Monica Potts

Monica Potts is an Arkansas-based writer, currently writing a book about the women of her rural hometown.

Recent Articles

Outrageous Teacher Pay?

How does teacher pay compare to other professions, and in big school systems across the country?

The Chicago Teachers' Union strike may be over, but it has reignited the broader debate over education reform. Behind Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s negotiation stance is that underperforming schools are caused, at least in part, by underperforming teachers, and improving those schools requires better teachers who work harder and are easier to fire. Bad students just need better teachers, the thinking goes. It’s was part of the policy stance behind the attitude of former Washington, D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee, and was popularized in the hit documentary , Waiting for Superman . If reformers are starting from that idea, then it must seem ridiculous that part of the Chicago contract negotiations hinge on paying those teachers better. There’s a popular idea that all of these teachers, who, after all, get summers off, are overpaid. We can’t answer the policy questions, but it’s pretty easy to see whether teachers are overpaid compared to other certified...

Warren Maintains Lead in Senate Race

Two new polls over the weekend showed Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren maintaining her post-convention lead over Scott Brown. One poll by the Springfield Republican newspaper shows a six-point lead, with Warren at 50 percent to the Republican incumbent Scott Brown's 44 percent. Public Policy Polling shows her with a two-point edge among likely voters, at 48 percent to 46 percent. The race has been a true toss up, with both popular candidates holding a lead at various times in what is, overall, a close race. The problem for Warren as a challenger has always been that voters like Scott Brown, and generally approve of the job he's doing. She's had to make them like her better, which is a challenge for any newcomer, even a naturally good candidate like Warren. When I spoke to a few volunteers in July, they were worried about Brown's appeal—they had knocked on a number of doors of voters who felt Brown was a nice man, and they didn't know Warren. These polls show, more than...

Poverty Stays Static, But Income Inequality Widens

As economists keep telling us, the Great Recession is officially over. The U.S. gross domestic product grew by a sad 1.8 percent last year. Here's why you probably don't know it: Just about every ounce of economic gain went to the top. The Census Bureau released 2011 numbers from the annual population survey: The median household income was $50,100, which is 1.5 percent lower than in 2010. Overall, it has fallen 8.1 percent since 2007, the last year before the Great Recession. Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Jared Bernstein, an economist and senior fellow there, noted in a conference call with reporters that, before 2007, middle-level incomes were stagnant—so they were holding steady before falling. If we go back to 1997—remember those heady Clinton years?—median household income was $51,704 in 2011-adjusted dollars. Poverty didn't increase—it held steady at 15 percent—which wasn't expected because it had...

Moving Down

The number of Americans who say they are in a lower economic class is going up.

(AP Photo/Rothstein)
Last week, during the Democratic National Convention, in a rare display of party message discipline, viewers heard Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and a raft of other speakers talk about the best way to “grow” the economy—“from the middle-class out and from the bottom up.” They were careful, though, to avoid certain phrases to describe that bottom—including “lower class” and “lower middle class”—and for good reason. Most people don’t like to identify themselves as low-income, even when they are. That’s changing, though, according to a report out yesterday from the Pew Research Center. The percentage of American adults who say they are lower-middle- or lower-class has risen to 32 percent, up from just 25 percent of adults in 2008. People younger than 30 are more likely to put themselves on the economic bottom rung, and the number of whites who identify as lower-middle or lower-class has grown faster than the...

Warren's Bump

The big story late last week, after the Democratic National Convention ended, was that President Obama had received a monster bump— Nate Silver put it at almost eight points —made all the more dramatic when compared to Republican challenger Mitt Romney's measley plus one. But Obama isn't the only one leaving the party in Charlotte on an upward path: a new poll today shows Elizabeth Warren pulling even with Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who she wants to replace in the Senate. (Full disclosure: Amelia Warren Tyagi, Elizabeth Warren's daughter, is chair of The American Prospect ’s board of directors and is chair of the board of the magazine’s publishing partner, Demos.) The Republican-aligned firm Kimball Political Consulting shows Warren gaining five points from their last poll on August 21, giving her a slight lead, with 46 percent of likely voters favoring her to Scott Brown, who gets 45 percent. That lead is easily swallowed by the poll's margin of...