Is the GOP Becoming the Party of Ideas?

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
Aug. 8 2014 11:33 AM

The “Conservative Nanny State” Gabfest

Listen to Slate’s show about Paul Ryan’s poverty plan, Tennessee’s Supreme Court retention elections, and Ebola panic.


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On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, David Plotz, Emily Bazelon, and John Dickerson discuss Paul Ryan’s new poverty plan, the Tennessee lieutenant governor’s quest to oust Democratically appointed state Supreme Court justices, and the largest Ebola outbreak in years.

Here are some of the links and references mentioned during this week's show:

  • After months of traveling the country and meeting with national and local leaders, Rep. Paul Ryan released a 73-page plan to combat poverty through a consolidation and re-evaluation of federal programs.
  • Liberals have praised the plan’s support for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, while noting the paternalistic implications of Ryan’s ideas.
  • Ryan’s history within the poverty discussion doesn’t inspire confidence on the left for his new plan—Ryan’s rhetoric can be heavy-handed and his austere budgets proposed deep cuts to welfare and entitlement spending.
  • While block grants give state and local governments more flexibility to spend federal money in ways that address unique regional issues, they don’t respond to economic changes.
  • Likely GOP presidential candidates are looking to rejuvenate the Republican Party with fresh policy ideas.
  • Tennessee isn’t the first state to have a contentious judicial retention election—in 2010, Iowans ousted the three justices who ruled that the state law banning gay marriage was unconstitutional. In 1986, California voters removed three state justices who generally didn’t uphold death penalty sentences.
  • Andrew Cohen wrote about the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s study on retention elections and the effect of campaign contributions on judicial bias.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has mostly stayed out of the attempt to unseat the state’s justices, but he is supporting a constitutional amendment that will write the current judicial system into the state’s constitution.
  • Bioethicist Arthur Caplan wrote about the complicated web of consent, regulation, insurance, and experimentation that is determining why only two white Americans have been given the Ebola-fighting antibody Zmapp.
  • The makers of Zmapp are facing backlash for their decision to only treat the two Americans stricken with Ebola, a point that the Onion satirically capitalized on.
  • The Tuskegee Study demonstrated the need for informed consent so that medical professionals operating unethically cannot take advantage of human subjects. 

John chatters about the Chicago Architectural Tour.

Emily chatters about the U.S. Postal Service’s proposed Harry Potter stamps.

David chatters about the legal owner of the monkey selfie.

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest.

The email address for the Political Gabfest is (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Andy Bowers and Ann Heppermann. Links compiled by Max Tani.

Correction, Aug. 8, 2014: In the audio of this podcast, Emily Bazelon misstated that researchers in the Tuskegee Study injected subjects with syphilis. They did not. The experiment followed the natural progression of the untreated virus in people who already had the disease, and who thought the government was giving them health care.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.


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