Five Best Monday Columns

Paul Krugman on the post-cliff trouble, Hendrik Hertzberg on the House, Amy Butte on the stock market's opacity, Doyle McManus on drones, and Nathan Brown on Morsi. 

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Paul Krugman in The New York Times on the budget Paul Krugman sees right through this "fiscal cliff" mumbo jumbo, writing that the term is "still a bad name for the looming austerity bomb." He sees the larger problem as a "battle of the budget," one in which Republicans are trying to cagily lure Obama away from his priorities by remaining entirely vague about their own. "The fact is that Republican posturing on the deficit has always been a con game, a play on the innumeracy of voters and reporters," Krugman writes, praising Obama for vowing not to negotiate with himself. "Now Mr. Obama has demanded that the G.O.P. put up or shut up—and the response is an aggrieved mumble."

Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker on the House Republicans didn't cinch the presidency or make gains in the Senate, much to their own surprise. But they did hold on to their bastion of power in the House, so voters must want conservative representatives to resist Obama's lead on taxes and healthcare, right? Not exactly, argues Hendrik Hertzberg, who insists that—in aggregate—one million more voters this year lodged votes for House Democrats rather than Republicans. "The reëlection of a Republican House was no more a repudiation of, for example, levying modestly higher taxes on the highest incomes than was the reëlection of the President or the strengthening of the Democratic majority in the Senate," Hertzberg writes, still expecting the House to drag its feet over the next two years. "But, given the track record of the past four years, it would be unwise to bet the farm on the proposition that the G.O.P. will edge away from nihilist obstructionism anytime soon."

Amy Butte in Bloomberg View on the stock market Average speculators have long since given up on understanding all the complex machinations of the modern day stock market, a development that troubles Amy Butte. "They have grown so complex, fragmented and opaque that they don’t serve their stated purpose," she argues. "Rather than a place where individual and professional investors can put a value on shares and where companies go to raise capital, the markets today look more like a video game." So how to streamline all that confusion? "The SEC needs to simplify the markets," Butte writes. "It could start by mandating a limit to the types of orders allowed, say, no more than 10. The agency also should draft a rule book that we can all read and understand."

Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times on drones Doyle McManus isn't so troubled by the ethical implications of drones, but he is concerned about the bad reputation they're giving the U.S. in Middle Eastern countries. "Drone strikes are undeniably effective at eliminating terrorists," McManus concedes. "But too many drone strikes can also provoke a political backlash, recruiting as many terrorists as they kill." He notes that the number of Pakistanis who view the U.S. favorably has fallen from 19 percent to 12 percent since Obama took office.

Nathan Brown in The New Republic on Morsi New Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi has turned out to be more power-hungry than those cheering on the Arab Spring would've hoped. But by cementing power for himself and the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi could be making the kinds of enemies that will ultimately undo him, argues Nathan Brown. "As it is, they may win but the society will be deeply divided and an important part of the state—the judiciary—is forgetting its stodgy ways and rising up in defiance of the president," he writes. "It is difficult to escape the fear that the constitution which should have been the birth certificate of a new Egyptian republic will be its obituary instead."

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