Five Best Friday Columns
On Obama and Israel, the IMF's faults, and the economic costs of obesity
Rahm Emanuel on Obama's Dedication to Israel Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff and, as he points out in The Washington Post today, "the son of an Israeli immigrant," backs up his former boss on Israel-Palestine. Though Obama's comment about basing the borders of the two countries on "1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" was the sentence everyone focused on after his latest speech, Emanuel argues that the idea presented in that takeaway line was neither novel nor signified "a return to 1967 borders," rather a proposal to negotiate new borders. The Chicago mayor explains Obama recognizes the fact that only Israel itself can decide its future, and has stood up to members of the Durban II conference, Iran, "the skewed Goldstone report and other efforts to undercut Israel at the United Nations," all in the Jewish state's defense. "The president I know and worked for is deeply committed to the peace and security of a Jewish state of Israel," Emanuel declares. "I applaud his continued effort to work on and invest himself in this increasingly vexing and dangerous conflict."
Christy Glass, Steven Haas, and Eric Reither on Obesity and Salary "Obesity affects not only health but also economic outcomes: overweight people have less success in the job market and make less money over the course of their careers than slimmer people," Christy Glass, Steven Haas and Eric Reither explain in The New York Times today. Overweight women, in particular, "are significantly less likely to complete college." The Utah State and Arizona State University professors detail their study revealing that this barrier for overweight women exists "regardless of their ability, professional goals or socioeconomic status." The stigma that starts in adolescence, and the apathy it creates in overweight teenagers who "feel less connected to teachers, school and peers" carries over into adulthood. "So policies to help overweight girls need to work on two levels: promoting healthful behaviors and shifting attitudes," they propose. "Overweight girls should be encouraged to participate in college preparation courses and extracurricular activities... teachers and principals need to be aggressive in limiting bullying and looking for signs of depression in overweight girls...[and] public health campaigns should re-frame the problem of obesity from one of individual failure to one of public concern." The researchers argue, in conclusion, that "the economic harm to overweight women is more than a series of personal troubles; it may contribute to the rising disparities between rich and poor, and it is a drain on the human capital and economic productivity of our nation."
Charles Krauthammer on the Debt Ceiling Dress Rehearsal Charles Krauthammer acknowledges in his syndicated column today that, while Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is correct in warning that it would be "disastrous" to not raise the debt ceiling, "he is disingenuous when he suggests that we must do so by August 2 or the sky falls." But, although "there is no drop-dead date. There is no overnight default," the "air of crisis that will be generated by the fear of default" will give us "a preview of what happens when we hit the real debt ceiling several years from now." This is a good thing, Krauthammer argues, because "during today's debt-ceiling fight, if the markets start to get jittery, interest rates on U.S. debt spike, and the economy begins to teeter, the whole thing can be called off with a push of a button--an act of Congress hiking the debt ceiling." This move won't be possible in the event of a real default, and that's "why House speaker John Boehner's offer of a dollar-for-dollar deal--raise the debt ceiling to match corresponding spending cuts--is a thing of beauty." It will force President Obama to "come up with $2 trillion in spending cuts. "It may be blackmail," Krauthammer writes. "But it is progress."
Chuck Norris and Stephen Demaura on Fighting Frivolous Lawsuits Actor Chuck Norris and Stephen Demaura, president of Americans for Job Security, argue in The Wall Street Journal that lawsuits like the one in which two women fighting in a restaurant bathroom sued the restaurant for not intervening "strain business' bottom lines and threaten their very survival." They explain a new Texas law, signed this week by Governor Rick Perry, under which "litigants will be forced to pay for the defendant's attorney fees if the case is determined groundless." They argue that this law should be copied throughout the country, as America's civil justice system costs "more than twice as much as any other industrialized nation as a percent of the GDP." Frivolous lawsuits not only threaten small businesses, they "also clog the legal system," Norris and Demaura point out."It is our responsibility as business owners, consumers and citizens to ensure that trial lawyers don't dictate the speed of our economic recovery or the fairness of our legal system," they write.
Johann Hari on the IMF's Real Problems The Independent writer Johann Hari takes the current spotlight on the IMF as an opportunity to highlight some of the organizations more systemic problems. His view, though one side of an arguably complicated story, is worth consideration. Hari presents, as an example of group's self-serving interests, the IMF's demands that Malawi sell off all its amassed grain if global fund were to help the African country "facing severe economic problems after enduring one of the worst HIV-AIDS epidemics in the world and surviving a horrific dictatorship." The result, after the next year's failed crop, was deadly famine. Malawi only recovered once it rejected the IMF's help--"something poor countries are not supposed to do." Hari argues that "this story isn't an exception: it is the rule. Whenever I travel across the poor parts of the world I see the scars from IMF 'structural adjustments' everywhere, from Peru to Ethiopia." The author declares that "it is not only Strauss-Kahn who should be on trial. It is the institution he has been running." He suggests, "if we took the idea of human equality seriously, and remembered all the people who have been impoverished, starved and killed by this institution, we would be discussing the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission--and how to disband the IMF entirely and start again."