Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.
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.
Required to require
This week, President Biden announced a sweeping new mandate for American workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Companies with 100 or more employees are mandated to require employees to be vaccinated or take a weekly test. Health care workers and federal government employees and contractors must be vaccinated. Companies will have to give employees paid time off to be vaccinated, plus more time to recuperate from any side effects. Is this the right thing to do?
Democrats are already making tough choices on their spending bill. Will they have to cut and trim their $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill into a much smaller one? What will end up on the cutting room floor?
Then: our relationship with Europe was supposed to be warmer with President Trump out of office but it doesn’t really seem to be the case. What happened? Do European leaders have reason to be frustrated still? EMMA ASHFORD joins us to discuss the grumbling.
And, finally: Josh rants about ice cream with chocolate chunks before he’s gently reminded by his producer that we already know he thinks frozen chocolate is bad because he ranted about it three years ago. Josh hasn’t changed his mind, and ice cream hasn’t changed either.
Is this the end of Roe?
This week, a new law took effect in Texas prohibiting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before most women are aware that they’re pregnant. There are many state laws that seek to impose bans on abortions after a certain point in pregnancy, but none are designed the way this Texas law is. It creates a procedural and legal hurdle to those seeking abortions right now, effectively stopping them altogether, before the law can be challenged and reviewed in court. The Supreme Court decided not to stop the law from taking effect. How was it able to do so, based on emergency filings rather than oral arguments and full consideration of the constitutional issues? What are the political implications of this law and the reactions to it from right and left? Are both sides hemmed into extreme positions on abortion when the majority of the public falls somewhere in the middle? Separately, the Supreme Court had already docketed a case on Mississippi’s 12-week ban on abortions this term. Is the end of the Roe/Casey era near? We discuss.
Also: an op-ed by Senator Joe Manchin in the Wall Street Journal this week is exactly what progressives DON’T want to hear – that he wouldn’t support a $3.5 trillion spending plan to go along with the infrastructure bill. But he didn’t say anything about what he would support. Is that a smart political decision? Should Democrats be more cautious about major spending with rising inflation and the ongoing pandemic?
Then: Jay Powell’s term as chair of the Federal Reserve is up, and President Biden is expected to decide soon whether to nominate him for another four years. Some believe Powell should stick around for his effective handling of the financial aspects of the COVID crisis. David Dayen argues it’s time to appoint somebody who makes the existential threat of climate change a priority.
And, finally: how the bankruptcy system protected the Sackler family, why we shouldn’t pretend vaccine mandates don’t curtail civil liberties, and how the NFL’s campaign to get players vaccinated actually worked.
The bombing at Kabul airport
A suicide bombing near the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. service members just days ahead of the withdrawal deadline. The Biden administration still plans to withdraw from Afghanistan by August 31. Does this deadly attack change that calculus?
Also: Democrats in the House are testing their leverage over two very spending bills: the infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion social spending bill...that we don’t really know too much about yet. David Dayen says he can’t envision one passing without the other: it’ll be both or neither. Will progressives and moderates hold together? Plus, how much should Democrats take advantage of the economic moment the country is in now? Is time of the essence? How does the economic climate play into how bills like this get passed?
Then: the Supreme Court threw out the CDC’s controversial moratorium on evictions. The Biden administration knew its survival was tenuous, and Congress had already approved enough rental assistance money to extinguish all the rent debt in the country. The only problem is very, very little of that money has reached the hands of tenants and landlords so far. Why is that? And why is this an enduring problem for other kinds of government aid?
The Chaos in Afghanistan
Kabul has fallen. While this was expected to happen, the U.S. government has been surprised by how quickly the Taliban took over.
At the start of this week, there were as many as 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan. Now, Americans, along with thousands of Afghans, are trying to flee the country. The result? Mass chaos.
This week, panelists Josh Barro, Liz Bruenig, Megan McArdle and special guest Paul D. Miller spend the entire show talking about the war in Afghanistan. Why did the war continue on for so long and what was the U.S. trying to achieve? Was there a better way to withdraw that posed less risk to American personnel and provided more evacuations of vulnerable Afghans? And what should we do now? We discuss.
Policy and people after plagues
The Delta surge continues, and case counts are especially high in the Southeast. There’s now less optimism about herd immunity (for several reasons) and it’s looking like covid is on its way to being endemic – a disease that’s likely to be with us for a long time but becomes less deadly due to vaccines and natural immunity and adapting to life with another virus. Andrew Sullivan argues this is not new for humans: We have learned how to do it before and we will learn to do it again. How do we get from here to there with as little death and disruption as possible? Panelists Megan McArdle and Gustavo Arellano have some ideas.
Andrew Sullivan has written about plagues and the societal changes they bring He witnessed and survived the AIDS crisis firsthand. So what’s going to happen to the world post COVID-19? Are stimulus payments and child tax credits going to stick around? We discuss.
Then Andrew talks about the throughline of his political views and commentary, a less ideological politics as an antidote to political tribalism and religiosity, and more. Should the most ideological fights be had in culture or in politics? Is it possible to separate the two?
Finally: the fall of Andrew Cuomo, the truth about boosters, why you should queue up some Chente Fernandez this weekend, and why you should consider headphones over a boombox.
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.
Bring back Rich Lowry
Megan McArdle is at times a poor verbal communicator and is not effective in her argumentative style. I don’t doubt that she is intelligent and certainly her written style is superior, but she is a rather difficult guest to represent any perspective on this show. I am not sure if it is because of her nerves or some other issue, but she regularly uses false analogies and utters clearly false statements in her attempt to make salient points… risks that she does not need to take because her core arguments are often valid.
Not sure on the spelling, but can you get Josh Barrow to talk a little faster so that he is completely unintelligible?