Checks and Balance from The Economist

The Economist

Checks and Balance unlocks American politics by taking a big theme each week and digging into the data, the ideas, and the history shaping the country. Join John Prideaux, Charlotte Howard, Idrees Kahloon and Jon Fasman as they talk to politicians, pollsters, academics and people across the country about the great experiment of American democracy. For more from Checks and Balance, sign up at to receive our weekly newsletter. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.


United States


The Economist


Checks and Balance unlocks American politics by taking a big theme each week and digging into the data, the ideas, and the history shaping the country. Join John Prideaux, Charlotte Howard, Idrees Kahloon and Jon Fasman as they talk to politicians, pollsters, academics and people across the country about the great experiment of American democracy. For more from Checks and Balance, sign up at to receive our weekly newsletter. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.




Checks and Balance: Hunting ground

House Republicans hope that by delving into Hunter Biden’s business dealings they’ll find a trail of wrongdoing leading back to the president. Is this just the usual partisan mudslinging? Or will the Hunter Biden saga spell trouble for Joe Biden? Andrew Rice from New York magazine tells us what is on Hunter Biden’s laptop. The Economist’s James Bennet remembers the time a president’s brother caused trouble. And Republican congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna explains why she wants to investigate...


Checks and Balance: Incoming alerts

Reports of the slow death of American incomes have been exaggerated. Since the turn of the millennium, hourly earnings have grown steadily in real terms. While those at the top have taken most of the gains, in the past few years, the poorest have done well too. Where does that leave those in the middle? What’s behind the two decades of growing incomes? And why hasn’t a richer population brought a more contented politics? The Economist’s Simon Rabinovitch explains the latest data on...


Checks and Balance: Electric dreams

2023 ought to be a big year in America’s transition towards electric vehicles. The federal government has set aside billions to encourage consumers and manufacturers to hitch a ride, and to ramp up the nation’s charging infrastructure. What do electric vehicles tell us about the future of American industry? On a road trip across the Midwest we look at whether America's industrial and environmental goals are compatible. We visit a factory making a battery-powered version of a popular truck....


Checks and Balance: Speaker out of turn

The 118th Congress is, so far, a shambles. A contingent of hardline Republicans have banded together to deny Kevin McCarthy the 218 votes he needs to obtain the speakership. The House can’t start the small matter of governing the country until the debacle is resolved. Can this Congress get over its chaotic start? Molly Reynolds from Brookings explains how House procedure has led to the mess. We go back 100 years to the last time it took multiple ballots to elect a speaker. And The...


Checks and Balance: Alaska, part two—thin ice

Alaska has an obvious imperative to develop its oil. But climate change is already underway, and the Arctic is warming at nearly four times the global rate. What does our thirst for oil mean for Alaska’s ice? In the second episode of a special two-part series, Charlotte Howard reports from Alaska. John Walsh from the University of Alaska, who tracks melting sea ice, shares his findings. Climate researcher Sue Natali tells us why thawing permafrost is a particular problem. Alaska’s Governor...


Checks and Balance: Alaska, part one—oil and trouble

Alaska sits at the heart of two big, tangled global questions: how to slow climate change, and where, or whether, to develop oil. Alaska uses the income from oil to fund basic services. But oil production in the state is in long-term decline. Oil companies and their many allies are pushing for a crude revival. Can Alaska reconcile the desire to drill, with the need to limit climate change? In the first episode of a special two-part series, Charlotte Howard reports from Alaska. Iñupiat...


Checks and Balance: Broad stripes, bright stars

Less than a fifth of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country. Poverty rates are rising and life expectancy is falling. A majority think the economy is getting worse and that the world sees America unfavourably. But amid the bleak metrics, there have been some bright spots this year: employment remains strong, support for Ukraine has been a notable foreign-policy success and the midterm results laid the groundwork for a stronger democracy. What in America is...


Checks and Balance: Justice deserts

The Supreme Court considered a case this week that could upend the way America conducts elections. Moore v Harper brings to the national stage a once-fringe legal theory that state lawmakers enjoy near-absolute authority over federal elections. What impact could the case have? And, with the final race in the midterms now complete, how healthy does democracy in America look? The Economist’s Supreme Court correspondent Steve Mazie recaps the arguments before the court. The Economist’s Ann...


Checks and Balance: Sitting ducks

Politicians have returned to Washington following the Thanksgiving break, for what Democrats hope will be a legislative flurry. Once Republicans take over the House in January, passing bills will get a lot harder. What can, and should, the lame-duck session of the 117th Congress accomplish? Senator Angus King tells us why reforming a law from 1887 is at the top of his to-do list. We go back to a particularly productive lame-duck session. And The Economist’s James Bennet makes the case...


Checks and Balance: From our archive—beef encounter

At Thanksgiving Americans express gratitude for family, the harvest… and a big, juicy turkey. Americans consume the most meat per person, but that's not good for the planet. In an episode first released in November 2021, we ask: could they cut back? The Economist’s Jon Fasman and his sons prepare the Thanksgiving turkey. We go back to a nationwide contest to find the perfect chicken. And Caroline Bushnell from The Good Food Institute discusses how to wean Americans off meat. John...


Checks and Balance: Trump's back

As Donald Trump launches a third White House run, we report on the view from Mar-a-Lago and the rise of Ron DeSantis. Are attempted presidential comebacks ever a good idea? And how will a fractured Republican Party navigate the long road to 2024? The Economist’s Alexandra Suich Bass dissects Mr Trump’s announcement speech. We revisit Herbert Hoover’s hopes for a return to Pennsylvania Avenue. And Russell Vought of the Center for Renewing America explains why he’s backing Mr Trump. John...


Checks and Balance: Red faces

Republicans should have done better. With high inflation and an unpopular president, the stage was set for them to easily take back both chambers of Congress. Instead they look on track to barely capture the House, and the Senate is most likely to stay blue. It was a bad result for Donald Trump, whose handpicked election-denying candidates underperformed horribly. What do the midterm election results mean for America? The Economist’s Elliott Morris assesses how our election model did. We...


Checks and Balance: End of midterm

The big guns are out. Donald Trump has three rallies planned before election day. Barack Obama has popped up in several battleground states. The former presidents will, separately, converge on Pennsylvania at the weekend, where Obama will be joined by a lesser-spotted figure on the trail: President Biden. What’s at stake in these midterm elections? The Economist’s Elliott Morris assesses what pundits have got wrong about the campaign. We consider why Democratic warnings about the future of...


Checks and Balance: Donkey years

For two years Democrats have held the Holy Grail – control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress. The midterms will, most likely, put an end to that. Divided government is going to make Joe Biden’s agenda much harder to pass: what will the legacy of his first two years in power be? The Economist’s Henry Curr takes us through “Bidenomics”. We go back to the last time Democrats had a government trifecta. And The Economist’s Stevie Hertz speaks to voters who have been helped by the...


Checks and Balance: Bordering on chaos

So far this year officials at the southern border have encountered over two million people trying to enter America. The actual number crossing is likely to be much higher. Two thousand miles north, New York’s mayor has declared a state of emergency. 20,000 migrants have arrived in the city, bused there by politicians further south. Is there a solution to this intractable problem? And will immigration lose Democrats votes in the midterms? The Economist’s Alexandra Suich Bass assesses the...


Checks and Balance: Quality control

A celebrity doctor who recently lived out of state. An ex-football player beset by controversy. When Mitch McConnell said that “candidate quality” might handicap Republicans’ chances of taking the Senate, it’s likely he was referring to Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker. Democrats have some flawed candidates too, but the Republican bad batch is getting more attention. Why is that? Georgia journalist Stephen Fowler explains how voters in the state are reacting to the accusations against Walker....


Checks and Balance: On the money

The most important issue for Americans is the economy. When asked, in a poll by YouGov for The Economist, to pick from a list of a dozen problems facing the nation, over a third of people said that the state of the economy or inflation is their top concern. Republicans have a clear lead on the issue and so they ought to do well in the midterms. Except it's more complicated than that: most people don't have an accurate picture of how the economy is doing, and partisanship fills the gap. The...


Checks and Balance: House party

House Republicans have launched their legislative agenda for the next Congress. The “Commitment to America” is fairly brief, pretty unspecific, and filled with standard Republican platitudes around tax cuts and curbing wasteful spending. Kevin McCarthy, who will probably be Speaker if his party wins, calls it “a new direction” for America. What would Republicans do with control of the House? We dissect what’s in the “Commitment to America”, and look at its famous predecessor. Representative...


Checks and Balance: Ukraine relief

“The world should see the outrageous acts for what they are," Joe Biden told the United Nations General Assembly this week, condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. So far, America has led efforts to support Ukraine’s fight back against the aggressor next door. But with food and energy prices high, Vladimir Putin announcing a partial mobilisation (whatever that is) and once again threatening to use nuclear weapons, how long-lasting will support from the West be? Jeremy Shapiro of the...


Checks and Balance: Roe your own way

The most significant moment in the midterms campaigns may have come in June. That was when the Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v Wade, taking away the federal right to an abortion and sending the decision back to the states. This fired up Democratic candidates and voters. The party has been doing well in special elections and referendums, and making gains in the polls. How much is this to do with the fight for abortion rights? The Economist’s Stevie Hertz travels to Michigan to hear...