Tapped: The Prospect Group Blog

Haiti Needs Help, but It Doesn't Need Evangelizing

As I boarded my flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Friday morning, I was struck by something peculiar: There were almost no Haitians and at least five groups of white Americans in matching T-shirts. The back of one bright blue shirt read, “Al checher moun pou Jezi,” which means “Go look for people for Jesus” in Haitian Creole. It dawned on me that my plane was filled with evangelicals who were on their way to my mother country to preach Christianity.

At least 80 percent of Haiti identifies as Catholic and there are Protestants, such as Seventh-Day Adventists, in Haiti, too. On Sunday morning as we drove to the coast, the roads were flooded with adults and children dressed in their Sunday best, clutching Bibles and heading to church. Tap taps, the colorful buses that transport people in and around Port-au-Prince, often display religious slogans like “Christ Lives” and “God is love.” In a country like this, mission trips to Haiti to spread the word of Jesus seem self-serving, at best.

Haiti is no doubt compounded by political, environmental, and economic problems. But the way to help is not by bringing a Bible and talking religion to people who already go to church regularly but are worried about where their next meal is coming from. If churches are truly interested in helping Haiti, there are several ways to do so.

Deforestation has devastated much of Haiti. My father has made it his personal mission to remind the people living near my grandmother’s countryside home that for every tree they cut down, they should plant ten more. To combat hunger, religious people who travel to Haiti can teach kids how to plant vegetables and fruits and show them how to sustainably fish in the rivers and Caribbean Sea. Religious groups can donate money to schools, which in turn can educate the youth and turn them into the teachers, lawyers, and doctors that Haiti badly needs.

The list of ways to participate in the rebuilding and reconstruction in Haiti is endless. Unfortunately, spreading the word of evangelical Christianity doesn’t do much—except bring self-satisfaction to those invested in spreading their own beliefs. 

Trump’s Other Nightmare for the GOP: Running as an Independent

Donald Trump has performed an immense service by saying squirm-inducing things and thus forcing Republicans to either distance themselves from his idiocy—or not.

It’s a delightful vise, because Trump is now tied for first place in GOP presidential preference polls, with Jeb Bush. Attack him and you alienate Trump admirers. Fail to attack him and you look as crazy as he is.

It’s tempting to dismiss this lead as just celebrity and name-recognition, but one way or another the Donald is destined to play a major role in the 2016 campaign. He has the money and the ego, and he will be an embarrassment for the next 16 months.

And it gets worse (or better, depending on your perspective).

Trump is probably too much of a buffoon to get the Republican nomination, however he has pointedly refused to rule out running as an independent.

This is a wonderful turnabout from recent years, when independent candidacies haunted Democrats. In 2000, Ralph Nader running as a third-party candidate very likely denied Al Gore the presidency.

At the time, I begged Nader, whom I know well, to run instead in the Democratic primaries, but to no avail. This time, Bernie Sanders is playing the far more salutary role of challenging Hillary Clinton as a Democrat, and Sanders will not run as an independent should he fail to be nominated.

By contrast, the 2016 election could be like 1992, when third party crackpot H. Ross Perot ran as an independent—and at one point in the spring of 1992 was running ahead of both Clinton and his Republican rival, the sitting president George H.W. Bush. In the end, Perot drew off more Republican votes than Democratic ones, and Clinton was elected with just 43 percent of the popular vote.

The Republican game has been to fight about who can posture farthest to the far right. Now they are getting exactly what they deserve. For sheer lunatic appeal and demagogy, it’s hard to trump Trump.

The IMF Breaks with Europe on Greece—About Time!

As I’ve written on several occasions, the only player with the power to alter Europe’s disastrous demands on the long-suffering Greeks is the International Monetary Fund. Yesterday, the IMF acted.

In a stunning rebuke to the Germans and the rest of the sadists leading Europe’s Greek policy, an unnamed senior IMF official yesterday warned that Greece needs massive debt relief, at minimum $85 billion, or its economy will never recover and it will never be able to pay the rest of its debts. This is exactly what European officials have refused to concede.

This welcome and bold IMF stand throws a useful monkey wrench into the humiliating deal extracted over the weekend—especially since the IMF is one of the three entities that is supposed to enforce the deal. Conceivably, if Greece now were to decided to thumb its nose at Germany and the other brutal austerity-masters, the IMF could underwrite an alternative course.

One possibility would be for Greece to leave the euro and return to the drachma—but not as a punishment, as contemplated by the worst of the lot, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Rather, the IMF could provide new aid to Greece to make such a transition a plus for the Greeks by getting Greece out from under German diktats.

This brings the IMF full circle to the role proposed by its leading architect, John Maynard Keynes, when the IMF was created in 1944—to prevent foreign payments difficulties from pushing nations into self-deepening austerity. After a detour into the austerity camp, the IMF is returning to its roots.

Where did this change of heart come from? Economists at the IMF have long chafed at the absurd economic premises of the European leaders. But they key player in this surprise move was the IMF’s biggest shareholder, the United States.

Behind the scenes, the Obama administration and especially Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have been pressing the Germans to give the Greeks more room to breathe—to no avail until now. The IMF move was done with the full knowledge and encouragement of the United States government. Kind of makes you proud to be an American.

This was a good week for President Obama. The IMF move on Greece was overshadowed by the breakthrough in the nuclear talks with Iran. But if this latest IMF play, promoted by Washington, should prove to be a game changer, it will be as important a diplomatic achievement.

The End of the Special Relationship?

America has no ally quite like Israel. No other country has benefited as extensively from U.S. support. Successive administrations have routinely vetoed Security Council resolutions seeking to punish or condemn Israel’s behavior. The U.S. has blocked attempts to add Israel’s nuclear arsenal to the IAEA agenda. And while Israel was not decisive in instigating the Iraq War, it was one of the most ardent voices pushing for an invasion.

There have, of course, been spats. Increasingly, they have become public. There have even been moments where the U.S. has forced Israel to acquiesce to agreements it might otherwise wish to avoid—like when it temporarily halted settlement construction in 2009. But these disputes never seriously shifted American policy. When push came to shove, the U.S. and Israel presented a united front.

That might have ended today. In its deal with Iran, the United States has dramatically defied Israel’s explicit desires despite an extraordinary campaign against the deal by lobbying groups considered to be among the most powerful in the country, capped by a congressional address given by a foreign head of state who lacked a presidential invite.

Indeed, it has usually been Israel that has violated the wishes of its partner—not the other way around. In 2010, for example, Benjamin Netanyahu resumed settlement-building in the West Bank over American protests, thereby torpedoing peace talks with the Palestinians. And in 1991, the State Department’s inspector general accused Israel of making “unauthorized transfers” of American weapons to other countries—including China. But the U.S. has nonetheless hewed closely to Israel’s interests, even in cases where those interests diverge.

Iran is such a case. The White House and its allies have argued that this deal will ultimately make Israel safer by preventing (or delaying) Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. That may be true, but there are other reasons for Israeli opposition. Ending sanctions will enrich Iran, and the regime could use its newfound resources to increase funding of proxy militias like Hezbollah, which attack Israel. And it is doubtlessly unnerving for the Israeli government to see its closest ally engage in any kind of rapprochement with its most prominent enemy.

But America is not Israel, and if it wants to disentangle itself from the Middle East’s intractable conflicts, resolving a longstanding dispute is surely a boon. This deal reflects that fact.

The agreement is not yet final, and Congress could vote by a two-thirds majority to stop its enactment (though that seems unlikely). Nor is it the be-all and end-all of American-Israeli relations. Obama will leave the White House in less than two years, and whoever comes next may have a less acrimonious relationship with their Israeli counterpart. On the whole, support for Israel within the U.S. still remains strong.

But this deal will be difficult to undo, even under a GOP administration (Clinton has already given it her blessing). Should it survive, and should public disagreements between the U.S. and Israel persist, then the relationship will no longer be what it once was.

Bernie is Putting Black Youth Unemployment Front and Center

A point of criticism regarding Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign is that as an old white man from the whitest state in the union, he’s not good at talking about racial issues in the United States. He’s more comfortable, the argument goes, focusing broadly on issues of economic inequality and unwieldy corporate influence.

The critique, however, doesn’t mesh well with reality. While Sanders may not be perfect on race—his closest advisers are on the older, male-er, and paler side and he has next to no name recognition among the black community—he’s proven a willingness to go beyond the obligatory liberal lip service.

In addition to calling for a complete reform of policing practices and saying that America as a country must apologize for slavery (how controversial, right?), Sanders is going a step further: He’s increasingly calling out the lack of discourse on and solutions for black unemployment.

“How do you discuss Ferguson and not know that, in that particular community, unemployment is off the charts?" the democratic socialist said in an extensive interview with The Nation. "How do you discuss Baltimore and not know that, in that particular community, unemployment is off the charts?"

Nationally the black unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, compared with 4.6 percent for whites. The unemployment disparity, however, is far more striking for youth. The unemployment rate for young African Americans is 21.4 percent—seven percentage points more than the national youth unemployment rate.

Early last month, Sanders introduced the Employ Young Americans Now Act (he previously introduced the same bill last year) in a neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C., that’s long struggled with high unemployment rates. The legislation calls for the creation of one million jobs for disadvantaged young people by sending $5.5 billion in funds to state and local job-training programs—much of which would be aimed at areas with persistent black unemployment. 

Still, Sanders has a long way to go to get any significant portion of the black vote in the Democratic primaries. A recent poll shows that 91 percent of non-white voters prefer frontrunner Hillary Clinton, while only 3 percent intend to vote for Sanders. “We’re reaching out, but it’s no secret that Bernie represents a state that is heavily Caucasian, and his decades of work on issues of importance to African Americans aren’t known amid the national conversation on race that is underway,” a Sanders adviser told The New York Times.

His polling numbers among minorities may increase as his name recognition and platform awareness increases. By placing black youth unemployment, along with a cadre of other policies, on the marquee of his campaign platform, Sanders is showing that he’s aware, he’s not oblivious, and he’s willing to make outreach to the black community a priority.

As Collier Meyerson notes for Fusion, though, Clinton is echoing Sanders. At a speech at a community college in South Carolina last month, she announced a plan to combat rampant youth unemployment by offering tax credits to businesses that bring on young apprentices. And advisers said she’ll unveil more concrete plans aimed at black youth unemployment this summer.

Clinton has embedded recognition among the country’s black voters, and as Clinton mirrors some of Sanders’s ideas, the Vermont senator will have his work cut out for him as he attempts to ensure his broader platform for addressing economic inequality remains distinct, and as he works for greater recognition and support among a broader swath of American voters. Homing in on black youth unemployment could be a good jumping-off point. 

How Will Campbell Brown's '74' Cover Education?

Today marked the launch of The 74, an education-focused news organization created by former CNN host Campbell Brown. (The title refers to the 74 million school-age children in the U.S.)

The education community is cautiously waiting to determine how the site’s content should be judged. Funded solely by philanthropies—Bloomberg and the Walton Family Foundation among others—many are ambivalent about the site’s stated mission to produce independent, judicious journalism; The 74 has many close connections with education reform organizations, and Campbell Brown, a major proponent of charter schools, said in her opening letter that she plans to put forth advocacy, too.

It’s too soon to say what the coverage and content will be like, but I think they’ve published some pretty encouraging material on their first day. I especially like how they’re monitoring the 2016 presidential candidates on education issues. As Alexander Russo pointed out at his blog, The Grade, not many education-focused sites have used videos very effectively, and The 74 plans to create some video-based coverage. This is welcome, especially since it can be hard for readers to get a sense of what things actually look like in the classroom.

However, one area I know that I will be paying close attention to here on Tapped is The 74’s seemingly innocuous agenda of putting “children first.” (You’ll recognize this as similar to title of the ed-reform organization, StudentsFirst, founded by former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee.)

This popular mantra of putting kids first sounds perfectly harmless on its face. No one would disagree that kids should have high-quality opportunities so they can grow and learn and thrive. However, what does this mean for everyone else who works in a school? Teachers come second? School nurses third? By painting this false picture where the needs of kids can so simply be extricated from the needs of adults—we’re setting our conversations and policy prescriptions up for failure. Education advocates on all sides of the spectrum understand that there’s a strong need to attract a more diverse teaching workforce, to provide greater professional supports for teachers and to keep high-quality educators in the classroom. We’re not going to help build up the prestige and professionalization of teachers by proclaiming their needs and working conditions are less important.

Moreover, what may be good for one student in one classroom might in fact hurt other students in other classrooms. This is certainly the case in cash-strapped districts where spending money to open new schools often has the adverse effect of hurting existing institutions. In New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a decision to fire thousands of teachers was justified in part by doing what was best for children—but now New Orleans has lost significant numbers of black educators and 5 percent of its middle class. Whether or not this was worth it is a matter of debate, and one that hasn’t really occurred to the degree that it should. These policy decisions are interconnected and have reinforcing consequences; they deserve thoughtful consideration, and reconsideration, every time.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what else the journalists at The 74 are working on. These are greatly important issues and too many areas of education lack sufficient oversight, resources, and attention. I hope, though, that the writers will interrogate the idea of “kids first” and welcome a more holistic view of what a school can be for all members of its community.

Rick Perry Seems a Little Confused About Women's Health Care

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is one of four Republican presidential candidates who spoke at the National Right to Life Convention in New Orleans last Friday, along with Dr. Ben Carson, former Senator Rick Santorum, and Senator Marco Rubio. And, in true Rick Perry fashion, his comments were a bit awkward.

While talking about health care in Texas, Perry painted himself as a champion of expanded access to health care. Of course, he was one of the 19 governors who refused to accept the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in his state, effectively depriving more than a million Texans of access to affordable health care.

This was only made worse by his pledge to improve health-care access to the less fortunate, the very people who would have benefited from that Medicaid expansion. “That’s what we ought to be working on … that the least of us are taken care of.”

Beyond this contradiction, though, there’s also the fact that if the “least of us” is a pregnant woman who wants an abortion, Perry really, really doesn’t want her to be “taken care of.” In July 2013, Texas’s state legislature passed and Perry signed H.B. 2, an anti-abortion bill designed to shut down almost all of the state’s then-42 abortion providers. As of now, only 19 clinics are still open in the state, leaving many Texas women—disproportionately those who are poor and of color—hundreds of miles away from the nearest clinic.

It’s not that Perry tried to hide this history—he’s proud of it. He told the crowd at the anti-abortion event that he was the candidate of abortion opponents everywhere: “No candidate has done more to protect life for the unborn than I have. That’s a fact.”

But Perry’s comments on reproductive health went beyond simply lauding his anti-abortion credentials. He actually tried to paint himself and his state as advocates for women’s health care. “If you are a pregnant female,” he told the audience, “from El Paso to Brownsville, in 2001, you had to leave that county to get prenatal health care. Today, you can get that kind of health care in the state of Texas,” he said, implying that as governor, he vastly increased women’s access to prenatal care in the state of Texas.

Of course, the reality is that in 2011, Perry’s administration supported the legislature’s choice to slash family-planning funding and remove “abortion-affiliated providers” from state programs, a move that shut down 76 facilities, most of which provided prenatal care. Most of the 23 abortion providers who have shut down as a result of H.B. 2 also offered prenatal care and other women’s health-care services. So when Perry mentions an increase in access to prenatal care, we’re left wondering what he would say to the women who lost their preferred (or only) source of prenatal care, simply because that source also performed abortions.

Or what he would say to the Texas women seeking abortions who now have to leave not just the county, but the state, to exercise their constitutionally protected right to the medical procedure. What Rick Perry misses and refuses to accept is that, simply put, abortion services are health care, and by drastically limiting access to services, he and his state are anything but advocates for women’s health.

QUIZ: Is This Quote Defending Cosby or Trump?

(Left photo: Penn State; Right photo: Gage Skidmore)


Great news for those on the right with victim complexes and deep-seated fears of non-white immigrants: Donald Trump is currently polling in first place among GOP presidential contenders.

It’s proof that even with lethal doses of self-delusion, you can still count on the support of thousands to embrace your racist, nativist beliefs as brave truths, or at the very least, inelegantly phrased facts. And when the P.C. police and liberal media descend, they’ll rally to your defense.

In fact, it’s been a great week for perceived victimhood. Bill Cosby can admit to obtaining quaaludes to give to women, news outlets will report that the drugs were “to have sex” (when, in fact, many would argue that the point of the drugs was to not have consensual sex), and still, famous friends like Whoopi Goldberg will stand courageously by your side—innocent until proven guilty, after all.

Here are some quotes that acknowledge these men as being true victims—can you tell whether it is Trump or Cosby who is being defended?



1. “I admire him for at least being honest. … I think for him to own it and to tell the truth at this point is very courageous.”

2. “It looks like they're trying to destroy [him]. What did [he] ever do to tick off some producer at CNN? Or some reporter? Or some assignment? What happened here? … Basically, he started demanding that people start accepting responsibility.”

3. “I really think he is magnificent. I’m almost stunned at how good he’s being especially considering the world he lives in.”

4, “He’s being punished very severely in the press, he’s lost a lot of income, he may lose it all going forward.”

5. “I appreciate [his] scrappiness. … When he is attacked by other people, he counterattacks and plunges forward and delivers more facts to support the statement that he’s made.”

6. “The amount of abuse that [he] has taken, the efforts that have been made to destroy him … it has been serious. It has been an onslaught and he has not buckled. And I'm telling you, whatever you think of [him] and all of this, try to keep that in perspective. Most people would have buckled long ago. Most people would have cried uncle and begged forgiveness … I have an incredible amount of admiration and respect for just this aspect of what [he] has done. Look at what it has cost [him]. Look at the abuse that he has taken and had to take.”

7. “[He] is worth $400 million, and yes, it’s pertinent. That’s four hundred million incentives right there.” 

8. “For all its crassness, [his] rant on immigration is closer to reality than the gauzy clichés of the immigration romantics unwilling to acknowledge that there might be an issue welcoming large numbers of high school dropouts into a 21st-century economy.” (OK, this one is easy, but can you guess who said it?)

9. “I’m slightly anti-anti-[X] because I’m so sick of all the establishment types being so earnest in disdaining him.”



1. Tourist/local news interviewee, on Cosby

2. Rush Limbaugh, on Cosby

3. Ann Coulter, on Trump

4. Jerry Reisman, entertainment attorney, on Cosby

5. Representative Steve King of Iowa, on Trump

6. Rush Limbaugh, on Trump

7. The website A Voice for Men, on Cosby

8. National Review editor Richard Lowry, on Trump

9. Bill Kristol, on Trump


BONUS ROUND: Who said this?

1. “I’ve been down to the border and checked across these places, and the number I come back with 75 percent [of children] are sexually abused on the way to the United States. So I’d say in Donald Trump’s defense, somebody’s doing that to these kids that are being raped and abused and when they’re coming across Mexico it’s a reasonable assumption to conclude that the people who are doing that are Mexicans.”

2. “You want to talk about rape? That’s media rape, right there. You said you would not do that. Since when does your ‘no’ mean ‘yes’? Do you know the definition of ‘no,’ sir? You’ve just raped Bill Cosby. You said you wouldn’t do it. You just did it and then you blamed it on him. My gosh, maybe we should have a lesson on rape.”



1. Representative King, again

2. Glenn Beck

Why It Will Take Another Watergate to Pass Campaign Finance Reform

Back in January, Congressman John Sarbanes introduced the Government By the People Act. It’s an ambitious bill that would bring a sea change to our much-maligned campaign finance system.

The bill has three main tenets aimed at amplifying the power of small donors. It would create a $25 tax credit for political donations up to $50; establish a six-to-one matching system for donations up to $150 to House and Senate candidates; give enhanced matching funds to candidates who are combating significant outside spending. Small donors would also be able to bundle contributions into something of a People’s PAC.

Essentially, by increasing the monetary footprint of small donors, this would give incentive to politicians to talk more with everyday constituents about things that impact them rather than jet-setting across the country going to fundraisers and only hearing about the importance of keeping the carried-interest loophole in place. And yes, it is sad that it takes a piece of legislation to make politicians campaign to the people they actually represent.

The legislation is based on past campaign finance reform legislation, just modernized to deal with the post-Citizens United world we live in. It also borrows from some of the most effective policies that states and cities have successfully implemented. Critically, the legislation follows the one pathway the courts have left to even the playing field: adding more, not less, money to politics.

“If this bill became law, it would greatly change the priorities of Congress, making them more responsive to the priorities of everyday Americans,” says Aaron Scherb, the legislative affairs director for Common Cause.

Along with Sarbanes, 149 Democrats and (surprisingly) one Republican have co-sponsored the legislation. There’s also a similar companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin. The law stems from the Fair Elections Now Act of 2008, which nearly passed when Democrats had control of Congress. But with a Republican-controlled Congress that has shown less than no interest in considering campaign finance reform, things look bleak. It failed to gain traction when introduced in the 112th and 113th Congress. This time around, GovTrack gives it a full 0 percent chance of being enacted.

Scherb puts it a little more clearly: “We’ll probably have to wait for a scandal or a crisis to occur for it to pass.”

Still, Sarbanes remains adamant that it can pass—and he appears to be going on something of media campaign to get the word out. Last month he did an interview with The Washington Post and Washington Monthly. And this week, Jon Schwarz of The Intercept published an interesting two-part interview with the Congressman.  

“It’s like with that Verizon ad: ‘Can you hear me now?’ Right now candidates can only hear the $1000 donor, the PAC donor. But if you have those people sitting in that living room with that match, all of a sudden you can hear them,” Sarbanes tells The Intercept.

The second installation of the interview gets into how Sarbanes goes about marketing an issue with a lot of populist support but next to no political feasibility: “Somebody’s going to own your government. It’s not going to just sit there unattended. It’s either going to be owned by special interests and big money, in which case when it comes to making policy that’s who we’ll work for. Or it’s going to be owned by you. And in America, if you want to own something, you’ve got to pay for it.”

The point being: democracy will come with a price tag. But first, somebody is probably going to have to get caught with their hand in the industry cookie jar in a very big way.

One GOP Step Forward, Four GOP Steps Back

Republican strategists surely breathed a sigh of relief Thursday when the South Carolina legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State Capitol. But it wasn’t long before Republican lawmakers began stepping on the story of the new GOP racial sensitivity not once, not twice, not even thrice, but four (4) times. 

Just as Palmetto State solons were recognizing that continuing to identify themselves with the cause of slavery 150 years after the end of the Civil War was probably a bad idea, their federal counterparts—white Southern Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives—were vociferously seeking to undo an amendment that had earlier passed the House by voice vote. The amendment forbade the National Park Service from buying merchandise from merchants who sell Confederate paraphernalia, and banned national military cemeteries from providing Confederate gravesite flags to slavery nostalgiacs. 

The Confederacy finally surrenders in South Carolina but reflexively rises again, like Dr. Strangelove's arm, in the Republican congressional delegation. 

Elsewhere this week, clearly trying to change the subject, GOP sort-of-frontrunner Jeb Bush proclaimed that, "Americans need to work longer hours." In fairness, he was talking about those Americans involuntarily relegated to part-time jobs, so the sentiment he voiced was one that the left could readily share. Nonetheless, when a non-trivial number of Americans look at Jeb Bush, they already discern the next Mitt Romney. Bush's Whoops Moment merely confirmed their view.

Meanwhile, in remarks NOT taken out of context, Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed column earlier this week contending—not as a passing apercu but as the thesis of the piece—that college is actually affordable. 

You can't make this stuff up.

And to close out the week's GOP outreach campaign, a PPP poll released Thursday showed that the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination among North Carolina Republicans is—you guessed it—the Donald. 

Just keep saying, the problem with Republicans is Republicans, and you won't go wrong.