Six years ago, Lara Burt, then an intern with the New America think tank, published an article urging American policy makers to emulate the antipoverty policies of Great Britain, which since 1999 had cut child poverty in half.
Where did she publish the article? The Washington Monthly.
Burt wrote, “The U.S. should follow the U.K.’s lead and eliminate the minimum earnings requirement [for the child tax credit] and make the credit fully refundable so that all qualifying families are able to access the full credit.” In 2021, Democrats passed and enacted legislation doing precisely that. Census data released three months ago showed that the policy worked as intended: Child poverty in 2021 was slashed by 46 percent.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t have a happy ending. The child tax credit was only expanded for one year, expiring this year after moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin refused to cough up the 50th vote needed to extend the program. But all is not lost; a bipartisan group of senators is talking about a new, albeit more limited, expansion.
The battle of ideas doesn’t always end in victory, but waging it is essential to a politics of meaning. But that’s hard to do these days. We have a social media–driven discourse that elevates hashtags, memes, GIFs, and clapbacks. Navigating the noise to find the ideas—let alone engage, challenge, and refine those ideas—can be a trial, even for people that practice politics for a living.
Thank goodness the Monthly exists.
Any time you pick up a print issue of the Monthly or visit the Monthly website, you know you will find ideas—policy prescriptions that will sharpen your understanding and help you influence the direction of our country.
These ideas might not grab the attention of the social media hordes, but they can still make an impact.
For example, in September, Luke Goldstein of the Open Markets Institute wrote an article for the Washington Monthly directed to our transportation secretary, “Hey, Pete Buttigieg, Use Your Power to Get Us Better Airline Service.” After a summer spike of cancellations and delays, Goldstein laid out how Buttigieg could use the secretary’s legal and regulatory power to break up a domestic airline industry dominated by just four major carriers. The secretary hasn’t gone that far, but under considerable pressure, last month, he wielded department rules requiring passenger refunds when flights are canceled or significantly delayed. Buttigieg recently announced that $600 million in refunds have been secured.
In August, Paul Glastris, the Monthly’s editor in chief, highlighted primary election data showing that vote by mail states were generating big voter turnout. Moreover, he noted that public disparaging of mail voting on the right “could hurt GOP turnout in states like Arizona, where voting by mail has long been the norm, including among Republican voters.” After Republicans lost several close elections in Arizona and elsewhere, several conservatives have openly fretted that they made a mistake by not encouraging mail voting among their base, a shift in thinking that could influence election reform policies in the near future.
The Washington Monthly this past year was also a source of ideas that ran counter to the overly pessimistic conventional wisdom about the state of the economy. Robert Shapiro dove deep into the economic data. He found that many of the talking points about inflation being pushed in the media were wrong: On Biden’s watch, wages after inflation kept pace, poverty was down, and net assets increased, with the fastest growth among the working class. To the extent that inflation has been a problem, Phillip Longman explained that the culprit has been monopolistic consolidation: “In sector after sector, we have an economy increasingly dominated by just a few, often colluding firms that have stripped out almost all slack capacity and that don’t need to worry about competitors underselling them because they no longer really have any competitors.” On Election Day, Republicans who thought that public sentiment about the economy would create a “red wave” ended up profoundly disappointed.I could go on and on about the innovative ideas found in the Monthly. Still, it would be much easier for you to simply keep reading the Monthly and keep supporting the Monthly. Without your support, these ideas may not have any place else to go.