Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.
After a highly anticipated summit between President Biden and Vladimir Putin, here’s what we’re left with: if Russia’s going to cyberattack the United States, they should not target sixteen critical areas of American society and infrastructure, or else. What does that mean? And where does that leave us with Russian hackers that aren’t part of the government?
Also: The Supreme Court upholds Obamacare after another attempt to shake it down. Is this a win for progressives? Is it a major loss for conservatives? And Senator Joe Manchin proposes a voting rights compromise. Is it a good deal for both sides? Plus: a discussion of Ross Douthat’s book The Decadent Society and how the pandemic has left a mark on decadence.
Joe Biden is in Europe. He’s meeting with the G7, then he’ll see European and NATO leaders and meet one-on-one with Putin. European leaders are relieved Trump is gone, but does that mean they have an alignment of interests with Biden ashe seeks to challenge Russia and China? And is that more pressing than the role of G7 leaders in leading vaccination around the world?
Then: the new bipartisan infrastructure deal is so secret nobody even know what’s in it. We know one thing that’s not in it: new taxes, which makes sense, because Republicans and Democrats have embraced expansions of government spending without taxes! Plus the panel discusses the death of Democrats’ voting bill and the ProPublica exposé of billionaires’ tax information. It didn’t expose anything illegal. Is any of it our business?
Josh Barro finally admits cicadas are real, but he says it’s still stupid to promote anything about eating them.
An improved jobs report but still a long road to economic recovery
The jobs report for May was better than April but still left a lot of room for improvement. Workers are being more selective, which may not be a bad thing. With a tight labor market and a material shortage, is this the right time for a big infrastructure package? Negotiations continue in Washington for a possible bipartisan deal, but the final package may be much more modest than what President Biden hoped for.
The cruise line industry is trying to recover after a devastating year and the CDC is saying cruise lines must ensure that at least 95% of passengers and crew must be vaccinated against COVID. But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed a state law prohibiting private companies from requiring proof of vaccination from its customers and has threatened to fine cruise lines if they do so. Should the government be making rules about when private companies can require vaccines? And what about workplace vaccine mandates?
Then: This week, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn seemed to be saying a coup like the one in Myanmar should happen here and former President Trump has hopes of being “reinstated” in August.
Finally, the panel talks with Princeton Professor of Sociology Patrick Sharkey about the rise in violent crime over the past year, the possible causes for this dramatic spike and the data-backed ways to bring crime down.
Congress has been unusually productive lately. The sausage making process is actually getting us some sausage — in this case, a bipartisan plan to boost spending on applied science research, framed as a way to compete with China. There is less agreement on the bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 riot, and as expected, Republicans blocked the plan after we recorded this episode. Josh Barro and panelists Elizabeth Bruenig, Rahcel Bovard and David Frum discuss why and the split on the right about the panel. Plus: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into a law a new avenue to make social media companies be nice to conservatives. Tech companies say it violates the First Amendment, but is the intention even for the law to work?
Finally: what’s the right way for the United States to respond to a state-sponsored hijacking of a passenger jet in Europe and other increasingly bold actions from authoritarian states?
Look at Congress being normal again
There is a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. Joe Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he expected a significant and swift de-escalation, which he got. But the Biden administration’s overall approach to Israel and Palestine has been to keep expectations low and not get too involved. There are no big peace process hopes here. Is there anything more productive the US can do?
Then: Congress is being normal again. There’s a big science funding bill that’s probably going to pass with big bipartisan majorities — and lots of pet projects that undermine the bill’s core mission. That’s the regular order Congress is supposed to use — is it any good? We’ll look at Republican opposition to a bipartisan Capitol riot commission.
The panel talks with expert Rupali Limaye of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University about incentives for vaccinations, sending doses abroad and more.
Is it time to cut unemployment benefits?
Inflation is back! It may not be here to stay — there’s a lot of weirdness in the economy right now — but with wages rising quickly despite surprisingly weak job growth in April, some states are moving to cut off unenhanced unemployment benefits in an effort to drive more Americans back into work. Is that a good idea? Will it work? And will it push back on inflation? Josh Barro talks with panelists Tim Carney and Elizabeth Bruenig about that, and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that disrupted gasoline delivery in the Eastern U.S. Why do these ransom attacks happen, and how can we protect ourselves against the next one? Finally: the panel discusses an unexpectedly controversial Mother’s Day essay Liz Bruenig wrote about becoming a mother at 25.
Thank you for creating this podcast and having both sides discuss politics in a civilized manner. Love listening to this!
A good source of news
A reminder that there are smart people with interesting perspectives that can converse across party lines.
Informative and balanced
I love the low-neuroticism content from last week. Ross and Elizabeth should stay.