The Nation

  • April 12, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The nation’s growing income inequality, among other issues concerning the economy, should play a significant role in the presidential election, but writing for The Nation, Ari Berman delves into why the Supreme Court should also be “a major issue in November.”

    The Supreme Court is simply not balanced. The court has been shoved far to the right. Berman cites Nate Silver’s reporting for The New York Times on a recent study that “finds that the current court is the most conservative since at least the 1930s.”

    The Martin-Quinn Scores, which Silver rendered in two charts, also “imply that, on the basis of its median justice, the current court is farther from the ideological center than any recent court. For instance, it is farther from the center than the liberal courts of the late 1960s that were under Chief Justice Earl Warren.”

    And beyond deciding whether health care reform will stand or fall, the Roberts Court is likely to consider a slew of major issues in the “not-so-distant future,” Berman writes. Some of these concerns include affirmative action policy, voting rights, marriage equality and reproductive rights. (As Berman notes, Republican state lawmakers have passed numerous onerous restrictions on reproductive rights over the last few years.)

    The right already gets it. Leaders of the conservative movement have obsessed over the make-up the federal courts and the high court in particular, for decades. And those leaders haven’t stopped obsessing. Berman notes that NRA leader Wayne LaPierre declared, in hyperbolic fashion, at this year’s Conservative Political Action Committee, “If Obama wins re-election, he will likely appoint one – and perhaps three – more Supreme Court justices. It’ll be the end of our freedom forever.”

  • March 29, 2011

    There was time, in the 1960s and ‘70s, when the United States was "more of a mind to tackle poverty," Georgetown University law school professor Peter Edelman tells Greg Kaufmann in an interview for The Nation.

    In "US Poverty: Past, Present and Future," Edelman, an ACS Board member and husband of Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, reflected on his storied career of fighting poverty. That career included working closely with Robert F. Kennedy and serving, for a time, in the Clinton administration. (Kaufmann notes that Edelman left his post in the administration in protest over its involvement in the creation of so-called welfare reform.)

    Today a sense of outrage is sorely lacking over the ever-growing number of people in poverty, Edelman (pictured at the 2010 ACS National Convention) says:

    We now have over 19 million people who live in extreme poverty - that's 6.3 percent of the population - unbelievable! These are people below half the poverty line - below about $8,500 for a family of three, $11,500 for a family of four. Up from 12.6 million in 2000! You have 6 million people in this country whose only income is food stamps - which provide income at just one-third of the poverty line. We've effectively destroyed welfare as a form of assistance - that's TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), the cash assistance that ought to go along with food stamps - because in so many states it's become virtually nonexistent. The states decide who gets it, and so in state after state - with a few exceptions - it's really hard to get on welfare.

    Regarding child poverty, Edelman says:

    Over 20 percent of children live in poverty, and over 36 percent of the extremely poor are children. Also, over half of the children in this country under age 6 who live in a household where there's a single mom are poor. That's another stunning number.

    Poverty in the country continues to hit certain races and ethnicities the hardest, Edelman adds:

    We still have poverty rates for African-Americans that are close to three times the white rate. Same for Latinos. But the African-American poverty rate tends to be more intergenerational, more persistent. Same for Native Americans. And what are the causes of that?