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TL(PM) DIGEST: Indian PM Modi receives the red carpet treatment
Plus U.S. cities come up short on livability ranking, test scores crater post-pandemic, and Americans mostly agree on the nation's biggest problems
1. Washington rolls out the red carpet for India’s Modi
What happened? Official Washington gives Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a lavish welcome today, with Modi giving an address to a joint session of Congress this afternoon and the White House hosting a state dinner tonight. This enthusiastic reception comes despite deep and long-standing concerns about Modi’s autocratic populist politics and his country’s slide into illiberalism under his rule.
Why does it matter? The Biden administration and a number of American foreign policymakers hope to cultivate India as a strategic counterweight to China on the Asian continent—and keep weaning New Delhi off Russian military hardware. To that end, the United States is expected to sign deals to, among other things, supply India with Reaper drones and co-manufacture military fighter jet engines.
TLP’s take: While it’s important for the Biden administration to cultivate good relations with India, that’s no reason to ignore the rights abuses that have occurred on Modi’s watch or the increasingly illiberal political atmosphere he’s fostered in the country. Above all, though, it’s unnecessary given the wider geopolitical realities that ought to compel closer strategic cooperation between the United States and India.
2. No U.S. cities crack the top ten list of most livable places in the world
What happened? The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its annual global livability index ranking the world’s cities based on 5 measures of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. Vienna, Copenhagen, and Melbourne make up the top three most livable cities in the world.
Why does it matter? Unfortunately, no U.S. cities appear in the EIU’s top ten list of most livable places in the world. In fact, Los Angeles and San Diego emerge among the cities with the biggest declines in the rankings over the past 12 months, while New York also fell ten spots to number 69 on the list.
TLP’s take: Nearly all the top 10 most livable cities are smaller to mid-sized ones with few truly big cities making the cut. But nearly all the top 50 cities are found in rich countries like the U.S., so we have no excuses really. American cities clearly should be doing a better job of creating economically vibrant places for residents with a good quality of life for everyone. America’s great cities have taken a hit in recent years, but they should not be complacent about unaffordable housing, congestion, crime, poor schools, and deteriorating public services.
3. Post-pandemic test scores crater across the country
What happened? New test score data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that test scores for America’s thirteen year old students plummeted during the pandemic and have not recovered since. As the Washington Post reports:
National test scores plummeted for 13-year-olds, according to new data that shows the single largest drop in math in 50 years and no signs of academic recovery following the disruptions of the pandemic.
Student scores plunged nine points in math and four points in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often regarded as the nation’s report card. The release Wednesday reflected testing in fall 2022, comparing it to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic began…
The average math score is now the same as it was in 1990, while the average reading score is the same as it was in 2004.
Why does it matter? Pandemic-era remote learning took a major toll on America’s students. Previous research suggested that students lost two years’ worth of math education and a year and a half of reading, as well as failing to develop the social skills that come with in-person learning and interactions with classmates. What’s more, ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis notes, the data
also shows that the falloff was far greater among Black and Hispanic students than among whites and Asians, expanding disparities that had been gradually shrinking in recent decades.
TLP’s take: An honest reckoning of America’s pandemic response needs to take this massive failure into account, as do the blistering hot takes on the state of America’s education system today that dwell excessively on culture war subjects. America’s public schools failed their students, and it’s no wonder parents are upset with them—or that they’re not willing to give the education establishment much leeway moving forward.
4. Americans across party lines agree on basic problems facing the U.S.
What happened? A new study from the Pew Research Center examines what voters believe are the most important problems facing the country today, finding general agreement in many areas despite some divergences.
Why does it matter? Although partisan differences emerge, majorities of Democrats and Republicans view inflation, affordable health care, drug addiction, and violent crime as very big problems. Notably, the smallest gap between members of the two parties is on “the ability of Democrats and Republicans to work together”—63 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats agree that this is a very big problem facing the country today.
TLP’s take: Left to their own devices, most Americans would agree that we need more concrete steps to lower inflation, reduce health care costs, and fight drug addiction and violent crime. The problem is one of political will and leadership, as the parties and political leaders—not ordinary citizens—too often stand in the way of meaningful action on these fronts.
Just one more thing…
It’s apparently the season of the bear in Washington, DC: two weeks after a two-hundred pound black bear dubbed Franklin was seen roaming the streets of the nation’s capital, two more black bears were sighted on Theodore Roosevelt Island —where a juvenile refused to be lured by “a trap with sardines and marmalade”—and in Arlington, Virginia neighborhoods.