Five Best Monday Columns
Atul Gawande on GOP obstructionism and Obamacare, Scott Galupo on why an Obamacare delay is "moronic," Paul Krugman thinks Congressional Republicans are "rebels without a clue," Albert R. Hunt on the distance between civilians and the military, and Julia Ioffe on what most scares Putin.
Atul Gawande at The New Yorker says the GOP can only delay, not stop, Obamacare. Gawande, a surgeon and public health researcher, explains that even apart from government shutdown, the GOP is trying its hardest to obstruct Obamacare implementation. Many states are slowing the process by refusing to "operate a state health exchange that would provide individuals with insurance options." Conservatives are trying to persuade young people not to sign up, which Gawande calls "advice that no responsible parent would ever give to a child." Gawande argues this kind of obstructionism has been seen before, when Brown vs. Board of Education mandated that American schools integrate. Bottom line? "Of some 3,000 counties in the nation, 114 account for half of the uninsured. 62 of those counties are in states that have accepted the key elements of Obamacare, including funding to expand Medicaid. 52 are not." Steven Greenhouse, who covers labor issues for The New York Times, recommends the piece.
Scott Galupo at The American Conservative argues that delaying Obamacare is "moronic." Galupo, a former aide to Speaker of the House John Boehner, insists that "the push to 'defund,' or merely delay the implementation of, Obamacare is maybe the most moronic and counterproductive gambit yet devised by the fire-breathing right flank of the congressional GOP." This push "drops the ball" on debt reduction, "invites public fury" over a dysfunctional government, and unifies Democrats while fracturing Republicans. Galupo concludes, "If the choice is between between Wall Street and the self-assured ideological commandos of aging all-white R+20 congressional districts— between Goldman and Bachmann, if you will—well, then I’m just taking my ball and going home." Former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett and The Atlantic's economics writer Matt O'Brien both recommend the piece.
Paul Krugman at The New York Times thinks Congressional Republicans are "rebels without a clue." Krugman explains that a government default would be catastrophic, but "unfortunately, many Republicans either don’t understand this or don’t care." He asserts that "financial markets have long treated U.S. bonds as the ultimate safe asset," but "suppose it became clear that U.S. bonds weren’t safe, that America couldn’t be counted on to honor its debts after all. Suddenly, the whole system would be disrupted." According to Krugman, "Republican radicals" reject expert warnings on the danger of default the same way they deny climate change. Elias Isquith writes at Salon, "Ultimately, Krugman concludes, Republican leadership won’t stop listening to the 'radicals' until Wall Street, 'who got us into our economic mess,' demands sanity." Mark Thoma, a macroeconomist and contributor to The Fiscal Times, tweeted the column.
Albert R. Hunt at Bloomberg View argues that the distance between Americans at the American military is growing. Hunt visits Westpoint and argues that the academy's graduates "step into a world that is largely isolated from civilian society." An all-volunteer army doesn't represent the majority of the population, and this could be because "the services often are too slow to bring about social change." But "there is no easy solution. Reinstating the draft is a political nonstarter. National service, with more shared sacrifice, is a tough slog in these tight fiscal times." Andrew A. Michta, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, tweeted that this widening gulf between the military and civilians is "increasingly true in all Western democracies." Jonathan Martin, a national correspondent at The New York Times, recommends the column.
Julia Ioffe at The New Republic explains what scares Putin the most. Russia's leader "is deeply skeptical that the United States — or any one else — can fix a country’s internal problems." Most basically, Putin has a cold-war view that goes beyond America-versus-Russia hatred: "Putin sees himself as the necessary balance to America’s global power." So despite the recent U.S.-Russia deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, Putin is still worried about America's global influence. He will try to counter it at every turn. Former George H.W. Bush speechwriter Daniel McGroarty recommends the piece.