Opinion

David Rohde

Signing off

David Rohde
Jan 29, 2014 20:52 UTC

For the past two and a half years, I’ve had the privilege of writing a weekly opinion column for Reuters. Some of those columns made me proud. Others I wish I could do over.

As of today, I am changing jobs and becoming an investigative reporter at Reuters. I will also write regular analysis columns, but they will be edited by the Reuters news desk and not contain opinion.

Measuring public concern by page views is a dubious enterprise. But the interest generated by some of my columns suggested that two main issues interested readers.

First, income inequality.

One of the pieces that drew the most traffic described how Hurricane Sandy exposed New York’s growing inequality. A piece praising a family-owned supermarket chain — Wegmans — that delivers outstanding service, generous wages to employees and a healthy profit was highly popular as well.

Militancy — and the U.S. response to it — also interested readers. A piece describing the dread American Muslims felt as news broke that two Chechen immigrants were suspected in the Boston marathon bombing was enormously popular. So were pieces criticizing the Obama administration’s excessive use of drone strikes, secrecy and online surveillance.

A year after Sandy, New York’s inequality grows

David Rohde
Oct 30, 2013 17:02 UTC

When Hurricane Sandy engulfed New York a year ago, David Del Valle helped me instead of his mother. Del Valle’s choice was not voluntary.

For the last 10 years, the 48-year-old New Yorker has worked as a doorman at the hotel where my wife, daughter and I stayed after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan. Eager to hold on to his job, Del Valle stayed at work but worried about his mother — who lives on the city’s Lower East Side, which lost electricity and flooded.

His mother was fine and soon after the storm, I wrote about how Sandy exposed the city’s vast economic inequality. While the better off moved to hotels or simply fled, Del Valle was one of the city’s army of doormen, cooks, maintenance workers and maids who stayed on the job during the storm and had to leave their loved ones to fend for themselves.

Two American families — and two Americas

David Rohde
Jul 26, 2013 04:13 UTC

Over the last 20 years, two middle class American families — the Stanleys and the Neumanns — have done all the right things. Milwaukee natives, they worked hard, learned news skills,  and tried to show their children that strivers would be rewarded.

But their lives — as captured in an extraordinary Frontline documentary — are an American calamity. Followed by filmmakers for two decades, they move from dead-end job to dead-end job, one of the couples’ divorces, and most of their children spiral downward economically, not up.

The Stanleys and the Neumanns are a microcosm of the middle class that President Barack Obama — and House Republicans — will spar over for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. And they are part of a global trend. Across industrialized nations, income inequality is growing and people like the Stanleys and Neumanns are the losers.

Obama’s ‘war on inequality’

David Rohde
Feb 14, 2013 00:03 UTC

He quoted Jack Kennedy but sounded more like Lyndon Johnson.

In an audacious State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama made sweeping proposals to reduce poverty, revive the middle class and increase taxes on the “well off.” While careful to not declare it outright, an emboldened second-term president laid out an agenda that could be called a “war on inequality.”

“There are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead,” Obama declared in a blunt attack one a core conservative credo. “And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.”

In his 1964 State of the Union address, Johnson introduced the legislation that became known as the “War on Poverty.” Those laws – along with many others he shepherded – stand today as perhaps the greatest legislative achievement of any modern president. Whether or not one agrees with him, Johnson’s laws – from the Civil Rights Act, to Medicaid, Medicare and Head Start, to sweeping federal urban renewal and education programs – changed the face of American society.

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