5 Best Friday Columns

On the virtues of sundials, what "focus" really means, and what the next Speaker should do

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  • Paul Krugman on the 'Focus' Fallacy  On Wednesday, outgoing Senator Evan Bayh declared in an op-ed article that Democrats "overreached by focusing on health care rather than job creation during a severe recession." Today, the New York Times columnist wonders what, exactly, Bayh means when he says that the party should "focus" on job creation. Krugman concludes that Bayh probably wasn't saying much. As he sees it, using the word "focus" without saying what Obama should have done to create more jobs (larger stimulus? "tougher line" with banks?) amounts to an "act of intellectual cowardice — a way to criticize President Obama’s record without explaining what you would have done differently." What the president really lacked, Krugman argues, was "audacity." His economic plan was "far too weak" and "he compounded this original sin both by pretending that everything was on track and by adopting the rhetoric of his enemies."
  • John Boehner on What the New Speaker Must Do  The Republicans House Majority Leader outlines his new responsibilities in a Wall Street Journal op-ed and zeroes in on four duties that he views as essential to his job. 1) No earmarks: the Speaker "should adhere to a personal no-earmarks policy that stands as an example for all members of Congress to follow." 2) Let Americans read bills before they are voted on: In order to allow congressmen and the voters to properly digest a bill, Boehner calls for all bills to be "posted publicly online for at least three days." 3) No more "comprehensive" bills: Singling out the stimulus and health-care bills, the Speaker calls for smaller, "properly scrutinized" legislation. 4) No more bills written behind closed doors in the speaker's office: "Bills should be written by legislators in committee in plain public view."
  • Kathryn Wilkens on Fixing Time  People can't agree on whether Standard Time or Daylight Savings Time is preferable, so The Los Angeles Times contributor argues for "splitting the difference" with her proposal: New Standard Time. It's a simple solution really, just "set clocks back 30 minutes instead of an hour and then leave them alone." Then citizens wouldn't have to wander around their households twice a year to reset numerous appliances that don't even need clocks on them (she singles out microwaves and stoves as offenders). Even though Wilkens says she isn't time "obsessed" she is "accuracy" obsessed, and that's what leads her to make certain that all her devices are synchronized. But she's also in favor of bringing back a venerable time device: Sundials. They "worked fine for millenniums. And they never needed resetting," she notes.
  • David Smick on America's Crisis of Confidence  America's recovery from recession has been made doubly difficult, writes Smick in The Washington Post, because Americans seem to have lost their trademark optimism. Neither the president's critics nor his defenders seem to have realized this. "America's problem is not a lack of money. Nor is it a lack of adequate stimulus. It is a lack of confidence. Between $2.5 trillion and $4 trillion of private capital is waiting on the sidelines to 'reliquify' a new era of American confidence and innovation."  Smick believes Obama must repackage himself as the "private-sector innovation president," one whose policies encourage businesses to experiment and reinvent themselves. This pioneer spirit is invigorating, and an essential part of past American successes. Without it, the country's character will wither. "Optimism is critical to a nation's long-term prosperity," writes Smick. "Today, the Chinese possess the optimism that once defined Americans; more than 86 percent believe their country is headed in the right direction. Unless Americans can be brought together to rediscover their historic optimism, today's long, hard slog will be even longer and harder."
  • John Fund on the Gerrymandering Showdown  Because of victories in Tuesday's elections, Republicans find themselves in the unique position of controlling more seats in state legislatures than ever before, writes The Wall Street Journal columnist. When the results of the census arrive next year, Republicans will "control the drawing of at least 195 districts." The ensuing gerrymandering, Fund argues, is the "most significant long-term political consequence" of this week's elections. "Republicans will control the redrawing of 40 of the country's 70 most competitive House seats," he notes. While certain states have put redistricting reform measures on the ballot, Fund says the harsh reality of the matter is that gerrymandering is part of the American political tradition. Without more states passing redistricting reform, writes Fund, "look for Democrats—frequent abusers of the gerrymander after past censuses—to stir up public outrage over Republican abuses (real or imagined) of their newfound district-drawing duties."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.