Ezra Klein Profile picture
Columnist, @NYTOpinion Author, "Why We're Polarized" Host of "The Ezra Klein Show" podcast
Zen Bonobo Profile picture Oy Vey Profile picture Ross Grayson, MPH, CIH Profile picture BlackeyedSusan28 Is Fully Vaccinated Profile picture The Lady Red- the night is dark and full of terror Profile picture 54 added to My Authors
27 Jul
I’ve been listening to @annielowrey think (and rage) about this topic for years, and I’m so glad to see this article come out.

Once you start looking for time taxes, you see them everywhere, and they are a profound failure of both governance and justice. theatlantic.com/politics/archi…
And don't think this is just a problem of Republican governance. Democrats have created more than their fair share of time taxes, and that has, in turn, undermined both their goals and the public's relationship to government.
Every campaign cycle we are suffused in plans to cut income and corporate taxes. I want to see plans to cut time taxes.
Read 4 tweets
8 Jul
In California, vaccinations are going well (10th in the nation!), COVID cases are down, there’s a $76b surplus, the economy is booming.

So what’s dominating our politics?

A recall election most Californians oppose to oust a governor we mostly like. nytimes.com/2021/07/08/opi…
The danger here is the recall could win. Not because recalling Newsom is popular. 57% oppose it. But those who favor it are paying much more attention.

We could end up with Gov. Caitlyn Jenner because most Californians ignore this as a distraction. ppic.org/blog/voter-ent…
This speaks to a larger problem in CA governance: A host of ideas meant to give the people more control over the government that have, over time, decayed into avenues organized interests use to get their way.

For instance:
Read 7 tweets
1 Jul
It is hard to view your own country objectively. There is too much cant and myth, too many stories and rituals.

So over the past week, I’ve been asking foreign scholars of democracy how the fights over the American political system look to them. nytimes.com/2021/07/01/opi…
And this, from @IvanKrastev, is sobering.
Read 4 tweets
22 Jun
Senator Sinema's op-ed defending the filibuster is frustrating, but I want to take one argument from it seriously, because it's shared by many of her colleagues: The idea that ending the filibuster will mean ricochet legislating. washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/…
I know people of good-faith believe this argument, and it's a reason they don't want to get rid of the filibuster.


1. It's not true, mostly.

2. In the limited cases it is true, it's healthy.
I'm not going to try to condense this to tweet length. But I've reported and written a lot on this, and here's the counterargument:
Read 5 tweets
8 Jun
🔥🔥🔥 from @povertyscholar. Everything she says in this podcast is worth hearing. Don't miss it. nytimes.com/2021/06/08/opi…
And this, on "deservingness":
And on the way program design can connect people to politics, and make them feel empowered, or alienate them from politics by constantly humiliating them:
Read 4 tweets
1 Jun
So I sat down with this guy last week to talk about winning over skeptical voters, the things he didn't say when he was president, the mistakes in the ACA and the stimulus, aliens, what humans will be judged for in 100 years, and more.

Some highlights: nytimes.com/2021/06/01/opi…
Here’s Obama on the central paradox of his presidency:

He accomplishes this remarkable act of persuasion, but it opens the door to the Tea Party, to Sarah Palin, to Donald Trump — and so he leaves behind a politics that often seems post-persuasion, more hostile to pluralism:
One lesson some on the left have taken from the aftermath of Obama’s presidency is you can’t tiptoe around America’s worst impulses. You need a politics of confrontation, not of uncomfortable coalitions.

Here’s Obama on that tension:
Read 11 tweets
21 May
Violent crime is spiking. Homicides in cities were up by 25-40 percent in 2020, the largest single-year increase since 1960. And 2021 isn’t looking any better.

This is a crisis on its own terms. But it’s also a crisis for the broader liberal project in two downstream ways.
First, violent crimes supercharges inequality. Families who can flee, do. Business close or never open. Banks won’t make loans. Property values plummet. Children are traumatized, with lifelong impacts on stress and cognition.

(@patrick_sharkey's work is great on this.)
Second, fear of violence undermines liberal politics. Just look at America post-9/11. Or after the crime surges of the 70s and 80s and 90s — strongmen politicians win, punitive responses like mass incarceration and warrior policing rise, social trust collapses.
Read 12 tweets
19 May
This is completely insane. The FBI catfished a suicidally depressed pizza delivery guy. The agent catfishing him repeatedly tried to get him to commit a terrorist attack. He repeatedly talked her out of it. So they arrested him on gun possession. amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/11/29…
The judge gave him an unusually long sentence because of past homicidal fantasies he’d admitted to (or made up, who knows?) in his conversations, even though when the FBI agent tried to convince him to make them realities, he tried to talk her out of hurting other people.
So basically the FBI was looking for possible terrorists, found a guy who was committed - even under duress, even when mentally unstable and lonely and trying to impress a woman - to talking possible terrorists out of terrorist acts, and they arrested him. It’s lunacy.
Read 4 tweets
14 May
Everything @AgnesCallard says in this podcast is interesting. Like here she is just casually reversing the normal story of what politics is for, and what society is designed to teach us. No big deal. nytimes.com//2021/05/14/po…
And why parenting should actually be called "childing — all our language suggests the parent is in control, and setting the path, but really children are:
And what a leftwing version of Jordan Peterson would look like:
Read 6 tweets
11 May
My favorite podcasts are the ones where I find myself struggling with the book, or the guest, I'm talking to. This is one of those.

I think Michael Lewis is asking exactly the right questions. I'm not sure the answers his sources give him were workable. nytimes.com/2021/05/11/opi…
This gets at something I've been reporting on, and thinking about, a lot: What are the constraints the public places on "public health"?

Regulators overstate them. Critics of regulators often understate them. And there's huge geographic variance -- and viruses exploit that.
If you believe America is culturally resistant to some pandemic best practices — and I do, at least at the level Lewis's sources are calling for — could we invest in and deploy preventive technologies that would let us balance liberty and health better?
Read 5 tweets
5 May
I liked this @jonathanchait piece on how the Congress's rules force the Congressional Budget Office to ignore the revenue from better IRS enforcement. But I'm also always caught on one thing here: nymag.com/intelligencer/…
As EVERYONE AT THE CBO WILL TELL YOU, they do not hold any ultimate power. They release reports. The reports are important exactly to the extent Congress listens to them. And this doesn't strike me as an example of a case where the CBO is the powerful actor.
Congress often ignores these reports. Lots of Republicans pretended to believe, or actually believed, the Trump tax cuts would pay for themselves.

Or Congress ignores the rule to offset spending. The Rescue Plan wasn't paid for, and the Jobs Plan pays for itself over 15 years.
Read 10 tweets
5 May
Facebook's Oversight Board seems to me like an attempt to solve the problem of legitimacy without solving the problems of representation and voice.

But representation and voice are what give governmental decisions broad legitimacy!
This is hard to do well even in democratic systems, and our system, for instance, is constantly at war with itself over whether it really is representative (it isn't), and why some voices carry so much further than others.
But Zuckerberg is still the ultimate power at Facebook. The Board is still a Facebook creation. I take seriously that they take it seriously, and it may be an interesting model to insulate corporate decisionmaking from certain pressures.
Read 7 tweets
3 May
So earlier today, in a thread about why it's great that Eleven Madison Park is going plant-based, I said being vegan comes at a cost in the food you eat.

That made some people I like mad, but I think it's important, and I want to defend it.

So: 🧵
Let me first be clear about where I’m coming from: I’ve been vegetarian for more than a decade, vegan (with a bit of cheese here and there) for about 7 years.

Reducing animal suffering is one of my core political commitments. I write and podcast about it all the time.
That’s why I was excited to see Eleven Madison Park going plant-based, which is the context for that tweet. The more restaurants and chefs and companies working on plant-based food, the better plant-based food will get.
Read 23 tweets
3 May
I love this. It'll be so powerful for a restaurant like Eleven Madison Park to show what they can do with plants. And it's a constraint that'll lead to such wild creativity, too. nytimes.com/2021/05/03/din…
There is no doubt that being veg is less delicious. People who argue otherwise are kidding themselves. But a lot of that is because there are fewer options on menus, so much less money driving creativity. The more plant-based eaters and chefs there are, the tastier it'll get.
My one weird take in this space — which doesn't apply to Eleven Madison Park, as they're operating as a status symbol and a unique experience — is I think it's better for restaurants to go 80% plant-based than to eliminate meat entirely.
Read 7 tweets
30 Apr
The key part of this conversation with Chuck Schumer, to me, is the way his thinking on the median voter has changed. nytimes.com/2021/04/30/opi…
He used to think they were skeptical of big government, resentful that they paid taxes and it helped everyone but them.

That pushed Democrats to target programs tightly, and keep price tags down. Clinton era reflects this.
Now he thinks these voters, "Joe and Eileen Bailey," just want government to help them, and they don't care who else it helps. And so the political path for Democrats is to do anything and everything so these voters feeling helped by the government, right now.
Read 4 tweets
26 Apr
I think the path followed by electric cars over the past decade are a good way of thinking about this stupid debate about meat, and about the policy that will get us to a good outcome here.
Biden isn't going to ban meat.

He's so not going to ban meat and will be so afraid of being caricatured otherwise that I worry Democrats will err on the wrong side of this and ignore all emissions from animal agriculture, which would be devastating for climate goals.
So let's talk about electric cars. Go back a decade and there's a similar culture war. Real 'Muricans drive Hummers and weeny liberals drive Priuses and Volts and if Democrats win they're going to take your cool cars.
Read 17 tweets
23 Apr
I love this @AnnieLowrey jeremiad against the term "low-skill jobs." Those jobs aren't low-skill. They're low-wage, and calling them low-skill is a way of blaming often exploited workers for inequality and unemployment. theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…
The idea that a 23-year-old at McKinsey is a high-skill worker while a home healthcare aide with 30 years of experience is low-skill is risible.

The latter may be paid more, but they're not more skilled. And the language of skills recasts that pay gap as natural, even virtuous.
As Annie writes, the point isn't that we shouldn't learn different skills as the economy changes. The point is the language of low and high-skilled jobs obscures the realities of power and policy operating behind this debate.
Read 5 tweets
21 Apr
There's some interesting ideas in here, but the underlying phenomena seems much more clearly explained by the sharp rise in age and educational polarization, not an asymmetry in how much liberals and conservatives care about politics. richardhanania.substack.com/p/why-is-every…
*Why* there's been such a sharp rise in age and educational polarization is important, and I don't think there's one dominant explanation. But once that polarization happens, it's going to drive institutions sharply to whichever side is dominating among the young and educated.
Take age. Republicans win retirees. Democrats win the young, by huge margins. Corporations and culture makers worry a lot more the young, who'll consume for decades and whose patterns aren't yet set, then seniors. That alone explains a lot of institutional tilt.
Read 4 tweets
20 Apr
I'm an anxious person. Always have been.

It's a weird, frustrating way to live: There is so much to wonder at or truly fear, and instead I can't stop ruminating over some nonsense from 3 years ago, or worrying about something far in the future.
I know I have better things to be thinking about. I know I should spend the time in gratitude for all that I have. Or I should be worrying about the right problems.

But as the Buddhists say: my thoughts think themselves. So I'm anxious AND annoyed at myself for it.
And then came the pandemic. Reality was objectively terrifying, and many of us were trapped inside, severed from social connection and routine, with acres of time to fret.

It was a bad mix. I know a lot of people who didn't have an anxiety problem before, but do now.
Read 4 tweets
19 Apr
One fun thing about having a toddler is how relentlessly they point out all public services in eyesight at any given moment.

Mail trucks! Fire engines! Playgrounds! Buses! Libraries! Bridges! Ambulances!

And they're right! Public goods are amazing.
It's like walking around with a small @rortybomb, all the time.
Oh my god how could I have forgotten garbage trucks. Garbage trucks! Toddlers treat them with the sense of complete wonder they deserve.
Read 4 tweets
19 Apr
Part of the reason I find the "cancel culture" debate frustrating is it's never clear what the ask is, or who it's being made of.

But if you look at the employer and media incentives that lead to people getting mobbed and then fired, it gets clearer. nytimes.com/2021/04/18/opi…
A lot of the problems right now aren't a speech "culture." They're driven by economics, and the key actors are social media companies, search giants and employers who really could change the decisions they make in ways that would lead to a better speech climate.
One thing that's buried in the column but I want to pull out: I see a lot of people on this here web site who've made being anti-cancel culture their core political identity but they spend their time doing the things that lead to people getting cancelled and harassed.
Read 5 tweets