Five Best Monday Columns

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Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post on the debt deal The debt supercommittee looks unlikely to reach a deal on reducing the deficit, and that's because they haven't had a real debate on the role of government. "The truth is that most Democrats and Republicans want to avoid such a debate because it would force them into positions that, regardless of ideology, would be highly unpopular," Samuelson writes. Republicans did begin to abandon their "no new taxes" ideology by backing a deal to raise relatively small amounts of revenue. But Democrats never gave specifics on what kind of entitlement reforms they would support. Samuelson describes an evasive exchange between Obama and a reporter to demonstrate just how few specifics the president was willing to give. "The reason we cannot have a large budget deal is that Americans haven't been prepared for one. The president hasn't educated them, and so they can't support what they don't understand."

Jane Mayer in The New Yorker on Bill McKibben's pipeline victory When Middlebury College's Bill McKibben learned about the potential environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline, he mobilized environmentalists against it. "The tar sands' oil deposits may be a treasure trove second in value only to Saudi Arabia's, and the pipeline, as McKibben saw it, posed a powerful test of America's resolve to develop cleaner sources of energy ..." Mayer writes. She describes the lineup of well-funded interests that supported the pipeline when McKibben began his protest, and she recounts his tactics. Environmentalists lined up at Obama's reelection rallies to remind him of his campaign promises with the threat that they wouldn't support him as fully in 2012. More than one thousand allowed themselves to be peacefully arrested for trespassing at the White House. They eventually succeeded in getting him to delay a decision until after the election. "The difference between the focussed, agenda-driven campaign fought by the environmentalists and the free-form, leaderless one waged by the Occupiers, the historian Michael Kazin says, is that the environmentalists grasped the famous point made by Dr. King's political forebear, Frederick Douglass: 'Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.'"

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L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal on tent cities and free speech Protesters should not have been shocked when New York City forcibly removed them from Zuccotti Park after months of increased crime and sanitation complaints. "The protesters never-ending endgame is a reminder that under the First Amendment, speech may be subject to time, place and manner restrictions that do not include the concept of 'occupation,'" Crovitz writes. He describes legal precedent in which courts have ruled that government can stop people from camping in tents on public property, an activity which shouldn't be called free speech, he says. Private parks, like Zuccotti, enjoy even more rights to prevent campers. The surprise and resistance of Occupiers was the result of a too permissive policy leading up to the eviction, he says. "Protesters are free to demonstrate peacefully in Zuccotti Park, provided they follow its regulations. If they have to rely on unlawful campouts and disrupting neighborhoods instead of using speech, their message must not be very persuasive."

Lawrence Summers in The Washington Post on addressing inequality Statistics show both a rise in income inequality in the past several decades, and a decline in income mobility. "We need more and better responses to rising inequality," Summers writes. He says blaming the success of the wealthy is the wrong approach, because Americans should want more successful entrepreneurs who earn great wealth while also providing products and services to large amounts of people. Complaining that addressing inequality is "class warfare" is equally misguided, he says. Summers proposes that the government look for ways to stop giving the wealthy special concessions. He says there is room for tax reform that combats the trend in income inequality. Lastly, he suggests the public sector should focus on realizable goals like making college more affordable for the middle class. "Neither the politics of polarization nor those of noblesse oblige on behalf of the fortunate will serve to protect the interests of the middle class in the post-industrial economy," he writes.

Yan Xuetong in The New York Times on China's rise Yan, a Chinese political science professor, says he doesn't think the continuing rise of China will come without a clash between his nation and the United States. "But realism does not mean that politicians should be concerned only with military and economic might. In fact, morality can play a key role in shaping international competition between political powers," he says. Yan describes the political philosophies of the ancient Chinese and their political history to describe how humane authority will defeat hegemony or tyranny. Today, Chinese leaders focus more on economic authority than politics. China should recognize this and focus on creating a moral society, developing strong alliances in the world community, and assume the responsibilities of a world power by protecting smaller countries. "China's quest to enhance its world leadership status and America's effort to maintain its present position is a zero-sum game. It is the battle for people's hearts and minds that will determine who eventually prevails."

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