Left, Right & Center-logo

Left, Right & Center


Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.


Santa Monica, CA





Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.




1900 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405 310-450-5183


Vaccines, masks, carrots, sticks

Masks are back. The CDC says even vaccinated Americans should resume wearing masks as the Delta variant sends case counts skyrocketing. But why are we still talking about masks when the most effective tool to fight COVID is the vaccines? What’s stalling government vaccine mandates for federal employees? Are we using carrots and sticks effectively? Then: it’s not a bipartisan infrastructure framework anymore — it’s a bipartisan infrastructure deal. It includes hard infrastructure like roads,...


Rush before recess

Congress is in that busy mode before it goes on vacation. What’s moving forward? Right now, it’s the negotiations over the bipartisan infrastructure framework and Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending package. What’s stalling? Voting rights and police reform. Josh Barro talks with panelists Megan McArdle and Gustavo Arellano about why that’s fizzled and all the homework Congress is trying to finish before summer recess. Then: the delta variant is continuing to wreak havoc on the...


The Democrats’ go-big budget

This week on Left, Right & Center: Senate Democrats have their plates full between the bipartisan infrastructure bill they’re already working on and a new $3.5 trillion spending bill they announced this week. This one would be mostly social spending: paid family leave, child care, universal pre-kindergarten and expanding Medicare to include vision, dental and hearing. Josh Barro, Liz Bruenig and Megan McArdle discuss whether there will be public support for infrastructure and this big social...


Leaving Afghanistan

On this week’s Left Right & Center, Josh, Liz and Ross talk about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. But what do we have to show for America’s longest war? And should we fear a return of the Taliban to power? Then: We now know who’s winning the Democratic primary– and likely the mayorship– in New York City. Who is Eric Adams, and does his “Biden-style politics” mark a crucial break from the progressive left? Also: we take a deep dive into the political and...


Special presentation of All The Presidents’ Lawyers

This week’s episode is a special presentation of All The Presidents’ Lawyers, a KCRW podcast that Josh Barro and Ken White host. It’s all about the legal problems of presidents and their associates. This week: the indictments of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg and various Trump businesses came down. The charges allege a a fifteen-year tax fraud scheme that protected Weisselberg and other Trump Organization employees from paying tax. In Weisselberg’s case, that’s over $1.7 million...


It’s Infrastructure Week, again!

A bipartisan success story: That’s how President Biden wants us to remember the infrastructure deal he announced this week. It was an opportunity for the president to remind people that he gets Congress, he knows how to reach across the aisle, and he’ll still reassure progressives that it won’t stop him from delivering on other Democratic priorities. In this episode: Ross, Liz and Josh discuss what’s in the infrastructure deal, if it’ll get the additional support it needs to be come a...


Or else

After a highly anticipated summit between President Biden and Vladimir Putin, here’s what we’re left with: if Russia’s going to cyberattack the United States, they should not target sixteen critical areas of American society and infrastructure, or else. What does that mean? And where does that leave us with Russian hackers that aren’t part of the government? Also: The Supreme Court upholds Obamacare after another attempt to shake it down. Is this a win for progressives? Is it a major loss...


Secret Congress

Joe Biden is in Europe. He’s meeting with the G7, then he’ll see European and NATO leaders and meet one-on-one with Putin. European leaders are relieved Trump is gone, but does that mean they have an alignment of interests with Biden ashe seeks to challenge Russia and China? And is that more pressing than the role of G7 leaders in leading vaccination around the world? Then: the new bipartisan infrastructure deal is so secret nobody even know what’s in it. We know one thing that’s not in it:...


An improved jobs report but still a long road to economic recovery

The jobs report for May was better than April but still left a lot of room for improvement. Workers are being more selective, which may not be a bad thing. With a tight labor market and a material shortage, is this the right time for a big infrastructure package? Negotiations continue in Washington for a possible bipartisan deal, but the final package may be much more modest than what President Biden hoped for. The cruise line industry is trying to recover after a devastating year and the...


Sausage making

Congress has been unusually productive lately. The sausage making process is actually getting us some sausage — in this case, a bipartisan plan to boost spending on applied science research, framed as a way to compete with China. There is less agreement on the bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 riot, and as expected, Republicans blocked the plan after we recorded this episode. Josh Barro and panelists Elizabeth Bruenig, Rahcel Bovard and David Frum discuss why and the split...


Look at Congress being normal again

There is a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. Joe Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he expected a significant and swift de-escalation, which he got. But the Biden administration’s overall approach to Israel and Palestine has been to keep expectations low and not get too involved. There are no big peace process hopes here. Is there anything more productive the US can do? Then: Congress is being normal again. There’s a big science funding bill that’s probably going...


Is it time to cut unemployment benefits?

Inflation is back! It may not be here to stay — there’s a lot of weirdness in the economy right now — but with wages rising quickly despite surprisingly weak job growth in April, some states are moving to cut off unenhanced unemployment benefits in an effort to drive more Americans back into work. Is that a good idea? Will it work? And will it push back on inflation? Josh Barro talks with panelists Tim Carney and Elizabeth Bruenig about that, and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that...


Where are all the jobs?

The April jobs report number was disappointing. We expected a million new jobs and only got 260,000. There are a few factors that could be slowing job growth: a very specific reason why manufacturing jobs are down, enhanced unemployment benefits, disrupted child care and school schedule, and the pandemic and the pace of vaccination. Then: it’s possible that Rep. Liz Cheney will no longer be in House Republican leadership. She’s been outspoken about her disapproval of Donald Trump and her...


The low-rated, kinda sleepy and quietly radical speech

President Biden made his first address to a joint session of Congress. It didn’t get big TV ratings, but the content reflected big changes to what he’d have the government do, with trillions of dollars in new spending on infrastructure and social programs. So is Joe Biden a quiet radical? Or is he just showing that a left agenda was never that intensely controversial if you did it quietly? And how did Republican Senator Tim Scott do in his response to Biden’s address? His speech drew a lot...



Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts for the death of George Floyd last summer. The prosecution’s case against him was strong and the jury deliberated for less than two days before reaching their unanimous verdicts. So why did this result feel like a surprise to so many Americans? Josh Barro talks with panelists Tim Carney, Gustavo Arellano and Keli Goff about the verdicts, bipartisan negotiations over reforming law enforcement, and what Americans...


Pause & Review

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on pause, out of an abundance of caution, federal officials say. Out of more than 7 million J&J doses administered so far, there have been six incidents of a rare and serious kind of blood clot. The idea for the pause is to figure out whether anything needs to change about the use of this particular vaccine, but are there unintended consequences? Josh Barro and panelists Jamelle Bouie and Lanhee Chen discuss that, plus President Biden’s effort to raise...


Carrots over sticks

Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan has stretched the definition of infrastructure. One component is over $200 billion for housing. Home prices are rising around the country and affordability is a bigger issue than ever, but will incentivizing local governments to make zoning less restrictive and build more housing actually get more Americans into the homes they want? Then: Josh Barro and panelists Jamelle Bouie and Lanhee Chen discuss how governors have handled the pandemic and how they’ve...


Infrastructure Week, maybe for real this time

It’s finally Infrastructure Week! Maybe for real this time? Josh Barro and panelists Christine Emba and Lanhee Chen discuss President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure package that includes funding for more traditional infrastructure, like transportation, water and utilities and more. But there’s also something Biden’s calling “infrastructure at home”: affordable housing, school upgrades, broadband and more. Is this a Democrat’s wishlist, or are there aspects of this bill that can gain...


Biden meets the press

Joe Biden gave the first press conference of his presidency this week. He took a bit of a victory lap, saying we’ll actually get 200 million shots in his first hundred days and noting that about half of schools are fully open and over 100 million Americans have gotten their $1400 payments. Okay, so what’s next? What about the non-covid agenda items for the Biden administration, which may actually prove more politically challenging. Biden did not seem bullish on gun legislation. He noted...


Tragedy in Georgia

Congress is debating how to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. House Democrats passed their version this week, but Republicans in the Senate have concerns about guns and other issues. As the nation reacts to a horrific attack aimed at Asian American women in Atlanta, what is the prospect for federal action? Josh Barro speaks with Christine Emba and Megan McArdle about objections to the bill — are Democrats arguing against a more progressive position on policing? Are Republicans just...