Five Best Friday Columns

Paul Krugman on long-term unemployment, Alec MacGillis on private-sector failings, Ta-Nehisi Coates on fatherhood, Ezra Klein on Obamacare's longevity, and Mehari Taddele Maru on the escalating South Sudan crisis. 

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Paul Krugman at The New York Times on long-term unemployment. "More than a million unemployed Americans are about to get the cruelest of Christmas 'gifts.' They’re about to have their unemployment benefits cut off. You see, Republicans in Congress insist that if you haven’t found a job after months of searching, it must be because you aren’t trying hard enough. So you need an extra incentive in the form of sheer desperation," Krugman argues. Some Democrats aren't sympathetic either: "There’s been a somewhat strange debate among progressives lately, with some arguing that populism and condemnations of inequality are a diversion, that full employment should instead be the top priority. As some leading progressive economists have pointed out, however, full employment is itself a populist issue." Bottom line? The economy shouldn't be based in fear. Bob Annibale, the global director of community development and microfinance at Citi, tweets, "Over 1 million  to lose benefits in January. A new labor paradigm."

Alec MacGillis at The New Republic on private-sector failings. During the rocky rollout of, many argued that the government simply couldn't produce a large, working site like Amazon. "Just imagine, the chorus went, if tech giants like Amazon or Google had been in charge of the Web site instead of those clueless, fusty bureaucrats," MacGillis writes. But Christmas brought Amazon's own failings. "A surge in online shopping this holiday season left stores breaking promises to deliver packages by Christmas, ... Companies from Amazon to Kohl's and Wal-Mart" all missed delivery dates, MacGillis notes. "The Great Christmas Delivery Screwup of 2013 should inject a bit of perspective and humility into the ranks of the loudest private-sector champions. The fact is, the clichés are true: life is complicated, stuff happens and sometimes things don’t work out as planned," he argues. Daily Beast columnist Stuart Stevens tweets, "The argument that any massively centralized system has inherent flaws is key argument against making health care the same."

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic on fatherhood. "When my son was born, I stayed at home. And for most of our relationship, my wife made more money than me," Coates confesses. "I felt a lot of things in those days — lonely, broke, sometimes frustrated. But what I didn't feel in my allegedly hyper-macho black community was stigmatized. ... If anything, I felt like I got a lot more credit than I deserved. I'd put the boy in the stroller, head down Flatbush, and a cheering section would damn near break out," he writes. The "stigma" stay-at-home dads face is nothing compared to "the stigma that women feel when they're trying to build a career and a family." The New Inquiry's Mal Harris tweets, "Ta Nehisi-Coates is good on fatherhood/young and broke parenting."

Ezra Klein at The Washington Post on Obamacare's longevity. By January, "at least two million people will have health insurance through Obamacare's exchanges and more than four million people will have health insurance through the law's Medicaid expansion," Klein writes. In the words of Tea Party Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, "It’s no longer just a piece of paper that you can repeal and it goes away. There’s something there. We have to recognize that reality. We have to deal with the people that are currently covered under Obamacare." Klein argues, "The GOP's campaign against Obamacare has been most effective when Republicans could claim, reasonably or not, that the law was taking something away from people: Canceling their plans, or penalizing them for going without insurance, or changing their doctor. But by the end of March, it's likely that at least 8-10 million people will be getting insurance through Obamacare." Dr. William Dale, the chief of geriatrics at the University of Chicago, tweets, "The politics of 'loss aversion': why Obamacare (in some form) is here to stay."

Mehari Taddele Maru at Al Jazeera English on the escalating South Sudan crisis. "While the situation in Somalia remains fragile, the Republic of Sudan and the State of Eritrea face a precarious future. Most dreadful for the entire region, however, is the possibility of another state failure in the form of South Sudan," Maru writes. "On December 15, an armed confrontation erupted at the centre of the South Sudanese governmental authority, the presidential palace in Juba ... that has now begun to deteriorate into a civil war," he explains. How to fix it? "For the long-term stability of Africa's newest nation, democratization is necessary, but also insufficient. Delivery of public services and economic development will be critical. It is for this reason that the transformations of the SPLM into a democratic party, and the reform of the SPLA into a state army, are prerequisites for a stable South Sudan," Maru argues.

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