Five Best Friday Columns

The jobs plan, Jewish support for Democrats, and the new health care debate

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David Brooks on overestimating government's powers  In his New York Times column, David Brooks writes about the planning fallacy, a theory developed by Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. The fallacy is in overrating one's "own abilities and exaggerate [one's] capacity to shape the future," and it's one the United States has been committing for the past three years in its expectations for the economic recovery, Brooks says. "Countries that are afflicted with these crises typically experience several years of high unemployment. They go deep into debt to end the stagnation, but the turnaround takes a while." Instead of recognizing this, politicians say the economy is "sick" and needs to be "healed." "The Democrats, besotted by the myth that the New Deal ended the Great Depression, have consistently overestimated their ability to turn the economy around ... Republicans, who should know better, also have an inflated sense of the power of government. In the presidential debates, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman argue about which one oversaw the most job creation during his term as governor, as if governors have an immediate and definable impact on employers' hiring decisions." In truth, the economy is not a "sick patient." "It is a zillion, zillion interactions." Democrats should remember when creating social policy that it is difficult to reform very complex systems. "Republicans should be reflecting on the fact that if a Republican president were in office right now, and even if he or she did sensible things, the economy would still be in the dumps. It would be Republicans losing 'safe' Congressional seats in special elections." While a president can fund infrastructure and hire teachers, doing some good, it is unlikely he can overhaul an entire economic situation. "Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can't."

Thomas Donohue on the jobs plan  President Obama's proposed jobs plan "focuses too much on government spending and temporary tax breaks and too little on the trade, energy, tax, regulatory and entitlement reforms that will jolt our economy and job market back to life," writes Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue in The Wall Street Journal.  A payroll tax will probably relieve small businesses in the short term, and hiring incentives will be welcomed by companies that would've hired anyway. But the plan does not address long-term problems that contribute to unemployment: slow growth and "too few customers". Rather than match the increased spending with budget cuts, "successful small businesses, productive industries and those Americans most capable of investing in growth will foot the bill through major tax increases," Donohue says. The president "failed to go far enough and overlooked some important opportunities." Focusing not just on pending free trade agreements, the government should be pursuing new ones around the world. Restoring the tourism industry would create jobs, but "interminable visa procedures, maddening airport hassles and a growing perception around the world that the U.S. does not welcome international visitors" all stand in the way. Instead of injecting one-time funds into preferred infrastructure projects, the president should "urge Congress to enact a multiyear reauthorization of the nation's core surface transportation, aviation and water resources programs with full funding." He could also boost the economy by taking advantage of currently untapped energy resources. And finally, much greater attention should be paid to tax and entitlement reforms. "Start doing these things," Donohue says, "and America's private sector can get on with the job of putting America back to work."

Eric Alterman on the Atypical New York 9 Jews  Republicans point to the Democrats' loss of Anthony Weiner's congressional seat in this week's election as evidence of "an exodus of Jews away from the Democrats into the Republican party" over Obama's policies on Israel. Many issues, in fact, probably influenced this vote aside from Israel, Eric Alterman writes in The Daily Beast. The race's Democrat, David Weprin, supported gay marriage, which many of the Orthodox Jewish voters do not, and made many missteps as a candidate. Furthermore, constituents in this district generally supported Anthony Weiner keeping his Congressional seat. "Might they be a little pissed off at the national Democratic leadership that forced him out against the wishes of his constituents?" And finally, voters knew that Democrats planned to eliminate this seat during redistricting and that Weprin's appeal with the Democratic Party was his assurance that he wouldn't challenge any other sitting congressmen. "So if you voted for the Democrat, you were voting to get rid of your district--not a really strong selling point in a campaign, I'm guessing." Even if this district voted largely on Israel, it does not portend a pattern among the nation's Jewish population. Most American Jews are secular, support issues like gay marriage, and "vote on a multiplicity of concerns, of which Israel is a part, but hardly, for most of them, the determining factor," Alterman says. President Obama is unpopular now, but older Jewish voters are still unlikely to vote for a national Republican party very concerned with cuts to entitlement programs. "And for those Jews who might think of straying next year, Democrats have two words for them: 'Rick Perry.'"

Paul Krugman on Republican health care morals  In his 1980 TV show "Free to Choose," Milton Friedman put forward a vision of laissez-faire economics, later taken up by Ronald Reagan, that emphasized "personal choice and empowerment." "Today, 'free to choose' has become 'free to die'," writes Paul Krugman in The New York Times. Krugman recounts how the crowd cheered at the Tea Party Republican debate this week when Wolf Blitzer asked whether the government should let an ill, uninsured 30-year-old man die. "At this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions," Krugman asserts. After the crowd cheered, Ron Paul dodged the question and asserted that private charities would take care of the hypothetical man. This is quaint but incorrect, Krugman says. "People who can't afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have--and sometimes they die as a result." Furthermore, "very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer's hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions." Often, he notes, this includes uninsured children. George W. Bush long opposed a program that has since expanded the number of insured children in America. "In the past, conservatives accepted the need for a government-provided safety net on humanitarian grounds," he says. "Health care was one of those areas where even conservatives used to be willing to accept government intervention in the name of compassion, given the clear evidence that covering the uninsured would not, in fact, cost very much money." Obama's health care plan was largely based on Republican plans, including Romney's in Massachusetts. "And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations," Krugman writes.

Rick Perry on Israel  The United States and Israel have an historic friendship, writes Texas Gov. Rick Perry in The Jerusalem Post. But today, Israel is more endangered than ever, with increasing hostility from Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. "And now, the Palestinian leadership is intent on trashing the possibility of a negotiated settlement of the conflict with Israel in favor of unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations," Perry writes. This "insults" the U.S. and Israel, both of whom have long advocated for a negotiated settlement. The Obama administration's mistakes have convinced Palestinians to take this step, he argues. For instance, "it was a mistake to inject an Israeli construction freeze, including in Jerusalem, as an unprecedented precondition for talks," Perry writes. "It was a mistake to agree to the Palestinians' demand for indirect negotiations conducted through the United States. And it was an even greater mistake for President Obama to distance himself from Israel and seek engagement with the hostile regimes in Syria and Iran." The Palestinians now see a weakened U.S.-Israeli relationship and are "exploiting" it. "The United States should oppose this measure by using our veto in the Security Council, as President Obama has pledged, and by doing everything we can to weaken support for the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in the General Assembly, even at this late date." We should reaffirm our commitment to a free Israel and predicate our support for Palestinians on their good faith in negotiation and compromise, Perry says. Palestinian support for the "terrorist group" Hamas shows they are not currently upholding this commitment, and the U.S. should not "condone" this.

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