Five Best Tuesday Columns

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Bruce Ackerman Explains Why Libya Is So Important, Legally  President Obama's resolve to continue U.S. military action in Libya well past the thirty days he was legally given to "halt all 'hostilities'...lacks a solid legal foundation." The White House, Bruce Ackerman argues in The New York Times, "has shattered the traditional legal process the executive branch has developed to sustain the rule of law over the past 75 years." By circumventing the Justice Department in the decision to enter Libya--a move reminiscent of the "ad hoc war council" that produced John Yoo's "torture memos"--"Mr. Obama is creating a decisive and dangerous precedent for the next commander in chief, who is unlikely to have the Harvard Law Review on his resume." Ackerman acknowledges that "from a moral perspective, there is a significant difference between authorizing torture and continuing a bombing campaign that may save thousands of Libyans from slaughter by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. But from a legal viewpoint, Mr. Obama is setting an even worse precedent." The Yale law and political science professor insists that "if Congress does not act, the Constitution's command that the president 'take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed' will become nothing more than an unfulfilled hope on an old piece of parchment."

The New York Times Editors on What Wal-Mart's Women Lost  The Supreme Court decision dismissing the bid for a class-action lawsuit by over a million former and current female Wal-Mart employees "has made fact-finding a major part of certification [for class-action suits], increasing the cost and the stakes of starting a class action," the New York Times editors explain. The justices' decision has made it impossible for the plaintiffs in this case to pursue their case as a group, seeking to end "Wal-Mart's employment practices that allegedly discriminate against women, to have the company adopt equitable ones and to recover wages lost as a result of unfair practices." This case is extremely difficult, too, to approach on an individual basis. The women are unlikely to persuade a lawyer to work to reclaim their $1,100 in lost wages. "For the plaintiffs, for groups seeking back pay in classaactions, and for class actions in general, it was a bad day in court," the editors declare.
Alan Blinder on Government Spending and Jobs  Alan Blinder takes to The Wall Street Journal today to contest the idea perpetuated by "House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans [that] employment actually declines when federal spending rises." The former chairman of the Federal Reserve argues that "acting on such a belief would imperil a still-shaky economy that is not generating nearly enough jobs." Blinder points out that, contrary to arguments against the the 2009 fiscal stimulus, the program created "at least 1.3 million net new jobs, and perhaps as many as 3.3 million." The bottom line on government spending is that "if it's not financed with higher taxes, and if it doesn't drive up interest rates, it's hard to see how it can destroy jobs." That said, we need to deal with the deficit. In order to meet both needs, Blinder suggests "we enact a modest fiscal stimulus program specifically designed for maximum job creation. My personal favorite is a tax credit for firms that add to their payrolls, but there are other options." He argues that "a package like that is not a fantasy," however, "as long as one political party clings to the idea that government spending kills jobs, it's hard to see how we extricate ourselves from this mess."
Derrick Jackson on Why Charitable Giving Is No Substitute for Social Services  "Charitable giving is up in the United States," but the Boston Globe's Derrick Jackson points out that "meanwhile, Washington has slashed social services budgets, and Republicans are talking about making more cuts." As our government becomes more focused on "who can cut taxes and social spending even more, the one thing that is for certain is that charitable giving is a puny substitute for government." Jackson points out that "Americans tend to give to education, fine arts, the environment, and international aid. In contrast, they don't give as much to public health and human services, even though human services are usually the first casualties of state and federal budget cuts." The Globe columnist argues that "it is time for Americans to give up the idea that public charity will somehow compensate for sweeping cuts in government aid. Even with increased giving, it's like throwing pennies into a deepening well of problems."
Bret Stephens on a Credible GOP Foreign Policy  Bret Stephens suggests that the Republican Party's foreign policy stance focus on "credibility." He explains at The Wall Street Journal that "it is not credible to insist that a nuclear Iran is 'unacceptable'--and then announce plans for the containment of a nuclear Iran. It is not credible to surge 30,000 troops to Afghanistan--and then provide the Taliban with a date certain for the beginning of our withdrawal. It is not credible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds--while promising that Moammar Gadhafi is not a target (falsely, as it would turn out)," and so on.  "In foreign policy, as in so much else in life, credibility is the currency nations use to achieve results without resort to more drastic means," writes Stephens. "President Obama, spendthrift in so many ways, has been particularly wasteful here. A Republican foreign policy would be a sustained attempt to recover this squandered capital." The goal should be "the credibility of our promises, and of our threats. The credibility of the dollar, and of our debt. The credibility of our arms, and of our willingness, when decision is made, to use them to decisive effect."

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