Five Best Monday Columns

Eric Singer on how the fiscal cliff affects paychecks in Congress, Jonathan Chait on Obama's fiscal caving, Bill Keller channels the NRA's president, John O'Sullivan on mass firings at Russia's Radio Liberty, and Gordon Chang on the Japanese economy.

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Eric Singer in Investors Business Daily on fiscal cliff repercussions for lawmakers If a fiscal deal isn't made soon, Americans across the socioeconomic spectrum will see the effects on their bank accounts. And what will the lawmakers who couldn't forge an agreement get? A raise. "On Friday, President Obama raised the salaries of senators and House members to $174,900 from $174,000 without any fiscal cliff agreement," writes Eric Singer, who thinks that lawmakers might be quicker to reach a deal if they faced real personal repercussions for failing to do so. "When lawmakers hide inside the fog of politics and can't produce serious budgets, keep us safe or meaningfully prevent us from going over the cliff, it's time to bench them."

Jonathan Chait in New York on Obama's fiscal caving While other columnists have argued that both sides in the fiscal cliff negotiations are protracting a very irresponsible fight, Jonathan Chait says President Obama isn't putting up anything one could call a fight at all. "In the months before the election, and in the weeks after his victory, Obama had a clear position: The Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000 were ending," Chait recalls. "Now, by all accounts, Obama is prepared to extend the Bush tax cuts up to $400,000 a year. Or maybe more." Chait argues that such caving doesn't bode well for Obama's chances of winning other fights awaiting him in the next four years. "The erosion signals not only a major substantive problem in its own right, but it also raises disturbing questions about Obama’s ability to handle his entire second term agenda."

Bill Keller in The New York Times channels the NRA's president Following NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's bizarre press conference calling for more guns in the classroom, Bill Keller has a bit of fun at the expense of NRA president David Keene's PR strategy. His whole column is a mock letter written by Keene to LaPierre, full of such tone-deaf messaging advice as, "Phase Two is tentatively called Arm Our Kids—A.O.K.—and its objective is a comprehensive K-12 carry program. If an armed guard in every school is prudent, how much more secure will we feel to have a Smith & Wesson in every cubby?"

John O'Sullivan in The Wall Street Journal on mass firings at Russia's Radio Liberty Radio Free Europe began a round of mass firings in its Moscow newsroom in September. And many Russians who rely on the U.S.-funded broadcasting company's Radio Liberty for independent reportage have decried the firings, saying they play right into Vladimir Putin's anti-press agenda. "Even without the style of the firings, Russians would have been upset by the purge of a rare news outlet outside the control of the Kremlin and its compliant oligarchs," writes John O'Sullivan. "Mikhail Gorbachev was among the first to protest, saying that the dismissals looked "especially strange" given Mr. Putin's moves against independent journalism in Russia."

Gordon Chang in Forbes on the Japanese economy Newly elected Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is planning a sweeping economic stimulus package, but Gordon Chang argues that his proposed measures are only bandaids for wounds that aren't going away anytime soon. "What Japan needs is not another paved-over riverbed—past spending programs have resulted in useless infrastructure—but structural reform to increase the country’s competitiveness," Chang writes. Chinese authorities have also pushed for more infrastructure spending, and Chang argues that both of these attempts at short-term growth in Asia could have big international consequences. "Both China and Japan are going down the wrong road at the same time."

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