Five Best Thursday Columns

Danny Meyer on NYC's rent problems, John Cochrane on Keynesian economics, Kevin Pho on doctor's high salaries, Bloomberg View on the NSA oversight report, and Dana Milbank on giving terrorists a fair trial.

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Danny Meyer at The New York Times on New York City's rent problemsThirty years ago, Meyer's Union Square Cafe helped launched a revitalization of a struggling Manhattan neighborhood and became the flagship of his now massive restaurant empire. Now he has to move, because he can no longer afford the rent. "It’s hard to come to grips with the notion that our success has, in part, contributed to our inability to remain in our neighborhood. There are neither victims nor villains in this story; no sympathy is being asked for, and no fingers are being pointed. But as a city, we’ve got a problem." He's not alone, as other restaurants and local businesses get priced out of the neighborhoods they helped create. "We need to consider the consequences of a city economy wired to spit out otherwise healthy businesses — establishments that helped to make it feel like New York in the first place."

John Cochrane at The Wall Street Journal on what Keynesian macroeconomic models can't solve. Cochrane, a Cato and Hoover Institution scholar, gets into a very wonky debate about the nature of our economic troubles. "Where macroeconomists differ, sharply, is on the causes of the post-recession slump and which policies might cure it. Broadly speaking, is the slump a lack of "demand," which monetary or fiscal stimulus can address, or one of structural sand-in-the gears that stimulus won't fix?" Cochrane says the economic models of New Keynesians all seem to arrive at the same solution — more government spending — but that won't fix deeper structural problems. "Even super-Keynesians note that five years of slump have let physical and human capital decay, which "demand" will not quickly reverse. But we are stuck in low gear. Though unemployment rates are returning to normal, many people are not even looking for work."

Kevin Pho at USAToday on why doctors aren't overpaid. A primary care physician admits that doctor salaries seem abnormally high in the U.S., but not surprisingly, he (like most doctors) doesn't think he's overpaid. "Context is needed when analyzing doctors' earnings. Rather than compare compensation figures among the U.S. and countries with dissimilar societies and economies, it's more useful to compare physicians' compensation relative to others in the top 5% of the income bracket. The talent pool that supplies doctors also likely produces other high earners: business executives and lawyers, for instance." More importantly Pho argues that cutting salaries won't do much to slash health care costs overall. "Let's not forget administrative costs such as the salaries of health insurance and hospital executives. They make up 20% to 30% of all health care costs. The average health insurer CEO base pay was $583,700; for a hospital administrator, $236,800 ... Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt estimates doctor salaries constitute about 10% of total health costs."

Bloomberg View on the NSA's oversight review. A recent review of the NSA's actions found that their surveillance capabilities are vast and powerful, but not illegal. "Under this authority, the NSA gathers more than 250 million Internet communications a year. It can intercept information on 193 countries. In 2013 alone, it targeted nearly 90,000 foreign groups and individuals for surveillance. That's the kind of thing that infuriates U.S. allies. But it's legal, and much of it has proven quite valuable." The editors admit the NSA isn't flawless and Americans must remain watchful, but the intelligence agency is mostly doing its job well. "If intelligence agencies are intentionally sifting through these data for the content of specific Americans' communications, they should get a warrant — except in emergencies — just as the Constitution requires in all other cases."

Dana Milbank at The Washington Post on the Benghazi terror suspect's fair trial. Some have questioned the decision to try the alleged planner of the Benghazi consulate attack in civilian court rather than throw him in Guantanamo Bay, but Milbank says it's "more than the accused terrorist deserves, perhaps, but exactly what he’s entitled to in the American justice system." Milbank describes in detail the accommodations that were made for him, but says it's important for American justice to treat him better than he treated his victims. "The accused could see that he was represented by a legal team that vigorously challenged the government’s case. He could hear the judge making sure he understood his rights, and prosecutors assuring the judge they would share the evidence against Abu Khattala with the defense. As important, the world could see that the prisoner was treated with dignity."

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