Five Best Tuesday Columns
David Frum wants Obamacare reform, Michael Powell argues Bill de Blasio is more like Michael Bloomberg than you think, Charles Postel on conservative fairytales about the gold standard, John Cassidy on Summers' withdrawal, and Bret Stephens isn't happy with the Syria agreement.
David Frum at CNN calls for conservative reform, not repeal, of Obamacare. Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush who has since become a frequent critic of the Republican Party, urges conservatives in Congress to not use a threat of government shutdown or defaulting on the nation's obligations in their fight against Obamacare. Instead, the GOP should address the "real" problems with Obamacare: costs, and where the burden of those costs fall. He claims the burden falls unfairly on wealthy Americans, and "not many voters will deprive themselves of a benefit to save somebody else money." Frum's answer? Tax carbon to pay for healthcare costs — it's a tax both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Matt O'Brien, who covers business and economics at The Atlantic, seems convinced by Frum's plan: "The penultimate graf here from @davidfrum is very good."
Michael Powell at The New York Times on Bill de Blasio's similarities to Michael Bloomberg. Powell, The Times' Gotham columnist, argues that "Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy is far more progressive than Mr. de Blasio and his supporters let on." Powell points to Bloomberg policy examples: affordable housing, child welfare, public health, creation of park land, and so on. And Joe Lhota, the Republican candidate for mayor, isn't the "wolf at the door of liberal fears. He is a New York Republican, which in national terms is awfully close to an irredeemable liberal." Josh Greenman at the New York Daily News agrees: "the de Blasio-Bloomberg (and de Blasio-Lhota) contrast isn't nearly as stark as most suggest." Ross Barkan, a political reporter at The New York Observer, tweets Powell is "a voice [of] reason."
Charles Postel at Reuters on that conservatives fairytales about the gold standard. Postel, a politics professor at San Francisco State, writes that Republicans have taken a "page from the book of conservative orthodoxies of the late 19th century" in pushing for a return to the gold standard. This "hard money" stance taken by GOP reps Michele Bachmann and Paul Broun and Sen. Rand Paul won't save the country from inflation, and instead could, Postel argues, cause Japan-style deflation. Further, "gold will not fix what is wrong with the Fed;" it will just create a larger gap between the rich and the poor. Bruce Bartlett, a champion of supply-side economics in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, recommends the piece, as does venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky.
John Cassidy at The New Yorker says Larry Summers had "too much baggage." Cassidy insists that Summers withdrawing his name from consideration for the top seat at the Fed "shouldn't come as a surprise." The cards — and Senate Democrats — were stacked against him, and it wouldn't make sense for President Obama to pick a political fight to get Summers confirmed. Cassidy speculates that the White House may have told Summers to drop out. Stephen Foley, an investment correspondent at the Financial Times, agrees, and quotes Cassidy: "The key question was how much political capital Obama would be willing to invest in landing Summers at the Fed."
Bret Stephens at The Wall Street Journal is pessimistic about the Syria agreement. Regarding the U.S. agreement with Russia to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, Stephens writes: "Agreements aren't achievements." He points to the failure of 1993's Oslo Accord to create peace between Israel and Palestinians as evidence of why President Obama needs a stronger plan for Syria, because there's no guarantee the agreement will hold. Stephens regrets that "the Obama administration has given up on exacting some tangible price on Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons, in exchange for a promise by Russia that it will intervene to remove those weapons." Sen. John McCain, a proponent of military strikes on Syria, tweets, "very thoughtful piece."