5 Best Tuesday Columns

On a survival guide for congressmen, a peace proposal for Sudan, and the European "model for scrimping"

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  • Joe Scarborough on a 'Survival Guide' for Freshman Congressmen  Fondly recalling his years in the Senate, the Politico columnist offers ten tips to incoming congressmen who are in the process of moving to D.C. and learning the political ropes. Drawing from his "mistakes," Scarborough entreats the freshmen to move their families to the capitol, while making a district office a priority in order to stay focused on their home districts. He advises them to hire a veteran chief-of-staff to help sort through the tangle of political machinations, and not to surround themselves with a group of "yes" men. "Be humble," Scarborough writes. He tells them not "demonize" the 534 other actors at play who are also trying to do their jobs. Don't "cave" by selling votes to lobbyists, he says, and never "give a speech when you are angry." Finally, he concludes with advice to remember that "today's enemy will be tomorrow's ally, and this year's ranking member will be next year's chairman."
  • Bob Herbert on the Future of Black America  Last week's New York Times report about the growing achievement gap was the latest piece of discouraging news about the challenges facing black Americans. Can anything be done? The New York Times columnist isn't sure, but he believes the "first and most important step would be a major effort to begin knitting the black family back together." More than anything, it's the "family that protects the child against ignorance and physical harm, that offers emotional security and the foundation for a strong sense of self, that enables a child to believe--truly--that wonderful things are possible." Times are tough all over, notes Herbert, and "the terrible economic downturn has made it more difficult than ever to douse this raging fire that is consuming the life prospects of so many young blacks." With funding cuts for urban programs likely on the way, now is the time to start making progress in the area that doesn't require outside assistance: at home.
  • George Clooney and John Prendergast on Sudan's Peace Process  Noting that the White House has dispatched John Kerry with a peace proposal to Sudan's warring factions, The Guardian contributors praise the move as a "giant step towards avoiding the kind of bloodshed" previously seen in the riven nation. Although a solution to an impending north-south war may difficult to achieve, "a complex but workable peace can be brokered if all interested parties become more deeply involved." Clooney and Prendergast then put forward a series of proposals to help lay the foundation for peace. They include reaching a "mutually satisfactory agreement" on the disputed territory of Abyei, an oil-revenue sharing agreement and protections for minority groups backed by "significant international consequences" for breaches of conduct. The U.S. role is to act as the "invisible third party" in negotiations, demanding "peace and security" in Darfur. The article ends with a plea for citizens to maintain public awareness. "Keep the pressure on them. Support the peace process. Your voice can prevent a war. Not guns. Not money. Just our voices."
  • Anne Applebaum on European Austerity  France's pension reform and England's budget cuts have dominated headlines, but The Washington Post columnist writes that other Europeans countries are also making tough cuts to stymie spiraling debt. "Last weekend, a Greek government which has cut public-sector pay and lowered pensions won a clear victory in local elections," writes Applebaum. Last month in Latvia, voters reelected a government "that cut public sector workers' pay by 50 percent." Couple these wins with a British government coalition that remains "strangely popular" and it's clear European voters respect politicians who stand up to entitlement spending. America lacks this reformist zeal. It's easy to blame President Obama for increasing state spending, but Americans "haven't practiced what we preach [about free markets] for a long time, much longer than we generally recognize." Applebaum cites the looming bankruptcy of the U.S. Postal Service, which lost $8.5 billion last year. "Why," she wonders, "in this age of multiple courier services, cheap phone calls and e-mail, is the U.S. Postal Service still a government-owned company? Germany privatized its postal service in 1995."
  • Stanley Fish on the Non-Existent College Cost Crisis  In their new book Why Does College Cost So Much?, economists Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman argue college is more affordable now that it ever was in the past, and the notion that universities are giving undergrads short-shrift is incorrect. It's a thesis The New York Times columnist enthusiastically agrees with. For those who think colleges devote too many resources to research, Fish argues the more irresponsible act would be to assume "a Luddite stance and hold out for pencil, paper and blackboard instruction." A college degree is expensive, yes, but that's because education is not an industry that "produces durable goods on an assembly-line model or offers services that can be delivered by relatively unskilled labor aided by new devices." Like law and medicine, education is a specialized field, one where "advances in technology lead to a demand for ever-more-highly-educated personnel and mechanization is frowned upon because of a concern with quality." That a college education has evolved into a necessity and not a luxury item shows that the system is working.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.