Prufrock: A History of Cool, American Watercolors, and the High Price of Defending Appropriation

Reviews and News:

The editor of the magazine Write, published by The Writers’ Union of Canada, has resigned over an article defending cultural appropriation. A member of the editorial board also resigned. “But none of that was good enough for the TWUC Equity Task Force, whose members issued nine demands, calling for the magazine to be ‘turned over’ for the next three issues to indigenous and other racialized editors and writers, that the next Write editor must be not only be an indigenous writer or writer of colour, but also ‘active and respected in indigenous sovereignty or anti-racist cultural movements for at least three years,’ affirmative action hires for future TWUC office staff, with priority given to indigenous or racialized writers and ‘writers with disabilities and trans writers,’ anti-racist education for all staff and editorial committee members and “a paid equity officer position housed in the main TWUC offices.”

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The Wall Street Journal‘s new books editor is Christopher Carduff.

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A history of cool: “For Joel Dinerstein, cool is an apotheosis, elevating those who possess it to the secular equivalent of near-divine status.”

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A woman who claimed to be the (non-existent) twin daughters of T. S. Eliot has been arrested. “Using the fake identities, she posed as a theatre producer and director and falsely claimed VAT credits in the name of bogus dramatic companies.”

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Four tons of garbage collected from the north side of Mount Everest: “The nine-day cleanup that began Saturday targets climbing trails and campsites between 5,200 and 6,500 meters (17,000 and 21,300 feet).”

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American watercolor: “If you care at all about watercolor, either as a practitioner or an aficionado, get yourself over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art with all the alacrity you can muster. There is a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition about the American watercolor tradition on display there through Sunday, May 14, and to miss it would be a kind of sin against the medium.”

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Essay of the Day:

In The New York Times Magazine, Matthew Desmond looks at how home ownership can increase, not decrease, inequality:

“When we think of entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare immediately come to mind. But by any fair standard, the holy trinity of United States social policy should also include the mortgage-interest deduction — an enormous benefit that has also become politically untouchable.

“The MID came into being in 1913, not to spur homeownership but simply as part of a general policy allowing businesses to deduct interest payments from loans. At that time, most Americans didn’t own their homes and only the rich paid income tax, so the effects of the mortgage deduction on the nation’s tax proceeds were fairly trivial. That began to change in the second half of the 20th century, though, because of two huge transformations in American life. First, income tax was converted from an elite tax to a mass tax: In 1932, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (precursor to the I.R.S.) processed fewer than two million individual tax returns, but 11 years later, it processed over 40 million. At the same time, the federal government began subsidizing homeownership through large-scale initiatives like the G.I. Bill and mortgage insurance. Homeownership grew rapidly in the postwar period, and so did the MID.

“By the time policy makers realized how extravagant the MID had become, it was too late to do much about it without facing significant backlash. Millions of voters had begun to count on getting that money back. Even President Ronald Reagan, who oversaw drastic cuts to housing programs benefiting low-income Americans, let the MID be. Subsequent politicians followed suit, often eager to discuss reforms to Social Security and Medicare but reluctant to touch the MID, even as the program continued to grow more costly: By 2019, MID expenditures are expected to exceed $96 billion.

“‘Once we’re in a world with a MID,’ says Todd Sinai, a professor of real estate and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, ‘it is very hard to get to a world without the MID.’ That’s in part because the benefit helps to prop up home values. It’s impossible to say how much, but a widely cited 1996 study estimated that eliminating the MID and property-tax deductions would result in a 13 to 17 percent reduction in housing prices nationwide, though that estimate varies widely by region and more recent analyses have found smaller effects. The MID allows home buyers to collect more after-tax savings if they take on more mortgage debt, which incentivizes them to pay more for properties than they could have otherwise. By inflating home values, the MID benefits Americans who already own homes — and makes joining their ranks harder.”

Read the rest.

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Photo: Seaweed farms

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Poem: Rachel Plummer, “Wide as the Ocean Is”

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This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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