Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
Kamala Harris, Gov. DeSantis, consumption taxes and a junior high bully’s sorrow | Readings
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Vice President Kamala Harris greets supporters at the Democratic Party of Georgia's Spring Soiree in Atlanta on May 12.
Vice President Kamala Harris greets supporters at the Democratic Party of Georgia's Spring Soiree in Atlanta on May 12. [ NATRICE MILLER | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ]
Published May 20

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 “Liberals Aren’t the Ones Canceling Motherhood,” by Abigail Weinberg in Mother Jones at

The context, from the author: First, liberals canceled Christmas. Then, Thanksgiving. Now, they’re throwing Mother’s Day out with the trash. At least, that’s how Fox News sees it.

The excerpt: If we want to honor mothers, we might start by bolstering our safety nets for mothers and children. As my colleague Abby Vesoulis reported last year, states with strict anti-abortion laws also tend to have more food insecurity, lower child wellness, and less guaranteed parental leave than other states. “It’s like they want us to have (kids),” one single mother told Abby, “but they are not giving us anything to raise them.” Motherhood does not need to be predicated on suffering, despite what everything from Fox News to Genesis might have us believe. ... Consider a world where mothers get the help they need — from the family, the community, and, yes, the government — to make the job of childrearing a little bit easier. But that might be too great a stretch of the imagination for a publication that’s flabbergasted by the notion of making sure kids don’t go hungry at school.

From “What Makes a Consumption Tax Regressive?” by Matt Bruenig in Jacobin at

The context, from the author: When consumption taxes are brought up, the discussion tends to devolve into a debate about whether they are regressive or not. As with most progressivity or regressivity debates, this one tends to be muddled and confused because we don’t actually use those two words consistently across different policy topics.

The excerpt: When it comes to consumption taxes, there are two facts that are pertinent to understanding whether they are progressive or regressive:

• Richer people consume more than poorer people.

• Poorer people spend a larger share of their income on consumption than richer people.

Because richer people consume more than poorer people, taxing consumption results in richer people paying more consumption tax than poorer people pay. But because poorer people spend a larger share of their income on consumption than richer people, taxing consumption results in poorer people paying a higher percentage of their income toward consumption tax than richer people pay.

From “The Real Scandal Surrounding Clarence Thomas’ Gifts,” by Jeannie Suk Gersen in The New Yorker at

The context, from the author: Supreme Court Justices, alone in our system, are not truly regulated by anyone other than themselves.

The excerpt: The only Supreme Court Justice ever to resign in an ethics scandal was Abe Fortas, in 1969. He had accepted today’s equivalent of $165,000 as a retainer fee from a financier friend who was eventually convicted of selling unregistered stock; Fortas returned the fee and denied any wrongdoing. Our standards for public officials have declined, as demonstrated by Donald Trump’s continuing popularity. But the current moment is an opportunity to move beyond being scandalized by one justice. If rules for justices are understood as not binding, it compromises the idea that no officials are above the law. The Court should not be the sole lawmaker, judge and enforcer regarding its members’ conduct, in ethics or in any other matter.

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From “Kamala Harris Is the Reason Biden Is Running,” by Jim Geraghty in The National Review at

The context, from the author: Joe Biden, the Democratic Party and arguably the country would be a lot better off right now if, instead of selecting Kamala Harris as his running mate in August 2020, he had simply picked a stand-in for the term “Generic Democrat.”

The excerpt: Because Harris is the first woman vice president and only the second person with African-American heritage to be on a winning presidential ticket, an enormous number of people want to believe that she has greatness in her. A lot of people in the Democratic Party are massively emotionally invested in her success. It’s like they’re trying to will her greatness into existence, no matter how much the evidence points in the other direction.

From “Reparations Are Not Amends,” by Peter Van Buren in The American Conservative at

The context, from the author: There’s an old photo of my junior high school football team with me, the one with the dorky glasses, in the back row. The adult close to me is Coach Hammer, the shop teacher. Yes, Hammer was his real name, yeah, it’s still funny. He was a good teacher and coach, fair, even-tempered. I recently learned he was a Korean War combat vet — he never mentioned it — and just passed away a few years ago. Then there’s Ron (not his real name), the kid I bullied, near the front. In an age of apologies and reparations, his image begs an answer: What do you do about the past?

The excerpt: What do you do with the past? Do I call (Ron), apologize, offer some sort of reparation, donate money to some anti-bullying group? Would he want that, would he accept that, would a check help? Does he remember me, or was I just another forgettable part of high school that got discarded when he went on to his good college and his better law school? Does he live with what he can’t get past? Facebook suggests he has sons. What would he say to an apology? Would he falsely but graciously accept whatever I said and get off the phone to tell his wife? (“Honey, you’ll never guess the odd call I got today…”) Would he listen to me a moment and then uncork decades of anger and resentment, telling me how I hurt him not only that day but forever, that these things don’t go away? Am I one of his ghosts as he is one of mine?

From “The Great Underestimation of DeSantis Starts to Unravel,” by Salena Zito in The Washington Examiner at

The context, from the author: People underestimate Gov. Ron DeSantis only at their own peril.

The excerpt: For the past few months, the media have been intent on writing DeSantis off. Yet if there are two things I have learned over the years in covering presidential elections, one is to listen to what voters tell you they want, not what you think they need, and two, never, ever underestimate any candidate, especially when everyone else is.