PRESS Pass: Yuval Levin


Yuval Levin, editor of the quarterly journal National Affairs, says that while the recent budget agreement reached between Rep. Paul Ryan and (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is small, it’s a change from recent years in Washington. But the big gap between right and left still exists.

“If you simply look at the budget numbers, the real drivers are the entitlement programs, but there’s a great deal of disagreement about whether the solution to those problems will have to do with changing the tax system, changing how we pay for those programs or changing what those programs are and what they do,” Levin tells David Gregory in this week’s edition of PRESS Pass.

“The left and right disagree about how to prioritize those questions. It’s been a disagreement that’s been very long standing.”

The history of that debate is the subject of Levin’s new book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, the Birth of Right and Left. In the book, Levin examines the consistent historical divide of right versus left in American politics.

“In a certain way, the American story is a story of these two sets of ways of looking at politics pulling each other back. Each of them goes a little too far, the other takes over. The public thinks it’s time to move right, it’s time to move left,” Levin says. “Our politics has never provided one side or the other winning that argument.”

A recent example of that great divide is in the health care debate, where Levin says the differences could not be more profound. “The left and right – in a sense – agree about what the problem is. We have a very inefficient healthcare system,” he says.

“The question about what to do about that is actually a very fundamental economic question that divides left and right,” Levin says later. “How do you achieve efficiency?”

Who were Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, and how did they influence our current political system? Does Levin despair about our system of politics? Check out PRESS Pass above to find out.