Commentary

Economic Opportunity Program Director Tamara Draut discusses that as the recently released 2006 Economic Report of the President reported that earnings for workers with college degrees declined between 2000 and 2004 — yet another thread of evidence in a growing mound that for those just starting out, the golden rules are no longer so golden.

Getting a bachelor's degree is the required ticket for entry into the middle class today, but the security once implied in that status is gone.

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The common thread that winds through these stories is the erosion of national autonomy — and, with it, the state’s monopoly over violence, the power to enact binding laws, and other essential aspects of sovereignty. Sovereignty, in turn, is an obvious precondition for democracy (which you cannot have without a state). When the sovereign state erodes, democracy erodes. It is that simple — and, beset from within and without, it is happening even today.

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The mantra of the free market has gained such a hold on Americans that Sen. John McCain recently aired an ad exclaiming, as if it’s a given: “Higher taxes, more government spending, so fewer jobs.” A similar obvious “truth” for many Americans these days, in the words of Rush Limbaugh, is that “the government can’t create wealth; it can only destroy it or confiscate and redistribute it.”

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In today's Washington Post, Distinguished Senior Fellow John Schwarz calls on presidential candidates to clearly articulate government's important role in direct stimulation of the economy, through innovation and public policy, as a means to promote industrial growth, job creation, technological development and wealth creation.

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Maybe Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin wouldn't have been McCain's first choice for vice president if there weren't lingering hard feelings about Hillary's campaign or lack of consideration for the VP slot. But, it doesn't matter. There were, and she is.

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The Centre for International Governance Innovation, a global think tank based in Canada, says that China will have more engineers and scientists with doctorates than the United States by 2010. They also estimate that within four years, 90% of all scientists and engineers with doctorates in the world will be Asians living in Asia.

In a town with numerous restaurants and bars, not a single one was showing the speech. Some had no televisions; others did have TVs, but they were tuned to one or another sports channel and the owners and bar-tenders were damned if they were going to change channel for the convention. One waitress embarrassedly told me the owners had forbidden the staff to put on anything "political" on the television. I even phoned several restaurants to find out if they'd tune their TVs to the convention.

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These men and women are tough folk. They are used to living on an inhospitable land, eking an existence out of the earth, and yet they increasingly struggle to make ends meet. In one tiny town I visited, Boise City, close to half of the families survive only by taking food donations from the little food pantry that operates out of an abandoned gas station on Main Street. One old lady told me of having to drive 120 miles each way to take her diabetic husband to his medical check-ups.

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Obama is said to be in a rhetorical pickle. If he talks a language of hope and inspiration, it's too general and ethereal. On the other hand, if he get too specific, he sounds like a policy wonk. And if he goes for McCain's throat, the pundits have been warning that he will evoke the dreaded specter of the Angry Black Man.

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Lyndon Baines Johnson was born 100 years ago today. After Franklin Roosevelt, his record as a progressive Democrat was unsurpassed. Thanks to his leadership and passion, Congress enacted Medicare, Medicaid, federal aid to education, Headstart, the Job Corps, legal services for the poor, and countless other pocketbook measures that helped millions out of poverty and reinforced a secure middle class. And Johnson took immense risks to pass the three landmark civil rights laws.

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