“What Do We Do Now?”

Next Wednesday, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will confront the same question Robert Redford posed to Peter Boyle, his character’s campaign consultant, in the iconic final scene of  “The Candidate.”

Locked out of the office early this week as Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast, Assistant Editor Elizabeth Weingarten considered a variant of this question with a number of other New Americans via email:  What will next Tuesday’s outcome mean for a range of policy questions in the next four years?   We kicked off the virtual conversation with an issue that the next president will face immediate pressure to resolve: reducing our out-of-control deficit. 

Elizabeth: Is the election result likely to make a big difference on how the fiscal cliff issue gets resolved, given that the big momentum seems to be with the Simpson-Bowles approach, and that the market will likely determine the outcome?

Marc Goldwein, Senior Policy Director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: No matter who is elected president, we are scheduled to go off of the Fiscal Cliff while President Obama is in office. But a newly re-elected president is likely to take a different approach to the cliff than a lame duck one. My presumption is that if Governor Romney wins the election there will be an agreement to defer the real discussions to February or March -- perhaps with a short-term extension of everything. If President Obama wins, those discussions will hopefully begin the day after the election and reach some type of conclusion in the lame duck.

As someone who worked on the Simpson-Bowles commission and supports their recommendation, I don't think those recommendations will be enacted into law as the final deal. I do believe that Simpson-Bowles provides an important framework and a number of important specifics, which will inform the final deal.

We like to talk about going big, going smart, and going long. Ultimately, any credible deal needs to follow the Simpson-Bowles model of being big enough to put the debt on a clear downward path, smart enough to enhance rather than inhibit economic growth, and focused on addressing long-term issues rather than only short-term ones. Such a plan would allow us to replace the abrupt and mindless cuts and taxes in the fiscal cliff with a gradual and intelligent plan to get us back on track.

Katherine Mangu-Ward, Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow: We're talking about a Congress (and president) that has been unable to pass a run-of-the-mill, just-get-this-year's-bills-paid budget for years. And that failure has been a touchingly bipartisan effort. It seems wildly unlikely that this will be the moment when everyone stops kicking the can and decides to take this thing seriously, no matter who wins the election. This is not a particularly novel observation, so this knowledge is likely already incorporated in the markets.

Elizabeth: Katherine, as our resident libertarian, are you hopeful that Romney will shrink government in any meaningful way?

Katherine: I think there's a non-zero chance government will grow slightly slower under Romney than it would under a second-term Obama administration. But that's the best I can offer. Romney has already taken so many categories off the table--military spending, entitlements and so on – that it's hard to imagine what he will have left to cut. I don't think even Big Bird has much cause to be nervous: Republicans have been yammering about cutting government (and PBS) for years without actually managing to do it. Government spending grew under Reagan, after all. No reason to think Romney will be different.

Elizabeth: Andrés, do you see a big difference in how Congress and the next president will approach other domestic policy efforts beyond the fiscal cliff issue? 

Andrés Martinez, Vice President and Editorial Director of New America: It seems that every four years we are supposed to state that this is the most important election in our lifetime (especially since none of us were alive in 1860), and it’s understandable to imagine the stakes being incredibly high in 2012 given the resources being devoted on both sides and the ferocious tone of the campaign.  But when I step back and look at the actual policy implications of the election for the next four years, I am skeptical that this is a particularly consequential election.

For one thing, as Marc suggests, the fiscal constraints are going to force a reckoning that either Romney or Obama will have to accept, and will likely be dictated by markets.   On healthcare, Romney has pledged to do away with Obamacare on day one, but this promise seems as realistic and sincere as Obama’s campaign talk four years ago of renegotiating NAFTA.  Already, after shaking the Etch-a-Sketch between primaries and general election season, Romney has been going around saying all the things he likes about Obamacare that he’d keep, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and coverage under parental policies for adult children into their 20s.   The individual mandate is what pays for these goodies, as Romney understood when he was governor, and it’s already been upheld by the Supreme Court.  The Obamacare train has left the station, with the insurance industry already angling to benefit from it and states scrambling to set up their exchanges by 2014 as required by legislation.  The Medicaid provisions the Court took issue with will probably be tweaked, and Republicans could inject more competition across state lines, pass modest tort reform, and claim victory, while keeping the rest of Obamacare intact.   Medicare does present stark differences between the two candidates, but I think the Romney/Ryan voucher-based reform is about as likely to make headway as President Bush’s partial privatization of social security did.

Elizabeth: What about immigration, an issue I know you follow closely?

Andrés:  There, too, the shaken Etch-a-Sketch produced a far more pragmatic general-election Romney (his true self, in my view) than the primary-season “self-deportation” extremist.  And others in his party, especially Jeb Bush and Karl Rove, have been calling for a more reasoned stance vis-à-vis the nation’s fastest-growing demographic.  So whether Obama is re-elected or Romney pulls an upset, I think prospects are good for modest, incremental immigration reforms in the next couple of years.   

On the whole, I think this campaign keeps reverting to cultural issues, because concrete policy differences may not be as opposite as the nation may be culturally divided.

Elizabeth: What’s your sense, Kevin ? Do you see any daylight between Romney and Obama on education policy?   

Kevin Carey, Director of the Education Policy Program:  On education, there are two big differences between President Obama and Governor Romney, neither of which are directly a function of philosophical differences on education itself. First, Romney is far more likely to pursue an austerity agenda that results in major cuts to federal education programs. The cuts in domestic discretionary spending guaranteed by his budget framework make this all but inevitable. Second, a Romney presidency would implicitly support the anti-federalist movement among Congressional Republicans who view federal education policy of any kind as contrary to traditions and precepts of local control. The two candidates appear to have fairly similar ideas about issues like teacher evaluation, charter schooling, and the important of higher education. But, compared to what was enacted the Obama Administration, a Romney presidency would provide a much less fertile environment for new education policies and provide fewer public resources to support them.

Elizabeth: Gender issues have – sometimes unintentionally – taken center stage during this race.  Liza, what’s your sense of how campaign acrimony would translate into policy differences post-inauguration?

Liza Mundy, Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow: For Obama, I think the policy implications of victory are clearer than they are for Romney with regard to so-called women's issues. If the president wins re-election, presumably he will continue pursuing the same basic policies: support for Head Start and support for Pell grants, which benefit women more than men since more women are going to college. He’ll continue funding for entitlement programs like Medicaid and Social Security, which women tend to support even more than men.

From time to time, Valerie Jarrett and/or other members of the administration will convene summits on women and girls in which the need for more forgiving work-family policies will be discussed, including more paid sick leave for workers, for themselves and to care for ailing dependents. And presumably he will have a very hard time winning concessions like paid sick leave and maternity and paternity leave from corporations in the current economic climate. But maybe there will be successful pressure for additional legislative pay-equity measures like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

For Romney, it's harder to know. Will he ask for binders containing names of women to staff his cabinet? Will he press for more women at the top? If so, how? Will he mandate that businesses hire and include more women? On that last one, I'd be inclined to think not. I believe that he believes in inclusiveness, in a general kind of way, but he has also talked about the importance of having one parent at home with children in the early years. Presumably he doesn't mind if that parent is a dad, but it doesn't strike me that he will take concrete measures to get more women into the workforce or to shore up the positions of women already there. One wonders whether a Romney administration could undo support for contraceptive coverage that exists under Obamacare; maybe that arena isn't so secure as the other ones Andrés describes. And then there is the big looming question of Supreme Court appointments and the fate of Roe v. Wade--what judicial appointments he might make and whether a new test case would be brought.

So the future could be more of the same, or it could get very bumpy and noisy and interesting as this election itself has been. Hopefully, whatever it contains, we will hear no more talk of legitimate rape and some of the other bizarre, terrible canards that this cycle has produced with surprising frequency.

Elizabeth: Much has been made, particularly after the last debate, of the overwhelming similarities between the candidates' foreign policy platforms. But, of course, promises and statements made in stump speeches and debate arguments can change quite a bit post-election. How, then, do you think the election could actually change American foreign policy, Rosa?

Rosa Brooks, Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow:  Well, here’s a concrete change: If Romney wins, expect him to resurrect waterboarding -- he thinks it's fine. On the broader policy questions, who knows? I have been critical of the Obama administration’s inability to articulate a coherent grand strategy, but Romney is truly all over the map.  He says all kinds of contradictory things, so it's hard to know whether President Romney would be more like Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, or more like  Dick Cheney. The worst news about Romney? Three-fourths of his foreign policy team are Bush administration retreads.

Elizabeth: Is your concern, then, that Romney might be more trigger happy towards Iran and Syria?

Brooks: That would be my fear-- you surround yourself with neocons, you're likely to get a neocon foreign policy.

Elizabeth: Since President Obama took office in 2008, open and inclusive Internet and technology policies have become increasingly important domestically and globally. Sascha, how could those policies evolve based on who wins the election?

Sascha Meinrath, New America Vice President and Director of the Open Technology Institute:   U.S. technology and Internet policy must become a higher priority issue no matter who wins the 2012 presidential election.  For too long, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, broadband in the United States has languished.

The sad reality is that this stagnation has had hugely detrimental economic impacts spanning transportation, education, health care, manufacturing, and the service economy.  There can be no 21st Century economy without a 21st Century information infrastructure.  

Whereas U.S. foreign policy under the leadership of Hilary Clinton has made Internet freedom a core focus, domestically this is still an underappreciated issue.  Whoever wins the election needs to put in place a cadre of tech-savvy decision-makers who are empowered to make the hard choices to rapidly improve our critical communications infrastructures and disrupt a status quo that is clearly dysfunctional.  Luckily, this is an issue that Republicans and Democrats alike can get behind -- a truly pan-partisan win that either candidate can claim as their own.

President Obama’s Biggest Higher Ed Misses

This post was written by Education Policy Program Deputy Director Amy Laitinen and Education Policy Program Senior Analyst Stephen Burd. It was originally published on the Education Policy Program's Higher Ed Watch blog.

With the presidential election fast approaching, we are taking a closer look at President Obama’s higher education record. Yesterday, we highlighted the administration’s most significant accomplishments in this area. Today, we are examining the administration’s most significant blunders and missed opportunities.

So without further ado, here are the Obama administration’s biggest higher ed misses:

1. Fighting to Keep the 3.4% Interest Rate: Eager to woo the youth vote and tap into America’s anxiety about student debt, the Obama administration launched an all-out “don’t double my rate” PR campaign earlier this year aimed at stopping Congress from allowing the temporary 3.4 percent fixed interest rate on federally-subsidized Stafford loans to revert to 6.8 percent. Not wanting to be on the wrong side of this popular issue during an election year, Republicans and Democrats lawmakers made national headlines for their bipartisan efforts to maintain the lower rate. Largely left out of this debate, however, was any acknowledgement of how small the benefits of this fix would be: after all, it only extended the 3.4 rate for another year, only applied to a subset of new borrowers (those who qualify for subsidized Stafford loans), and only would save eligible borrowers about $9 a month. And it cost the government $6 billion. With the Pell Grant program facing a multi-billion dollar funding cliff, it’s a shame that the administration spent so much political and financial capital on a one-year gimmick that provided neither meaningful relief to financially-distressed borrowers in the short term nor to the Pell Grant program over the long haul.

2. Sacrificing Non-Traditional Students in the Pell Grant Budget-Cutting Game: While the Obama administration admirably fought to increase and then maintain the maximum Pell Grant, it also agreed to reduce the program’s budget by making eligibility changes that disproportionately affected non-traditional, working, adult students. These eligibility changes included eliminating financial aid for students without a high school diploma who could show that they have an Ability to Benefit from college; retroactively limiting the number of semesters a student could receive Pell from 18 to 12, which could harm students who previously stopped out and are now looking to finish their degrees; and eliminating the year-round Pell which many community college students used to take summer courses. The administration has repeatedly said that community college students and adult students are critical to meeting the President’s 2020 completion goals, so it was disappointing to see the administration and Congress try to balance the Pell Grant program's budget on the backs of these students (while they found the political will to spend $6 billion on a one-year student loan interest rate freeze that won’t provide meaningful relief to borrowers).

3. Caving on Gainful Employment: While the Obama administration deserves much credit for its effort to rein in for-profit colleges, it also deserves to be blasted for caving in to political pressure by taking the teeth out of its final Gainful Employment rules. Responding to a massive lobbying campaign from the for-profit higher education industry, the administration watered down its proposed rules to such an extent that these regulations – which were meant to shut down programs that load students up with unmanageable levels of debt but provide inadequate training – make even the most poorly-performing for-profit college companies look pretty good. In July, a federal court judge struck down the final regulations on a technicality. We hope that if President Obama is reelected, administration officials will use the opportunity the judge has given them to rewrite the rules and put the teeth back into these important regulations.

4. Not Holding Traditional Colleges Accountable for Affordability and Outcomes: The Obama administration has made it easier for students to pay for college on the front end (Pell increases and FAFSA simplification) and repay their loans on the back end (Income-Based Repayment). What it hasn’t done is used its power to hold colleges accountable for reigning in college costs or improving student outcomes. President Obama caught our attention when he said he was putting colleges “on notice” in his State of the Union address, but his pledge to tie campus-based financial aid to whether colleges provide a “good value” has not materialized. Nor has the $1 billion Race to the Top for College Affordability and Completion. Nor has mandatory adoption of the financial aid shopping sheet or college scorecard. To be fair, these efforts require Congressional cooperation, which has not exactly been forthcoming in this highly-charged election year. But it also requires a willingness to take on the entrenched and powerful institutional interests of One Dupont Circle. If there’s a second term, we hope that the administration will up both the rhetoric and action to ensure that institutions have some “skin in the game” for college costs and outcomes.

5. Not Doing Enough to Reform the Back End of the Student Loan Program: While the Obama administration achieved its most significant higher education victory when it overhauled the front-end of the federal student loan system, it has not done nearly enough to fix the back end of the program – leaving more and more borrowers at the mercy of the Education Department’s all-too-often predatory student loan collection contractors. While administration officials have recently taken some limited steps to address the worst abuses, they have largely left the current system and its many dysfunctions in place. Collection companies are still being paid based on how much revenue they can extract from defaulted borrowers, and the Department’s lax system of oversight of collection agencies shows no real signs of improving. If there’s a second term, we hope the administration will make reforming the back-end of the system a much more urgent priority because, as of now, too many lives are being ruined as a result of the government’s harsh policies and inaction.

Read a compilation of the president's greatest higher ed hits here.

President Obama's Greatest Higher Ed Hits

This post was written by Education Policy Program Deputy Director Amy Laitinen and Education Policy Program Senior Analyst Stephen Burd. It was originally published on the Education Policy Program's Higher Ed Watch blog.

With the presidential election only days away, we thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at President Obama’s higher education record. In this post, we highlight the administration’s five greatest hits. Tomorrow, we will examine the administration’s five biggest misses.

So without further ado, here are the Obama administration's higher ed accomplishments:

1. Reforming Student Loans: President Obama achieved his single most significant higher education victory in March 2010 when he signed into law legislation ending the wasteful practice of subsidizing private lenders to make federal student loans. Overcoming the fierce opposition of the student loan industry, the Obama administration and Democratic Congressional leaders eliminated the Federal Family Education Loan program, which had long been racked by corruption, and shifted to 100 percent direct lending, which delivered the same federal loans to students at a much lower cost for taxpayers and without all the scandals. And despite dire warnings from the industry and its allies in Congress about the risks of moving thousands of colleges out of FFEL and into direct lending, the U.S. Department of Education pulled off the transition without disturbing even a single student’s access to federal student loans.

2. Reining in For-Profit Higher Education:  For much of the last decade, federal officials turned a blind eye to widespread allegations that some of the largest for-profit higher education companies were putting low-income students in harm’s way – loading them up with unmanageable levels of debt for training from which they were unlikely to benefit. But nearly from the start, the Obama administration made clear that those days were over. Most significantly, the U.S. Department of Education eliminated loopholes that the Bush administration put in place to help these for-profit schools skirt a long-standing federal law that prohibits colleges from compensating recruiters based on their success in enrolling students. While the Education Department has had mixed success with other student aid integrity regulations it put in place, the spotlight that the administration and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) have placed on for-profit college abuses has brought public attention to these problems and forced many of these institutions to reform their practices.

3. Making Private Loans Safer for Students: Under the Obama administration, there is, for the first time, a single federal bureau in charge of regulating private student loans, rather than the patchwork of agencies that did little to stop the predatory lending practices Higher Ed Watch has helped expose since the blog’s start.  As part of legislation to reform Wall Street, the administration championed the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to oversee the private student loan marketplace, and give private loan borrowers somewhere to turn when they get into disputes with their lenders. Over the last several months, the new Private Student Loan Ombudsman has done a tremendous job in showing that the bureau is taking borrowers’ complaints seriously. No matter who wins the election, we hope that the bureau will be able to continue its work of taming what has long been the “Wild West” of student lending.

4. Boosting the Pell Grant Program: From the start, President Obama has shown steadfast support for the Pell Grant program, the primary source of federal financial aid for low-income students. In the federal stimulus legislation and student loan reform bill, the administration worked with Congress to significantly boost the maximum Pell Grant. And in the budget wars that followed, the White House successfully fought back House Republican proposals to cut the maximum award and thereby significantly reduce the grants’ purchasing power. The Obama administration can justifiably be criticized for failing to develop a long-term plan for dealing with the Pell Grant program’s budget problems. But, to be fair, House Republicans did not exactly jump out of their seats to work with Democrats on developing a bipartisan solution to the program’s funding woes either.

5. Promoting Smarter, More Useable, and More Transparent Data: Right out of the gate, the Obama administration has led in this area. Administration officials simplified the FAFSA and took the radical step of creating efficiency in government (!) by allowing existing data housed in different government agencies to talk to one another. Thanks to a partnership between the Department of Education and the IRS, students can now click a button that will prepopulate their FAFSA or their Income-Based Repayment applications with required tax information.  A partnership with the Social Security Administration allowed everyone to see, for the first time, real wage information for students in programs covered by the gainful employment regulations.  In addition, the Administration proposed a model financial aid shopping sheet and a college scorecard that would help students and families make informed college-going and college-financing decisions by providing them with clear, consistent, information about college costs and outcomes. While there is still much to do to ensure that these tools and more get into the hands of students, the Administration’s leadership on this front has been a tremendous win for students and families.

Stay tuned for our next post on President Obama's higher ed misses.

Squaring Off: Taking Political Humor Seriously

In Squaring Off, we invite authors into the public square to answer five questions about the essence of their books. For this round, we pose questions to Peter M. Robinson, associate professor of history at the College of Mount St. Joseph, and the author of The Dance of the Comedians: The People, the President, and the Performance of Political Standup Comedy in America.

To help explain how Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart influence political discourse today, Robinson reminds us of the decisive “Dance of the Comedians” scene in the opera “The Bartered Bride,” in which a ringmaster presents an ensemble of circus performers who simultaneously make the opera’s plot more chaotic and help to resolve it. That, he says, is the role of political comedians, who throughout history have played a critical role in our democracy—redefining Americans’ perception of the presidency, and shaping public attitudes and behaviors.

1.You open your book with a warning: We should never confuse the “the comical with the trivial. The laughter and good cheer accompanying humor belie its political and cultural potency. In fact, political comedy has often been where the serious work of democracy is done.” Should we really take humor seriously?
In fact, we do take humor seriously, very seriously; we simply choose not to admit it much of the time. Humor and the laughter surrounding it are among the most serious expressions of personal politics available to us. Mark Twain knew this. Appalled by the injustices of what he called the “Gilded Age” of the later 1800s, he called laughter the “one really effective weapon” available to those wishing to address those injustices. Humor can be used strategically to affect the body politic in significant ways, and Americans and their elected leaders have begun to catch on.

2. Can you cite any election cycles in which a comedian materially influenced the political discourse—and thus outcome of a race?

It’s difficult to prove that any one performer or “performance” determined the outcome of an election. Nevertheless, comedians and presidents—along with their audiences—have produced humorous performances that reverberated so strongly between popular and political culture that they could not help but influence the electorate. Three presidential elections come immediately to mind. [The 1976] campaign season coincided with the debut and sensational rise of Saturday Night Live and its first star, Chevy Chase, imitated Gerald Ford simply by falling down. Much had been made of Ford’s slipping down the steps of Air Force One during a trip overseas, but Chase made the image stick. By making the accidental president so accident-prone, Chase telegraphed that Ford was too clumsy (and perhaps too stupid) to be a legitimate president. Many Americans could not avoid carrying this with them into the voting booth.

Four years later, Ronald Reagan turned the tables and managed to harness the political power of humor by becoming something of a comedian himself. He was masterful at using self-effacing jokes to win support for his policies even as he disarmed detractors (“Sometimes our right hand doesn’t know what our far-right hand is doing.”). When he ran for re-election, he famously got a huge laugh and undoubtedly swayed voters worried about his ability to serve as president at age 73 when he pledged during a televised debate not to exploit Walter Mondale’s “youth and experience” (Mondale was 56). The hall erupted in laughter, and even Mondale couldn’t disguise his appreciation of the moment. The joke was on him, and Reagan won by a landslide two weeks later.

Finally, the election of 2008 was famous (infamous?) for its humor, and the laughs made a real difference. More Americans—particularly the young—admitted to getting most of their political news from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but it was Tina Fey who probably had the greatest influence, defining Sarah Palin for much of the electorate.

3.You argue that comedians like Chevy Chase and Tina Fey are powerful because they act as a mediator between the presidency or candidates and the people. Does that have any impact on actual public policy or levels of civic participation?

Whether all this has affected public policy in any significant way is arguable. Are we joking and laughing as citizens, wielding humor to heighten accountability and bring about significant change as Twain urged? Or are we merely laughing consumers hooked on the next joke by cynical producers simply trying to sell us something? For the most part, the latter description is the more accurate, but humor’s value as a legitimate political tool is still high. Jon Stewart is probably the closest thing we have to Twain and Will Rogers today. Stewart has waged an effective assault of laughter on not only presidents’ verbal or physical pratfalls, which is relatively easy to do, but he also critiques their policies hilariously in ways that require his audience to learn something about them.

4. Is a president's ability to crack a joke—and willingness to appear on late-night comedy shows—always a plus? In 2008, McCain slammed Obama for being too much of a “celebrity,” and this year, Obama is once again besting Romney when it comes to late-night TV show appearances. During this era of fiscal austerity and anemic economic recovery, will Americans still gravitate toward the funnier candidate—or could they be turned off by excessive jocularity?

Using humor—actually seeking out the joke—is definitely a delicate balance. Presidents and candidates have to weigh the national mood and their own capabilities, but humor’s political value can’t be ignored. Yes, John McCain derided Obama’s celebrity, but he’s appeared many times on late night TV: In fact, he announced his candidacy in 2007 on The Late Show with David Letterman. Obama’s appearances during an economic crisis constitute a gamble, but a closely calculated one. I believe he sees them as akin to FDR’s fireside chats. Roosevelt utilized the popular medium of his time, radio, to talk openly to the American people during the hardest of times, and to confront fear with a buoyant sense of good cheer. FDR’s chats were heard by a much larger percentage of the country, but the late-night circuit offers the best alternative in today’s highly fragmented media landscape.

5. Your book was published before the 2012 presidential race began. If you were writing it today, would you in any way alter your central argument or your description of the comedians’ dance?

If anything, I believe the current election cycle has made the book more timely. The “dance” has accelerated further and become even more high-stakes as political humor plays an increasingly prominent role in our economic, popular, and political cultures. We will continue to debate whether all this laughter is fundamentally radical in its ability to effect change or conservative in its preservation of the status quo, but to the extent that humor remains an endlessly fascinating articulation of free democratic expression, it will continue to hold political potency.

Buy the Book: Skylight, Amazon, Powell’s.

This post also appeared in Zócalo Public Square, a project of the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and the New America Foundation.
Photo credit: Jason Reed/ Reuters

Listen to Sandy

According to Greek mythology, the god Apollo gave mortal Cassandra the gift of divination because he fell for her. But when she didn't obey his demands, he cursed her: She could still see the into future, but no one would ever believe her prophesies.

It’s eerily appropriate, then, that Sandy is short for the name Cassandra, writes Schwartz Fellow Mark Hertsgaard in The Nation: Sandy’s destructive power portends the natural disasters to come if Americans don’t begin to recognize climate change as a policy priority. But "...today it remains unclear whether even the latest catastrophe—the devastation of America’s greatest city, its center of commerce, finance and, tellingly, the news media—will cause the nation to wake up and take serious action," he writes.

But Hertsgaard has a message for the next president: Unlike the myth of Cassandra, America’s story need not be a tragedy.

Read about why he's still hopeful here.

About New America

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