Kay Steiger

Kay Steiger is an associate editor at Talking Points Memo. She formerly worked at Raw Story, Washingtonian magazine, the Center for American Progress and The American Prospect. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, the Guardian, Jezebel, AlterNet and others. She graduated from the University of Minnesota. Contact her at

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There are few laugh-out-loud moments in a night of pre-programmed coverage of the president's State Of The Union speech, but this Fox News focus group expressing genuine confusion at Obama's executive action to offer more retirement savings options for poor people was one for me.

"I'm left scratching my head all night, 'What is this?'" Gee, why would poor people need more retirement savings options?

Over at TPM Cafe's Book Club today, Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids In The World, questions Obama's claim from last night's State of the Union speech that America is "better positioned" than any other country: "It was the kind of rhetoric you’d hear 20 years ago and not think twice. (In fact, President Bill Clinton used the exact same line in a 1995 speech, right after he praised this wonderful thing call the Internet.) But at this particular moment in time, that bold claim did make me think twice. Is Obama right?"

Don't forget to join us for an author chat with Ripley this Friday at noon. (sub. req.)

At TPM Cafe Book Club this morning, Amanda Ripley asks South Koreans about Americans' obsession with their high test scores in an excerpt from The Smartest Kids In The World: "When I asked if [Korea's education minister, Lee Ju-Ho] agreed with President Obama’s glowing rhetoric about the Korean education system, he smiled a tired smile. It’s a question he got asked often, usually by Korean reporters who could not understand what the U.S. president—or anyone—would find to like about Korea’s system."

TPM Prime members should remember to join us for a chat with Ripley this Friday at noon.

Time to heave ho, argues Ed Kilgore, "As the State of the Union Address and the first partisan blows of the 2014 election cycle approach, there’s a familiar character missing from the political state: the Deficit Boogeyman."

Venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who is under fire for comparing the attack on America's rich to "Kristallnacht," was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in France in 1996 for killing someone -- with his yacht.

It apparently doesn't get much worse than the U.S. Army, according to jokes surfaced by the Washington Post from emails commanders sent to one another. Brigadier General Martin P. Schweitzer, at the time a colonel, wrote in an email to a colleague that he had masturbated "3 times over the past 2 hours" after a meeting with Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC). Ick.

We're pleased to have Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in The World, join us this week for TPM Cafe Book Club. She has a great essay written for TPM today on why poverty doesn't explain gaps in test scores: "[I]f we consider only our most affluent kids, the top quartile of American 15 year olds by socio-economic status, we see something startling: our most privileged kids still score below their privileged peers in 26 other nations on a test of critical thinking in math."

TPM subscribers should join us for a Q&A with Amanda Ripley on Friday at noon.

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States. Over at TPM Cafe, Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which fights many anti-abortion state measures in court, argues: "People are fed up. They’re speaking out. And — for the first time in a long time — there are signs that a critical mass of our representatives in Congress is listening."

Following that, Jessica Arons of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project argues that many anti-abortion policies are about making life harder for poor women: "in a perverse irony, Congress denies coverage for abortion care to women enrolled in Medicaid, our government’s health insurance program for the poor, under a policy known as the Hyde Amendment."

And TPM's Sahil Kapur points out that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a fierce defender of women's rights, actually hates Roe v. Wade: "Her pique is that the Roe opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, relies on a "right of privacy" under the 4th Amendment and emphasizes the right of physicians to practice medicine as they see fit. She prefers that abortion rights be recognized under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, based on the view that having a child should be a woman's choice."