President Barack Obama think of those who fought and bled to pass his bills in Congress (in some cases losing in this year's election for their pains) while also defending him against wild charges from the right wing?
Three defeated Democrats offer their party advice on making Washington work again.
Where is Obama's conciliatory impulse leading the Democratic Party?
Republicans are risking the nation's security for short-term political gain
In mid-November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed a report detailing an extensive “review and renewal” of its domestic-poverty program, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The reevaluation came in response to complaints that the CCHD’s grant recipients were involved in efforts that contradict Catholic teaching.
Nancy Pelosi promised a vote if 14 members of Obama's deficit-cutting commission could agree on a plan. If John Boehner and his new GOP majority are as serious about deficit cutting as they say, he should make clear he'll hold such a vote in the next Congress since there will be little time for debate in the lame-duck session.
The lame-duck session of Congress that kicks off this week will test whether Democrats have spines made of Play-Doh, and whether President Barack Obama has decided to pretend that capitulation is conciliation.
Germans bankrolled the European Union's bailout of Greece. Now they want the EU's governing treaty to be changed to shield them and other better-off countries from shouldering such responsibilities alone. Could their buyer's remorse eventually undo the EU?
The results of the midterm elections were both emphatic and ambiguous: a strong message was sent, but no one is entirely sure what it is. It’s easier to say what Americans are feeling right now—frustration, impatience, and, increasingly, anger—than to know what policies they expect their elected representatives to adopt.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calmly assessing the political cyclone that routed her Democratic majority and will, at least temporarily, force her to vacate one of the best offices in the city, with its inspirational view of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
The election was a setback for Democrats, not permanent defeat
The 2010 midterms will go down as one of the most fiercely fought campaigns in our political history. What was this strife all about? Yes, there were policies to fight over. But above all, there was a tsunami of money.
Discuss that and other issues at dotCommonweal's open thread on the midterm election results.
"People want to know you're fighting for them when they're hurting," argues Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy. If enough incumbent Democrats like Murphy survive on Tuesday, they will contain the damage of a difficult night.
What will the nation’s politics look like if, as expected, the Republicans take back the House on November 2? Indiana’s Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference, issues a warning and a prediction. “There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare,” he said. “There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes. And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise.”
Is Joe Sestak leading a Democratic surge?
Secret money is corrupting our democracy.
Let us contemplate the joys of being in the political opposition when unemployment in your state tops 10 percent.
It's not as bad as you think
Carl Paladino & the politics of anger
How 'Citizens United' is deforming our elections
Can Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello Run on his convictions & win?
With the unemployment rate still hovering near 10 percent, Americans are understandably dissatisfied with the pace of economic recovery and apprehensive about the country’s future. What is perhaps less understandable is the degree of rancor toward President Barack Obama and the federal government as a whole.
More & more Democrats are running on the reforms
The outsized influence of the extreme Right
Where are the serious Republicans?
Why isn't anyone talking about Obama's tax cuts?
GOP hopefuls Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have much in common: Both are wealthy executives-turned-candidates, both want to dismantle "big government," and both want to win at any cost. Their victories would further frustrate the Democrats—and Obama's reelection chances.
Where have all the moderate Republicans gone?
Instead of acknowledging that the government can no longer afford tax breaks for everyone, conservative politicians are calling for deep spending cuts—at precisely the moment when the private sector and states most need the federal government’s support. The politicians solemnly advertise their anxiety for future generations that will have to repay this debt; they seem somewhat less worried about a generation of children whose schools are being gutted by state cutbacks.
Why the French lost faith in Nicolas Sarkozy
The nation's extraordinary prosperity from the end of World War II to the 1970s was in significant part the result of union contracts that, in words the right-wing hated Barack Obama for saying in 2008, "spread the wealth around." A broad middle class with spending power to keep the economy moving created a virtuous cycle of low joblessness and high wages.
By insisting that "it's time to turn the page," the president was talking about more than Iraq. He was also trying to turn the page on a particularly rough period for the Democrats and for his presidency.
The principled case that must be made is that the brand of conservatism seeking power this year is irresponsible, incoherent, and untrue to the best of its own traditions.
Liberals may lament the administration’s failure to make progress on immigration and climate-change legislation in this congressional session, but it may be time to shift energies to protecting what has already been passed.
When I sat down last week at the Capitol with Dodd to talk about his thirty-six years in Congress, he didn't change my attitude toward the longest-winded legislative body in the world. But he reminded me of something missing in our public life: an ebullient joy about what democratic politics can accomplish.
Dear Republicans, do you really want to endanger your party's greatest political legacy by turning the Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution into an excuse for election-year ugliness?
Don't for an instant imagine that the comeback of the nation's rescued car companies, particularly General Motors, will change the way we debate government's role in the economy. When it comes to almost anything the government does, ideology trumps facts, slogans trump reality, and loaded words ("socialism") trump data.
The notion that when we are fighting two wars, we're not supposed to consider raising taxes on wealthy Americans is one sign of a country that's no longer serious.
The titans of the private sector say President Barack Obama is antibusiness. Many progressives say he coddles business. How does the administration manage to pull that off?
Andrew Linzey was among the first to open up the field of “animal theology." This book is neither his best nor his most original work, but it is still worth recommending to anyone unfamiliar with his arguments.
Barack Obama's campaign promise of change did not include a pledge to transform American conservatism. But one of his presidency's major legacies may be a revolution on the American right in which older, more secular forms of politics displace religious activism.
Democrats should feel a lot better than they do. They enacted major health-care reform, pulled the country out of economic spiral, and are about to pass the biggest reform of Wall Street since the New Deal. The GOP seems to be making itself unelectable. Yet Democrats are petrified—and this was true before the oil spill made matters worse.
Might the USCCB be wrong about the health-care law?
It will take some time before a new array of justices on the Court rethinks the labored departure from precedent made by the majority in Citizens United. Meanwhile, much corporate mischief will have been done.
An interview with Larry Summers
It should become the philosophical shot heard 'round the country. In a speech that received far too little attention, former Supreme Court Justice David Souter took aim at conservatives' favorite theory of judging. Souter's verdict: It "has only a tenuous connection to reality."
Behind the jobless recovery
The fact that the answer to that question seems as murky as the water around the exploded oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that this is an excellent moment to recognize that our arguments pitting capitalism against socialism and the government against the private sector muddle far more than they clarify.
Why Washington's conventional wisdom of impending Democratic catastrophe is one of the best things Obama's party has going for it.
The European Union doesn’t know where it stands at the moment. NATO thinks it knows and is gambling.
A review of John Cassidy's book How Markets Fail
Arizonans have plenty to be anxious about, but indulging in a crude nativism won’t stop the flow of undocumented immigrants or prevent violent crime along the border.
This year's elections may exacerbate the difference between our two political parties, but not in the way most people are talking about. Republicans will end the year a more philosophically coherent right-wing party. But the Democrats will, if anything, become more ideologically diverse.
Ever heard the one about the guy who hated government until a deregulated Wall Street crashed, an oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, a coal mine collapsed, and some good police work stopped a terrorist attack?
Among elected officials, journalists, and average citizens, intensifying partisan polarization is thought to be one of the dominant political trends of our times. Yet it has proved remarkably controversial among political scientists.
The Democrats’ financial-reform plan doesn't go far enough.
Maybe the next time someone calls Barack Obama a socialist, the president shouldn't issue a denial. He might instead urge his accuser to read the hearing transcript of this week's congressional testimony from the Goldman Sachs guys in their beautiful suits.
Europe is on to something with proposed financial reforms
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli seems determined to use an attack on health-care reform to bring us back to the 1830s. Cuccinelli, to cheers from the Tea Party crowd, went to court this week to overturn the new law, which he says conflicts with a Virginia statute "protecting its citizens from a government-imposed mandate to buy health insurance."
The health-care debate has been costly for prolife groups.
From the archives: the life & death of Oscar Romero
There is a pathetic quality to our discussion of deficits and fiscal responsibility because we never face up to how much we need government to do. Our debates are also characterized by a politically convenient amnesia.
Joe Biden on the Economy & American Power
Who on the national stage today would knowingly blow up his or her political future for the common good, no matter how important the issue? Pushing through health-care reform could be politically perilous for today’s Democrats, but wouldn’t that be better than caving on such an important moral issue?
Why abortion shouldn't derail health-care reform
Time to turn indignation at what happened on Wall Street into prudent reform.
The stars may—just—be aligned to squeeze a national health-care bill out of Congress within the next month or two. Both houses have (barely) passed bills, and now they must cobble together a lowest-common-denominator consensus that can survive one more vote in each house. President Barack Obama is almost certain to sign anything they send him.
Meeting the nation’s long-term obligations won’t be possible without a stable economy.
Could the issue of abortion derail health-care reform legislation?
Solidarity and subsidiarity in Benedict XVI’s ’Caritas in veritate’
What is it about Afghanistan, possessing next to nothing that the United States requires, that justifies such lavish attention?
The biggest obstacle to health-care reform is political escapism.
How well is Team Obama handling the crisis?
Civilization & its discontents
"Our present straits require a basic reordering of national priorities."
American-style capitalism & the demise of free-market fanaticism
How should we talk about the financial crisis?
Remember when President George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security?
How to undo thirty years of bad economic policy
What went wrong, and why is it so hard to fix?
The fundamentalism of free-market theology
Why Catholics shouldn’t fear faith-based arguments about economic policy
Like Christianity, it’s never been tried.
Paul Ryan says many of his ideas are inspired by Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek. But as Angus Sibley noted in Commonweal in 2008, Hayek's theories 'underlie the economic policies that have allowed income inequalities in the United States to revert to levels not seen since the 1920s.'
The economy is in deep trouble. How did we get here and where are we headed?
Revisiting Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel.
As income concentration among the wealthiest increases, what about the rest?
The rich are riding high on Bush’s fiscal policy. What about the rest of America?
Charles Morris reports on the irresponsible tax policy of George W. Bush and the increasing disparity between rich and poor.