home Must Reads Must reads: Buying foreign policy, universal basic income, kleptocracy, President Duterte, and investigating a family mystery

Must reads: Buying foreign policy, universal basic income, kleptocracy, President Duterte, and investigating a family mystery


Good morning! This week we’re reading a variety of stories exploring issues like kleptocracy in the Trump Administration, experiments with universal basic income, and the strange history of a hitman and the stories he has to tell. As always, we want to hear about what you’re reading, too, so drop us a line in the comments!

We’re also doing some listening! If you haven’t checked it out yet, catch the first episode of our new podcast — subscribe on iTunes and Soundcloud, and you’ll always be able to catch transcripts of episodes here at Global Comment. Last week’s episode featured an interview with Omar Saif Ghobash and it’s a fascinating listen. Please be sure to rate and review in addition to subscribing so other listeners can find us!

How Wealthy Donors Drive Aggressive Foreign Policy‘ (Sean McElwee, Brian Schaffner and Jesse Rhodes for The Nation)

When in doubt, follow the money. This deep dig on how wealthy political influencers drive US foreign policy decisions is a fascinating, and revealing, look at the influence of big money on politics.

On several key questions, wealthy people – and, in particular, “elite donors” (those who contribute $5,000 or more, or the top 1 percent of all donors) – are much more enthusiastic about the projection of American force than are American adults. The enthusiasm of the most wealthy and influential private actors in American politics provides a durable reservoir of support for the assertion of American power abroad. Given the profound, and likely growing, influence of political donors in American politics, our findings suggest that strong political supports for American foreign interventionism will remain long after Bannon, and Trump, have departed the executive branch.

Is the Basic Income Experiment in Kenya Really the Best Way to Combat Poverty?‘ (Jack Denton for Pacific Standard)

Basic income is sometimes touted as a novel way to address social inequality and build a more socially and politically active society. But does it actually work, and what kinds of conditions must be present for it to function effectively?

GiveDirectly has estimated that its basic income program is 61 percent less cost effective (in terms of wealth increases per expenditure) than a lump sum cash transfer program. If one of GiveDirectly’s founding principles is RCT-based accountability, then why does its latest program seem to disregard past evidence?

My Mother’s Murder‘ (Leah Carroll for NY Mag)

This fantastic excerpt makes me want to run out and buy a copy of Down City, which admittedly is precisely the point. It is a thoughtful, deep exploration of a mystery that has a immediate resonance for the author — the disappearance of her own mother.

The difference between our world of make-believe and the regular world is that in our world of make-believe my mom is still alive. In the real world, my mom’s body will remain off the side of the highway, undiscovered for five months. But because there is no trolley car to signal the beginning and end of the make-believe, my grandma and I keep at it relentlessly.

A Politician and an Ex-Hitman Take on Philippine Leader‘ (Katrin Kuntz for Der Spiegel)

This is a fascinating, complicated, layered story and a reminder that truth is stranger than fiction. While President Duterte doesn’t occupy much screen time in Western media, he should — and this is one reason why.

Matobato is the most important witness of an unprecedented occurrence in his country. Last September, speaking under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he accused the president of creating an army of killers when he was mayor of Davao. The members of the so-called “Davao death squads” now operate nationwide, he says.

As Health Secretary, Tom Price Adds to Whiff of Kleptocracy‘ (Sharona Coutts for Rewire)

Tom Price didn’t attract much attention or controversy during his confirmation hearings, and he should have — at the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services, he will play a tremendous role in shaping health care policy in America, and his past doesn’t speak well of him.

The pattern emerging is that Price has pushed for or against bills or regulatory actions which could affect a group of companies, when he either already owns their stock, or goes on to purchase it.

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Photo:  Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons