How The Budget Mess in Congress Hurts All of Us

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Liberals and conservatives agree: the federal budget process is a mess. Can it be overhauled?

One of the key functions of Congress is to pass a budget. But often that seems close to impossible. Lack of agreement over federal spending regularly threatens to bring about government shutdowns, which affect millions of Americans. Yet few of us can even begin to understand the byzantine budget process.

Our guests on this week’s episode of Let’s Find Common Ground want to change that.

In this show, we meet two experts from different sides of the political aisle who came together with other policy experts to make the budget process simpler, more efficient and more transparent.

At the time of the Convergence dialogue, Alison Acosta Winters was a Senior Policy Fellow at Americans for Prosperity. Emily Holubowich was Executive Director of the Coalition for Health Funding. Alison is a fiscal conservative while Emily is an advocate for greater government support for health care. Still, each agrees that the current budget process is a mess and keeps Americans in the dark about how their money is being spent.

Brought together by Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, Alison, Emily and other stakeholders from diverse backgrounds spent months working together to come up with several major proposals for overhauling the budget process – proposals they hope will shine some light on how our government works. These proposals are currently being considered in Congress and enjoy bipartisan support.

This podcast was co-produced in partnership with Convergence Center for Policy Resolution and is one of a series of podcasts that Common Ground Committee and Convergence are producing together. Each highlights the common ground that resulted from one of Convergence’s structured dialogues-across-differences. Learn more about the Convergence budget dialogue and read more about the Convergence dialogue recommendations.

Join us for an interesting lesson in simplifying the arcane process of federal budgeting on “Let’s Find Common Ground.”

Alison Acosta Winters

Alison Acosta Winters was most recently a Senior Policy Fellow at Americans for Prosperity and the Charles Koch Foundation where she worked on trade, economic, and fiscal policy. While there, Winters participated in the Convergence Building a Better Budget Process dialogue with a broad array of stakeholders that resulted in a series of policy recommendations that have received attention in Congress.

Prior to that, Winters was the Director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy at the Heritage Foundation. She wrote on a wide variety of economic issues, including co-authoring the Heritage Fiscal Plan Saving the American Dream. While at Heritage, Winters participated in the Fiscal Wake Up Tour which brought together policy experts from different perspectives to educate Americans about the unsustainable fiscal path the nation is on and policy choices that could address the problem.

Winters has appeared in numerous media outlets including Bloomberg, CNN, Fox, PBS and NPR. Her work has been seen in USA Today, Politico, The Hill, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and more.

Emily Holubowich

Emily joined the American Heart Association in 2019 as the Vice President of Federal Advocacy with more than twenty years of experience in health and fiscal policy, government relations, strategic communications, and coalition management. She is frequently sought out by the media for her expertise on public health and fiscal policy, serves as a lecturer in health policy and management at The George Washington University, and is called upon by national organizations to lecture on the policy environment and best practices in strategic communications and advocacy. In a volunteer capacity, Emily serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Previously, Emily was a senior vice president at CRD Associates, where she worked with several clients in the public health community—including the Coalition for Health Funding as its Executive Director. Prior to CRD Associates, Emily was the director of government relations for AcademyHealth and a senior health policy analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Emily holds a Master of Public Policy from The Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

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Story Hinckley & Christa Case Bryant Podcast

The State of Polarization: 2022

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A year after the assault on the Capitol, is America more or less polarized? Two journalists search for answers.

One year after the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol, we take a close look at America’s political divide with two journalists who covered the calamitous events of that day and the reactions to what happened.

Our guests are Christa Case Bryant, Congressional correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, and Story Hinckley, the Monitor’s National political correspondent. We discuss whether America is more polarized than it was one year ago and the prospects for finding common ground in Congress and across the country.

In their reporting throughout the year, both journalists sought answers to complex questions about what caused people to storm the Capitol, and why Democrats and Republicans have very different views about voter access, election laws, and the controversy over the 2020 vote count. In this episode, we also examine the role of the media and individual reporters in covering the state of polarization.

Join us as we begin our third year of “Let’s Find Common Ground.”

Read more from Christa Case Bryant and Story Hinckley: “A divided anniversary: Jan. 6 in the eyes of those who were there.”

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Ep 47 – The State of Polarization: 2022

Story Hinckley

Story Hinckley is a National Political Correspondent based in Washington.

She holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia where she double majored in Political Science and Environmental Thought and Practice, and a master’s in journalism from Northeastern University.

Christa Case Bryant

Christa Case Bryant is The Christian Science Monitor’s senior Congressional correspondent, building on four years of experience editing and reporting on U.S. politics, including as Heartland correspondent.

A 2015-16 Nieman fellow at Harvard, she previously served as the Monitor’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Middle East editor, and Europe editor. She has reported from Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, Estonia, and South Korea.

Ms. Bryant holds an M.A. in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a B.A. from Principia College, where she focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a major in global perspectives and a minor in religion. She also attended the Middlebury School of Hebrew and studied spoken Arabic in Jerusalem.

After spending many years as a cross-country ski racer on the national and international level, Ms. Bryant has a special interest in all things Olympian. She covered the Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2018.

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Change Makers: People Making a Difference

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When times seem dark, how can we be uplifted? Get inspired by people making a difference.

In a world of problems and catastrophes, we look at a handful of extraordinary problem solvers: People who use their passion and personal experience of life to make a difference.

We speak with Dave Scott, Engagement Editor at The Christian Science Monitor, about the remarkable stories of individuals who use generosity, hope and innovation to inspire others to uplift their fellow human beings.

With original stories and personal anecdotes, we hear how listening and trust are essential elements in constructive change and finding common ground.

This special year-end episode includes excerpts from the Monitor’s new podcast, “People Making a Difference.” We hear about what a 12-year-old can teach us about empathy and kindness; how the Sewing Machine Project has repaired thousands of lives around the world, and why LavaMaeX is providing hot showers, pop-up care villages and radical hospitality for homeless people in California.

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Ep 46 – Change Makers: People Making a Difference

Dave Scott

David Clark Scott oversees the innovation and evolution of, as well as The Christian Science Monitor’s newsletters and social media platforms.

Previously, as product manager and online director, Scott has led teams that were part-Skunkworks, part journalism, and part tech training. Those cross-functional teams often served as the bridge between the editorial, business, and technical teams of

Prior to joining the web team, Scott was the International News Editor at the Monitor. In 2007, he won the inaugural Dart Society Mimi Award – “the first of its kind to recognize editors who advocate relentlessly for the integrity of stories and invest time in shaping the talents of journalists.”

Scott was a 2011 Fellow of the Punch Sulzberger Program at Columbia University.

Scott has also been the Monitor’s Latin America bureau chief in Mexico City, Australasia bureau chief in Sydney, and Wall Street bureau chief in New York.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

Dr. Yergin Climate Podcast

Climate Action and the Global Need for Energy

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Energy demands are rising. So are calls for climate action. Can we find a global solution?

At a time of increasingly urgent calls for climate action, the world also faces ever-rising demand for energy. How can these two trends be reconciled as we experience soaring gas prices and supply chain disruptions?

Our guest is Pulitzer Prize-winning author and energy expert Daniel Yergin, Vice Chairman of IHS Markit and chairman of CERAWeek, which CNBC has described as “the Super Bowl of world energy.” Dr. Yergin says the energy transition is very complicated, and the degree to which the world still depends on oil and natural gas is not well understood.

In this episode, we look at the prospects for common ground among environmentalists and energy industry executives. We examine why a new map of energy and geopolitics is emerging. Daniel Yergin explains how future innovations in green energy could prove to be just as surprising as the “shale revolution” in oil and gas which transformed the American economy and ended an era of energy shortage.

We discuss his latest book, The New Map, and how technology revolutions in energy may transform our thinking about carbon markets and change how polarizing battles over climate are conducted. All on Let’s Find Common Ground.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep 45 Climate Action and the Global Need for Energy

Daniel Yergin

Daniel Yergin is a highly respected authority on energy, international politics, and economics. He is Vice Chairman of IHS Markit, one of the world’s largest research and information companies; and chairman of CERAWeek, which CNBC has described as “the Super Bowl of world energy.”

He has served on the US Secretary of Energy Advisory Board under the last four presidents. He is a member of the Energy Policy Council of the Dallas Federal Reserve, a director of the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior trustee of the Brookings Institution. He also serves as a member of the National Petroleum Council, a director of the United States Energy Association, and of the US-Russia Business Council.

Dr. Yergin holds a BA from Yale University, where he founded The New Journal, and a PhD from Cambridge University, where he was a Marshall Scholar.

He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Prime Minister of India, and the first James Schlesinger Medal for Energy Security from the U.S. Department of Energy. Among other honors, he was also awarded the United States Energy Award for “lifelong achievements in energy and the promotion of international understanding,” and the Charles Percy Award for Public Service from the Alliance to Save Energy.

In addition to his latest book The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations, Dr. Yergin also authored the bestseller The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World. He is known around the world for his book The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil Money and Power, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

Common ground holiday special tips

Coming Together Across Divides: Holiday Season Special Episode

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How can we connect with people who see the world differently? Get tips from some of our best episodes.

What happens when people of opposing viewpoints and diverse backgrounds work in teams, have conversations, or even sit across the table from each other at family gatherings? How do they come together, listen and have fruitful conversations?

In this special holiday episode, we share stories from past shows. Meet mother and daughter Robbie Lawler and Becca Kearl who share deep love and respect, but vote for different parties. Let psychologist Tania Israel walk you through successful ways to go beyond your bubble and get out of opinion silos and comfort zones.

Listen as race reconciliator Daryl Davis and former white supremacist Ryan Lo’Ree discuss their remarkable work to deradicalize members of hate groups. Experience how co-authors, Republican Jordan Blashek and Democrat Chris Haugh, recount their unlikely friendship that blossomed not despite, but because of their political differences and coast-to-coast road trips in an old Volvo. Hear radio and podcast journalist Ashley Ahearn explain what she learned from her new friends and neighbors after moving from progressive Seattle to conservative ranching country in rural Washington State. All on Let’s Find Common Ground.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 44 Coming Together Across Divides: Holiday Season Special Episode

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Common Ground Podcast Episode 43

Hidden Progress: A More Hopeful Future

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What if we give less airtime to doom? Find out why things today aren’t as bad as we might think.

Sometimes the future can seem dark. The pandemic drags on. Climate change is upon us. Political polarization remains toxic. When stories of division fill the headlines it’s easy to feel like the only way is down.

But what if that’s not true? What if we gave less airtime to voices of doom and more to voices of hope?

Zachary Karabell is the founder of The Progress Network. Emma Varvaloucas is its executive director. The Progress Network focuses on what’s going right with the world and amplifies voices of optimism. Zachary joins us from New York and Emma from her adopted home of Greece, where she’s gained an outsider’s perspective on the US. Emma and Zachary are also the hosts of the podcast ‘What Could Go Right?’

Join us on this episode of Let’s Find Common Ground, as Zachary and Emma discuss the importance of these voices and the possibilities for a more hopeful future. They also put our current time into historical context, which helps to underscore that things today aren’t really as bad as you might think.

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Ep. 43 Hidden Progress: A More Hopeful Future

Zachary Karabell

Zachary Karabell is the founder of The Progress Network. He is an author, columnist, and investor and president of River Twice Capital. Previously, he was Head of Global Strategies at Envestnet, a publicly-traded financial services firm. Prior to that, he was President of Fred Alger & Company. In addition, he ran the River Twice Fund from 2011–2013, an alternative fund that focused on sustainability.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas, an editor and writer with over a decade’s experience in nonprofit media, is the executive director of The Progress Network. She was formerly the executive editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the premier publication covering Buddhist news, culture, and Buddhism’s new home in the West, where she oversaw editorial strategy and production as well as the release of several new ventures, including Buddhism for Beginners.

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

A Climate Scientist Makes the Case for Hope

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Can we alter the status quo on climate change? This scientist makes a case for hope.

Climate change is one of the most divisive issues in our country today. But this wasn’t the case 20 years ago. How did we get here?

Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist and chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy as well as a professor at Texas Tech University. And she’s the author of a new book called Saving Us – a Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.

In this interview, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Katharine explains how climate change became so polarizing, and how each of us can play a part in bridging the divide by starting conversations (even if we never use the words ‘climate’ and ‘change’ together.) She gives examples of how she, an evangelical Christian, talks to other Christians who may dispute the reality of climate change.

Katherine says more than 70 percent of Americans are concerned about our changing climate, but few of us are actively doing anything to alter the status quo. But doing so is easier than we think: the most important thing we can do to curb climate change is talk about it. Hear how on this fascinating episode of Let’s Find Common Ground.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 42 – A Climate Scientist Makes the Case for Hope

Katharine Hayhoe

In addition to serving as Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, Katharine Hayhoe is the Endowed Professor in Public Policy and Public Law and Paul W. Horn Distinguished Professor at Texas Tech University. She served as a lead author for the Second, Third, and Fourth US National Climate Assessment and hosts the PBS digital series Global Weirding.

She is the Climate Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance and has been named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People,” Fortune’s “50 Greatest Leaders,” and Foreign Policy’s “100 Leading Global Thinkers.”

Want to hear more? Check out our podcast page to see all the discussions!

ER doctor, Jay Baruch

How Should We Respond to the Vaccine-Hesitant? With Dr. Jay Baruch

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With hospitals full, how should we respond to the vaccine-hesitant? An ER doctor weighs in.

As an ER doctor, Jay Baruch has been treating Covid patients since the start of the pandemic. He still sees many patients sick with Covid in his ER – the vast majority unvaccinated.

It might seem reasonable for him to share the anger and frustration that many vaccinated Americans feel about the unvaxxed. While Jay (as he likes to be called) wants everyone who is eligible to get the shot, he says judgment does nothing to persuade the hesitant to get the vaccine, and that there is a better way to respond.

Jay is a Professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School. He is also a writer. He recently wrote a piece for STAT, a news site about health, medicine, and the life sciences in which he discusses his desire for a more open dialogue about vaccination, one that involves listening to people’s stories, empathizing with their concerns, and recognizing that all human beings are complicated. Listen for an enlightening approach on this episode of “Let’s Find Common Ground.”

Read more from Jay on STAT: It’s easy to judge the unvaccinated. As a doctor, I see a better alternative

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Ep. 41: How Should We Respond to the Vaccine-Hesitant? With Dr. Jay Baruch

Jay Baruch

Jay Baruch, MD, is Professor of Emergency Medicine at Alpert Medical School of Brown University, where he serves as the director of the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Scholarly Concentration.

Tornado of Life: Constraints and Creativity in the ER, a book of non-fiction narrative essays, is forthcoming from MIT Press in Fall 2022. He’s also the author of two award-winning short fiction collections, What’s Left Out (Kent State University Press, 2015) and Fourteen Stories: Doctors, Patients, and Other Strangers (Kent State University Press, 2007).

Follow him on Twitter at @JBaruchMD.

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Salena Zito

Understanding Trump Voters and American Populism

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Rural communities are often ignored by the media. What really motivates these voters?

Unlike the vast majority of journalists who cover U.S. politics, columnist Salena Zito lives far away from the centers of power and wealth. Twice a year she leaves her home in western Pennsylvania and drives thousands of miles across the country on back roads, visiting towns and rural communities, many of which supported Donald Trump for President, that are so often ignored by the national media. In this episode, we learn more about the perspective of these voters.

Salena, a columnist for the Washington Examiner and the New York Post, is the author of The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics. She previously wrote for The Atlantic and Pittsburgh Tribune Review. While on the road, Zito goes to high school football games, attends church services and eats at local diners.

“One of the things that makes my reporting different is that I try to treat each story that I write as though I am from the locality,” she tells us.

Hear Salena’s insights on some of the perspectives of those voters who live in what she calls “the middle of somewhere.”

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Ep. 40: Understanding Trump Voters and American Populism

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political journalist for the Washington Examiner and the New York Post. She is the co-author of The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics. With her co-author, Brad Todd, Salena traveled over 27,000 miles of country roads to interview more than 300 Trump voters in ten swing counties.

She previously wrote for The Atlantic and spent the last 11 years at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review as both a reporter and a columnist covering national politics. Before that, she worked for the Pittsburgh Steelers and held staff positions for both Democratic and Republican elected officials in Pennsylvania.

She has interviewed every president and vice president in the 21st century. In the 2016 election cycle, she interviewed 22 presidential candidates, both Democrats, and Republicans.

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Nathan Bomey

Depolarizing America: Bridge Builders. Bringing People Together.

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How can we bring people together in a polarized age? A journalist explores stories of hope.

Common Ground Committee is part of a robust and growing national movement of bridge builders, who are working to reduce incivility and toxic polarization in America today. We look in-depth at this diverse, vital coalition: Who are they and how are they tackling racial, cultural, and political schisms?

Our guest, Nathan Bomey, is a reporter for USA Today, and author of the new book, Bridge Builders: Bringing People Together in a Polarized Age. In this interview, we hear more about people from many walks of life who are building the structure of a new, more united America.

“Despite its transformational qualities, bridge building often attracts considerable resistance,” says Bomey. “In many cases, that’s because bridges promise to disrupt the status quo for people who previously benefited from or preferred social isolation.”

This episode looks at a way forward.

Learn more about the bridge-building groups mentioned in this episode:

  • The Everyday Projects uses photography to challenge the stereotypes that distort our understanding of the world.
  • Be the Bridge is a Christian group led by Latasha Morrison that seeks to empower anti-racist bridge builders.
  • Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project creates bridges of communication, understanding and support between Americans and Iraqis in response to decades of sanctions, war, and occupation.
  • Common Ground Committee is a member of Bridge Alliance, a community of more than a hundred organizations across the country.

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Ep. 39: Depolarizing America – Bridge Builders. Bringing People Together.

Nathan Bomey

Nathan Bomey is a reporter for USA TODAY and the author of three nationally published nonfiction books, including most recently Bridge Builders: Bringing People Together in a Polarized Age (2021, Polity Press). Bridge Builders features insights from Americans who are overcoming their differences, whether it’s politics, race, religion, class or culture.

Before joining USA TODAY in 2015, Nathan was a reporter for the Detroit Free Press and several newspapers in his home state of Michigan. His first book, Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back (2016, W.W. Norton & Co.), chronicles the saga of the city’s historic bankruptcy. His second book, After the Fact: The Erosion of Truth and the Inevitable Rise of Donald Trump (2018, Prometheus), explores the implications of the misinformation age.

A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Nathan is the winner of several national journalism awards, including the National Headliner Award and various honors from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. You can follow him on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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