Mark Schmitt

Mark Schmitt is director of the program on political reform at the New America Foundation and former executive editor of The American Prospect



Recent Articles

"Entitlements" Are Just a Budget Category

Why should Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid be untouchable and not other programs? And shouldn’t there be more to the liberal message than, “Don’t touch entitlements”?

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George Packer's U.S.A.

AP Images/David Samson
In the quest to understand what has happened to the U.S. economy since the 2008 meltdown and the recession that followed, the challenge has been figuring out how far back to pull the lens. Early books on the crisis zoomed in on airless rooms occupied by panicked CEOs and government officials during the pathetic last few months of the Bush administration and the beginning of this one. More expansively reported accounts looked at lower-level traders and fly-by-night firms, expanding the scope to recognize a decade of mortgage fraud and exploitation of would-be homeowners and investors, along with the Washington corruption that allowed the profiteers to thrive unpunished. As time passed, it became clearer that this was not a story that began in 2008 or just a story of the Bush years. It was the inevitable last act of the period since the late 1970s, when the nation became dramatically wealthier but median wages stagnated, economic insecurity worsened, and debt became a means to paper...

When the Democratic Leadership Council Mattered

Glee over the DLC's demise misses the point of its founding and its sad history.

Former President Bill Clinton takes the stage at the 2007 Democratic Leadership Council national convention. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
In the eyes of its critics, the Democratic Leadership Council, which announced Monday that it was closing shop, represented the "corporatist" wing of the Democratic Party. Ben Smith in Politico summarized the criticism as "a religion of compromise, lack of principle, and a willingness to sell out the poor and African-American voters at the party's base." "I wasn't at war with the DLC," Smith quotes DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas as saying, "but with the corporatists who are ruining my party." To The Washington Post 's more temperate Ezra Klein (also a Prospect alum), the DLC stood for a formula of "liberal ends through market means," exemplified by the Affordable Care Act. To Klein and others, the DLC's end could be seen as simply the achievement of its policy goals. This DLC, seen as merely corporatist, market-oriented, and unprincipled in any larger sense, is just a symbol, a foil. Used to represent whatever one loathes, loves, or tolerates in the current Democratic Party, it...

Southern Discomfort

Democrats no longer need the South, but the region needs them.

In his 2006 book, Whistling Past Dixie, political scientist Tom Schaller argued that the Democratic Party should learn to ignore the South. Presidential elections and congressional majorities could be won without the region, and the Mountain West was the land of political opportunity. Ignoring the South, and the reactionary politics of its white voters, would have the additional benefit of freeing the party to pursue a "non-Southern platform" of public investment and liberal social policies. At the time, the book annoyed people. Many Democrats couldn't imagine giving up the party's base in the South. After all, the last Democrat elected president (Bill Clinton) captured five Southern states, and the previous Democrat (Jimmy Carter) won all of them. When Democrats controlled the House before 1994, they relied on Southern Democrats for their majority. Entire institutions, such as the once-influential Democratic Leadership Council, were built around the assumption that the party needed...

Post Literalism

The Republican majority intends to underplay its hand rather than take responsibility for governing.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
There's a malady that Washington liberals and media types are particularly susceptible to. I've got a chronic recurring case of it myself. Call it policy literalism -- the persistent belief that policy should have a rational, direct relationship to politics. Here's a test: Does it come as a surprise to you that most voters think their taxes went up in the last two years? Obama cut taxes by $240 billion, and nearly every household got a tax cut in the 2009 economic stimulus, but a pre-election poll for Bloomberg found that 52 percent of likely voters thought middle-class taxes had gone up, and only 19 percent thought they were lower. There are a lot of explanations for this: Perhaps people watch too much Fox News, or they've been bombarded with billions of dollars in ads reinforcing the familiar theme that Democrats support big taxes and spending, or they don't pay much attention to changes in their taxes. (In 2001, President George W. Bush sent a letter to every household announcing a...