Weekly Roundup 4/16/2012

Coming Soon: ‘Taxmageddon’
David Leonhardt, The New York Times, April 15, 2012

Synopsis: On the eve of Tax Day, the Times’ Washington bureau chief sets the stage for major federal tax and spending changes due to kick in on Jan. 1, 2013, unless Congress and the president agree on alternate plans. Taxes would rise for virtually all Americans, and major across-the-board spending cuts will kick in for defense and domestic spending. “All in all,” Leonhardt writes, “the end of 2012 will be unlike any other time in memory for the federal government.”

Takeaway: Political agreements on tax reform, entitlement reforms and spending reductions remain elusive, but, Leonhardt concludes, “the era of falling taxes and growing benefits cannot last forever.”

For CQ Researcher coverage, see these reports by Marcia Clemmitt, “National Debt,” March 18, 2011; “Budget Deficit,” Dec. 9, 2005.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Big Book
Chris Jones, Esquire, May 2012

Synopsis: Biographer/historian Robert Caro had planned four volumes on the life of Lyndon B. Johnson, but while working on the fourth volume, which tops 700 pages and comes out next month, he realized there would have to be five. As a fan of books that immerse me in someone else's world, I enjoyed Esquire's conversation with Caro about his process for writing these longest-of-long-form works -- increasingly, dinosaurs in our twittering days.

Takeaway: "'Nobody believes this, but I write very fast,’ " Caro told Jones. "Before he writes, however, he sits at his desk, and he looks out his window at the glass building across the street, and he thinks about what each of his books is to become.... Once he is certain, he will write one or two paragraphs … that capture his ambitions. Those two paragraphs will be his guide for as long as he's working on the book. Whenever he feels lost … he can read those two paragraphs back to himself and find anchor again."

For some reflections on the fate of long-form reading and writing in the Internet age, see these CQ Researcher reports: Future of Libraries (July 29, 2011), Future of Books (May 29, 2009, updated Sept. 14, 2010), and Reading Crisis? (Feb. 22, 2008). Note: The New York Times Magazine also carried a fascinating profile of Caro on April 15.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Nigeria’s Population Is Soaring In Preview of a Global Problem
By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times, April 15, 2012, P. A1

Synopsis: At the rate Nigeria is growing, in 25 years the population will reach 300 million – a population about as big as the United States in a country the size of Arizona and New Mexico.

Takeaway: The expected growth in Nigeria reflects rapid growth expected globally, but especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations. In response, alarmed governments in the region have begun reversing policies that encouraged large families.

For background see the following CQ Global Researcher reports: Sub-Saharan Democracy, Feb. 15, 2011; Rescuing Children, October 2009, and China in Africa, January 2008.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor