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Archive for January, 2010

What Would Jesus Do?

January 29th, 2010

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This piece was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Will the culture wars ever end? We have now had three Presidents in a row who promised to unite the country. They all failed.

Bill Clinton said in 2004, “If you look back on the sixties and, on balance, you think there was more good than harm in it, you’re probably a Democrat. And if you think there’s more harm than good, then you’re probably a Republican.”

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Reform Momentum Shifts Back to Passage

January 28th, 2010

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This piece was originally published on National Journal’s Health Care Experts Blog.

The President’s State of the Union address began to shift the momentum in the health care debate back towards passing reform. President Obama didn’t walk away from the challenge of passing controversial policies. Instead, he made reform more important than ever to the success of his agenda. Without reform, Americans will have less money to spend on college for their children, more anxiety about losing their coverage, and greater health care costs in retirement.

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Creating a 40-Hour Work Week for Prisoners

January 19th, 2010

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This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Violent crime decreased by 4.4% in the first half of 2009, despite the lousy shape of the economy and the high rates of unemployment, according to a surprising report released last week by the FBI. Experts looking to explain this counterintuitive trend have credited everything from smart and targeted policing in big cities (last year New York was safer than it had been during any year on record), to innovative use of new technologies to prevent and deter crime (more cities are using crime-mapping systems and other novel strategies to leverage scarce resources), to the $4 billion included in the stimulus bill to help state and local law enforcement and criminal justice systems weather the tough economic times.

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A Populist Eruption In Massachusetts?

January 15th, 2010

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This piece was originally published in National Journal.

Imagine this OMG moment for Democrats: a Massachusetts Republican wins Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat.

What an upset that would be. It’s JFK’s old seat, for goodness sake. After JFK won the presidency in 1960, the seat was occupied for two years by his former Harvard roommate until Edward Kennedy was old enough to run. He won the seat in 1962 and held it for 47 years. Massachusetts has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972. Right now, the state’s congressional delegation does not include a single Republican.

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The Deepening Partisan Divide

January 8th, 2010

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This piece was originally published in National Journal.

Want to see bipartisanship? Look at the congressional votes in 1935 to establish Social Security. The measure got almost unanimous support from Democrats: 95 percent of House Democrats and 98 percent of Senate Democrats voted to create the safety net for the elderly. Republican support was also overwhelming: 84 percent of House Republicans and 76 percent of Senate Republicans voted for the new program.

Want to see bipartisanship again? Look at the Medicare votes of 1965. Once again, Democrats were nearly unanimously supportive (83 percent in the House, 89 percent in the Senate). This time, Republicans were more closely divided but still delivered significant support: 70 GOP House members (51 percent) and 13 Republican senators (43 percent) voted for Medicare.

Want to see bipartisanship vanish? Look at the 2009 votes on health care reform. The House measure passed in November with the support of 85 percent of Democrats but only one of 177 Republicans. Last month’s Senate vote on health care reform was totally polarized: All 60 Democrats voted yea; all 39 Republicans present voted nay.

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Obama’s Aces Over

January 5th, 2010

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This piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

In Washington, the conventional wisdom says that President Obama has spent his last nickel of political capital. His quick and substantial action to steady the financial markets, stimulate the economy, reset the war in Afghanistan, and, most of all, to reform health care, have all been bold and, to varying degrees, controversial. These mega-battles have left his political allies exhausted and his political coffers bare. His approval rating has steadily bled to an all-time Obama low. The outlook for 2010, the CW says, is for no further action in Congress and a grim midterm election for Democrats.

But such thinking fundamentally misunderstands the nature of political capital – it isn’t spent on big initiatives, it’s gambled. Right now, the President may appear to have a meager stack of chips in front of him, but it’s because his entire bankroll is in the pot. And as it turns out, he’s holding a couple of aces.

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