Five Best Wednesday Columns

Gary Alan Fine on Penn State's victories, Robert Samuelson on the deficit, Peter Orszag on privatizing the Postal Service, Craig Whitney on the gun control debate, and Margaret Carlson on Yahoo's new CEO.

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Gary Alan Fine in The New York Times on Penn State's vacated victories Fine says George Orwell would be amused by the NCAA's decision to "vacate" 13 years of Penn State football victories as a sanction for the institutional cover up of Jerry Sandusky's crimes. "Surely Penn State the institution deserves sanctions for the deplorable actions of authorities," he writes. "And while this is not the first time that game outcomes have been vacated, changing 14 seasons of football history is a unique and disquieting response. We learn bad things about people all the time, but should we change our history?" Mankind has shown an ability to add painful moments to their understanding of history, he says, but erasing Penn State's victory won't do more to help us remember the past.

Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post on the deficit's causes In 2001, the Congressional Budget Office predicted a surplus over ten years of $5.6 trillion, but with $6.1 trillion in deficits, we know now that they overshot by $11.7 trillion. Samuelson asks why, noting that "any intellectually honest answer — perhaps futile in today's politically charged climate — will admit that no single cause explains the change." He describes the relative contributions of the economic crisis (the greatest culprit), the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the stimulus, and other big contributors.  "So, most theories (often partisan) of the $11.7 trillion shift turn out to be wrong, exaggerated or misleading. There were lots of causes; no single cause dominates."

Peter Orszag in Bloomberg View on privatizing the Post Office As the U.S. Postal Service announces that it won't be able to make billions in payments come due, Orszag makes the case for taking it private. "Despite claims to the contrary, privatized entities do not, on average, become miraculously more productive than public agencies," he writes. "In the case of the Postal Service, though, privatization has become the best path forward, mainly because it would take Congress out of the picture." Despite the Postal Service's success in making operations more efficient, declining mail volume continues to hurt them. He argues that Congress is the biggest problem, and refutes several arguments against privatizing.

Craig Whitney in The New York Times on middle ground in the gun debate "Unless gun-control advocates and gun-rights supporters stop screaming at each other and look for common ground on how to deal with gun violence, the next massacre is only a matter of time," writes Whitney. He asks the NRA and conservatives to acknowledge that not all gun control measures aim to strip Americans of their right to use firearms, and he asks the left to focus on measures that can actually prevent gun violence. "So far, liberals and centrists have done more to adopt a reasonable position," he says. "Keeping me and as many other law-abiding citizens as possible from having guns does little to prevent criminals or misguided youths from illegally buying them elsewhere, or having confederates buy or steal them."

Margaret Carlson in Bloomberg View on Marissa Mayer the Mom-CEO A month after Ann-Marie Slaughter's Atlantic cover story reignited debate over how well women can balance high-powered jobs and family life, newly named Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer provided a case study by announcing her pregnancy. Carlson explores how Mayer's fortune and her role as a boss will make the task easier for her. Still, "we don't know, and neither does Mayer, whether her energies and emotions will be divided in ways she isn't anticipating. The crushing desire to be in two places at once doesn't end with breastfeeding and frequent visits to the pediatrician." Further, "there's no legislation that will put more than 24 hours in a day or get you home for dinner and bedtime."

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