Alec MacGillis

Alec MacGillis covers national politics and domestic policy for The Washington Post.

Recent Articles

The Ruse of the Creative Class

Cities that shelled out big bucks to learn Richard Florida's prescription for vibrant urbanism are now hearing they may be beyond help.

(Flickr/Phillip Jeffrey)
In April 2006, the Richard Florida show arrived in the Southern Tier of Upstate New York. It was only one of the scores of appearances this decade by the economic-development guru, whose speaking fee soared to $35,000 not long after his 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class made him a star on the lecture circuit. Cleveland, Toledo, Baltimore, Greensboro, Green Bay, Des Moines, Hartford, Roanoke, and Rochester were among the many cities that had already shelled out to hear from the good-looking urban-studies professor about how to get young professionals to move in. Of course, none of these burgs has yet completed the transformation from post-manufacturing ugly duckling to gay-friendly, hipster swan. But middling results elsewhere did not keep people in the greater Elmira area from getting excited about Florida's visit. They listened as, in his stylish suit and designer glasses, he related his blue-collar upbringing outside Newark before segueing into his secrets of urban success in...

The Poverty of Political Talk

It's still hard for politicians to speak clearly about the poorest Americans.

John Edwards speaks at the University of North Carolina's anti-poverty center. (AP Photo/Jeffrey A. Camarati)
In the spring of 2007, I traveled to Allendale, South Carolina, a struggling town near the Georgia line, to interview John Edwards about his ideas on fighting poverty. I watched as, photographers in tow, he strolled the back alleys and shook hands across broken fences with some of the 40 percent of Allendale residents who live below the poverty line. "We've got 37 million people who wake up every day in poverty," he declared to a group of local Democrats gathered under a giant live oak. "This is not OK, not in the richest country on the planet." Two years later, Edwards has left the scene, in one of the more sudden vanishing acts by a national political figure. But what about the issue he addressed more explicitly than any other major candidate since Bobby Kennedy? I managed to get Edwards on the phone recently for his first extensive interview since admitting his extramarital affair, and he told me he was worried that poverty as an issue has fallen off the radar again. "There's...