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Disarming the Speaker

Another shutdown threat barely averted, and another stopgap spending bill passed with more to follow, while major legislation stagnates. If this feels familiar, you’re not alone. But how difficult is this moment we’re in? Congress has been derided as a “do nothing” institution before: in 1880, in 1948, and more recently with the divided government

Debt Limit Déjà Vu? What Can We Learn from the Close Calls of 2011 and 2023?

Normally, we remember what we were doing when great triumphs or tragedies take place on the world stage.  Fiscal policy is not typically on that list of events. And yet, I remember clearly what I was doing in the lead up to Treasury’s “X date” in 2011. I was in grad school, and I had

The Midterms Cometh

A bar graph haunts Washington.  You know the one.  Its jagged teeth notch losses for the President’s party in every post-WWII midterm House election, all except two.  Those electoral projections have been a moving target this year, and in many respects we are living in unusual times.  But the ultimate results will be more

The Legacy Question

It’s time.  Time to talk about the L word.  As the cherry trees blossom in Washington and legislators’ minds turn towards reelection, the administration is taking stock of its legacy.  In our hyper-polarized era, an administration’s first two years, especially if under unified governance, play an outsized role in the mark they leave on politics,

Notes on Editing (Or: Why We Need a Different Thesis Statement)

In marking the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, many are taking stock of the state of the response as well as our democracy.  The latter has not made for easy reading—the US has been categorized as a “backsliding democracy” for the first time or otherwise downgraded by think tanks studying

A Familiar Landmine: The Looming Debt Ceiling

With all the other tumult going on in our politics, one might be forgiven for not focusing on a familiar landmine: the debt ceiling.  After all, since its regularized inclusion in the appropriations process a decade ago, Congress has shifted from extending the debt limit to a specific amount

Politics by Other Means

I have been in Washington, DC, for the two major attacks of the past generation, on September 11, 2001, and on January 6, 2021. On 9/11 I was a college freshman. A sleepy morning narrowed quickly into a hyper-focused state as classes were cancelled and people became glued to their televisions. Around my dorm, I

Social Movements and Policy Change

How should we understand the fire this time?  In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, a movement has re-ignited for civil rights in general and against police brutality specifically.  August 28 saw a March on Washington, 57 years after the original march with MLK’s famous “I have a dream” speech to crowds

Lessons of Economic Recessions

In politics, we often learn the lesson of the last time.  Our current economic troubles prompt comparison to previous episodes, particularly the 2007-2009 Great Recession.  While the past six weeks may seem like an eternity to many Americans, we are early in the government response to this crisis, particularly its economic effects.  The future

The Long Shadow of 2010

The dawning of a new decade brings the expected retrospectives. While algorithms compute our most listened-to songs and pundits connect the latest torrential news cycle to a loose historical pattern, finding the signal amidst the noise can be elusive.  Periodization schemes can be difficult to pin down.  But arguably, a decade is precisely the right

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