About this podcast
Strongly-held opinions. Open-minded debates. Only occasional yelling. A weekly ideas show, hosted by Jane Coaston.
About this podcast
Strongly-held opinions. Open-minded debates. Only occasional yelling. A weekly ideas show, hosted by Jane Coaston.
The Reality of Vaccine Passports
More than 19 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and upward of 665 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. As these numbers continue to rise, countries have begun issuing or considering “vaccine passports.” Vaccine passports — proof through a phone app or on a piece of paper that you’ve had your shots — are a potential ticket to freedom for millions of vaccinated people around the world. Israel already has them. The European Union and China have also announced a version of them. In the United States, there’s talk about what such a certification might look like. But vaccine passports also raise huge ethical questions, with 85 percent of shots worldwide having been administered in wealthier countries. And with private tech companies working on creating these passports in the United States, there’s worry about the risks of sharing health records with third-party apps. Both Texas and Florida have prohibited government-mandated vaccine passports. On today’s episode, our guests debate the concept of a vaccine passport and discuss the ethical and privacy considerations that come along with them. Natalie Kofler is a molecular biologist and bioethicist at Harvard Medical School. Ramin Bastani is the founder and chief executive of Healthvana, a patient platform that delivers test results and is supplying vaccine passports. He says we should think of them more like an everyday health record — and he thinks we need them to ensure everyone’s safety. Then, we turn to listener voice mail messages as they share their thoughts on the reopening of schools. We want to hear what you’re arguing about with your family, your friends and your frenemies. Leave us a voice mail message at (347) 915-4324. We may use excerpts from your audio in a future episode. Learn More: “Vaccine Passports Won’t Get us Out of the Pandemic,” in The Times. “Vaccinated Workers Are Getting Benefits That Those Without Covid Shots Won’t,” in Bloomberg, about vaccine passports in Israel. WBUR’s episode on the pros and cons of vaccine passports.
What's Wrong With Our Hate Crime Laws?
This month a gunman killed eight people at three Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent. Authorities say it’s too early to declare the attacks a hate crime. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have hate crime laws on the books, designed to add further penalties for perpetrators whose biases led to their crime. But the recent mass shooting has prompted the question of when a crime is called a hate crime and who decides. It’s also unclear whether charging someone with a hate crime is the best answer we have as a society for punishing people who commit these kinds of crimes. On this episode of “The Argument,” we discuss whether hate crime laws are working and what our other options are, with Kevin Nadal, professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Steven Freeman, vice president for civil rights at the Anti-Defamation League. Share your arguments with us We want to hear what you’re arguing about with your family, your friends and your frenemies. Leave us a voice-mail message at 347-915-4324. We may use excerpts from your audio in a future episode. Learn More Anti-Defamation League’s “Introduction to Hate Crime Laws” N.A.A.C.P.’s state-by-state database of hate crime laws Sarah Lustbader’s article “More Hate Crime Laws Would Not Have Prevented the Monsey Hannukkah Attack” in The Appeal.
Is It Time to Cancel Cancel Culture?
Whether it’s Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Seuss or Roseanne, allegations of cancel culture seem to have a regular spot among the trending topics of the internet. Almost every other week, someone’s cancellation becomes the subject of prominent discussion on Twitter, Substack and cable news. Yet its exact meaning is up for debate. What counts as a cancellation? Who gets to decide? On today’s episode, we argue over what being canceled means and if it’s time to get rid of the idea entirely. Robby Soave, a senior editor for Reason, has been sounding the alarm about cancel culture. And he wrote a piece about our other guest, Will Wilkinson, titled “Cancel Culture Comes for Will Wilkinson.” Wilkinson was arguably canceled after he wrote a tweet that led to his firing from the Niskanen Center, where he was the vice president for research. But he thinks the label of cancel culture is misleading, even when it’s used in his defense. Read Will Wilkinson’s “Undefined Cancel Game” at his Substack. Robby Soave in Reason: “Cancel Culture Comes for Will Wilkinson” We want to hear what you’re arguing about with your family, your friends and your frenemies. Leave us a voice mail message at (347) 915-4324. We may use excerpts from your audio in a future episode.
Raise the Federal Minimum Wage or Abolish It?
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t changed since 2009. Workers in 21 states make the federal floor, which can be even lower for people who make tips. And at $7.25 an hour, a person working full time with a dependent is making below the federal poverty line. States such as California, Florida, Illinois and Massachusetts have approved gradual minimum wage increases to reach $15 an hour — so is it time to do it at the federal level? On Wednesday 20 senators from both parties are set to meet to discuss whether to use their influence on minimum wage legislation. Economists have argued for years about the consequences of the hike, saying employers who bear the costs would be forced to lay off some of the very employees the minimum wage was intended to support. A report by the Congressional Budget Office on a proposal to see $15 by 2025 estimates the increase would move 900,000 people out of poverty — and at the same time cut 1.4 million jobs. On today’s episode, we debate the fight for $15 with two people who see things very differently. Saru Jayaraman is the president of One Fair Wage and the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Jeffrey Miron is a senior lecturer in the department of economics at Harvard University and the director of economic studies at the Cato Institute. Learn More The Congressional Budget Office’s February 2021 report on the budgetary effects of the Raise the Wage Act of 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ April 2020 report “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers.”
Cancel America’s Student Loan Debt! But How?
The problem of student loan debt has reached crisis proportions. As a college degree has grown increasingly necessary for economic mobility, so has the $1.7 trillion in student loan debt that Americans have taken on to access that opportunity. President Biden has put some debt cancellation on the table, but progressive Democrats are pushing him for more. So what is the fairest way to correct course? Astra Taylor — an author, a documentarian and a co-founder of the Debt Collective — dukes it out with Sandy Baum, an economist and a nonresident senior fellow at the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute. While the activist and the economist agree that addressing the crisis requires dramatic measures, they disagree on how to get there. Is canceling everyone’s debt progressive policy, as Taylor contends? Or does it end up being a regressive measure, as Baum insists? Jane hears them both out. And she offers a royal history tour after Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Learn More Astra Taylor in The Nation: “The Case for Wide-Scale Debt Relief” Sandy Baum in Education Next: “Mass Debt Forgiveness Is Not a Progressive Idea” Astra Taylor’s documentary for The Intercept: “You Are Not a Loan” Sandy Baum for the Urban Institute: “Strengthening the Federal Role in the Federal-State Partnership for Funding Higher Education” Jane’s recommendation: Lucy Worsley’s three-episode mini-series “Secrets of the Six Wives”
Can Republicans Make Populism Work Without Trump?
Republicans will spend the next 20 months debating and deciding whether Trumpism will be on the ballot in 2022. Will party leaders continue to embrace Donald Trump’s populist rhetoric? Can it resonate with voters if Trump isn’t the one saying it? Ross Douthat, an Opinion columnist at The New York Times, and Michael Brendan Dougherty, a senior writer at National Review, offer their own definitions of populism and debate with Jane populism’s merits, if Trumpism is real and whether Trump allies in the Republican Party will be the future or the demise of the Grand Old Party. Learn More: Michael Brendan Dougherty in National Review: “The End of Populism? Don’t Bet on It.” “Trumpism After Trump.” Ross Douthat on how Trumpism ate populism, whether there is a Trumpism after Trump and, in a prescient 2013 column, “Good Populism, Bad Populism.” Jane Coaston in National Review: “What If There’s No Such Thing as Trumpism?” Christopher Caldwell in The New Republic: “Can There Ever Be a Working-Class Republican Party?” Ken Burns’s series with Stephen Ives “The West,” chronicling America's process to become a continental nation. Ross Douthat’s book Grand New Party, on how Republicans can win the working class.
Should We Put the Filibuster Out of Its Misery?
The first episode of “The Argument” with Jane Coaston gets right into the heart of the cyclical debate: Should the filibuster be killed once and for all? Democrats control the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade, giving them the opportunity to pass major new legislation, and the only thing standing in their way is the filibuster. That parliamentary procedure effectively pushes the number of votes needed to pass a bill in the Senate from 51 to 60. Which is why the filibuster is typically beloved by the party in the minority, and railed against by the majority. If Democrats kill the filibuster now, what happens when they’re not in power? Arguing against the filibuster is Ezra Klein, a Times Opinion columnist and policy wonk. Defending the procedure and its merits is Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America. And Jane doesn’t trust either of them. Background reading found at nytimes.com/theargument We want to hear what you’re arguing about with your friends, your family or your Twitter nemesis. Leave us a voice mail message at (347) 915-4324. We may use excerpts from your audio in a future episode.
Introducing ‘The Argument’ With Jane Coaston
There are all kinds of arguments, many of them pretty unproductive. Either nobody listens, or nobody wins, or you go around in circles, or you bring up old baggage that should’ve stayed in storage. But the best arguments, and the ones I like to have, are the ones that make me think differently. They help inform my opinions, or challenge them. And they help me understand the people who have other points of view. Starting Feb. 24, I’ll be the new host of “The Argument.” Every week, people who disagree with one another will come together on the podcast to hash it out. I’ve reported for years on conservatism and the American right. I’ve talked to people from all points on the political spectrum, and I’ve heard a lot of “the other side doesn’t get it,” and “the other side is evil.” In my opinion, none of this productive. I want people to hear one another out, before writing them off. I think respectful, civil debate makes us all smarter. And I think for democracy to work, we need to listen, especially when we don’t agree. Things on the program might get awkward, and that’s the whole point. We’re going to have real conversations and real disagreement. To those of you who have been listening for years, I hope you’ll find this is still the place for respectful debate that opens minds. And to those of you tuning in for the first time, welcome. I’ll see you next Wednesday.
From the Archives: Climate Change and Free College for All
This week we return to two of our favorite debates from “Arguments” past. First, a debate from Nov. 29, 2018, in which Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt debate climate change and how to deal with it. Then, the trio discuss whether public colleges should be tuition free, and if all student loan debt should be canceled, from the Dec. 5, 2019, episode, “Should College Be Free?” And finally, a return to that time Ross sang Lady Gaga. A note for our listeners: On Feb. 24, Jane Coaston will take the reins as host of “The Argument.” The show started in 2018 as a place for civil debate, a place that’s as much about listening as it is about talking. This mission isn’t changing. Jane will bring her years of reporting on politics (and sports!) to examine the issues shaping our politics and society. She’ll invite guests who disagree with her and one another, and encourage you to consider — or maybe even reconsider — your point of view. A huge thanks to our original team: David Leonhardt, Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and Frank Bruni. Keep listening, and you’ll hear them on the show as guests and sometimes agitators.
Dreaming Of Our Post-Pandemic Lives. Plus: An Announcement
Michelle and Ross dream of a post-pandemic world. Michelle is ready to meet with friends again once vaccinated, and Ross wonders if the psychological stress of the pandemic has forever changed U.S. politics. Then they reflect on what they’ve learned from arguing with each other for more than two years. A note for our listeners: On Feb. 24, Jane Coaston will take the reins as host of “The Argument.” The show started in 2018 as a place for civil debate, a place that’s as much about listening as it is about talking. This mission isn’t changing. Jane will bring her years of reporting on politics (and sports!) to argue the issues shaping our politics and society. She’ll invite guests who disagree with her and one another, and encourage you to consider — or maybe even reconsider — your point of view. A huge thanks to our original team: David Leonhardt, Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and Frank Bruni. Keep listening, and you’ll hear them on the show as guests and sometimes agitators.
The 46th: Joe Biden to the Rescue (Plan)
For the final episode in “The 46th” series, Michelle and Ross commemorate the inauguration of the 46th president with a debate about America’s post-Trump future. Ross compliments the ceremony’s “vague Hunger Games vibe,” and Michelle exhales for the first time in four years. Then, the pair discuss the uphill task for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to govern a country devastated by a pandemic, extreme political division and a staggering economy. Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein joins the duo to allay their doubts and volley questions about the new president’s “Rescue Plan” to resuscitate America’s work force and even out an inequitable economy. Finally, Jared offers the show a little class in a classical favorite. For background reading on this episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument.
The 46th: Will A Second Impeachment Change Republican Minds?
It’s impeachment season all over again on “The Argument,” and Michelle and Ross debate whether Republicans will, at long last, turn their backs to President Trump, or confirm that their party is resolutely his. Will Mitch McConnell really consider delivering enough Republican votes to convict Trump? The duo discuss the events of the last week and a half and the deepening fracture in the Republican Party, and Michelle is surprised to long for “the party of cruel Ayn Rand-ism” in exchange for “Qanon and guerrilla warfare.” Ross admits how wrong he’s been in analyzing violent extremism in recent years. Then, the hosts take up the question of deplatforming Trump, and the rabid hordes he foments. And finally, Ross suggests you find some escapism in a grim, dark, revisionist fantasy. For background reading on this episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument.
I Love Section 230. Got a Problem With That?
In this special bonus episode, Jane Coaston makes her hosting debut on “The Argument” to discuss one of her favorite subjects: Section 230. Often called the “26 words that created the internet,” the section is part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and it protects websites from liability. The law also allows internet companies to moderate third-party content on their sites. The banning of President Trump from many social media platforms has led to renewed calls from both political parties to amend or revoke Section 230. Jane debates what changing the law might mean with Klon Kitchen, director of the Center for Technology Policy at the Heritage Foundation, and Danielle Keats Citron, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace.”
The 46th: The End of Trump or the End of American Democracy?
Ross Douthat and Michelle Goldberg debate whether the events that unfolded on Wednesday should be classified as a “coup.” Then, Michelle Cottle deploys her expertise on Congress to analyze the Georgia election results and predict what a Democratic Senate means for Joe Biden and how conservative Democrats might play a role in Republicans’ long-term plans. Finally, Michelle Cottle recommends a series to watch that while not apolitical may help give respite from the current moment.
How 2020 Changed Our Minds
Happy New Year and good riddance, 2020! Ross and Michelle ring in 2021 with a reflection on how their opinions changed during “this wild and crazy and terrible and interesting and disastrous and a longer list of adjectives year,” as Ross so eloquently defines 2020. The hosts are joined by a bevy of thoughtful “Argument” listeners who share what — or who — made them look at the world in a new way this year. Then, Michelle and Ross offer their hopes for 2021, and recommend two streaming options that young and old can enjoy together. For background reading on this episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument
The 46th: Will Georgia's Races Change The Senate?
As part of our series “The 46th,” The Argument’s hosts and guests are debating the events of the transition and what America under a Biden administration should look like. Now that we’re less than three weeks away from the Georgia runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, Michelle, Ross and fellow Times columnist Jamelle Bouie take stock of the Democratic candidates and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Jamelle and Michelle make the case for a Warnock victory, while Ross makes a surprising prediction of the outcome. Then Michelle and Ross debate whether President Trump’s actions over the past four years constituted fascism or just looked like fascism. Michelle says Trump has insidiously invaded democratic institutions, while Ross argues that sometimes conservatism can look a little bit like fascism. And Michelle has a recommendation for last-minute holiday shoppers. For background reading on the episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument.
The 46th: Who Will Replace Trump in the G.O.P.’s Heart?
As part of our series “The 46th,” the hosts and guests on “The Argument” are debating what America under a Biden administration might and should look like. This week, Ross Douthat is joined first by Jane Coaston, formerly of “The Weeds,” and future host of “The Argument.” Together they discuss the reasons for widespread theories of voter fraud among the Republican electorate and what led to such a moment. Then, the senior elections analyst of Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende, joins the pair to discuss the future of Trumpism and whether anybody else can capture the Republican Party quite like Donald Trump. And finally, Jane recommends building your character and your calf muscles. For background reading on this episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument
The 46th: Biden’s First Catastrophes
In the second episode of our pre-inauguration series, “The 46th,” Michelle and Aaron debate two countrywide crises that President-elect Joe Biden will inherit from Donald Trump: the coronavirus, and the economic chaos it’s causing. Jeneen Interlandi, the Times editorial board’s health, science and education writer, joins the podcast to discuss what Biden must do around mask mandates, vaccine deployment and public health messaging. Then, Binyamin Appelbaum, the editorial board’s economics writer, joins the debate around stimulus checks, and whether unthinkable human suffering can push Congress to action (spoiler: don’t count on it). And Binya offers recommendations for books — other than his own, of course — for people who want to understand how macroeconomics shapes their own lives, and not be bored doing it. For background reading on this episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument
The 46th: Progressive Democrats’ Next Moves Under Biden
Introducing The 46th, a new series from “The Argument” charting the incredibly unconventional transition from President Trump to President-elect Joe Biden. Each week through inauguration, we’ll debate what — and how — Mr. Biden should prioritize in his first 100 days. With Ross Douthat on intermittent paternity leave, Michelle Goldberg is joined by Opinion editor Aaron Retica for an interview with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. As the Democrats are poised to reclaim the executive branch, how should the growing divide between the party establishment and its progressive members like Representative Jayapal find common ground? Then, Kara Swisher — tech reporter and host of the NYT opinion podcast, “Sway” — joins Michelle and Aaron to discuss what social media companies are doing (or not doing) to combat misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding the election. For background reading on this episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument.
What Happens if Trump Doesn’t Concede?
Fill out a survey about how you listen to “The Argument” at nytimes.com/theargumentsurvey. After polling misses in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, Michelle and Ross ask Nate Cohn, domestic correspondent for The Upshot at The New York Times, whether we can ever trust polls again. They discuss Nate’s four theories of why polling may have been so off this year and how much the coronavirus pandemic affected results. Then, Michelle and Ross try to read the tea leaves for the next 10 weeks before inauguration with Rosa Brooks, a professor of law and policy at Georgetown University Law Center and a founder of the Transition Integrity Project, whose previous postelection scenarios have proved eerily prophetic. Together they debate what the Republican strategy is right now and what happens if President Trump doesn’t concede. Plus, a trick for making all your video calls less painful, literally. For background reading on this episode, visit nytimes.com/theargument.