Five Best Monday Columns
Bloomberg View on a instituting a carbon tax, Lawrence Summers on the economy, Dianne Feinstein on confronting ISIL, E.J. Dionne on moderate Republicans, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Bruce Levenson.
Lawrence Summers in The Financial Times on why the American economy continues to stagnate. Summers, who lead President Obama's economic team in 2009, writes that there continues to be a shortage of demand in the U.S. market. "Given the factors operating to reduce natural interest rates – rising inequality, lower capital costs, slowing population growth, foreign reserve accumulation, and greater costs of financial intermediation – it seems unlikely that the American economy is capable of demanding 10 per cent more output than it does now, at interest rates consistent with financial stability." Summers believes that solving the problem of "secular stagnation" in the U.S. will require large, structural changes. "To achieve growth of even 2 per cent over the next decade, active support for demand will be necessary but not sufficient. Structural reform is essential to increase the productivity of both workers and capital, and to increase growth in the number of people able and willing to work productively. Infrastructure investment, immigration reform, policies to promote family-friendly work, support for exploitation of energy resources, and business tax reform become ever more important policy imperatives."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein in USA Today on why America must aggressively confront ISIL. The Senator from California writes that failure to fully take on the threat of ISIL today will result in a much greater threat in the future. "I strongly believe the United States must lead an aggressive, international effort to confront and eliminate ISIS, including sustained airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. President Obama has now said that he intends to 'degrade and destroy' ISIS. I look forward to hearing the specifics of the president's plan when he speaks on Wednesday. We either confront ISIS now or we'll have to confront it later — when it will be a much stronger enemy." Feinstein adds that the U.S. public must put their war-weariness behind them. "I understand that many Americans don't want to become mired in another war. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have claimed thousands of American lives and cost more than $1 trillion. But Americans need to understand ISIS' degree of viciousness as well as what will happen in the absence of U.S. leadership and action.. If the United States fails to unite and lead the world against ISIS' horrific goals, we could suffer the consequences for decades to come."
E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post on how the Republican Party is beginning to see a moderate uprising. Dionne argues that American political gridlock is in large part due to the elimination of moderate candidates from the Republican party. "The safe journalistic trope is that both of our major parties have become more 'extreme.' This is simply not true. It’s the Republican Party that’s veered far off center. To deny the fact is to disrespect the hard work of conservatives in taking over the GOP." However, moderates are pushing back, and the race for Governor of Kansas is an example of a larger national trend in 2014. "Incumbent Republican Sam Brownback has championed an unapologetic tea party, tax-cutting agenda and has sought to purge moderate Republicans who opposed him from the state legislature. Many GOP moderates have responded by endorsing Brownback’s opponent, Democrat Paul Davis. A Brownback defeat would be a major blow to the right."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Time on why Atlanta Hawk's owner Bruce Levenson's comments about how to attract more white fans weren't racist. The NBA Hall of Famer writes that while the public has been quick to condemn Levenson, they should reconsider. "Well, the pitchforks are already sharpened and the torches lit anyway, so rather than let them go to waste why not drag another so-called racist before the Court of Public Opinion and see how much ratings-grabbing, head-shaking, race-shaming we can squeeze out of it... The only problem is that Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson is no Donald Sterling. Nor is his email racist." Abdul-Jabbar suggests that Levenson was asking the same questions any businessman would. "Business people should have the right to wonder how to appeal to diverse groups in order to increase business. They should even be able to make minor insensitive gaffs if there is no obvious animosity or racist intent. This is a business email that is pretty harmless in terms of insulting anyone — and pretty fascinating in terms of seeing how the business of running a team really works."
Bloomberg View on why a national carbon tax would provide more certainty to investors and help the U.S. develop renewable energy sources. The editors argue that a tax is the most effective way to spur an energy revolution. "So how to encourage, in the face of uncertainty over the price of fossil fuels, the development of advanced biofuels and electric vehicles, as well as wind, solar and geothermal power? Tax incentives and government mandates can help a little. But the most efficient strategy is to put a predictable, long-term price on carbon, through a national carbon tax." The tax is considered by many to be necessary to deal with the growing problems of greenhouse gas emissions. "Ideally, such a tax would make sure the price for emitting a ton of carbon was equal to society's cost of dealing with that carbon. With the environmental costs of greenhouse-gas pollution thus factored into the cost of oil and gas, the market can better determine which renewable-energy projects make sense."