Archive

America's concern for the poor is about to be tested

    Poor Americans are facing the gravest threat to the federal safety net in decades as President-elect Donald Trump takes office accompanied by a Republican-controlled Congress.

    The risks to essential benefits for tens of millions of low- and moderate- income Americans include losing coverage extended to them by the Affordable Care Act, threats to the fundamental structure of the Medicaid health- insurance program for the poor and further reduction of already squeezed funding for scores of other important programs serving the most vulnerable Americans.

    First, Republicans are expected to seek significant cuts in what's known as non-defense discretionary spending, which includes many important programs for low- and moderate-income people, such as rental vouchers for low-income families, programs to fight homelessness, job training, funding for poor school districts, Head Start for young children and Pell grants to help low-income students afford college.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

December 30th

America owes its working class, yes. But the working class has duties, too.

    Members of the working class are not solely the victims of economic change and inadequate public policy. They themselves bear some of the responsibility for the frustration and anger they feel. They have agency. The degree to which our public conversation after the election has implicitly denied this basic fact has been concerning.

    As a culture, we feel more comfortable discussing what we want than what we owe. This is generally true. Applied to this specific situation, we want working-class Americans to lead flourishing lives that include meaningful employment, and society as a whole has a moral obligation to work toward making this the case. But working-class Americans have duties as well.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Making the connection between work and dignity

    Economists like to tell a possibly apocryphal story about Milton Friedman. The prophet of free markets, visiting an Asian country in the 1960s, witnessed a public-works project that had people making a road with picks and shovels. When he asked why they didn't use earth-moving machines instead, a local official responded that the goal was to provide people with jobs. In that case, the economist asked, why didn't the government just have the workers use spoons instead?

    This parable elicits a chuckle from many economists, who use it to contrast the hard-nosed, efficiency-minded thinking of their discipline with the ineffectual mandates of bumbling bureaucrats. But to many outside the profession, the story demonstrates a willful ignorance about the importance of work and human dignity. The government should focus on getting people jobs instead of just mailing them money. Ideas for doing that range from government employment guarantees to public-works programs to tax incentives for corporations that hire more employees.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Is democracy a 'fetish'?

    It's important for those who favor the popular election of our presidents to separate their arguments for direct democracy from the outcome of a particular contest.

    My colleague George F. Will's recent column in defense of the Electoral College offers an excellent opportunity to make a case that has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.

    After all, Will, admirably and eloquently, insisted that Trump was unworthy of nomination or election. So our disagreement relates entirely to his insistence that we should stick with an approach to choosing presidents that, twice in the last 16 years, overrode the wishes of Americans, as measured by the popular vote.

    Will brushes aside these outcomes. "Two is 40 percent of five elections, which scandalizes only those who make a fetish of simpleminded majoritarianism."

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Could Trump help unleash nuclear catastrophe with a single tweet?

    Donald Trump's alarming Tweet about his desire to "greatly strengthen and expand" the "nuclear capability" of the United States unleashed a frenzy of media efforts to try to divine his actual policy intentions. It forced some of his advisers into tortured claims that Trump didn't say what he actually said, even as others simultaneously insisted that Trump did meaningfully put other countries on notice that if he deems them to be challenging our supremacy, they will face an arms race.

    But perhaps the most worrisome thing about Trump's nuclear Tweet is not the intention to break with decades of international disarmament efforts that it may have signaled, though that's frightening enough on its own. Rather, it's that he saw fit to Tweet about nuclear weapons at all.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

And the Trade War Came

    Donald Trump got within striking distance of the White House — or, more precisely, Comey-and-Putin range — thanks to overwhelming support from white working-class voters. These voters trusted his promise to bring back good manufacturing jobs while disbelieving his much more credible promise to take away their health care. They have a rude shock coming.

    But white workers are not alone in their gullibility: Corporate America is still in denial about the prospects for a global trade war, even though protectionism was a central theme of the Trump campaign. In fact, the only two causes about which Trump seems truly passionate are supposedly unfair trade deals and admiration for authoritarian regimes. It’s naive to assume that he will let his signature policy issue slide.

    Let’s talk means, motive and consequences.

    You might imagine that a drastic change in U.S. trade policy would require congressional approval, and that Republicans — who claim to believe in free markets — would put on the brakes. But given GOP spinelessness, that is unlikely.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

To mute or not to mute a loud leader

    Of course it’s news.

    Not that my wife wants any part of it. Ever since the electoral victory of Donald Trump, whatever he has to say, she will hear nothing of it.

    The mere fact that I just used his name means she will decline to review this commentary.

    In our house, any televised mention of His Loudness brings silence, thanks to a 20th century invention even greater than Trump believes himself to be: the mute.

    As exercised by Republicans for the last eight years, muting the president is every American’s prerogative.

    On the other side of the spectrum, however, are the nation’s news gatherers. As news media they feel an obligation to report what a president says. This is a problem in the Time of Trump.

    The New York Times recently ruminated on the newsroom dilemma of whether or not every tweet from Trump is news.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Is democracy a 'fetish'?

    It's important for those who favor the popular election of our presidents to separate their arguments for direct democracy from the outcome of a particular contest.

    My colleague George F. Will's recent column in defense of the Electoral College offers an excellent opportunity to make a case that has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.

    After all, Will, admirably and eloquently, insisted that Trump was unworthy of nomination or election. So our disagreement relates entirely to his insistence that we should stick with an approach to choosing presidents that, twice in the last 16 years, overrode the wishes of Americans, as measured by the popular vote.

    Will brushes aside these outcomes. "Two is 40 percent of five elections, which scandalizes only those who make a fetish of simpleminded majoritarianism."

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

And the Trade War Came

    Donald Trump got within striking distance of the White House — or, more precisely, Comey-and-Putin range — thanks to overwhelming support from white working-class voters. These voters trusted his promise to bring back good manufacturing jobs while disbelieving his much more credible promise to take away their health care. They have a rude shock coming.

    But white workers are not alone in their gullibility: Corporate America is still in denial about the prospects for a global trade war, even though protectionism was a central theme of the Trump campaign. In fact, the only two causes about which Trump seems truly passionate are supposedly unfair trade deals and admiration for authoritarian regimes. It’s naive to assume that he will let his signature policy issue slide.

    Let’s talk means, motive and consequences.

    You might imagine that a drastic change in U.S. trade policy would require congressional approval, and that Republicans — who claim to believe in free markets — would put on the brakes. But given GOP spinelessness, that is unlikely.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

A Letter to President-Elect Trump About Health Care

    Dear Mr. President-elect:

    Your position on universal health insurance has been admirably clear. You support it. You did before you ran for president and continued to do so in the campaign.

    In 2000, you wrote, “We must have universal health care.” In a Fox News debate last year, you said, “We have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves.” On “60 Minutes,” you said, “Everybody’s got to be covered.”

    I am writing to you now because I am concerned that Republicans in Congress do not share your goal and are not giving you good advice on this issue. I’m worried that they are not acting in the best interests of your presidency or the country. I encourage you to be skeptical of them.

    It is entirely possible for you to sign a conservative health care bill that lives up to your belief in universal coverage. It’s a bill that you could celebrate as a replacement of Obamacare. But it would be quite different from the bills that congressional Republicans are pushing.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!