Five Best Thursday Columns

Alex Pareene on Woodward's weird sequester statements, Ezra Klein on better budgeting, Adam Serwer on the Supreme Court's racism blindness, Charles Blow on the Voting Rights Act, and Boris Muñoz on Chavez's would-be successors. 

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Alex Pareene in Salon on Woodward's weird sequester statements Watergate scandal reporter Bob Woodward is having another showdown with the White House, and this time he's accusing the Obama of plotting the sequester himself. But he doesn't have as clear a case against the President this time, argues Alex Pareene. "Woodward's actual position here is insane," Pareene writes. Because of course, the automatic cut in federal spending scheduled to take effect Friday "is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president. Woodward is saying, why won’t the president just ignore the law, because he is the commander in chief, and laws should not apply to him ... Bob Woodward has lost it, let’s all stop indulging him." Perhaps Woodward will actually come to "regret" this whole thing.

Ezra Klein in Bloomberg View on better budgeting Whoever invented the sequester, they've got voices on both sides of the aisle saying the cuts are a terrible idea. So what could we have done instead to balance the federal budget? Ezra Klein cites 15 ideas collected by MIT economist Michael Greenstone from experts that would be preferable to sequestration. "Perhaps the best and most obvious idea is a carbon tax," Klein writes, also citing an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a move to bundle Medicare payments as viable cost-cutting measures. "The point isn’t that each and every one of the Hamilton Project’s ideas is great," Klein notes. "It’s that each is an attempt to formulate intelligent policy that will make the country better as it makes the deficit smaller. That’s a far cry from sequestration — and the last few years of policy making generally — in which Washington appears to have resigned itself to deficit reduction of almost exclusively bad, dumb ideas."

Adam Serwer in Mother Jones on the Supreme Court's racism blindness Listening in on the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act case, you might think racism has died and no longer has any impact on voter turnout. "Scalia worried that Section 5, and its unjustifiable discrimination against states, would continue in 'perpetuity,'" writes Adam Serwer. "But with the bailout provision, it's a relatively simply matter to escape the Section 5. To quote Roberts in a case striking down a school integration program, 'the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.'"

Charles Blow in The New York Times on the Voting Rights Act Charles Blow doesn't think racism is over, arguing that the preservation of the Voting Rights Act is necessary for maintaing a fair and equal democracy in the 21st century. If anything, it should be expanded, not limited, he argues. "In fact, there is growing evidence that such a national requirement would be prudent," Blow writes. "Many of the states that sought to install voter suppression laws leading up to last year’s election were in fact not covered by Section 5 ... We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet, and the last thing we want or need now is to slide backward."

Boris Muñoz in The New Yorker on Chavez's would-be successors Hugo Chavez isn't dead yet, but his advisors who really run the show know their time to step out of the wings and onto the main stage could come at any moment. Though Chavez projects an image of power, "in reality, power in Venezuela nowadays is in the hands of a team of rivals, united by the need to keep the regime on its feet until the next Presidential election," writes Boris Muñoz, who believes Vice-President Nicolás Maduro is the most likely next-in-line. "The chavista leaders have directed most of their attacks against Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition leader who lost to Chávez last October, but who got closer to the Presidency than any other opponent. According to a recent poll, most of the population supports the government and would stand behind Maduro if he has to replace Chávez as President. The same polls also show Capriles as the only opposition leader who stands a chance—however small—against Maduro."

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