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U.S. Politics & Policy

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Salvos from The Baffler

There’s never been a better time to be outside the consensus—and if you don’t believe it, then peer into these genre-defining essays from The Baffler, the magazine that’s been blunting the cutting edge of American culture and politics for a quarter of a century. Here’s Thomas Frank on the upward-falling cult of expertise in Washington, D.C., where belonging means getting the major events of our era wrong. Here’s Rick Perlstein on direct mail scams, multilevel marketing, and the roots of right-wing lying.

How Americans Think about Energy in the Age of Global Warming

How do Americans think about energy? Is the debate over fossil fuels highly partisan and ideological? Does public opinion about fossil fuels and alternative energies divide along the fault between red states and blue states? And how much do concerns about climate change weigh on their opinions? In Cheap and Clean, Stephen Ansolabehere and David Konisky show that Americans are more pragmatic than ideological in their opinions about energy alternatives, more unified than divided about their main concerns, and more local than global in their approach to energy.

A Textual Analysis

American monetary policy is formulated by the Federal Reserve and overseen by Congress. Both policy making and oversight are deliberative processes, although the effect of this deliberation has been difficult to quantify. In this book, Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey provides a systematic examination of deliberation on monetary policy from 1976 to 2008 by the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) and House and Senate banking committees.

Beyond Gridlock

The “golden era” of American environmental lawmaking in the 1960s and 1970s saw twenty-two pieces of major environmental legislation (including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act) passed by bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed into law by presidents of both parties. But since then partisanship, the dramatic movement of Republicans to the right, and political brinksmanship have led to legislative gridlock on environmental issues.

Progressive Taxation for a New Progressive Agenda

Midcentury America was governed from the center, a bipartisan consensus of politicians and public opinion that supported government spending on education, the construction of a vast network of interstate highways, healthcare for senior citizens, and environmental protection. These projects were paid for by a steeply progressive tax code, with a top tax rate at one point during the Republican Eisenhower administration of 91 percent. Today, a similar agenda of government action (and progressive taxation) would be portrayed as dangerously left wing.

The idea of the interconnectedness of nature is at the heart of environmental science. By contrast, American policy making and governance are characterized by fragmentation. Separation of powers, divergent ideologies, and geographical separation all work against a unified environmental policy. Nowhere does this mismatch between problem and solution pose a greater challenge than in climate change policy, which has implications for energy use, air quality, and such related areas as agriculture and land use.

How America Can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System

Energy innovation offers us our best chance to solve the three urgent and interrelated problems of climate change, worldwide insecurity over energy supplies, and rapidly growing energy demand. But if we are to achieve a timely transition to reliable, low-cost, low-carbon energy, the U.S. energy innovation system must be radically overhauled.

The Tea Party and its allies celebrate the rogue states of the Southwest as a model for the nation in their go-it-alone posturing and tough immigration-enforcement talk. In Border Wars, dogged investigative journalist Tom Barry documents the costs of that model: lives lost; families torn apart; billions of wasted tax dollars; vigilantes prowling the desert; and fiscal crises in cities, counties, and states. Even worse, he warns, the entire nation risks following their lead.

Creating a Twenty-First-Century Defense Industry

New geopolitical realities—including terrorism, pandemics, rogue nuclear states, resource conflicts, insurgencies, mass migration, economic collapse, and cyber attacks—have created a dramatically different national-security environment for America. Twentieth-century defense strategies, technologies, and industrial practices will not meet the security requirements of a post-9/11 world. In Democracy’s Arsenal, Jacques Gansler describes the transformations needed in government and industry to achieve a new, more effective system of national defense.

Lessons from the War on Terrorism

In an age of global terrorism, can the pursuit of security be reconciled with liberal democratic values and legal principles? During its “global war on terrorism,” the Bush administration argued that the United States was in a new kind of conflict, one in which peacetime domestic law was irrelevant and international law inapplicable. From 2001 to 2009, the United States thus waged war on terrorism in a “no-law zone.”

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