Five Best Friday Columns

John Cassidy on austerity, Paul Krugman on the job crises, Shashank Joshi on Syria, Jamelle Bouie on Bobby Jindal, and Glen Weldon on Bazooka Joe. 

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John Cassidy in The New Yorker on the failure of austerity With our fiscal cliff blinders on, many Americans have probably been guilty of tuning out news of the economic crises unfurling in other parts of the world. John Cassidy writes, "You might well have missed the most important political and economic news of the week: an official confirmation from the United Kingdom that austerity policies don’t work." The goals the U.K. set for itself back in June 2010 when it slashed budgets have not been met, according to a new report from the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. "Having adopted the policies of Keynes in response to a calamitous recession, the United States has grown more than twice as fast during the past three years as Britain, which adopted the economics of Hoover (and Paul Ryan)," writes Cassidy. "Meanwhile, the gaping hole in the two countries’ budgets has declined at roughly the same rate, and next year the U.S. will be in better fiscal shape than its old ally."

Paul Krugman in The New York Times on the job crises Paul Krugman also wants us to talk about something other than the fiscal cliff for a change. "America is not facing a fiscal crisis," he writes. "It is, however, still very much experiencing a job crisis." Krugman cites figures that place today's job market as the worst since the Great Depression. How do we fix this? Krugman thinks that even the fiscal hawks know what needs to be done, writing, "They believe that right now spending cuts and tax hikes would destroy jobs; it’s impossible to make that claim while denying that temporary spending increases and tax cuts would create jobs. Yes, our still-depressed economy needs more fiscal stimulus."

Shashank Joshi in The Telegraph on Syria Though the situation on the ground in Syria looks grimmer each day, Shashank Joshi sees a sliver of a silver lining: "We are witnessing the beginning of the end for the Assad dynasty, the last republican monarchy of the Middle East." But Joshi worries that the international community isn't keeping up with the events. Specifically, governments need to have a plan in place for the possibility of terrorist groups getting their hands on Assad's stockpile. "This would require a US-led Jordanian force, assisted by trusted Syrian rebels, with Britain and other states likely playing a role," writes Joshi. "If rapid destruction or removal is impossible, then the sites should be protected by Arab forces. A large-scale Western footprint would be unacceptably dangerous, and should be ruled out entirely."

Jamelle Bouie in The American Prospect on Bobby Jindal Jamelle Bouie's column is about a column, namely Bobby Jindal's op-ed in Politico from yesterday. Assessing Jindal's economic suggestions, Bouie writes, "In essence, Jindal wants to turn the United States—institutionally, at least—into a macro version of California, with all of its attendant dysfunction. A world where the government is mandated to maintain a balanced budget is one where it can't adequately respond to recessions and economic disruptions."

Glen Weldon in The New Republic on Bazooka Joe Sweeping layoffs aren't sparing anyone these days, even characters from bubblegum comics. Bazooka Bubble Gum has announced that it will start printing puzzles rather than Bazooka Joe comics on the wax paper that wrap their product. "No more will Joe and Mort trade punny zingers that bear all the blistering, in-your-face cultural currency of a Bennett Cerf joke book," mourns Glen Weldon. "Instead, they’ve been consigned to linger in the non-corporeal corporate limbo known as a product’s 'online presence.' Like Mr. Peanut, the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy and other semi-retired spokesthings, Bazooka Joe and His Gang will now exist primarily as ghosts in the machine."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.