JONATHAN COHN OCTOBER 24, 2011
[with contributions from Matt O'Brien and Darius Tahir]
News from H Street: The Center for American Progress, which happens to be next door to the New Republic, has a new president. It’s Neera Tanden, whom readers will recognize from her contributions at TNR.COM. She takes over for John Podesta, the former Clinton Administration official who helped establish CAP in 2003.
For those not familiar with Neera, she has been CAP's chief operating officer since early 2010, when she left the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services Department. Prior to joining the Obama campaign for the 2008 general election, she had been a top advisor to Hillary Clinton, both during the presidential campaign and before. But Neera’s focus throughout has been on policy, particularly health care reform. She actually makes a cameo at the end of my history of the health care battle, with a statement I’ve quoted many other times – in many other contexts.
Yes, she’s a wonk. And, yes, that’s a good thing. But the really interesting thing about Neera is the way her childhood shaped her values. I didn’t know about this until today, when I read it in Ben Smith’s story for Politico:
Tanden said her thinking on policy is also informed by difficult aspects of her childhood. Born outside Boston to Indian immigrants who had met in an arranged marriage, she and her mother sunk into poverty after her father left them when she was 5, she said.
“My mother, who had never worked a day in her life, faced a really stark choice – she could go back to India, where there was no woman she ever knew who had been be divorced, or she could stay here,” Tanden said.
The family survived on welfare and Tanden only managed to remain in the public schools of prosperous Bedford, Mass. through a program that offered faster permits to developers who included low-income housing units in their buildings.
CAP has positioned itself as the intellectual arm of the moderate to liberal Democrats in Washington. Its blog, ThinkProgress, has proven particularly invaluable to folks like me. And you only have to think for a moment about the stakes in this election to realize how important its role will be in the next year.
The Democrats spent the last three years (or at least the first two of them) enacting a series of sweeping initiatives, among them the most significant bolstering of the welfare state since the Great Society. The Republicans are pledging to repeal all of that – and to undermine existing programs, effectively undoing what was done during the Great Society and even key accomplishments of the New Deal. That’s a pretty stark choice.
But the appearance of Occupy Wall Street has raised the stakes even more – and sparked a debate that, with any luck, will continue even after the last ballots are counted next November. “People are seriously discussing wealth inequality in this country,” Neera said in an interview, “and they’re not just talking about the Bush tax cuts.” It sounds like she wants CAP to be part of that conversation, too.
Housework: The Obama Administration announced a new initiative to help more homeowners take advantage of low interest rates and refinance their mortgages. It’s more about stimulating economic activity than helping distressed homeonwers per se, although it will do some of the latter anyway. I wanted to say more about it today but ran out of time. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, Zach Carter, David Dayen, Brad Plumer and Matt Yglesias can bring you up to speed – each with a different but interesting take. Also, if you haven’t already, read Zach Goldfarb’s thorough examination of Obama’s housing policy to date.
Today in happy: Gay adoptions have tripled in the last decade, despite discriminatory laws against them. (Via Jezebel.)
Department of "seriously?" The Europeans want to turn the European Financial Stability Facility, the continental bailout fund, into AIG.
Reader comment of the day: "DP1024" also has something to say about McConnell: "Instead of Occupying Wall Street we should have had an Occupy Mitch."
Dedication of the day: No video dedication today. Instead, read Jonathan Chait’s beautiful tribute to his grandfather, who passed away on Sunday.