This week, the House takes up consideration of a highway and infrastructure bill which, if passed, would be the first long-term transportation spending bill since 2005. Even the 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people and injured almost 150, failed to spur significant infrastructure spending, despite drawing widespread attention to the neglected state of many of America’s bridges. Below is a Sage, Ink cartoon that originally appeared following the Minnesota bridge disaster.
This cartoon was originally posted in October 2013 as Boehner faced the dilemma of reopening the government and avoiding default on the national debt (thereby risking his speakership) or appeasing hard-line GOP lawmakers in the House and safely preserving his role.
Two years later, it again seems relevant as Boehner yields his position and negotiates a bipartisan budget deal on his way out, thereby avoiding a government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling until 2017—allowing his successor Paul Ryan to take over with, as Boehner puts it, “a clean barn.” Russell has more:
The budget deal that John Boehner struck in his final days as House speaker is certainly a political gift to Paul Ryan, but you’ll have to forgive Ryan for showing a lack of appreciation. “I think this process stinks,” the speaker-in-waiting reportedly harrumphed as he walked into a meeting where Republicans were briefed about the 11th-hour agreement. “Under new management, we are not going to run the House this way.”
Well played, congressman. Ryan offered no opinion on the substance of the two-year pact, which increases federal spending by $80 billion and raises the debt ceiling, but his harsh assessment of how it came together was a necessary bit of political theater aimed at the group of conservatives [House Freedom Caucus] who have been most wary of his ascension to the speakership.
This weekend, having just read about Sanders’ impressive fundraising figures and heard that he was coming to Boston, I decided to make my way over to the rally to get a look at the candidate and his supporters:
Marco Rubio’s assertion in Wednesday night’s GOP debate that North Korea is capable of striking the U.S. with “dozens of nuclear weapons” brought to mind this cartoon from 2006, on the occasion of North Korea’s test of a Taepodong missile thought to be capable of reaching Alaska:
Today’s economic conditions are not just holding Millennials back. They are stratifying them, leading to unequal experiences within the generation as well as between it and other cohorts.
A few weeks ago, I met my first Millennial grandparent. I was interviewing a woman in her late 30s about President Joe Biden’s new child-tax-credit proposal, and she mentioned that it would benefit not just her two young kids but her older son’s kid too.
The incidental meeting was a reminder both that Millennials are getting older and that they are doing so without growing up, at least not in the way that many of them might wish. The woman I interviewed does not own a home, nor is she anywhere close to affording one. She has nothing in the way of savings. Nevertheless, she is a grandmother, catapulting into middle age.
Millennials, as just about everyone knows at this point, are a generation delayed. The pandemic recession has led not-so-young adults to put off having kids, buying a house, getting married, or investing in a car—yet again. But today’s economic conditions are not just holding Millennials back. They are stratifying them, leading to unequal experiences within the generation as well as between it and other cohorts.
It’s time to prepare for a new and better normal than your pre-pandemic life.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Arthur C. Brooks will discuss the science of happiness live at 11 a.m. ET on May 20. Register for In Pursuit of Happiness here.
Many years ago, I met a woman who had had the kind of experience you ordinarily only find in fiction. As a young adult, she was in a serious car accident, resulting in a head injury. She suffered a period of total amnesia, followed by months of convalescence. When she recovered, she was never the same: Her family relationships weakened; she cut out former friends and found new ones; she moved halfway across the world; her interests and tastes changed; she became more outgoing and less self-conscious; she no longer cared much what other people thought about her.
Three years after his polarizing confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court’s 114th justice remains a mystery.
This article was published online on May 13, 2021.
The suburban gentry of Chevy Chase, Maryland, had some difficulty making sense of Brett Kavanaugh’s descent into villainy that fall. He had always seemed so nice and nonthreatening to his neighbors, so normal—the khaki-clad carpool dad who coached the girls’ basketball team and yammered endlessly about the Nats. It was true that his politics were unusual for the neighborhood, the kind of place where No Justice / No Peace signs stand righteously in front of million-dollar homes. But Brett was not a scary Republican, of the kind who had recently invaded Washington. He was well educated and properly socialized, a friend of the Bushes, a stalwart of the country club. When his nomination to the Supreme Court was first announced, the neighborhood had largely welcomed the news. People gave interviews attesting to his niceness; the owner of the Chevy Chase Lounge said that he would add Brett’s photo to the wall of famous patrons.
The CDC’s surprising mask announcement was not just a public-health milestone.
The announcement seemed to catch everyone off guard: Early Thursday afternoon, the government told Americans that if they were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they did not need to wear a mask—indoors or outside, in groups small or large.
People who have gotten their shots, Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said at a White House press briefing, “can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.” Coming from an administration that has preached caution to the point of criticism—only six weeks ago a teary-eyed Walensky warned the nation of “impending doom”—the words sounded like a surprisingly abrupt declaration of freedom: Did the CDC just end the pandemic?
It had not, of course. There were, as always, plenty of caveats to the CDC’s guidance. Masks should still be worn on public transportation and in high-risk settings such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. The majority of Americans remain unvaccinated and should continue to mask up. Tens of thousands are testing positive for the coronavirus every day, and hundreds are still dying from it. Cases are surging in India and other parts of the world.
When people share a space, their collective experience can sprout its own vocabulary, known as a familect.
I celebrated my second pandemic birthday recently. Many things were weird about it: opening presents on Zoom, my phone’s insistent photo reminders from “one year ago today” that could be mistaken for last month, my partner brightly wishing me “iki domuz,” a Turkish phrase that literally means “two pigs.”
Well, that last one is actually quite normal in our house. Long ago, I took my first steps into adult language lessons and tried to impress my Turkish American boyfriend on his special day. My younger self nervously bungled through new vocabulary—The numbers! The animals! The months!—to wish him “iki domuz” instead of “happy birthday” (İyi ki doğdun) while we drank like pigs in his tiny apartment outside of UCLA. Now, more than a decade later, that slipup is immortalized as our own peculiar greeting to each other twice a year.
On Monday morning, my partner laid a carry-on suitcase down on the floor, preparing to pack for his first post-vaccination trip to visit his parents. The moment he unzipped the bag, our cat Calvin promptly clambered inside.
A piece of me would like to think that Calvin was attempting to covertly join my partner on his trip, or perhaps thwart his inevitable attempt to spirit away. But I’m pretty sure #OccupyLuggage was less a heart-wrenching bid to tag along on a flight, and more a textbook example of a central scientific tenet: Cats are absolute suckers for boxes. And sinks, and vases, and grocery bags, and shoes, and Pringles cans, and the nooks and crannies between furniture and walls, and just about any other space they deem cozy, confining, and swaddly. (Cats, in case you were wondering, are a non-Newtonian liquid.) It’s the one thing about which our pointy-eared companions are not terribly picky: If it fits, they sits. And when they do, we humans can’t help but obsess over them.
For some Americans, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it’s the story they want to believe.
This article was published online on May 10, 2021.
Most of the people who come to Blandford Cemetery, in Petersburg, Virginia, come for the windows—masterpieces of Tiffany glass in the cemetery’s deconsecrated church. One morning before the pandemic, I took a tour of the church along with two other visitors and our tour guide, Ken. When my eyes adjusted to the hazy darkness inside, I could see that in each window stood a saint, surrounded by dazzling bursts of blues and greens and violets. Below these explosions of color were words that I couldn’t quite make out. I stepped closer to one of the windows, and the language became clearer. Beneath the saint was an inscription honoring the men “who died for the Confederacy.”
If where you live isn’t truly your home, and you have the resources to make a change, it could do wonders for your happiness.
“How to Build a Life” is a biweekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Several years ago, I was sitting on a flight to San Francisco, when my seatmate, a man a little older than me, struck up a conversation. Perhaps you hate it when that happens; I love it. In addition to being an extrovert, I’m a social scientist, so I’m always fascinated by what I can learn about people through conversations. Have you ever wanted to know how I come up with column topics? Now you know.
The man told me he was on his way home from seeing his family in Minnesota, where he had grown up. As an adult, he had pulled up stakes, left the bone-chilling winters behind, and moved to Northern California, where he had no connections at all. He raved about the professional opportunities and great weather where he now lived, comparing them favorably to the landlocked, snowy place in which he was raised.
The longer it takes for the United States to lead a global response, the more the risks compound.
To be in America now is to witness two jarring realities at once: the quickening pace of the country’s return to normalcy and the worsening march of COVID-19 beyond its borders. U.S. cities are loosening restrictions, travel is picking back up, and Americans are preparing for a bacchanalian summer. At the same time, a surge of infections in countries including Brazil and India is producing death and suffering on a tremendous scale, a reminder that controlling the virus is ultimately a global challenge. Yet the Biden administration still appears to lack a methodical plan to tackle the pandemic around the world.
“What we need is a much more coherent foreign policy for vaccine diplomacy from the Biden administration,” Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told me. He called for “a strategy by which the U.S. says how we’re going to help orchestrate a plan to produce enough vaccine for the world.”
Unless you’re extraordinarily wealthy (congrats on that), your experience of working through the pandemic has probably been miserable. If you’ve had to work in person, your days have been dangerous and precarious. If you’ve been able to work from home, you’ve had an enormous privilege. But devoid of choice and novelty, remote work has lost some of its romance for office workers who previously dreamed of ending their commute. In home offices around the country, the wallpaper has begun to yellow.
WFHers have been working longer hours and more weekends than before the pandemic, and they’re more likely to report loneliness, depression, and anxiety than people working in person, according to Gallup. At the end of April, nearly 66 percent of respondents to a Morning Consult poll said they wanted to return to the office as soon as possible. Half of remote workers even miss their commute. But these data aren’t as conclusive as they might look. In the same Morning Consult poll, 84 percent of respondents said they enjoyed remote work. Gallup found that remote workers reported better overall well-being and higher engagement than those in the office. Many office workers also seem to be more productive at home, even in the middle of a disaster.