May/June 2012

A challenge for the media

For all his faults, Barack Obama is obviously the best presidential candidate. And the Democrats in Congress, for all their faults, are clearly better than their Republican counterparts. This should mean that the result of this year’s election will be a Democratic landslide. But a recent study reported in the New York Times concludes there… Read more »

The liberal Republicanosaurus

For those too young to recall that there were once more than one or two liberal Republicans, I can assure that they actually existed in considerably greater number. When I arrived in Washington in the 1960s there were five Republicans who, more often than not, voted on the liberal side: Jacob Javits, Kenneth Keating, Clifford… Read more »

Missing in action

In all the coverage of the shooting rampage by the soldier in Afghanistan, and the role that his repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan may have played in it, I did not see anyone mention a crucial fact that has been noted before in this column: at any one time, there are fewer than 100,000… Read more »

The great “Great Divergence”

As we all know, income inequality in this country has been growing for a long time. The latest evidence: in 2010 the top 1 percent of taxpayers captured 93 percent of the additional income created over the previous year. Thirty-seven percent of it went to 0.01 percent, households with average annual incomes of $23.8 million…. Read more »

Never look a gift exposé in the mouth

If you wonder why I beat the drum so constantly for better media coverage of government, here’s a quote from Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense, about his time at the Pentagon: “You know, in 4 1/2 years [at the Pentagon] I never had a line outside my office of senior executives coming …… Read more »

Pick your poison

One error that some school reformers make is to place too much emphasis on testing, even when it takes into account different student backgrounds. Consider the case of a teacher who was good enough to be immediately rehired by the excellent Fairfax County, Virginia, school system after she had been dismissed in the District of… Read more »

Michael ♥ Lloyd

If you were one of those liberals flirting with the notion of a third party headed by Michael Bloomberg, consider this recent headline from the New York Times. “With Visit to Goldman, Bloomberg Says, Chin Up.” The accompanying story by Michael Grynbaum notes that Bloomberg, “who has earned billions on Wall Street, has built his… Read more »

Koch d’etat

The Koch brothers, you may have heard, have tried to oust the leadership of the CATO Institute. CATO’s policies agree with the Kochs’ right-wing positions 80 percent of the time. But that’s not enough for the Koch brothers. They want total control. This mirrors what has happened to the Republican Party today. You have to… Read more »

A bad argument

The New York Review of Books seems to have embraced Diane Ravitch’s campaign against public school reform. It has published articles by her in back-to-back issues this year. In the March 8 issue, she argues that The “no excuses” reformers maintain that all children can attain academic proficiency without regard to poverty, disability, or other… Read more »

Under the radar

The latest example of White House inattentiveness comes courtesy of the General Services Administration, which managed to create a scandal by squandering $823,000 on a conference of its employees at a luxury casino outside of Las Vegas. Why, you may ask, should the White House bother keeping an eye on the GSA? Because it does… Read more »

Cashing in by going public

The sponsors of the new JOBS Act seem to have assumed that encouraging IPOs will help small businesses in their struggle to survive. But what these initial public offerings of stock usually represent is a “cashing in” by the owners of companies that are already successful. For example, the most recent IPO you’ve probably heard… Read more »

Can you believe it?

Politico seems to have actually succeeded in shaming a K Street firm into dropping a valuable client. This rare feat was apparently accomplished by its revelation that the Livingston Group—composed of former Republican Congressman Bob Livingston, former Democratic Congressman Toby Moffett, and Tony Podesta, brother of a former aide to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—had… Read more »

Block the vote

If you have doubted that the efforts of Republican state legislators to suppress minority voting are succeeding, ponder this news. From the time when Florida’s new election law took effect in July of last year through late March of this year, 81,471 fewer people have registered to vote than during the same period before the… Read more »

When the 800-pound gorilla speaks …

You may recall the firing of Shirley Sherrod. Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, dismissed her hours after a video purporting to show her making a racist remark was posted by the late right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart. The White House denied having been involved. Vilsack agreed, saying he had made the decision on his own…. Read more »

“It’s a great idea, but …”

As a veteran observer of clever bureaucrats, I have come to admire a tactic often employed by the secretary of the treasury, Timothy Geithner. When the White House is considering reforms that he does not favor—and major reform is something Geithner rarely embraces—he doesn’t say, “This is a terrible idea and I’m against it.” Instead,… Read more »

A ray of hope

“Fewer graduates of elite Ivy League schools are choosing careers in finance,” reported the New York Times recently. The Wall Street Journal, however, ran this headline: “On Campus, Wall Street Still Carries Its Cachet.” But the evidence offered by the Journal confirms that the Times has it right. The University of Pennsylvania reports that the… Read more »

Wonder why?

The Discovery Channel recently ran an hour-long documentary on the Costa Concordia disaster. If the name of the ship’s owner, Carnival Cruise Lines, was mentioned, it was so sotto voce as to go undetected by my ear.

The Twilight of the Civic-minded CEO

The staggeringly high regard in which Americans once held Fortune 500 CEOs has certainly diminished in recent years. Back in the day, when they could fairly be described as “job creators,” CEOs were treated like folk heroes—think Jack Welch of GE or Lee Iacocca of Chrysler. But during the 2000s, U.S. multinationals have shed nearly… Read more »

Transcontinental Education

Soon, nearly every state in the union will have the same demanding standards for what students should know. If history is any guide, a burst of innovation won’t be far behind.

Introduction: The Next Wave of School Reform

The school reform movement—the decades-old bipartisan drive to improve public education with standards and high-stakes tests—might seem, on the surface at least, to be running out of steam. Its crowning achievement, George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which shook up public schools after it was passed in 2001, is now widely seen… Read more »

Peaced Out

Peter Beinart warns that American Jews must refocus on the democratic and humanitarian principles of Zionism before Israel becomes simply another despotic Middle Eastern state.

Losing Our Religion

Ross Douthat rightly asserts that religious faith is essential to America’s understanding of itself. But his own understanding of religion is suspiciously selective.

The Anchor

Forget Rachel, Bill, Anderson, and Sean. The broadcaster who will most determine the 2012 elections is Jorge Ramos.