NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday: Jake’s Takes

1.    Politics chat: Debt ceiling negotiations; immigration reform. Politics and economics are inextricably intertwined, but they are not the same thing. This is one of the reasons I do this daily blog on the news. Literacy matters. Understanding the systems that we inhabit is critical. They say the President has the sword, the congress has the purse, and the Supreme Court has the scales. This is complicated slightly by the existence of the Central bank, the Federal Reserve. The president nominates the governors, in case of vacancies, and the Fed chair and two vice chairs. These are four-year terms that must be approved by the Congress. As a result, however, there is inherently a power struggle between the executive and legislative branches when it comes to our macroeconomic situation. If the legislature truly has the purse, then it seems like the negotiations for raising the debt ceiling shouldn’t come down to what amounts to a game of chicken with the national economy. This is another distinction that I want to make: the federal budget is different than our national economy. The budget is funded by appropriations, or taxes, and the overall economy is somewhat independent of governmental controls. There is a private sector that operates without much government intervention. So, what is being debated is what is to be done with the federal expenditures. The second source of funding for federal programs comes from the deficit. It is a debt, but it should be seen as a form of credit. The Fed issues bonds and trusts that the public can buy as an investment. If anything, this balance should be addressed by taxing corporations and the billionaire class more to avoid the need to continue increasing the debt. Considering we are talking about trillions of dollars needed to fund federal programs, it is a very large problem with serious imbalances. The problem is using the moment when our debt could default as the leverage for negotiating. If the public was better educated about how all this works, it wouldn’t be wise to use the raising of the debt limit as a negotiating tactic. On the immigration front, we are moving from Title 42 to Title 8, which implements harsher penalties for breaking the immigration laws. Title 8 was the enforcement code already in place before Title 42 and carries harsher penalties for people who do not follow the rules. Title 42 was stricter in terms of allowing fewer people to enter legally, but it suspended the consequences for doing so.

2.    Florida businesses could be required to verify employees have legal work permits. One of the biggest contradictions in the border security debate stems from the use of undocumented workers. People moan about the lack of border security and then use those workers who cross illegally for cheaper labor. If we are going to improve this situation, we must do it from both directions. If we want more accountability on the border, businesses must be accountable, too.

3.    Voters in Turkey could be on track to unseat long-time leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There are a number of modern constitutions that do not have the same kinds of term limits as we have in the U.S. and that makes it harder sometimes to change who holds the seat of power. Such is the case in the Republic of Turkiye, where President Erdogan is facing the likelihood of losing power for the first time in decades.

4.    Over 60,000 refugees from Sudan have fled the violence and entered Chad. Fleeing the violence in Sudan is no easy thing to do, considering the terrain they must cover. However, the cultural memory in Sudan includes the only genocide of the 21st century. Fleeing is beyond logical; it is necessary. The international community should support Chad in housing these asylum seekers.

5.    Texas is a leader in renewable energy. Local politicians want to change that. This story is an example of our toxic political divide. Texas is a place that made normal people into millionaires when they discovered oil fields. The resulting politics are understandably strange. It is entirely possible that political will that is built from a culture that was funded by oil is going to push back gains made in the renewable energy sector.

6.    Fake studies in academic journals may be more common than previously thought. This is a troubling story, but I think that it most likely must be tempered by the rigor of most academic processes. Sure, it may be possible to cheat this system, but it is a system that also produces a ton of quality peer reviewed research.

7.    This telehealth program is a lifeline for New Mexico’s pregnant moms. Will it end? Telehealth is a recent development in our medical system, and it makes so much sense for so many reasons. It is more economical, it stops the spread of diseases that are often contracted in hospitals, and it allows people to seek medical advice in the comfort of their own home. This is something worth standing up to support.

8.    Cassandra Jackson on her memoir ‘The Wreck’. Cassandra Jackson teaches English in New Jersey and co-wrote a book entitled “The Toni Morrison Book Club.” I’m always looking for new writers to follow, and Jackson looks promising.

9.    Remembering the racist attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., a year later. It is so horrible how many of these attacks there are in our culture. They are so numerous it is hard to keep a timeline of the events. More than just mental health, we need to focus on teaching empathy and cultural understanding. It is only possible to hate people of another group if you only know stereotypes about them. Greater cultural literacy will make this kind of lethal racism less likely.

10. How a default on the debt ceiling would affect the average American. It could affect us all in very serious ways. Defaulting on our debts could push us into a recession for one thing. We have been clawing our way out of stagnation all year, and now is the time when we need to be pushing ahead, not risking falling back further.

11. Communities in rural Maine reflect a national struggle to accommodate asylum seekers. I’ve never been to rural Maine, and I’m sure that I would love lots of things about it. The question is: how can we help people seeking asylum in a productive way? Simply allowing the free market to determine their outcomes is only going to create tense situations, like I imagine might be happening in rural Maine or anywhere else with a smaller economy and an influx of immigrants.

12. Composers created music inspired by seismic readings from Yellowstone National Park. Barney was talking about this years ago. Using natural patterns to translate them into music is a very cool idea.

13. Funeral directors in 15 states can now offer the eco-friendlier ‘water cremation’. Morbid but maybe cool. I have to hear more details before I draw any conclusions. It sounds disgusting, but disposing of dead bodies necessarily is.

14. Ukraine’s currency is being bolstered with financial support from other nations. Ukraine has benefitted from international support as the victim of invasion by Russia. I wonder how much more support they would receive if they were members of NATO. They are so close to Europe; it is hard to imagine the international community allowing Putin to invade without doing something.

15. A cyclone in southern Asia is threatening one of the world’s largest refugee camps. What would be the source of this refugee camp? Tragedy on top of tragedy for these people. What a thing to experience.

16. How ‘Jury Duty’ follows a long legacy of prank shows. Prank shows are one of the most popular forms of reality television, for good reason. They are honest about the fictional elements of their scripting, and it is all done to get honest reactions out of unsuspecting civilians. What’s funnier than that?

17. How a mother and her daughters created an innovative Indian dance company. Happy Mother’s Day! Dance is a beautiful expression of the human spirit, and I’m sure this is a very heartwarming piece.

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