Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.
Bad news can be good news
For Democrats negotiating the Build Back Better plan, bad news is good news: because every disagreement means they’re a step closer to passage. But to get there, they’ll have to combine changes that satisfy both Joe Manchin and many Democrats’ least favorite Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema.
What’s driving their motivations to block the bill from passing? Where are the hard asks? Could Sinema just be trying to fill up her campaign coffers by protecting big business interests, and what happens if she gets primaried? We discuss.
Next: climate action policies are a major plank of Biden’s agenda and there’s a lot of agreement that it’s needed. Are these the right policies? Will they achieve the benchmarks in the Paris agreement, and Biden’s goals? This bill earmarks lots of money for green infrastructure like electric vehicle charging and renewable-friendly power grid upgrades.
But is it too ambitious a plan? Do voters care about an issue whose impacts are so long-term and diffuse? Are climate subsidies the right tool to make the most impact? Joseph Majkut joins the show to analyze the bill and what it could mean for the United States and the rest of the world.
Also in this bill: a child care plan, which has been under scrutiny this week. Does it have too many of the same features and pitfalls as the Affordable Care Act? Federal quality requirements add cost – and as with the ACA, many states are likely to be uncooperative in administering this Democrat-designed benefit. Should the government simply give money to families and let them decide how to spend it? And does the plan ignore parents who want to stay at home with their kids?
Finally: friendly reminder that vaccines make you safer, not immortal; when your pandemic hairdo is a don’t, and why you should consider the magic of radio if you’d rather be watching the game instead of driving Josh around LA.
Biden has 99 problems and the ports back logs are just one
The Port of Los Angeles will now be running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, under a new plan announced by President Biden. Right now his administration is juggling a lot of problems that are weighing down voter confidence in his presidency: supply chain logjams, rising inflation, a slowing job market and gridlock in Congress. The persistent list of problems now 10 months into Biden’s first term runs counter to the “return to normal” message he successfully ran on when he beat then-President Trump in 2020. But is the president being proactive, or is he opening himself up to blame for problems plaguing the entire global supply chain that are mostly out of his control?
This week, we bring on special guest Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report to talk about what voters want from the economy and the president right now. Some Americans are feeling a lingering sense of unease, as the country continues to face labor and goods shortages tied to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats still can’t come to an agreement to pass Biden’s domestic agenda. How does political polarization affect the way voters think about the administration’s handling of the economy? We discuss.
Next on the show: Redistricting is underway as we head into next year’s midterm elections. As was the case 10 years ago, Republicans have an advantage because they control more state legislatures, while some Democratic states, like California, have put redistricting decisions in the hands of independent commissions. But how many seats could Republicans realistically pick up next year through redistricting alone, especially since demographic changes in some major swing states would seem to favor Democrats? A hotly contested gubernatorial election in Virginia next month could give us some clues. Also, what the heck is ‘bacon-mandering’?
Then: our panel discusses vaccine mandates and religious exemptions, specifically among Catholics. The Catholic Church’s official position is that getting vaccinated is morally permissible, but sincerely held religious beliefs should be honored as a valid basis for exemption. As vaccine mandates become more commonplace, how does society negotiate those tensions?
Finally: Why adults need to stop making Halloween sexy, and why the “woke” Fed is really just doing its job.
We’re doing this again?
It’s been an especially stupid week in Congress. Members of Congress are fighting over the debt limit – an archaic, post-war provision from the 20th century. Both sides of the aisle agree that the debt limit needs to go up… but they disagree on how.
Democrats can do this on their own. What are they afraid of? Attack ads? Taking up too much floor time when they have other legislation they could be working on, like the infrastructure bill and the spending bill that….they still haven’t agreed on? Republicans say Democrats should raise the debt limit by themselves, but Democrats insist Republicans need to help them out. But just in the nick of time before a partial government shutdown, Republicans allowed Democrats to fund the government for about two more months, so over the holidays, we can do this all over again.
Then: President Biden’s approval rating is tanking. A new Quinnipiac poll puts him at just 38 percent approval on the job market and a dismal 25 percent approval rate on immigration. What’s the source of this dissatisfaction?Could the problem just be that Biden isn’t taking credit for the good things his presidency has done, and not “owning” enough conservatives?
Next: Professor Kate Shaw joins the panel to talk about the controversial new law in Texas that bans abortions after six weeks, which was preliminarily enjoined this week by a federal judge. This might go all the way to the Supreme Court, which is already hearing oral arguments in December about a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Does the Constitution actually create a right to abortion? And if Roe is overturned, what can Democrats do to protect abortion access?
And finally: having kids might not be that bad an idea, even today… but if you send them to school sick, Liz Bruenig has some words for you.
It’s...past the wire for Democrats and their votes on two big spending packages that are the priorities of President Biden. As we recorded this episode Friday morning, the promised day for a House vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill had passed and Democrats were still fighting amongst themselves on both the price tag of the spending bill and what to prioritize between social and climate spending. All eyes are on the Progressive Caucus, Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, and they’re watching each other. Where will this end up?
Then, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb talks about the major failures of the pandemic in the United States, why he has lots of feedback for the CDC in particular, and how approaching pandemics like national security threats could serve us better the next time around.
All that, plus the media company that wasn’t, moving the fences back, and some proof that vaccine mandates are effective.
Deep dives on Hispanic and Latino voters, and the future of abortion access in the US
This week, guest host and Left, Right & Center contributor Keli Goff takes a deep dive into two issues in the news right now. First: she speaks with Geraldo Cadava about what Democrats and Republicans misunderstand about the “Latino vote” and what they get right. Geraldo says the parties oversimplify voters’ profiles and overlook important factors like geography, the rural/urban divide, class, and many others. Keli and Geraldo discuss the faults of thinking about groups of voters as monoliths — Keli points out that she longs for the day that campaigns approach Black voters like they would swing voters. What do we know about the appeal of the Republican party to Hispanic and Latino voters over the past few decades? And should Democrats be more concerned about whether their strategy is effective?
Then, Keli discusses the new laws restricting abortion access in Texas with Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood and president of Take The Lead, a national organization advocating for gender parity. Gloria talks about the slippery slope of similar laws, what she fears is ahead for abortion access, and makes a case for new laws that would guarantee women’s rights to live as full citizens in the United States.
Cliffs, drugs and taxes
Democrats have spent weeks talking about their big spending plans, and now they’re talking about how to pay for them. Some ideas: tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans, a capital gains tax regimen, and allowing the government to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies which would cut what the government pays and cutting costs for other American consumers. But can progressives and moderates agree on how to do these things? And how much will the scope of the plan shrink in the process? Then there are the cliffs: hello, a government shutdown is looming September 30, and the debt limit needs to be raised. Can Democrats manage to squeeze out a compromise by the end of the month? And how will that affect the fate of the spending plan?
The FDA is reviewing the case for a COVID booster shot. Should Americans be getting a third (or fourth, or fifth…) shot when the rest of the world remains unvaccinated? DR. PETER CHIN-HONG of UCSF talks with the panel about the disagreement among the Biden administration, the medical community and public health officials about whether booster shots are needed now, and how to balance a vaccination campaign and a booster strategy.
Also: California Gov. Gavin Newsom soundly defeated a recall effort. Does this tell us anything about next year’s midterm election?
And finally: Josh thinks Larry Elder is NOT the future of the California GOP. Also, why Tim might take heat from space Twitter after we publish this.
Get Rid Of Megan
LOVE this podcast. However, Megan Is unbearable. She is callus about sensitive issues, specifically the Texas abortion law that has been discussed in the latest episode. She is rude and laughs in both the host and guests faces. This is not an issue to laugh about and throw to the side. She minimizes the law by saying “it’ll go away in a few years” she clearly shows no sympathy for women who now have no options in their own state and are forced into a corner. Please get a new person for your “right” opinion side. Bring in someone respectful and thoughtful.
First time listener
This podcast was refreshing, smart and honest. Rarely do I hear a podcast or other media source truly balanced, this podcast has met the mark though, thank you!
Fell far from the glory days
David Dayen’s dry and highly technical commentary makes me want to stab myself in the eye, just to escape the boredom of listening to his nondescript and boring voice. Please bring back someone with a semblance of a pulse.