TPM Cafe: Opinion

Despite paralyzing partisanship in Congress, there’s some movement to revitalize the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had been severely wounded by a Supreme Court decision last June. The new bill will restore some of the Voting Rights Act’s power – but it is a far cry from what is needed.

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As is often the case, we tend to get house calls in the middle of snow storms. And this past week was no different. I plowed out the funeral home’s parking lot, pulled out the pick-up van and we were on our way. We arrived to a packed house where family and friends encircled the deceased in a garrison of grief.

“Direct cremation,” the family said. “That’s what she wanted.” As is our modus operandi we assured them, “Take as long as you need to say your good-byes.” And with that permission, six members of the family proceeded to pull out their cell phones, leaned down and took a photo with the deceased.

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One of the big political stories of this week is a new CBO report on the possible effects of a minimum wage increase.

The CBO’s study -- the latest in a long line of conflicting analyses of the minimum wage -- suggests that a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour would reduce poverty, but could also cost jobs.

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Back in 1971, President Richard Nixon vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have established comprehensive child care centers across the country. To Nixon, this sounded a whole lot like committing “the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing.”

Would that Nixon’s rhetoric were just a relic of the Cold War. But less than three years ago, Rick Santorum called early education programs socialists’ attempts to “indoctrinate your children.”

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What do you do when at the age of 42 you’ve been a Rhodes Scholar, a state agency head, a university president, a member of Congress and a two-term governor of your state? What if you have also been described as a “genius” for two decades, the epitome of your political party’s new tolerance and diversity, and as part of every wave of every future?

The obvious next step for Bobby JIndal is the White House, but there’s a problem: for all of his credentials and the symbolic freight he carries, his every step towards the Ultimate Prize has been frustrated from the get-go by false starts and the pesky folks back home in Louisiana (including many in his own party) who aren’t real enthused by his performance there.

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Nicholas Kristof wrote in his Sunday New York Times column that to the detriment of the American people, professors are missing from the great debates of our time. He blames this on scholars themselves and the larger academic culture that “glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” As long-time scholars in political science and sociology, we agree. Yet we are glad to report to Mr. Kristof that the tide is rapidly changing and scholars are much more publicly engaged than he realizes. And yes, we are happy to take some credit for that too.

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Things get pretty wild in the Senate during Season 2 of "House Of Cards," which came out Friday on Netflix. If you haven't watched though the end of the third episode of the new season, consider this a fair warning that there are MAJOR SPOILERS below.

If you have seen it and are wondering how Frank Underwood -- the calculating, murderous, newly minted vice president -- masterminded it, and whether his bizarre maneuvering is legal (short version: it is), read on.

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During last Sunday’s episode of “Downton Abbey,” Lady Edith Crawley, a blueblood daughter of white British aristocracy, sought an illegal abortion because the father of her baby — a married man — had disappeared in Munich and was nowhere to be found. Once in the discreet waiting room, Lady Edith changed her mind about the abortion after hearing the cries of a woman in the doctor’s office. It was 1922 London, and abortions were afforded to the very wealthy.

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In The Second Machine Age we document several tough facts confronting American workers. Median income is lower than it was in the late 1990s. The only people that have seen their real wages rise over the past twenty years are those with at least a college degree, a group that includes less than 40 percent of the labor force. Unemployment since the Great Recession remains stubbornly high, and in fact much of its reduction in recent years comes from people dropping out of the workforce instead of people finding work. Social mobility is going down while the cost of a higher education (the classic American ticket to a better life) is rising. Unfortunately, we could go on.

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