David Callahan

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

Recent Articles

Madness In December Employment Numbers

Flickr/Merrimack College
The new job numbers are out and, at first glance, there is nothing surprising here. Job growth continued to inch upward in December, with 155,000 new jobs added. Of course, with several million young people joining the labor force every year, numbers like these don't actually amount to growth. We are just running in place. But here's a statistic that jumped out at me: 89,000 public sector workers lost their jobs in October, November, and December—with most of those losses, 66,000, occurring in October. These numbers are revised figures that are much higher than what appeared in the past BLS employment releases, so for some reason the BLS tends to lag behind in capturing the full scope of government layoffs in a timely fashion. Anyway, back to the main point: Large-scale layoffs of government workers continue across the United States. Such layoffs undermine local economies and stymie the recovery. For every five workers who were hired in the past three months, one was laid off by...

Is the Fiscal Deal a Recipe for National Decline?

White House/Pete Souza
Now that the future revenue path is pretty clear for the next decade, I took another look at President Obama's 2013 budget , which projects spending and revenue through 2022 on the assumption—a correct one, it turns out—that taxes will only rise on the affluent. As I noted in an earlier post today, the White House projects serious cuts to domestic spending. These cuts wouldn't be necessary if the Bush tax cuts were fully repealed. So, in effect, President Obama has largely endorsed the fiscal priorities of his predecessor, with tax cuts forcing spending cuts. This may not amount to "starving the beast," but it is putting government on a conservative diet. I've written a lot about this historic capitulation already, so I won't say more. Instead, let me focus on another implication of letting the Bush tax cuts largely live on. The United States will not only cut spending over the next decade, it will also dramatically increase the national debt—adding $6.6 trillion in...

Is the NRA a Paper Tiger?

Flickr/Ilmo Joe
The Center for Responsive Politics compiles data on the 50 top interest groups giving money to Congress. Near the top of the 2012 list are the usual suspects—finance, insurance, real estate, and Big Oil. Near the bottom are casinos and the building materials industry (along with "Women's Issues.") But guess who's not on the list? Gun rights groups. Not only did such groups not make the list in 2012; they have never made the list. Even if you only look at the 50 interest groups supporting Republicans, the gun rights crowd doesn't make the cut. However, the NRA does make the Center's list of "Heavy Hitters" which tracks the top all-time donors to politics. But it is number 50 on that list—not far below the American Dental Association. Any number of unions, including the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, rank higher than the NRA on the Heavy Hitters list . Most of the NRA's clout is wielded in the form of outside spending, and it spent over $18 million in this last election...

Big Macs, Big Profits, Low Wages

(Flickr/The Consumerist)
In a properly working economy, a booming business would be good for everyone involved in building that business: shareholders, executives, and workers. In a broken and dysfunctional economy, the shareholders and executives would get richer and richer while the workers lived in poverty. What's happening at McDonald's leaves little doubt about what sort of economy America has today. According to a recent investigation by Bloomberg reporter Leslie Patton, McDonald's saw its profits soar by 135 percent between 2007 and 2011, and found itself with so much cash last year alone that it devoted $6 billion to dividends and stock repurchases and paid its CEO, Don Thompson, $8.8 million. Given this success, and all the money sloshing around, you'd think that workers at McDonald's would see their fortunes rise as well. Well, you'd be wrong. Many McDonald's workers earn just over the federal minimum wage, near-poverty incomes, and have barely seen any pay increases in recent years. The CEO of...

Why Does Obama Want to Spend $8 Trillion on Defense?

United States Air Force
Washington is in a fiscal panic, yet surprisingly few people are asking an obvious question: Why in the world is the Obama administration proposing to spend $8 trillion on security over the next decade? Included in that giant sum is not just Pentagon spending, but also outlays for intelligence, homeland security, foreign aid, and diplomacy abroad. If the administration gets its way, security spending would account for a fifth of all government outlays over the next decade. Such spending would be roughly twice as great as all non-mandatory spending through 2022—a category that includes everything from NASA to Pell Grants and national parks. And—get this—around 40 cents of every dollar collected from individual income taxes over the next decade under the president's plan would go for security spending, according to White House estimates. That's a whole lot of defense for a country that, as of 2014 (when U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan), will be officially at...