David Callahan

David Callahan is a senior fellow at Demos and editor of PolicyShop, the Demos blog.

Recent Articles

Ballot Blocks

Poor people are typically democracy's missing persons. But the patterns of low-income voting show what really motivates the voters on election day.

Election day in New York City, November 4, 1997. A cold wind whips through the streets of East Harlem, but sun peeks through billowy clouds and rain is nowhere in sight. A chipper young campaign worker stands on the corner of 125th Street handing out flyers for a city council candidate. She's hopeful about turnout. "I think people are going to vote because the weather is nice," she predicts. A few blocks away, on 120th Street, dutiful citizens—most of them older—trickle into a dilapidated elementary school that serves as a polling place. This year, as in years past, those voting will be a minority in Harlem. As the Democratic candidate for mayor, Ruth Messinger, is defeated by Rudolph Giuliani, the vast majority of adults in Harlem—natural supporters of the reliably liberal Messinger—are staying away from the polls. "I don't like Giuliani, but I'm not excited about anyone else," says a young woman who is registered but not voting. Many others aren't even...

Clash in the States

Many people think of Oregon as a liberal bastion: an "ecotopia" where environmental protection is a priority, the law permits the terminally ill to choose death over protracted suffering, and citizens once voted by initiative for the highest state minimum wage in the country. But in fact, conservatives have quite a foothold in Oregon. Republicans took over the state legislature in 1994, and it has belonged to them since, thanks to heavy campaign spending. Additionally, term limits have deprived Oregon of many longtime lawmakers who were expert advocates for particular government programs, including moderate Republicans like Bob Repine and Eldon Johnson and Democratic legislators like Kitty Piercy. New conservative legislators have found powerful allies to help them shape their antigovernment agenda, including local right-wing groups such as the Cascade Policy Institute, as well as two major national organizations with a strong presence in Oregon: the American Legislative Exchange...

The Greening of the Tax System

Would an environmentalist kill two birds with one stone? Not ordinarily. But taxes on pollution and waste can discourage environmentally harmful activities and produce revenues for environmentally beneficial programs.

Rising concern about the environment and selective public acceptance of new taxes have fostered new interest at both the state and federal levels in using the tax system to address environmental problems. Florida has a new tax to discourage the use of non-recycled or "virgin" newsprint. In Minnesota and Washington laws were enacted last year imposing high user fees on agricultural chemicals that contaminate groundwater supplies. On Capitol Hill new taxes have been proposed that are aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions by cars. The idea of using taxes and special fees (or "green taxes") to protect the environment is not new. What distinguishes recent environmental taxes from such long accepted measures as container deposits and waste disposal charges is their broader scope and potentially profound ramifications. In an age of global warming, ozone layer depletion, and a host of more local environmental disasters, scientists are continually discovering new ways in which everyday...