Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
School voucher bait and switch, and what does ‘America First’ actually mean? | Readings
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
On July 25, 2018, in Billings, Mont., then-Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the America First Policies event. (Bethany Baker/The Billings Gazette via AP) MTBIL104
On July 25, 2018, in Billings, Mont., then-Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the America First Policies event. (Bethany Baker/The Billings Gazette via AP) MTBIL104
Published Feb. 9

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 “In Red States, the Bill for School Voucher Bait-and-Switch Is Coming Due,” by Jennifer C. Berkshire and Jack Schneider in The Nation at

The context, from the authors: For GOP lawmakers who view public education as a quasi-socialist project, the gaping hole in state budgets left by subsidizing private school tuition is a feature, not a bug.

The excerpt: With all this red ink on their balance sheets, it won’t be long before states need to make major spending cuts. And the first place they’ll start is with their biggest line items: public schools, health care and other social programs. In other words, it isn’t merely that vouchers are subsidizing fortunate families rather than families in need. It’s that these increasingly expensive giveaways threaten to displace programs that working families and those below the poverty line depend on, further entrenching inequality. The result will be a pitched battle over scarce resources, pitting affluent parents who benefit from school vouchers against the majority of families whose children still attend public schools. Guess who’s likely to win? For lawmakers who loathe taxes and view public education as a quasi-socialist project, the specter of cratering state budgets is a feature rather than a bug. But when voters wise up to the bait-and-switch, as they inevitably will, the backlash will be fierce.

From “Is Nostalgia a Dead End?” by Dustin Guastella in Jacobin at

The context, from the author: A dive into mid-century American history uncovers how a strong labor movement was pivotal in building social unity, equality and advancing civil rights. While nostalgia might seem like a dead end, the past holds valuable lessons for shaping a better future.

The excerpt: Whatever else nostalgia for the mid-century represents, it is hard to argue that popular affection for the period is merely aesthetic, subjective or simply reactionary. There were aspects of society that were functioning better. For the Left, this is an especially important point to absorb for a few reasons. Firstly, studying periods when society appeared to be, in some profound respects, healthier can teach us a lot about the characteristics of a thriving society. Secondly, by acknowledging, rather than denying, that some aspects of social life might have been better in the past, we can better understand the vast political divide we face today.

From “The Senate’s False Hope of a Grand Bargain Meets Its Trumpy Demise,” by Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker at

The context, from the author: The carnival of stupidity that is a Donald Trump-led Republican Party remains the most distracting show on Earth.

The excerpt: Tying the fate of Ukraine in its existential fight with Russia to a resolution of the near-irresolvable politics of the American border seems a particularly cruel twist. For (former President Donald) Trump, it’s like a gift. Why wouldn’t America’s most noted admirer of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, want to undercut Ukraine while, at the same time, sinking a package that might look like a real bipartisan win for Joe Biden? Trump wants an issue to run on, not a solution.


From “‘No’ to the Border Deal,” by the editors of The National Review at

The context, from the authors: As long as our immigration system is in thrall to the fiction that migrants who are overwhelmingly coming here for jobs are really asylum seekers, and ties itself up in knots considering these largely meritless claims, we are going to have trouble establishing order at the border.

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The excerpt: Prohibiting illegal immigrants from entering the country is the best tool against illegal immigration. As Ronald Reagan said, there are no easy answers, but there are simple ones.

From “Palestinians Had Plenty to Lose,” by Seth Mandel in Commentary at

The context, from the author: The West’s often-patronizing approach to the Palestinians in Gaza isn’t all that different from the nonsense justifications of antisocial violence we see in the States. “Riots are the language of the unheard” we’re told by activists with massive platforms and by the people running and attending Ivy League institutions.

The excerpt: Those cheerleading the Palestinian “resistance” from thousands of miles away are ghoulishly egging on educated youth to take up new, brief lives as cannon fodder for their make-believe revolution. Of course, no one made the Palestinians turn to terrorism. Gazans had plenty to lose by pursuing their forever war against the Jews. Some Westerners may be learning that for the first time now, but Palestinians in Gaza knew the choices they were making. Money was never the motive; hatred was.

From “What Does It Mean to Be ‘America First’?” by Hunter DeRensis in The American Conservative at

The context, from the author: It’s a term with a long history and a particular meaning. It’s not up for just anybody to grab.

The excerpt: The only answer (for the U.S. in the Mideast) is a complete and immediate military withdrawal from Iraq, Syria and all combat operations where the U.S. Congress hasn’t voted to formally declare war as required by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. Not only will it help shore up our country financially, and go a long way in healing our self-inflicted moral injury, but the immediate problem will be taken off the table. There will be no further attacks on U.S. forces because there will be no bases to attack. ... These people do not want us there. The American people don’t want us there. And if Arabs are able to decide their own destiny, while Americans concentrate on reestablishing their own sovereignty at home, all the better for both sides.