Five Best Tuesday Columns

On giving government money to Hollywood, standing up for Libya's provisional government, and bringing back Bismark

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  • Charles Gasparino on Why Wall Streeters Weren't Jailed  "Not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong," said Charles Ferguson at the Oscars Sunday. Asks Gasparino in the New York Post: "Is it really?" The thing is, he says, "Most of what went on in the buildup to the 2008 financial crisis wasn't criminal fraud as much as it was a collective bout of greed and stupidity--aided and abetted by years of government rescues that gave big-firm CEOs every reason to believe there was no real downside risk." It's possible there's evidence somewhere that "proves the guilt of some Lehman exec," he admits. But Gasparino's general take is this: "if it's a crime to help trigger a disaster by getting things wrong, a lot of people belong in jail."
  • David Brooks on How to Cut the Budget  The New York Times columnist continues his series on responsible budget-cutting. Here's his "third austerity principle," unveiled today: "Never cut without an evaluation process." You'd think that would be a no-brainer, but apparently "legislators and administrators are simply cutting on the basis of what’s politically easy and what vaguely seems expendable," which in schools means "athletics, band, cheerleading, art and music," unfortunately, as Brooks argues, "exactly the programs that keep kids in school and build character." Brooks, despite having reservations about Obama's budget plans, praises the administration's approach where education is concerned. Early education needs money, though Head Start needs reform, as do Pell grants--Brooks and the Obama administration agree on this.
  • The Wall Street Journal on the Need to Act on Libya  The American response to the situation in Libya has been dismal, the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues. While France has sent planes with humanitarian relief and the British and Germans have sent special forces to retrieve nationals, our country, led by the Obama administration, has stood strangely silent. "The U.S. could begin to exceed a Belgian level of global leadership," say the editors, "by reaching out to the opposition and extending formal recognition to their provisional government. Though this might make Mr. Obama uncomfortable, America remains a global power with exceptional standing to provide a new Libyan government with legitimacy." If we throw our weight around now, we might even help Libya avoid the sort of civil war that could turn it into a new Somalia or Afghanistan--a safe haven for criminals and terrorists.
  • Philip Stevens on the Second Coming of Realpolitik  "Bromides about democracy are one thing," writes Stevens in the Financial Times. "The ferment in the Middle East demands a serious foreign policy." Thinking , many have done, that foreign policy is purely about trade promotion "was always naive," he says, and isolationism isn't much better. Stevens is criticizing the U.K., specifically, but his view of the Middle East uprisings as a wake-up call applies to the U.S. and all other Western powers: "If the [Middle East] region does fall to chaos, the impact will be felt acutely in Europe ... Realpolitik and liberal internationalism, in other words, both pull in the same direction."
  • Michael Kinsley on Money Given to Film Producers  Kinsley, in the L.A. Times, brings up former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson's comments: "Richardson says that the film and TV subsidy has brought 'nearly $4 billion into our economy over eight years' and has created 10,000 jobs. By 'our,' he means New Mexico. He says every state should emulate this success." The "statistical claims are suspect," Kinsley notes, and the fact that movies are mobile makes subsidies of questionable value. Then, too, he adds: " Did you watch the Oscars on Sunday? Did that look like a crowd in need of a government subsidy?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.