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When Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in a president’s Cabinet in 1933, she knew her role wouldn’t be easy.
“I tried to have as much of a mask as possible,” she later said about her first Cabinet meeting. “I wanted to give the impression of being a quiet, orderly woman who didn’t buzz-buzz all the time. … I just proceeded on the theory that this was a gentleman’s conversation on the porch of a golf club perhaps. You didn’t butt in with bright ideas.”
But that didn’t last long: she helped develop plenty of bright ideas as secretary of labor. Not least was Social Security.
“Out of our first century of national life we evolved the ethical principle that it was not right or just that an honest and industrious man should live and die in misery. He was entitled to some degree of sympathy and security,” she argued. Perkins stood behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he signed the Social Security Act in 1935, the only woman in the now historic photos of the event.
The program’s maximum monthly benefit was set at $85 — equivalent to about $1,856 in today’s dollars. Life expectancy for Americans then was several years below the minimum retirement age of 65 for collecting benefits.
Today, the maximum monthly benefit is $3,627 for those retiring at the currrent standard age of 67. Babies born now can expect to live 12 years longer.
For those who believe that the math no longer works and Social Security is now unsustainable — benefits could be cut by at least 20% within a decade if nothing is done, experts say — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley offered a solution last week. She called for raising the retirement age for people now in their 20s and limiting benefits for the wealthy.
In tackling the issue, Haley became the rare candidate willing to touch the “third rail” of American politics, explained Julian Zelizer. “It is not surprising that Republicans like former President Donald Trump have already attacked fellow GOP candidates for wanting to raise the retirement age or cut Medicare, while others in the party are scrambling to distance themselves from a House Republican Caucus that is pushing for draconian cuts to domestic programs.”
“For it is one thing to tell Americans that Washington is broken and another to say they will slash the federal benefits upon which so many of them have come to depend,” he added.
President Joe Biden’s budget, released last week, calls for $3 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, but no one expects that Republicans will provide the votes needed to pass the president’s proposal to increase taxes on billionaires, corporations and high-income earners to help make that happen. And Biden didn’t touch Social Security, demonstrating a rare alignment with Trump, who in January said, “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security.”
Maya MacGuineas, who heads the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, observed that “neither President Biden nor those before him have done much of anything to address or fund the rising costs of our nation’s major health and retirement programs. And in the end, the buck stops at the top.” She argued that even if Biden could slice $3 trillion off the deficit, it would not be “enough to fix the debt dangers we face. Not even close.”
House Republicans are insisting on spending cuts in return for raising the nation’s debt limit. That’s a dangerous error, wrote economists Mary E. Lovely and Katheryn Russ. “Failure to raise the debt limit would weaken our national security because it is precisely the world’s trust and confidence that the United States government will pay its debts in full and on time that helps keep the dollar as the world’s dominant currency,” they argued.
“The responsible way to control growth in the national debt is by raising taxes and cutting spending in a process of budget negotiations based on good faith.”
The debt ceiling standoff is causing concern on Wall Street. So is last week’s sudden failure of Silicon Valley Bank. “Despite the panic over SVB’s collapse, this situation isn’t likely to morph into a broader banking crisis,” wrote economist Darrell Duffie. “Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the largest US banks have been forced by regulators to be much more resilient. They also rely far more heavily than SVB on retail depositors, who tend to have a greater share of their deposits covered by FDIC insurance and are less prone to run at the first sign of trouble.”
“Of more immediate concern is the potentially systemic impact this will have on the tech sector, which has already seen mass layoffs and investments shrivel up in recent months. Close to half of all listed US venture-backed tech and health care firms were SVB customers and many of these companies were racing to line up funds to make payroll in the aftermath of the collapse.”
If the producers of the Oscars wanted to build anticipation for Sunday evening’s telecast, they couldn’t have had a better lead-in than Chris Rock’s comedy special, which streamed live last weekend on Netflix. Nearly a year after Will Smith famously slapped Rock at the Academy Awards, the comedian aimed to show that revenge is indeed a dish best served cold.
“After the special, Chris Rock was trending on Twitter, and for good reason. The comedian hilariously — and at times angrily — went after Smith for assaulting him in front of the world,” wrote Dean Obeidallah. “The lesson from the entire encounter is simple: Never slap a comedian, especially a famous one.”
It’s a banner year for Asian Oscar nominees, noted Hanna Pham, a journalism student and former intern for CNN Opinion. “Multiverse thriller ‘Everything Everywhere all at Once’ — co-directed by and starring actors of Asian descent — grabbed the most nominations this year at a whopping 11…”
“But what most stood out to me about these nominated Asian-centric films was the kind of stories they told about the Asian diaspora in the West. The relationship between Asian moms and their daughters in particular is amplified through ‘Turning Red’ and ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once.’”
“As an Asian-American girl, I’m seeing a mother-daughter dynamic on-screen that resembles the one I have with my own mom for pretty much the first time.”
For more on movies:
Craig Michel: Whether it wins Oscar or not, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ revealed America’s true colors
Peniel E. Joseph: The crucial takeaway from the backlash against ‘Creed III’ stars
Is time running out for Rep. George Santos? That’s the view of Norman Eisen and Colby Galliher: “The House Ethics Committee is often slow to act. But when it does — as is now the case with a new investigation into Rep. George Santos — resignations have often followed. Historical precedents, along with the severity and breadth of the allegations against Santos, suggests this might be the beginning of the end for the congressman from New York.”
Q&A with Meatball: Why one drag queen’s performance as George Santos went so viral
While the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic is still being debated, the criticism of mask mandates and the new interest in the lab leak theory are driving recent headlines. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, an infectious disease specialist, took issue with how some commentators are interpreting a new study on masks.
“The ‘money quote’ comes from an interview that esteemed data scientist Dr. Tom Jefferson, the lead author of the Cochrane study, gave in an interview: ‘There is just no evidence that (masks) make any difference, full stop.’ If his statement were an accurate reflection of what the article found, the launching of a thousand op-eds would be understandable.”
“But this emphatically is not the conclusion of the twelve authors, of which Jefferson was just one voice.” Sepkowitz argued that the study didn’t come close to discrediting masks as a response to the pandemic.
For more on health:
Marie Cocco: If you think your health is a private matter, see what’s happening to your data
Mary Ziegler: Walgreens’ abortion pill decision sends a chilling message
Sara Stewart: I was diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age. We’re seeing a lot more cases like mine
Fox News host Tucker Carlson spent last week pushing a discredited alternate-history version of the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, but it was the alternate story of Carlson’s views about Trump that really rang true.
Carlson’s text messages were revealed in legal filings that were a part of Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News. As former DC police officer Michael Fanone wrote, “In one private text message two days before the January 6 attack, Carlson said, ‘We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.’ Carlson added of Trump, ‘I hate him passionately.’ He also wrote that the four years of the Trump presidency had been ‘a disaster.’”
Fanone added, “I didn’t need to read the reports of his texts to know that Carlson’s spin about January 6 is fabricated. I was there. I saw it. I lived it. I fought alongside my brother and sister officers to defend the Capitol. We have the scars and injuries to prove it.”
“But as much as I feel anger and disgust about Tucker, I reserve equal disdain for (Speaker Kevin) McCarthy. His decision to hand over footage of restricted areas of the Capitol to a partisan actor who has routinely and gleefully spread misinformation about the attack endangers everyone working in the building. But it is not out of character: It is a damning reflection of just how extreme — or how opportunistic — the House speaker truly is.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signaled his interest in running for president with a trip last week to Iowa, where the first votes will be cast next year in the contest for the Republican nomination. Missing from that nomination fight will be Maryland’s former Gov. Larry Hogan, who said he won’t run.
SE Cupp argued that it’s a shame that Hogan won’t be running and that DeSantis likely will.
Referring to Hogan, she noted, “As a moderate, principled conservative who regularly stood up to Trump but also worked with Democrats in his state to govern, and who’s willing to put his country before his party, and his party before himself, he’s exactly the kind of Republican I could support.”
John Avlon: Biden’s smart political move angers progressives
Patrick Brown: The secret to winning in 2024
Fashion model and climate activist Quannah Chasinghorse was one of the social media voices who took part in a viral campaign to persuade the Biden administration to reject an oil drilling project in Alaska.
She wrote for CNN Opinion, “As someone whose homelands are in Alaska and who has experienced firsthand the impacts of climate change, the threat this massive and destructive project creates hits close to home for me. I have been inspired by the bravery of the community of Nuiqsut, Alaska, who are speaking out against the project, which is just miles from their homelands, threatening their way of life, food security and wellness…”
“Over the last week, millions of fellow young people have taken over TikTok to express their opposition to the Willow project, particularly in light of President Biden’s ambitious climate goals and promises on the 2020 campaign trail.”
Alaska’s elected representatives in Congress, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Mary Peltola, argued in favor of the Willow project, writing, “Alaskans are not ignorant about our changing climate. We are on the front lines and see the impacts every day. Still, we know that clean energy cannot manifest overnight. We have to work our way there.”
“As we do, we must prioritize American energy to meet our continuing needs. There’s no better way to do that than through oil responsibly produced from a petroleum reserve in Alaska, with a small environmental footprint, that significantly benefits the people who live there and support it as well as the rest of our great nation.” And, as of Friday night, it appeared that the Biden administration would allow the drilling to proceed.
Rebecca Cokley: Judy Heumann’s life is a testament and a reminder
Glenn Youngkin: America has an education problem. Virginia has the solution
Jill Filipovic: Bizarre Mexico tragedy highlights this fundamental truth
Frida Ghitis: The tide may be turning in the fight between democracy and autocracy
Jake Novak has experienced the highs and lows of being a social media creator: “the grind of making videos all the time, the challenge to push myself in new directions on a dime, the thrill of watching strangers around the world connect with a song I wrote minutes after filming it in my bedroom. I loved seeing the work fellow creators would make and feeling inspired by it. I miss TikTok. Before it was terrifying, it was exhilarating.”
It became terrifying last summer when “a video I posted pitching myself to be on ‘Saturday Night Live’ went viral — but not in the way I’d hoped. At first I was mocked en masse and parodied, but the conversation quickly veered into vitriol and outright venom, resulting in a lengthy bullying campaign that included calls for me to kill myself.”
“TikTok has been at the center of the national conversation as of late, with lawmakers proposing a nationwide ban on the popular video-sharing app over fears that the China-based company may be harvesting American users’ private data.”
“But as an online creator, I believe that the real, undeniable problem with social media is that harassment and hatred can spread on platforms like TikTok on an enormous scale with alarming speed — and it severely imperils the mental health of creators and everyday users alike.”