The Ezra Klein Show

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A $1.7 Million Toilet and Liberalism's Failure to Build

There is so much we need to build right now. The housing crunch has spread across the country; by one estimate, we’re a few million units short. And we also need a huge build-out of renewable energy infrastructure — at a scale some experts compare to the construction of the Interstate highway system.

And yet, we’re not seeing anything close to the level of building that we need — even in the blue states and cities where housing tends to be more expensive and where politicians and voters purport to care about climate change and affordable housing.

Jerusalem Demsas is a staff writer at The Atlantic who obsesses over these questions as much as I do. In this conversation, she takes me through some of her reporting on local disputes that block or hinder projects, and what they say about the issues plaguing development in the country at large. We discuss how well-intentioned policies evolved into a Kafka-esque system of legal and bureaucratic hoops and delays; how clashes over development reveal a generational split in the environmental movement; and what it would take to cut decades of red tape.


Colorado’s Ingenious Idea for Solving the Housing Crisis” by Jerusalem Demsas

The Culture War Tearing American Environmentalism Apart” by Jerusalem Demsas

Why America Doesn’t Build” by Jerusalem Demsas

Book Recommendations:

Don’t Blame Us by Lily Geismer

The Bulldozer in the Countryside by Adam Rome

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at [email protected].

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Kristin Lin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris with Kate Sinclair. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Annie Galvin, Rollin Hu and Aman Sahota. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

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Description by The Ezra Klein Show
*** Named a best podcast of 2021 by Time, Vulture, Esquire and The Atlantic. *** Each Tuesday and Friday, Ezra Klein invites you into a conversation on something that matters. How do we address climate change if the political system fails to act? Has the logic of markets infiltrated too many aspects of our lives? What is the future of the Republican Party? What do psychedelics teach us about consciousness? What does sci-fi understand about our present that we miss? Can our food system be just to humans and animals alike?Listen to this podcast in New York Times Audio, our new iOS app for news subscribers. Download now at
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