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Jim Verhulst - Editorial Writer
Here’s what to read from the left and the right | Column
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Published Apr. 12
Updated Apr. 12

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.

FROM THE LEFT

From “‘Taxpayer Dollars’: The Origins of Austerity’s Racist Catchphrase,” by Camille Walsh in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: How the myth of the overburdened white taxpayer was made.

The excerpt: Did the unmarried or widowed women who paid state property taxes qualify politically as “taxpayers” in the 19th and early 20th centuries, even though they couldn’t yet vote? Does a 12-year-old who buys a soda at the corner market with his allowance qualify? What about the tenant farmer? What about the undocumented worker paying into Social Security that they will never receive? Is a renter less of a taxpayer than a homeowner simply because they are paying embedded taxes? Not everyone who pays taxes gets to be considered a taxpayer. That’s because it’s frequently a bit of code, a way of talking about white people — and especially white male heads of households, homeowners, and business owners — and the imagined Black underclass that’s coming for their money.

From “The Enduring Fiction of Affordable Housing,” by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal in the New Republic.

The context: Housing should be a right, but the central beneficiaries of Affordable Housing policy are not tenants but developers and investors.

The excerpt: The financing strategies of Affordable Housing constitute the government’s total effort to produce new housing specifically for those who can’t afford market rents. They account for billions in government expenditure and foregone tax revenue. Yet they’ve largely avoided public scrutiny. They seem to skate by on their imprecision, complexity, and branding — who would reject “affordable” housing? — and have largely avoided public scrutiny. This sleight of hand has consequences.

From “MLK Was a Radical Who Hated Not Only Racial Subordination But Class Exploitation,” from an interview with Sylvie Laurent by Arvind Dilawar in Jacobin.

The context: Throughout his adult life, Martin Luther King Jr. believed in striking down not only racial apartheid but class exploitation. That twin commitment was embodied in his final effort: the often-forgotten Poor People’s Campaign.

The excerpt: Racial domination and economic exploitation ought to be uprooted altogether. The purpose of the (Poor People’s Campaign) was to build a democracy devoted to eradicating poverty and the disempowerment of the poor, and to make dignity an inalienable right.

FROM THE RIGHT

From “What Policies Are Conservatives Actually For in Higher Education?” by Christian Barnard writing at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

The context, from the author: It’s no secret that higher ed reformers have struggled to offer a compelling alternative to free college and loan forgiveness offered from the left. This failure is partially because conservatives and libertarians are usually on the defensive about higher ed policy.

The excerpt: Lowering the risks of trying college, protecting free speech on campus, beefing up transparency, spurring innovation in campus services — all these ideas can be unified as giving more choices to more families. While it was refreshing to hear smart conservatives outlining a trail forward for higher education policy in the post-Trump era, it’s hard not to see reform as an uphill battle. Ideas like unbundling a college education or funding colleges based on graduate performance sound bold and risky, no matter how they’re packaged.

From “The 10 Radical New Rules That Are Changing America,” by Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review.

The context, from the author: There are 10 new ideas that are changing America, maybe permanently.

The excerpt: Idea No. 5 — Most Americans should be treated as we would treat little children. They cannot be asked to provide an ID to vote. “Noble lies” by our elites about COVID-19 rules are necessary to protect “Neanderthals” from themselves. Americans deserve relief from the stress of grades, standardized testing and normative rules of school behavior. They still are clueless about why it is good for them to pay far more for their gasoline, heating and air conditioning.

From “Justice Thomas: Breaching The Big Tech Fortress Of Immunity,” by Craig Parshall in the American Conservative.

The context, from the author: The associate justice seems to recognize the danger of digital monopolies in a way few others do.

The excerpt: On Monday, in a Supreme Court opinion involving then-President Donald Trump’s exclusion of some users from viewing his Twitter account, Justice Clarence Thomas weighed in once again on the broader issues of internet governance and the contours of individual rights. While all of the justices had agreed that the underlying case was moot, Justice Thomas went farther in his concurrence. He suggested that the time may have arrived for a legislative cure to the way that market dominant Big Tech companies exercise a startling degree of control over America’s data and information. Justice Thomas noted the ironic disparity in suppressive power between a president on the one hand, who blocked a small number of users who wanted to post at his Twitter account, and Twitter, which took down the entire Trump account, thereby effectively blocking his 89 million followers from reading his posts.