David Callahan

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

Recent Articles

Disaster Preparedness Is Good for Democracy

Flickr/Anthony Quintano
The blizzard that pounded the Northeast on Friday was no Hurricane Sandy, but it has left thousands of people without power throughout the region. For some households, losing power may be no big deal. But if you're old or disabled, this can be a dangerous situation. The problem is that it's hard in most communities to know which residents may badly need help. After Sandy, hastily organized volunteers knocked on doors in buildings in Rockaway and other places to identify the old and frail. It's also hard, if you want to volunteer to help others in a disaster, to know where to go or what to do. In badly hit Hoboken, large numbers of volunteers were needed to help evacuate people from flooded parts of time. The city recruited these helpers, in part, by Twitter and posters around town. With major storms likely to increase, it's time to get more serious about better disaster planning. One obvious idea is to step up efforts to organize citizens to prepare for emergencies by joining...

Biting the Hand that Feeds Them

Flickr/Fibonacci Blue
Paul Krugman noted on ABC's This Week yesterday that the GOP's problem is that its "base is old white people." This is largely true. Exit polls show that Mitt Romney won all voters 65 and older by 12 percentage points, and white older voters by 22 points. Barack Obama won all voters under 30 by 23 points, and nonwhite young voters by 36 points. Such numbers are a big problem for the GOP amid fast changing demographics, as we've heard often in recent months. But here's an interesting question raised by the same data: If the GOP leans so heavily on older white voters, then why is it leading the charge to cut entitlements for seniors? Politics is supposed to be about who gets what, but things often don't work that way. In 2011, The New York Times ran a fascinating chart about the percentage of personal income that comes from government benefits in different states. It showed that hardcore Republican states—where a lot of those older white conservative voters live—relied most...

The Endless and Ironic Attacks on the CFPB

Anyone who has followed the creation and early life of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau knows that conservatives in Congress have repeatedly tried to kill or weaken this agency using the power of the purse. Most recently, last spring, Republicans tried to cut the CFPB's $550 million budget by about 40 percent. It's safe to say that if the CFPB wasn't funded through the Federal Reserve—a stroke of genius, by the way—it'd barely be able to function. And, as it is, all the attacks on the agency slowed its ability to get up and running. Yet harassment of CFPB is ongoing. In August, for example, Judicial Watch released information gathered through the Freedom of Information Act to allege that the CFPB was spending too much money on things like sign language interpreters and training classes for its staff. Among the odd complaints of Judicial Watch was that CFPB had spent $4,500 "to enroll six employees in a Banking Law Fundamentals class at George Washington University...

Why In The World Would Business Favor Austerity?

Flickr/ Talk Radio News Network
A New York Times article reported that Fix the Debt, the deficit hawk group which positions itself as a neutral body of wisemen, includes a number of corporate lobbyists and board members. The Times noted that many of those involved in Fix the Debt helped create the deficit problem to begin with by fighting to defend tax perks for business and the wealthy, such as the record low rates for capital gains and dividends, along with the notorious "carried interest" loophole. No big surprises there. As John Judis explained long ago in his book, The Paradox of American Democracy , it's hard to find any genuine wisemen in Washington anymore; not in a town where even the most esteemed former public servants have all sold out to the highest bidder. But here's the real thing that puzzles me about corporate leaders who push for deficit reduction: Why in the world would business favor austerity? Sure, I can understand why corporate leaders worry about deficits in the long run. Borrowing a trillion...

Yes, We Have A (Defense) Spending Problem

Last year, in 2012, the U.S. government spent about $841 billion on security—a figure that includes defense, intelligence, war appropriations, and foreign aid. At the same time, the government collected about $1.1 trillion in individual income taxes. (And about $2.4 trillion in revenues overall if you include payroll, corporate, estate, and excise taxes.) In other words, about 80 cents of every dollar collected in traditional federal income taxes went for security. That's an astonishing statistic, and it captures the most underappreciated aspect of today's fiscal challenges: We have a security spending problem. Such spending is significantly higher than all non-defense discretionary domestic spending. Worse yet, almost nobody in Washington seems interested in seriously curtailing defense spending that is greater in real terms than what the U.S. spent in the Cold War—despite the fact that the U.S. will be officially at peace when we withdraw from Aghanistan next year and...