Karen Paget

Karen M. Paget, a frequent foundation consultant, is currently a Soros Open Society Institute fellow. She has consulted on state and local fiscal issues for the Ford Foundation and the Twentieth Century Fund. She is the author of "The Battle for the States," in The New Majority.

Recent Articles

Citizen Organizing: Many Movements, No Majority

Citizen politics aims to spur a democratic resurgence at the grassroots. But as other forms of democratic participation decline, can citizen organizing make a difference?

Unless you are an activist yourself, your personal contact with the world of citizen politics probably occurs when your doorbell rings. A canvasser, usually a young person with a clipboard and leaflets, tries to engage you in a discussion of a contemporary problem, perhaps toxic waste dumps, pesticides in the food chain, or rising utility rates. If you sign a petition or contribute a few dollars, you'll receive more material. Engage in a longer conversation and you may be recruited for active membership. You're also likely to encounter citizen organizing by mail or telephone. There, too, you're asked for a financial contribution to help stop wars, prevent nuclear holocaust, slow ozone depletion, or protect abortion rights, free speech, gene pools, or animals. Occasionally, you may see rallies or demonstrations sponsored by these groups on television, but you will probably remain unaware of who or what is behind "Citizens for..." or "Citizens against...". Citizen organizing, by...

The Gender Gap Mystique

Women are newly influential in politics, but those who court the gender gap on the cheap will not succeed. Women's interests, issues, and voting preferences are every bit as complex as men's -- and demand equal respect.

E ver since the Greek poet Aristophanes in 411 B.C. fired men's imaginations with the play Lysistrata , the possibility that women might band together for their own purposes has evoked strong feelings, ranging from ridicule to apprehension. Until the twentieth century, the prospect of such female solidarity remained largely fictional. In this century, the anticipation that American women, armed with the vote, would create a unified political force, evoked similar reactions. For example, in 1921 when the newly formed League of Women Voters moblilized to oppose New York Sentor James Wadsworth, his ally, Governor Nathan Miller, lambasted the women for introducing "sex antagonism," which he described as a "well-known socialist tactic" used by the Bolsheviks. These women, he said, were "a menace to our free institutions and to representative government." The governor singled out the evils of bloc voting. There was no place in American politics, he said, for "a league of women voters," just...

Can Cities Escape Political Isolation?

As federal funding dwindles, we need new economic arrangements and political coalitions to unite city and suburb.

I n the past three decades, most cities outside the Sunbelt have experienced economic contraction, population decline, and increasing concentrations of poverty. For some, like Detroit, the descent has been catastrophic. Dozens of smaller, once vibrant manufacturing and commercial cities like Newark, Cleveland, Buffalo, and St. Louis face similar conditions. Three decades after the wave of urban conflagrations, countless neighborhoods that once housed a productive lower middle class still look as if 1968 happened yesterday. Others, such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, tell tales of two cities—glittering economic resurgence coexisting with deepening deprivation. The loss of good blue-collar jobs, the flight of the middle class to suburbia, and the urban concentration of minorities and the poor are not a new story. What is relatively new, however, is the political isolation of cities and a related decline in federal and state aid. Public policy once recognized that cities...

State of the Debate: Lessons of Right-Wing Philanthropy

It is well known that the conservative movement has for years enjoyed a decided financial advantage on the battleground of ideas -- they have far more corporate and foundation support than liberals. But conservatives don't just have more money; they spend it better, too.

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics (People for the American Way, 1996). Sally Covington, Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations (National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 1998). Leon Howell, Funding the War of Ideas: A Report to the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (1995). Justice for Sale (Alliance for Justice, 1993). Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado, No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America's Social Agenda (Temple University Press, 1996). In 1969, conservative Paul Weyrich was accidentally invited to a meeting of liberal strategists. He was awed. In describing his epiphany to Leon Howell, author of Funding the War of Ideas , he says: The liberals put together before my eyes a major national battle that became a central part of President Nixon's first year. What they had there was the whole panoply of liberal groups, from the think...

The Balanced Budget Trap

Absolute budget balance has become orthodoxy; a constitutional amendment to enforce it may pass Congress even if Democrats win the elections. But look at the costs.

P opular wisdom has it that the Contract with America is defunct, killed by the excesses of Newt Gingrich and his extremist band of Republican freshmen. The Contract is certainly dead as a campaign manifesto, but its single most damaging provision is lethally alive. The balanced budget amendment failed the Senate by only one vote in March 1995, and two votes in June 1996. Earlier, in 1995, it passed easily in the House of Representatives (300 to 116). A return engagement is likely after the November election. Even if Democrats pick up seats, the amendment could pass, because many Democratic candidates have felt the need to embrace budget balance as "cover" to insulate themselves from the tax-and-spend label. In January, we could well encounter a Congress more Democratic—yet more likely to approve an amendment crippling to an activist view of government. Normally, the ratification process, which requires 38 states to concur, would slow any ill-considered amendment. However, in...