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 “The Rise of Ron DeSantis,” by David Frum in The Atlantic.
The context, from the author: The Florida governor’s sudden prominence is partly about him, partly about his critics, but mostly about his state.
The excerpt: The Florida governor has figured out that Republicans love a culture-war brawl, but that overdoing it can alienate a general-election electorate. His solution has been to provoke narrowly targeted fights over issues that matter a lot to highly engaged conservatives and liberals — but that will not mean much to anybody else come 2024.
From “The IRS Used to Be a Guard Dog. Republicans Neutered It,” by Michael Mechanic in Mother Jones.
The context, from the author: there’s a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the superrich. By the end of the Bush years, the IRS was auditing fewer than 1 in 10 taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $10 million–plus.
The excerpt: A fair subset of superwealthy Americans doesn’t even bother filing. The Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration reported in 2020 that nearly 880,000 “high income” non-filers from 2014 through 2016 still owed $46 billion, and the IRS was in no condition, resource-wise, to collect. The 300 biggest delinquents owed about $33 million per head, on average.
From “Now Is Our Last Best Chance to Confront the Climate Crisis,” by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone.
The context, from the author: With Joe Biden in office, a serious plan to combat climate change is finally in our sights — but the clock is ticking, and there is no more room for error,
The excerpt: Now, our luck is running out. The industrialized nations of the world are dumping 34 billion tons or so of carbon into the atmosphere every year, which is roughly 10 times faster than Mother Nature ever did on her own, even during past mass extinction events. As a result, global temperatures have risen 1.2 C since we began burning coal, and the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. The Earth’s temperature is rising faster today than at any time since the end of the last ice age, 11,300 years ago. We are pushing ourselves out of a Goldilocks climate and into something entirely different — quite literally, a different world than humans have ever lived in before.
FROM THE RIGHT
The context, from the author: President Biden has unveiled another $1.8 trillion government-spending package, bringing the total spending signed or proposed in his first 100 days to about $6 trillion.
The excerpt: There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to debate the substance of the proposals. However, it’s worth keeping in mind how extraordinary this spending is. It is not coming at a time of huge surpluses, but at a time when debt exceeds the annual gross domestic product for the only time in the nation’s history other than World War II. It’s coming as a flood of Baby Boomers are retiring and as health-care costs rise. This is not a moderate agenda by Biden. It is a radical and reckless agenda.
From “Ideas Don’t Have Consequences,” by Michael Warren Davis in the American Conservative.
The context, from the author: When it comes to the American right, ideas — good or bad — have no consequences whatsoever.
The excerpt: Conservative media isn’t the real world. Here, ideas don’t have consequences. You can be consistently wrong on every major political issue of the century and be absolutely certain that you’ll keep your magazine column, your think-tank fellowship, and your cushy book deal. Ideas don’t have consequences. What’s more, you can be consistently right on every major political issue of the century and still be considered a pariah. Look at Pat Buchanan. The man coined the phrase “culture wars.”
From “Most Americans Favor a ‘Pathway to Citizenship’ for Undocumented Immigrants,” by Eric Boehm in Reason Magazine.
The context, from the author: You wouldn’t be able to tell from federal policy, but most Americans have a favorable view of immigrants, and a majority believes that improving opportunities for immigrants to come here legally would be better than beefing up border security and cracking down on illegal immigrants.
The excerpt: For now ... federal immigration policy is likely to remain out of step with the views of most Americans. And while the loudest voices demanding the biggest walls are likely to continue to exercise undue influence within immigration politics, it’s useful to keep in mind that they represent a distinct minority of the country.