Karen Paget

Karen M. Paget, a frequent foundation consultant, is currently a Soros Open Society Institute fellow. She has consulted on state and local fiscal issues for the Ford Foundation and the Twentieth Century Fund. She is the author of "The Battle for the States," in The New Majority.

Recent Articles

Can't Touch This?: The Pentagon's Budget Fortress

Defense experts with impeccable conservative credentials say we could cut the Pentagon budget without endangering our security. So why is no one listening?

N early six years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, all talk of a peace dividend has evaporated. The very phrase seems quaint, an echo from another era. Whole domestic agencies, meanwhile, are targeted for extinction. Welfare and every other form of safety net--home heating subsidies, housing and homeless programs, food and nutrition programs--are under the budget knife. Medicare, long considered too politically risky to cut, has lost its immunity. Only the military budget remains secure from cuts, not only off the table, but slated for increases by both the Clinton administration and congressional Republicans. Yet credible defense analysts across a wide ideological spectrum, including former Department of Defense officials, congressional budget analysts, think tank scholars, and at least one former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, say the Pentagon could be further cut, saving as much as $200 billion over the next five years. Why the immunity? Two propositions are working in...

The Big Chill

Has the right’s campaign to “defund the left” intimidated large foundations? In fact, tax-exempt organizations of all kinds have far more latitude to promote social change than many of them realize.

Starting a new organization? You will very likely apply for a tax exemption from the IRS in order to attract foundation grants and gifts from individual donors. This decision, of course, has fateful consequences, especially for organizations devoted to social or political change. Accepting foundation funding means that you will have to limit your tactics and serve the foundation's goals as well as your own—and the foundation may also be looking over its shoulder at the IRS and Congress. Since most activist organizations are promoting changes that are, broadly speaking, political—changing public policies, political resources, and the very rules of the game—tax-exempt status tends to cramp their style. In one sense, this constraint seems only fair; other taxpayers should not be subsidizing, via tax exemption, groups whose goals they do not share. Yet what precisely is political? In reality the IRS gives nonprofit organizations wider latitude than many appreciate...

The Roots of Rage

Blowback: The Cost and Consequences of the American Empire , by Chalmers Johnson. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 288 pages, $15.00 (paper). Americans around the world are targets of terrorist attacks. Not just soldiers such as those killed on the USS Cole in Yemen this fall, but civilians, as well. Last year the State Department issued an unprecedented general warning for Americans abroad--anyone, anywhere--to be alert to the threat of anti-American violence. Yet citizens and commentators alike seemed to take the advisory in stride. No one asked, at the end of "the American Century," why we might be in such danger. University of California political science professor (now emeritus) Chalmers Johnson has an explanation. United States government policies and practices begun during the Cold War, and continuing to this day, are largely responsible. And the American people are mostly unaware of what we are doing in the world, "since so much of this activity takes place either...

Diversity at Berkeley: Demagoguery or Demography?

The case for Cal’s admissions policy, designed to mirror the state’s population.

The director of a large California foundation once told me that his work had become easier now that his board members understood cultural diversity "as a demographic fact and not a liberal plot." His optimism was premature. In the past year a full-blown conservative reaction, exemplified by Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education, has depicted the new claims of ethnic pluralism precisely as a liberal or radical plot. In its most mechanical form, the conservative argument pictures elite colleges as admitting unqualified students through affirmative action. These students, once there, lower standards, frustrate faculty, and develop an ideology of cultural separatism to justify their own incompetence. The demand for more representative or non-traditional curricula is one more, mostly illegitimate, offshoot of their presence on campus. Affirmative action is thus the source of a new and sinister ideology called "multiculturalism," which undermines not only higher education but also the very...