Five Best Friday Columns

Bloomberg View on Paul Ryan, Robinson on Gaza, Krugman on California, Sosnik on Democrats, and Morris on romantic comedies. 

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Bloomberg View on why Paul Ryan's new antipoverty blueprint is praiseworthy. Ryan has changed course from his previously austere budgets by introducing a deficit neutral program to combat poverty. "It is certainly a foundation on which conservatives can build. One of the plan's proposals would combine 11 current programs -- including food stamps, child care, housing subsidies and what remains of traditional welfare -- into something called Opportunity Grants. It sounds like a block-grant program, the anathema of liberals because they distrust the states' ability (or will) to distribute grants fairly, and it comes with a big exception: States can opt in only if their plans pass federal-government muster." Bloomberg praises Ryan for doing what the Republican party hasn't done of late, toning down the aspects of its rhetoric and policies that explicitly take money from the poor. "There is and always will be a tension inherent in government programs for the poor -- between providing assistance and discouraging dependence. For too long, the Republican Party has paid too much attention to the latter at the expense of the former. One promise of Ryan's plan is that it may shift his party's focus."

Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post on why Israel is losing their moral high ground as civilian deaths continue to mount in Gaza. Robinson contends that the growing civilian death toll, which increased after a U.N. shelter in Gaza was bombed on Thursday, transcends the idea of casualties of war. "I support Israel. I abhor Hamas. But unleashing such devastating firepower on a tiny, densely crowded enclave in which civilians are trapped — and thus destined to become casualties — is wrong by any reasonable moral standard." Unlike refugees in Syria or Iraq, civilians in Gaza are unable to flee, Robinson writes. "Gazans cannot flee across the closed border with Egypt. They obviously do not have the option of escaping into Israel or sailing away across the Mediterranean Sea. Gaza’s 1.8 million people are packed into an enclave measuring 139 square miles — an area and population roughly the size of Philadelphia."

Paul Krugman in The New York Times on how California's recent economic success under Jerry Brown validates Democratic economic policies. After a budget and economic crisis, California is now booming under the guidance of democratic policies, Krugman says. "If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers. Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent; at this point, California’s share of national employment, which was hit hard by the bursting of the state’s enormous housing bubble, is back to pre-recession levels." Krugman shows the right's prediction of California's demise hasn't come true, in fact the opposite has happened. "Tax increases aren’t economic suicide; sometimes they’re a useful way to pay for things we need. Government programs, like Obamacare, can work if the people running them want them to work, and if they aren’t sabotaged from the right. In other words, California’s success is a demonstration that the extremist ideology still dominating much of American politics is nonsense."

Doug Sosnik in Politico on why the Democratic party has moved to the left, and what it means for the future. The Democratic party's populist streak is booming, in large part by a coalescing of the party against the policies of George W. Bush. Sosnik outlines what this means for the future. "It’s difficult, in this environment, to imagine a viable Democratic presidential candidate who isn’t willing to take clear positions on issues like increasing the minimum wage, securing comprehensive immigration reform, supporting women’s health and their reproductive rights, addressing climate change and eliminating or at least curtailing fracking." Sosnik points out that while the public appears to be shifting towards Democratic cultural views, it is increasingly growing wary of the federal government "... in an age of political alienation where the majority of Americans lack faith in their institutions in general—and their federal government in particular—Democratic activists will need to reconcile the public’s desire for smaller government with their own progressive impulses."

Wesley Morris in Grantland on how the genre of the romantic comedy is dying. Morris writes that the romantic comedy, which used to be about the interplay between men and women, has increasingly pushed the sexes into their corners. "Once upon a time, women in successful romantic comedies were warriors battling men. They fought for love, parity, and respect — to be taken seriously while wearing unserious hats. The man had a position that the woman finds appalling.... Looking at romantic comedies now, men are with men, women with women — homosocially, not homosexually — equal (or equalish) but separate." While Nora Ephron briefly revived the genre with her 1989 classic When Harry Met Sally, Morris points to a slow degradation in recent years, asking where the genre will go from here. "With men over here and women over there, you miss the energy of what happens in good romantic comedy when the sexes commingle. The art form is degraded now. It’s lettuce on a juicy blockburger."

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