Five Best Tuesday Columns

Steven W. Thrasher on Ferguson, Michael Gerson on Rand Paul, Daniel Reichman on Honduras, Michael Singh on the Middle East, and Marc Champion on Julian Assange. 

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Steven W. Thrasher in The Guardian on why the real injustice in Ferguson (and across the country) is economic. Thrasher writes that African Americans are not just victims of a prejudiced criminal justice system, but a prejudiced economic one. "We are consistently twice as likely to be unemployed – and in and near St Louis, '47 percent of the metro area’s African-American men between ages 16 and 24 are unemployed'. Our men are more likely to be convicted and our women are more likely to be evicted. We are more likely to be victims of predatory loans. Our children are twice as likely to have asthma (even before you teargas them). Our babies are twice as likely to die before the age of one – and their mothers are three or four times more likely to die as a result of bearing them." Thrasher contends that African Americans living in Ferguson need a significant change in the status quo. "Racism, looting Missouri since crackers owned slaves, lit Ferguson on fire – not some looter with a firecracker... Too often, a call for non-violence becomes a blanket excuse to do nothing and maintain the status quo. The National Guard is coming in to maintain the status quo and that is unacceptable – because black Missourians, like most African Americans, were already drowning in the status quo when Mike Brown was still alive."

Michael Gerson in The Washington Post on why Rand Paul will not be able to help Republicans make inroads with African American voters. Gerson writes that African American voters won't be able to ignore Paul's controversial past. "He employed, as a close Senate aide, a writer who styled himself the 'Southern Avenger' and who authored a column titled 'John Wilkes Booth Was Right.' This personnel decision would have been impossible to imagine from Kemp. But it points out the deep affinity between certain strains of libertarianism and the Lost Cause. While running for the Senate, Paul criticized the centerpiece of the Civil Rights Act of 1964— the part desegregating public accommodations — because it conflicted with his libertarian conception of property rights. And Rand Paul, of course, worked for a presidential candidate in 2012 (his father, Ron Paul) who claimed that the Civil Rights Act 'violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty' and argued that the Civil War was a senseless mistake." Gerson suggests that while Republicans need someone to ingratiate them with a growingly diverse America, Paul is not it. "Paul has risen to prominence by employing a political trick, which is already growing old. He emphasizes the sliver of his libertarianism that gets nods of agreement (say, rolling back police excesses) while ignoring the immense, discrediting baggage of his ideology (say, discomfort with federal civil rights law or belief in a minimal state incapable of addressing poverty and stalled mobility)... As a senator, this tactic has worked. But were Paul to become the GOP presidential nominee, the media infatuation would end, and any Democratic opponent would have a field day with Paul’s disturbing history and cramped ideology."

Daniel Reichman in Politico on how Honduran immigrants are fleeing Honduras because of economics not violence. In Honduras, Reichman writes, children grow up believing that their only path to economic success is immigrating to America. "These children were members of a generation raised to believe that migration to the United States is the most viable path to a secure future. Faced with limited economic opportunities at home, rising expectations for material wealth and constant communication with relatives in the United States via cell phones and social media, migration has become woven into the fabric of life in Honduran communities. As one 16-year-old Honduran migrant told me, 'To be a man here, you have to go to the United States.'" The author contends that discussions about the recent migration crisis ignore the larger and underlying problem of economics. "Most analyses of the current crisis at the border point to short-term causes of the recent surge in child migration; Republicans blame what they see as the Obama administration’s lenient policies and journalists seem fixed on an uptick in gang violence. Both of these explanations ignore the long-term, economic causes of Honduran migration and the complete mismatch between the supply and demand for legal visas... Life in Honduras is intimately—if ambivalently—entangled with the U.S. economy, and this won’t change any time soon."

Michael Singh in The New York Times on how most solutions to the chaos in the Middle East ignore economics. Singh shows how many, once wealthy, nations in the Middle East have plummeted economically in the past few decades. "Today (using constant dollars), Egypt’s G.D.P. has increased four-fold to $1,566, whereas China’s has increased thirty-fold to $3,583. Similarly, Iran and South Korea had roughly the same per-capita G.D.P. in 1965; now South Korea’s is $24,000, whereas Iran’s is only $3,000... The economies of the Middle East are not only detached from the world’s, but from one another. Most exports in North America, Europe and Asia remain within those regions. Two-thirds of exports to Europe are also from Europe. In the Middle East, only 16 percent of exports to the region as a whole are from other Middle Eastern states." Singh suggests that Western leaders should take note of this decline in forming their policy towards the Middle East. ".. while Gazans hope for an end to their blockade, and Iranians for an end to sanctions, neither step would provide a silver bullet. Economic malaise is endemic to the region, even in places not suffering from blockades or sanctions... This should concern Western policy makers. The distinction between economic and political problems is false. Like anywhere, economics and politics are inextricably linked. And economic progress is the key to easing the chronic instability that threatens American interests in the region."

Marc Champion in Bloomberg View on why the United States should forget about Julian Assange. Champion writes that as Assange prepares to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy the U.S. should not take active steps to prosecute him. "Any attempt to extradite and try him as the deliverer of classified information that had a clear public-interest purpose would make him a martyr. It would also further the widespread global belief that the U.S. is a rogue state when it comes to freedom of information and the Internet.... The U.S. already damaged itself with the heavy-handed way in which Manning was treated in custody (placed in solitary confinement), tried (by a military tribunal) and sentenced (to 35 years). Yet there was no alternative to Manning's prosecution. The U.S. military cannot allow personnel entrusted with its secrets to go unpunished when they leak them, even where many of those secrets should not have been classified in the first place... The same goes for Edward Snowden." Champion continues, "Assange's case is different. He doesn't belong in jail for publishing what Bradley gave him, any more than Glenn Greenwald or the editors of the Washington Post, the Guardian and Der Spiegel should be imprisoned for publishing what Snowden gave them. The U.S. pursuing him further would only puff him up and give credence to his persecution narrative."

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