25 episodes

Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

KCRW's Left, Right & Center KCRW

    • News
    • 4.1, 3.1K Ratings

Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

    Left in the lurch

    Left in the lurch

    It’s August, the enhanced unemployment air ran out in July, and lawmakers in Washington don’t seem much closer to extending that and other aspects of the coronavirus aid.

    How long will be left in the lurch? And what do we make of the report that shows employment kept growing even as the epidemic got worse around the county? In July, about 1.8 million jobs were added and economist Betsy Stevenson has mixed feelings about it. She says economic recovery is very closely tied to virus control, which is not going very well, but we should also see this jobs report as proof that the first coronavirus aid packages have worked. Speaking of that, Republicans and Democrats are in a stalemate (as of this taping) over the next aid package. President Trump is getting frustrated and is threatening to act via executive order. Can he do that? Should he do that if Congress can’t break the stalemate? 

    Josh Barro, Dorian Warren, Megan McCardle talk with Betsey Stevenson about the childcare crisis that the pandemic has brought into focus. If millions of American parents are staying home with their children who cannot attend school in person, where does that leave the workforce? And what about the future workforce: children who miss a year of in-person school are going to have big learning gaps to make up. If schools can’t open, is it time for a major federal investment in child care?

    Data from major American cities show an increase in homicides and violent crime in May and June. Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld talks about what could explain the numbers and what can be done about it.

    • 50 min
    What do we do now?

    What do we do now?

    The US economy shrank at a record pace in the second quarter, contracting nearly ten percent. In the real world, that means tens of millions of Americans lost jobs and so many businesses were closed. We knew it wasn’t going to be good, but what’s worse is the recovery we were seeing in the late spring appears to have stalled. On top of that Congress isn’t even close to a solution for the expiring enhanced unemployment benefits that so many Americans are relying on through this crisis. So we wait.

    On today’s show Josh Barro, Dorian Warren, Megan McArdle and special guest Shai Akabas of the Bipartisan Policy Center talk about the state of the next relief package — is it a stimulus or not? — and the big missing piece of coronavirus economic policy: actually beating the virus.

    Then: pro sports are back, sort of. Pablo Torre of ESPN talks about the strategies that are working and what’s definitely not working as leagues resume or begin their seasons in our new reality.

    • 52 min
    Brinkmanship in a pandemic

    Brinkmanship in a pandemic

    Those enhanced unemployment benefits that have kept many American households afloat through the pandemic? They’re about to run out, and Congress is just now getting around to doing something about it. In the first week of negotiation, Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on another coronavirus relief package. Congress has played a game of brinkmanship with government shutdowns, but during a pandemic with millions of Americans out of work, it’s a different situation. Christine Emba says Americans don’t have the patience for this game when it affects the livelihoods of so many. Megan McArdle says Congress must envision a post-pandemic economy as it considers the appropriate relief efforts now. What else is Congress fighting over in the next bill, and how do we contend with the fact that many Americans won’t get much relief until many weeks or months from now?

    In Portland, federal agents are throwing protesters into unmarked vehicles. Why? Is there any proper role for the federal government in responding to unrest in cities? Geoff Ingersoll joins the panel to discuss that and if this helps or hurts President Trump with voters.

    Also, what does New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have against Buffalo wings? He does know they were invented in his state, right?

    • 50 min
    American made

    American made

    The economic recovery appears to be stalling as the coronavirus epidemic intensifies across the south and southwest. How did we get here? What are the policy failures that allow uncontrolled spread to resume? Why is there such a big testing backlog? And where do we go from here? Dr. Kavita Patel joins the panel to discuss.

    Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has enjoyed higher public approval on his handling of the economy than on his overall job. Joe Biden released an economic plan last week that aims to dent the president’s advantage, in part by co-opting some of his themes about promoting manufacturing in the United States. He wants an expansive “buy American” program, big public spending on research and development to rely less on international supply chains, and a major public spending plan for the climate and environment. Does this mean that both Right and Left are ready to abandon neoliberal ideals of globalism? And is there a tradeoff between raising labor standards in the United States and raising labor standards in other countries? Biden’s climate action plan is a very progressive proposal — his moderate image might be helping him put forward very left proposals, but would that help him with actual policy making if he is president?

    Finally, Dorian Warren argues the time is right for a third Reconstruction, a deep structural transformation of institutions in the United States to remedy inequities.

    • 50 min
    Lagging behind

    Lagging behind

    The coronavirus pandemic crisis is stretching on and the United States is in dire straits. Infections are surging in the south and west and there's doubt about whether schools can open safely for the new school year.

    Megan McArdle says the lags of this disease are contributing to serious policy disasters and many states are falling victim to normalcy bias, where, if it doesn't look like chaos, it's harder to persuade people and public officials to take appropriate action to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Dorian Warren says it is ultimately shameful that the United States is failing at virus mitigation.

    Then, Helen Alvare joins the panel to talk about the Supreme Court's final decisions. Was this term a major disappointment for conservatives? Chief Justice John Roberts promised to call balls and strikes, but might he be working towards a more long-sighted goal?

    Finally: Mexico's president visited President Trump in Washington this week, and Jose Diaz Briseno of Reforma talks about the state of their relationship. Is it correct to call President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador a leftist? And is he, like many other world leaders, doing his best just to appease and not influence President Trump?

    • 50 min
    Will it change us?

    Will it change us?

    Halfway through an extremely eventful 2020, what is the outlook for persistent change?

    In this special midyear episode, Josh Barro speaks with Dorian Warren and Megan McArdle about whether this year’s events — in policing and racial justice, the economy, and public health — will make change in these areas more possible and more necessary.

    A lot of change is happening quickly. The government has spent trillions to support the economy, Americans’ lives are barely recognizable, and public opinion has moved faster than we’ve ever seen on issues related to race and policing. Will it change the country permanently? Positively? And what are we learning from these extraordinary months?

    Megan notes that many trends appear revolutionary in the short term but less so in the long term, citing how little changed after the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. She also says there are examples in our history of police reform and “defunding” actually backfiring, and reform may be more difficult in the midst of economic troubles.

    Dorian notes that we’ve already seen incredible change as a result of the multiple crises facing the country now. “Normal models we look for in politics don’t quite explain how much change we’ve seen so far...” and he says generational change and indicators in the culture should not be underestimated.

    • 54 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
3.1K Ratings

3.1K Ratings

Kimberly, is that you? ,

Overall good... and improving

I like this podcast. I really want to hear the big ideas we’re talking about in the country challenged and important topics debated, and this forum is perfect for it. The country could use a well-informed respectful debate.
The host and center (Josh Barro) is great and can manage the conversation well. The topics are fairly good.
They need better panelists. Elizabeth Bruenig on the Left is terrific, but another lefty is frequently on who makes really questionable assertions with zero evidence. IF she is challenged, she gets very emotional (crying, lashing out) in a way that shuts down the conversation. Jimmy Dore and Glen Greenwald would be good adds to the Left rotation.
They have trouble finding someone to represent the Right, and it puzzles me. There are lots of smart people they could get to represent the Right (Mollie Hemingway, Candace Owens, David Webb, Ben Shapiro, Dinesh D’Souza, Thomas Sowell) but it’s usually a very dry fiscal conservative who isn’t interested in social or cultural issues... or someone who spends most of the show attempting to ingratiate themselves to the person on the Left.
I think the show is really trying and has come a long way. I keep them in my feed because I want them to succeed and I think could be a great show.

Poolus ,

Bring Back Liz Bruenig

This show was listenable, but no longer since they booted liz bruenig off.

pattiocon ,


I have been listening to L, R, and C for a few years now and I want to comment on the representatives of the different perspectives. I wish Christine Emba was on regularly - she is the best spokesperson for progressive ideology since Katrina Vanden Heuvel (?spelling?) Megan McCorkle is annoying in that I think she takes a lot of cheap shots at Democrats - e.g. “the party of trial attorneys”. Trial attorneys did the most to effect regulation of the tobacco industry who were allowed to lie, and lie and lie for decades. And let’s not forget the specious “suer in chief” Donald Trump. At least she isn’t as much of a racist as Rich Lowry who honestly said things that sounded like someone from the 1930’s. The thing that comes to mind immediately is his accusation that the 1619 project was false history. Anyway I am glad he’s gone.
I love Josh - keep up the good work dude!

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