Five Best Thursday Columns

On debt, divorce, and Bastille Day

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Bill Gross Says 'Don't Mess With the Debt Ceiling'  "To raise or not to raise the debt ceiling; that is the question," muses Bill Gross in today's The Washington Post. "I can tell you what an unbiased investment manager thinks: Don’t mess with the debt ceiling," he writes. "Unbiased," the CEO of investment firm PIMCO calls himself, because his firm holds very few Treasury bonds, a position hashed out in Megan McArdle's Atlantic profile this June. John Boehner has said allowing the August 2 debt ceiling deadline to pass without reducing spending would be more irresponsible than refusing to raise the borrowing limit. But Gross notes that "responsibility ... is not an either/or proposition," as a hit to U.S. credit would raise interest rates on bonds, creating vast amounts of new debt. "Bond investors are a conservative lot," he warns, "they expect certainty on when, and whether, they will be repaid. Countries that keep them guessing or that are expected to default are punished severely." Finally, he concludes, America's status as a reserve currency is founded on years of stability which is now threatened. "If our government doesn't give a damn about the greenback dollar and its solvency," he asks, "why should we expect others to protect its status as a reserve currency?" As far as Gross is concerned, there isn't even a question, here: the debt ceiling must be raised.

David McCullough on Bastille Day  U.S.-French relations may be strained by the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, but "the ties that bind America and France are more important and infinitely more interesting than most of us know," writes historian and author David McCullough in The New York Times. McCullough outlines the long history of important contributions France has made to the United States, beginning with France's financial and military support during the Revolutionary War. Also from France: The Louisiana Purchase, the Statue of Liberty, and the names of cities and lakes across the country. "For well over 200 years, our most gifted American writers, artists, architects, composers, musicians and dancers have flocked to Paris to study and work, nearly always to their benefit and ours." Our history has unfolded there, most notably during the two world wars. "I am not an overboard Francophile," McCullough concludes, "But as an American I think it is well past time to get back to respect and affection between our countries."

Steve Kornacki on Michele Bachmann  "What if Bachmann's 'moment' actually lasts?" asks Steve Kornacki at Salon. Kornacki lays out all the reasons Bachmann's surge in the polls to second place in Iowa might be fleeting. Herman Cain, too, benefited only briefly from a standout debate performance. And Rick Perry's potential entry in the race would provide a conservative that could unite both the base and the establishment. Frequent comparisons between Howard Dean and Michele Bachmann could be another argument for her potential to burn out. But Kornacki focuses on the moment before Dean "fell flat on his face" in 2003 "when Dean's grass-roots-fueled surge translated into endorsements from some party elites that would have been unthinkable even months earlier... If Bachmann continues to improve her position in the polls--and if she can then sustain that support--she could be in position to force a similar reckoning among GOP elites."

Michael McConnell on Transparency in the Budget Debate  Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell wants more specifics on proposed budget cuts from the Obama administration, he writes in The Wall Street Journal. The law requires the president and Congress to submit budget proposals by specific deadlines so that the Congressional Budget Office and the public can compare their specifics in the open. The president met his deadline in April, but his budget was rejected and he has yet to draft a new one outlining his current proposals. "This year, without a genuine presidential budget, or any Senate budget, the negotiations are shrouded in fog," McConnell writes. "The president may tell press conferences that he proposed $3 trillion in spending reductions, but there is no way to know what that means without a budget." McConnell fears that stated budget savings are often just gimmicks or promises of future savings that never materialize. "If the president would put his plan into budgetary language, as the House already has done, and make it available to the CBO, the public could readily see who is being serious in the negotiations."

Sheril Kirshenbaum on Facebook and Divorce  More than one in three Americans over age 50 have been divorced, a trend that may, in part, be due to the rekindling of lost love via the Internet, writes The Science of Kissing author Sheril Kirshenbaum in Bloomberg."More than 80 percent of divorce attorneys recently surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said that in the past few years they have witnessed 'an increase in the number cases using social networking evidence,'" she writes. The Internet may make it more likely for spouses to link up with old flames than they would have otherwise been. "The name or photograph of a former partner has the potential to stir up some of the same feelings that sparked the love affair in the first place. It may cause, for example, an increase in uptake of the brain chemical dopamine, which can in turn promote feelings of desire, or even craving, for that person." So be careful, she writes, when you click the mouse. "Internet reunions can be more challenging than people anticipate."

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