The Commons

The Commons hosts commentary from contributing writers across the political spectrum, advancing American Compass’s mission through discussion that combines intellectual combat and personal civility.

Keep the Child Credit Tied to Work Share This

| Sep 14, 2021 | Family Policy

The Biden administration is trying to launder widespread support for emergency COVID relief into irreversible changes to the nation’s economic policy. Upon signing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) in March, President Biden explained that “everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation.” But within a week, he was celebrating that “this is the first time we’ve been able to, since the Johnson administration and maybe even before that, to begin to change the paradigm.” Fortunately, the American people are smarter than that, as their attitudes toward the expanded Child Tax Credit make clear.

Riding the wave of bipartisan enthusiasm for direct checks in response to the pandemic’s economic shutdowns, the ARP implements a one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit: nearly doubling its value, offering payments monthly instead of at year’s end, and, most importantly, making all families eligible regardless of whether anyone in the household works. (Previously, as the term “tax credit” implies, the credit was paid only to families with taxable income, as a credit against taxes paid.) Just a few months into the “temporary” program’s implementation, Democrats are proposing to include a multi-year extension in their budget package, with proponents daring anyone to rescind their newly created entitlement.

Voters are nonplussed. Separate polls in July by Morning Consult and YouGov both found support for the one-year program but opposition to making it permanent. Now, American Compass has released the results of a more in-depth survey that shows both how little COVID has shifted the nation’s permanent attitudes and how badly the idea of unconditional, unending cash subverts American principles of reciprocity and self-sufficiency. Read More

How to Put Woke Capital Out of Business Share This

| Sep 02, 2021 | Politics

Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam, by Vivek Ramaswamy (Center Street, 320 pp., $15.99)

Vivek Ramaswamy opens his book on the perils of woke capitalism by declaring himself a traitor to his class. He’s got the perfect elite resume: Harvard undergrad, partner at a hedge fund, Yale Law School, and founder of a biotech company today valued at $7 billion. He’s also, if not fully diverse by today’s standards—Indians, like Asians, are considered “white-adjacent”—at least not white.

Last year, however, Ramaswamy started writing op-eds for The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and National Review in which he said things that members of the ruling class are not supposed to. He denounced wokeness as a fundamentalist religion. He condemned corporate retaliation to Georgia’s new election laws. And after the January 6th riots, Ramaswamy did the unspeakable: he defended free speech for President Trump and called for an end to tech censorship. Read More

The Emergence of Anti-Corporate Progressivism Share This

| Aug 25, 2021 | Economics

Opposition to globalization. Efforts to weaken intellectual property protections. Pushing for municipal broadband. Calls for the National Institutes of Health to develop drugs. What do these positions have in common? They are all examples of the recent turn toward anti-corporate progressivism. This shift is defined by a fierce determination to expand government provision of goods and services; to support small, locally owned firms; and to break up or heavily regulate big corporations.

So-called Big Tech companies face broad scrutiny these days from the media, advocacy groups, lawmakers, and regulators. But for most progressives, this anti-corporatism extends well beyond the tech sector. It has become a general operating principle: the go-to policy formula for righting wrongs. It’s a conviction so firmly held that it is no longer just the means to an end—for many, it’s the end in itself.

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Empire State of Crisis Share This

| Aug 24, 2021 | New York City

The Long Crisis: New York City and the Path to Neoliberalism, by Benjamin Holtzman (Oxford University Press, 331 pp., $34.95)

New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation, by Thomas Dyja (Simon & Schuster, 523 pp., $30)

New York’s four-decade success story is showing its age. Even before COVID-19 bared the city’s lack of resilience—a death rate of 400 per 100,000, more than twice as high as that of the nation as a whole, a murder tally that shot up by nearly 50% the moment people were left to fend for themselves, and a job-loss total that remains nearly four times as high as the country’s—thinkers were reconsidering Gotham’s self-forged millennial re-origin story. That is, that after the crisis of the 1970s, the city mended its profligate ways, cut crime, and saw a historic resurgence that benefitted everyone, from Park Avenue billionaires to just-arrived immigrants from the poorest countries in the world.

Two new books—Benjamin Holtzman’s The Long Crisis and Thomas Dyja’s New York, New York, New York—ditch the clichés, old and new, and use two starkly different styles of research and writing to arrive at the same conclusion, one that’s no less accurate for being yet another cliché. Ideologically, culturally, economically, whatever-ally, New York City is impossible to categorize. Read More

How to Fix Widespread Buyer’s Remorse in Education Share This

| Aug 23, 2021 | Education

A college degree has long been the key that unlocks success in America—the good job, the high salary, the professional networks. But many individuals reflecting on their educational experiences today conclude that their preparation for college and career was disappointing. In short, there’s a disconnect between what young people expect from education and what they ultimately experience.

Young people are experiencing an educational version of buyers’ remorse—the disappointment arising from the gap between their expectations and reality. There are two ways to address this problem. At the individual level, we should provide alternate frameworks for individuals deciding what comes after high school. And at the institutional level, we should embrace a K–12 career pathways approach that helps young people develop occupational identities and vocational selves and exemplifies opportunity pluralism, or offering multiple, credentialed alternatives to a college degree that place individuals on a path to satisfying careers and responsible citizenship.

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Where Do Parents Go When Public Schools Go ‘Woke’? Share This

| Aug 17, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

As a father of young children, I have been shocked by the rapid growth and impact of gender ideology within our society, reaching human resource departments in practically every major corporation and recalibrating the relationship between parents, children, and public schools, both in the realm of curriculum and in policy.

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A Collective Cure to Privacy Threats Share This

| Aug 11, 2021 | Big Tech

Privacy is another major casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments instituted expansive surveillance programs to enable contact tracing and corral the disease. Many of these programs are here to stay, as citizens get used to them or welcome them to avoid future quarantine and lockdowns.

More generally, the pandemic accelerated our growing dependence on digital media, which inherently make our personal information vulnerable. Students have relied on digital platforms to receive instruction, many of which are now entrenched in pedagogy for the long term. Millions of Americans began to work online, far from the office, and will continue to do so. They have also learned to rely on online retailers to supply everything from groceries to clothing to home goods. These are all new habits of living, which will continue long after the pandemic.

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Unemployment and the Labors of Love Share This

| Aug 10, 2021 | unemployment

The Tolls of Uncertainty: How Privilege and the Guilt Gap Shape Unemployment in America, by Sarah Damaske (Princeton University Press, 336 pp. $28)

As I was reading sociologist Sarah Damaske’s new book, The Tolls of Uncertainty: How Privilege and the Guilt Gap Shape Unemployment in America, I was struck by a realization: though I’ve spent a good deal of the past 11 years interviewing working-class young adults in Ohio, I have met relatively few who have received unemployment insurance (UI).

Instead, I more often hear stories of people being denied or disqualified from UI, like fast-food manager Gina who says she was denied UI in 2020 when her employer said her leave was voluntary (her children’s daycare closed during the pandemic). Or Mark, a contract laborer for a construction company, whose work dried up but who was ineligible for UI because of his status as self-employed. Without health insurance, work, or any other benefits, an injured knee that required surgery left him with thousands of dollars of medical debt he was unsure if he’d ever be able to pay. Read More

When Work Doesn’t Seem to Pay Share This

| Aug 04, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

Every day is a struggle when you’re living in poverty. You never know when you might lose your next meal or a place to live. You never know if something unexpected will come around the corner and knock you down, and how you’d find the strength to get back up again.

I never had an easy life, going through difficult family problems, feeling discriminated against, facing abusive situations, and just struggling to get by. When you’re just barely living paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have time to worry about the big picture. You’re just trying to hang on, put all that’s going on in your life to the side so you can work a few more hours a week—if you can find a stable job. Every day is a struggle. Your dreams are crushed. You get tired, burnt out, depressed. Not everybody makes it through.

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Moving Beyond Surviving to Thriving Share This

| Jul 29, 2021 | Edgerton Essays

There are highs and lows in everything, and many of us experience both. We are all just one decision or one missed paycheck away from seeing a different side of life. That should be humbling for us all. But too often people assume the worst about people in difficult circumstances.

I’ve been faced with an abundance of challenges throughout my life. Depending on the circumstances, being in one of those “lows” can be scary. When you’re faced with a scarcity of resources, or lack of support, it can be a real challenge. My own experience has taught me that when people fall on hard times, some are blessed enough to recover quickly, while others might struggle a bit to rebound.

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