Five Best Thursday Columns

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Paul Starr in The Washington Post on the bad politics of health care reform In a general election where both candidates might have to run away from the health care reform they thought would bring them political accolades, it's worth considering why the reforms are unpopular. "In the abstract, many Americans say they want just the kind of moderate, constructive leadership that Romney and Obama exercised in passing health-care reform. But these days, moderate policies don't necessarily make good politics," writes Starr, a Princeton professor and author. Starr generally defends the laws against some common criticisms, but he outlines the way both Romney's and Obama's reforms led to compromises that disenchanted liberals and conservatives. He uses polling stats to prove that there's no one complaint about each health care law, but a variety of constituencies who would prefer different fixes. He also suggests ways Obama could have executed the law differently to protect it from repeal.

Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on Occupy Wall Street's way forward In cities from New York to Oakland, police have shut down Occupy-led encampments this week, and while some leaders say it will help the movement grow, Green is skeptical. "While they have succeeded in drawing global attention to problems such as income inequality, they've done nothing to force the hand of anyone in Congress or the White House - the institutions best positioned to address their grievances," Green writes. Green contrasts the way the Tea Party worked within the political system to the apolitical tactics of Occupy Wall Street. But because the news is now shifting away from their political message and toward controversy over the encampments themselves, they risk alienating the broader population. "Whatever its path forward, it's hard to imagine Occupy Wall Street having anything like the force of the Tea Party."

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Lawrence Lessig in The New York Times on creative campaign finance reform Some senators want to pass Constitutional amendments to eliminate corporate money from electoral politics. Rather than get rid of the big money, Lessig proposes a system to drown it out with high volumes of smaller contributions. Lessig argues that we can't remove money from politics anymore, but we can create systems modeled after ones in Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut, by, for instance, giving voters a $50 rebate on federal taxes if they donate it to a political campaign, and it could ask candidates to pledge only to accept small-ticket donations. $50 from each voter would very likely outweigh the amount a candidate could raise just from big donors. "'Just say no' reforms alone have failed. They will always fail in a world where campaigns cost money, and the bulk of that money is raised from less than 1 percent of us," he says.

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on the good and bad of Congress "Sixteen hours between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill brought out the best and the worst in our leaders," Milbank writes. Around 7 p.m. Tuesday, major congressional leaders left their offices to head home for the night, though an important supercommittee deadline is only a week away. But hours later, a group of 45 bipartisan lawmakers gathered to tell the supercommittee they supported a deal that included compromises from both sides. Milbank describes the evolution and makeup of this committee, saying the group is currently too small to really affect the committee's dealings, but it represents the better impulses of government in a  time when compromise is needed. "If only the Go Big Coalition had a majority," he writes. 

David Pilling in Financial Times on America's Pacific century In a variety of public ways, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have asserted their intention to give America a leading role in a "Pacific century" by keeping our presence near China strong. "It will not be so easy to reinvent a time when, after the war, the US had no credible rival for the role of honest broker ... Today China has stirred from its slumbers. The US now has a significant rival, if not yet globally, then certainly in Asia," writes Pilling. He describes the ways our recent trade agreements and military strategies might make China nervous. Instead of taking for granted our presence in the Pacific and focusing on grand military strategy, Pilling says we should look for ways to make all parties in the region better off. "It is a difficult concept. But what he probably meant was that this should not be an American Pacific Century, nor a Chinese one," but a "Pacific century that belongs to everyone."

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