Commentary

DODGE CITY -- As Congress debates President Bush's welfare plan, they are hearing a lot of complaints about the plan from the nation's governors. The White House proposal, which would increase work requirements and encourage marriage among poor women, has Mr. Bush's former colleagues in state houses protesting that it will reduce their flexibility. But Bush's proposal is even more out of touch with a far larger constituency: the American public.

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JERSEY CITY, NJ -- Release of the latest round of data from the 2000 Census attracted a lot of attention, and not because the news was good. The figures showed that poverty had increased over the course of the last decade, and that all too many other people were falling behind. For example, men who worked full-time and year-round saw median individual earnings decline, adjusted for inflation.

To many who heard the news it didn't seem to make sense. How could this have happened during the booming 90s?

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HARTFORD, CT -- Watching Connecticut's budget challenge with the benefit of a little distance and historical perspective, I see the state's choices as stunningly clear:

Balancing the budget on the backs of the people who have benefited the least from the economic boom of the '90s makes no sense. Asking those who have been the big winners of the past decade to contribute their fair share is a sound approach for the long term.

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Senior Fellow David Callahan explains that the real New Economy -- the Wal-Mart economy -- is almost the exact opposite of the New Economy hyped during the 1990s.

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Congress must enact a ban on the political contributions known as soft money, but that shouldn't come at the price of relaxing controls in another part of the structure that delivers millions of dollars to candidates each year. The version of reform now apparently on its way to a presidential signature is actually a step backward. Senators John McCain and Russell D.

NEW YORK -- Much attention now is focused on improving airport security and bolstering the ability of law enforcement agencies to track potential terrorists on American soil.

New biometric technologies that recognize faces, retinas, voices and other human characteristics can be powerful weapons in the struggle against terrorism. But these technologies have limitations and can undermine Americans' privacy and civil liberties.

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Senior Fellow David Callahan suggests that the Enron scandal will reshape public attitudes toward business for years to come.

A clear policy agenda is suggested by Enron's collapse: more federal oversight of corporate governance, private pensions and accounting procedures. The links between the Bush administration and Enron also highlight the need for campaign finance reform to reduce the access of big corporate donors to our highest government officials.

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Last week, a small group of activists staged a protest in Tampa against a new video surveillance system: Cameras using face-recognition technology watch over a downtown nightlife district and match the faces picked up with a database of mug shots. City officials claim the system makes Tampa safer. The protesters argued that the city has no right to record or analyze such so-called biometric data without the subjects' permission.

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Senior Fellow David Callahan looks at why conservatives are winning public policy battles at the state level and how progressives can do better in this arena.

Despite the proven track record of statewide coalitions in promoting reform policies, many foundations remain skittish about these groups; and the coalitions have yet to become adept at raising significant money from other sources. Unsurprisingly, the strength of statewide coalitions varies widely.

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If nothing else, the 2000 election mess has begun to produce real political engagement and debate about democracy. For some this debate will focus narrowly on improving election equipment and modernizing election administration. Conservatives may even try to turn the debate to one that restricts voting opportunities under the guise of efficiency, racial neutrality, and eliminating fraud. But for progressives, this is a moment to expand the debate into one about making democracy as inclusive and vibrant as possible.

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