Robot F. Kennedy is a podcast that takes current events to launch a discussion of the past and future of politics and public policy. Eddie Quintana (a screenwriter and historian) and Nick Dazé (a startup founder and futurist) take turns examining where our politics come from and where they might be going.
16: White Houses
In this episode, we explore one of ur-symbols of the American Dream: homeownership. In the United States, home ownership is a symbol of the prosperity Americans are promised. It’s been a status symbol separating the middle classes from the poor for much of American history.
Why? And how does one tax policy, the home mortgage interest deduction, play upon our collective dreams of Americanism.
In this episode, we talk about vacation homes, reparations, Mark Twain, returns on investments, writing letters to curry favor with racists, and guillotines.
This is Robot F. Kennedy.
Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate), Planet Money Podcast
Does High Home-Ownership Impair the Labor Market?, Peterson Institute for International Economics
Study: Higher levels of homeownership can kill jobs, Washington Post
The idea that owning a home makes it harder to find a job because of higher moving costs is now known as "Oswald's hypothesis." And it's come in for plenty of scrutiny. Some economists, for instance, have argued that this effect might be counterbalanced by the fact that people who own homes have denser local networks, which makes it easier for them to find jobs in their local area.
Why is that? The authors find that higher levels of homeownership in a state appear to be associated with lower levels of labor mobility, higher commute times, and fewer new businesses created. Taken together, those three factors tend to increase the unemployment rate. (Why fewer new businesses? One possibility is that homeowners are more likely to use zoning to restrict the activities of firms, though that's just a hypothesis.)
America's interstate highways: America's splurge, The Economist
The 7 big questions Republicans have to answer on tax reform, Vox.com
The Ryan-Brady tax reform blueprint would preserve the two biggest and most popular itemized deductions—those for mortgage interest and charitable donations—but eliminate all others, as well as a few credits.
The biggest deal here is the deductions for state income, sales, and real estate taxes, which together provided $80.4 billion in tax relief in fiscal year 2014. That's more than the mortgage interest deduction. The mortgage deduction is widely viewed as politically untouchable, because its affluent-but-not-super-wealthy beneficiaries will cry bloody murder if it’s threatened.
The Tax Deductions Economists Hate, FiveThirtyEight
At the top of many economists’ hit list is the mortgage-interest deduction. If you have a mortgage on your home, you don’t have to pay taxes on the interest on that loan. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that tax break cost the federal government $70 billion in 2013.
Economists have all sorts of problems with the mortgage-interest deduction. For one thing, because wealthier people own bigger homes with bigger mortgages, the benefit disproportionately benefits the rich. In 2013, 73 percent of that $70 billion went to the wealthiest 20 percent of earners; 15 percent went to the richest 1 percent. The poorest 20 percent, who rarely own homes, got essentially nothing.
Mortgage Interest Deduction Is Ripe for Reform, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
15: Does Petrograd Translate to ‘Oil City’?
This is the third of a multi-part series on climate change, the President’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the politics and rhetoric that surround it.
This week: where are we headed? What scenarios are likely to play out in the decades ahead, as the climate becomes the arch-issue of the future?
In this episode we talk about body heat, globalism, the Cretaceous coastline, healthy debt-to-GDP ratios, and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
This is Robot F. Kennedy.
Paper: “Global risk of deadly heat”, NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE
Right now, about 30 percent of the world’s population is exposed to deadly temperatures at least 20 days out of the year. By 2100, that number could reach 74 percent if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, or 48 percent with drastic cuts to global emissions.
”A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.”, Vox.com
If, somehow, we could get to a place where we are talking about dealing with climate change not as “saving the planet” (which it isn’t) but as “improving humanity” (which it is), we might actually be able to accomplish something.
The Cretaceous Coastline: http://kottke.org/16/10/how-the-cretaceous-coastline-of-north-america-affects-us-presidential-elections
“A Republican group is framing its proposed carbon tax as “environmental insurance,” not a tax”. Quartz
“California, at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump”, the New York Times
Paul Hawken: And not only that, they’re about energy — they’re all energy models. There’s an assumption that if you get 100 percent renewable [energy], you basically have a hall pass to the 22nd century. That’s simply not true. It’s a scientific howler. It’s extremely important that we [get to 100 percent renewables], but to put all of it on energy ...
Malcom Harris’s tweet: I don't think we're all going to die because of climate change, this is what I think is going to happen https://twitter.com/BigMeanInternet/status/870415818378670080/photo/1
“New Simulations Predict the United States' Coming Climate Change Mass Migration,” VICE | Motherboard: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/new-simulations-predict-the-united-states-coming-climate-change-mass-migration
What the Earth would look like if all the ice melted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbiRNT_gWUQ
Animations Show the Melting Arctic Sea Ice, and What the Earth Would Look Like When All of the Ice Melts
Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms Video Abstract, published in the Journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP)
Want to Fight Climate Change? Move to a City
Exiting Paris “probably our most consequential error since the Iraq War,” economist says
Fighting climate change isn’t a ‘waste of money’ — it’s a good investment, the Verge
14: The Overview Effect
This is the second of a multi-part series on climate change, the President’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the politics and rhetoric that surround it.
This week: what are we seeing today? Who are the leading voices on climate action in the public, private, and religious spheres?
In this episode we talk about Gaia from Captain Planet, Carl Sagan, a couple of popes, and Elon Musk.
This is Robot F. Kennedy.
Elon Musk's Unbelievably Simple 12-minute Killer Break Down on Climate Change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKCuDxpccYM
Musk concluded that if we wait to make the transition, we could see “more displacement and destruction than all the wars in history combined”.
He then described civilization as being designed to be “super sensitive to climate change” due to the popularity of coastal cities.
Laudato Si, Pope Francis, Climate Change, and Economics
The Pope, the Saint, and the Climate, https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/pope-saint-and-climate
13: Motivated Ignorance
This’ll be the first of a multi-part series on climate change, the President’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the politics and rhetoric that surround it.
First up on the agenda: context. Where is climate denialism coming from? How did we get here? How did a seemingly cut and dry, scientific topic become so partisan?
We have some theories: human beings’ natural short-term biases, the anti-science worldview of the religious right, the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. FEC, and maybe, just maybe the Vietnam War.
This is Robot F. Kennedy.
Q: Why does the American Right seem so uniquely averse to climate science?
- An accident of special interest/party affiliations (aka the Carbon Bubble)?
- Is part of it “motivated ignorance”? https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/5/15/15585176/motivated-ignorance-politics-debate
- The GOP is the world’s only major climate-denialist party. But why?, Vox.com, Dec 2, 2015. https://www.vox.com/2015/12/2/9836566/republican-climate-denial-why
Q: How is the framing device of “belief” in climate science altering our public discourse?
Video of Republicans morphing their positions on climate change, starring Newt and Nancy: https://youtu.be/O4Q8Nm4ksVU
Paul Mason at Literary Hub: http://lithub.com/there-is-no-market-driven-solution-to-our-climate-catastrophe/
Transgender bathrooms, evolution, climate change, and the Ten Commandments, http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2016/05/transgender-bathrooms-evolution-climate-change-and-the-ten-commandments-1.html
“When I talk about climate change, I don’t talk about science”
“Past v Future” Party Bias (https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/28/14074214/climate-denialism-social)
The latest chapter of this unending story began a few weeks ago, when a paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that purported to show a way to change pro-environmental attitudes in conservatives.
The results showed that “past comparisons” — comparing the damage climate change has done to the past purity of ecosystems — do more to increase conservatives’ pro-environmental feelings than warnings about the future. “Past comparisons largely bridged the political divide in addressing global warming,” the authors write.
But conservatives aren’t arguing logically (maybe none of us are):
Individualism has misled many areas of inquiry in the West (someday I’ll write about how it has screwed up ethics), but among the victims is epistemology. We imagine people coming to know things inside their heads, using their own thoughts and sense data. When you start there, it becomes difficult to prove that the shared world exists at all, that we are not brains in vats.
But we don’t start there, not in real life. We do not primarily come to know things through individual cognitive efforts — assembling evidence and evaluating it. Individually, we are in a position to critically assess only a tiny fraction of what we claim to know.
The vast bulk of our knowledge, we take on faith. Or to put it more charitably, we take on trust. We absorb what we know from trusted peers and authorities. Our trust in them is a kind of heuristic that allows us to navigate a wildly complex and uncertain reality, of which we will directly experience only a tiny fraction.
Having an understanding of the world and your place in it — an understanding shared by your tribe — feels like safety. It feels like control. Questions that unsettle that understanding are instinctively treated with skepticism or outright hostility.
12: Warren G
The election of 1920 was all about a ‘return to normalcy.’ The American public was weary from the Great War. Are there parallels we can draw from the 1920 election to the national mood going into the 2020 election? Will the Democrats promise a return to normalcy? Or does it run counter to everything the Democratic Party holds dear?
In this episode we discuss the Battle of the Somme, Senator Kamala Harris, cowboys, primary challengers, Bill Clinton, and the Resistance against President Trump.
This is Robot F. Kennedy.
11: After Trump
As soon as we stopped recording episode ten, about the mechanisms by which President Trump may be removed from office, we realized we left out a huge conversation: what comes after?
In this episode we discuss the post-Watergate reforms of the 1970s, our wishlist of post-Trump reforms, land mines, Frank Sinatra’s party affiliations, killing off the -gate suffix, and the tyranny of cattle.
This is Robot F. Kennedy.
* Post-Watergate Campaign-Finance Reforms: https://www.infoplease.com/us/history/post-watergate-campaign-finance-reforms
Customer ReviewsSee All
I enjoyed the casual stream-of-conscious nature of this program. Months later I still think of various ideas they put on the table: like increasing the size of congress and having them work remotely so they’re able to be closer and more engaged with their constituents.
Love listening to the two! It's like you get to be inside a smart person's brain as they figure out their stance on various topics.
This podcast is two far-left guys regurgitating your run-of-the-mill liberal platitudes and talking points without being entertaining and trying hard, yet failing, to be thought provoking in any meaningful way.
I think it’s important to listen to political commentary from people with differing viewpoints but the smarm and condescension that emanates from the hosts in this show towards anyone with any shred of conservative viewpoints was too much to handle and I’m surprised I made it as far as I did.
It’s dismissive and lazy political commentary like this that comes from the left that turns middle America away from the Democratic Party and the values that they espouse. For that reason, I hope this show goes to the top of the charts.