Five Best Monday Columns

Steve Coll on the fight to raise minimum wage, Paul Krugman argues for increased wages, Michael Hiltzik on hope for Obamacare, Alex Pareene on why America's mass transit is doomed, and Ramesh Ponnuru on the Obamacare contraception mandate. 

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Steve Coll at The New Yorker on the fight to raise minimum wage. "The grassroots left, which seemed scattered and demoralized after the Occupy movement fizzled, has revived itself this year ... by rallying voters around the argument that anyone who works full time ought not to be at risk of poverty," Coll explains. Walmart and McDonalds have been big targets of the movement. "Most Americans believe that the federal minimum wage — seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, the same as it was in 2009 — is too low," Coll argues. A single earner working for that wage can't support a family of four, "yet Congress has failed to act: a bill is finally heading for the Senate this month, but intractable Republican opposition in the House has made passage of any legislation in the short term highly unlikely." Steven Greenhouse, who covers labor issues for The New York Times, tweets, "Steve Coll: Minimum wage is 'designed to insure dignity of work includes economic independence for all who embrace it.'" Washington Post blogger Ed Rogers cautions, "Republican leaders should study this. Think before we are on the wrong side of a grassroots movement."

Paul Krugman at The New York Times argues for better pay for workers. "The last few decades have been tough for many American workers, but especially hard on those employed in retail trade — a category that includes both the sales clerks at your local Walmart and the staff at your local McDonald’s," Krugman explains. How should we help these workers? "We can preserve and expand food stamps, not slash the program the way Republicans want. We can make health reform work, despite right-wing efforts to undermine the program. And we can raise the minimum wage." Even "strong majorities of Republicans (57 percent) and self-identified conservatives (59 percent) favor [a wage] increase." University of Maryland philosophy professor Allen Stairs tweets, "Raise the damn minimum wage."

Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg View on Obamacare's contraception mandate. "Up until 2012, no federal law or regulation required employers to cover contraception (or drugs that may cause abortion, which one of the cases involves). If 2011 was marked by a widespread crisis of employers’ imposing their views on contraception on employees, nobody talked about it," Ponnuru argues. He doesn't believe a "marginal increase in access to contraception" is worth the burden it will place on employers. Timothy P. Carney, the senior political columnist at the conservative Washington Examinertweets, "Honestly, it's embarrassing that this argument even needs to be made."

Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times on hope for Obamacare. "Reports are flowing in that, the federal enrollment website serving residents of 36 states that didn't bother to set up their own sites, is working much better than at any time since its calamitous launch on Oct. 1," Hiltzik writes. While there is still work to be done, "the real vacuum is in the Republican platform for a non-Obamacare world. They don't have one." Hiltzik argues, "It's unimaginable that Americans really wish to return to a pre-Obamacare world. That's a world where exclusions from coverage for those with medical conditions were common, even for minor ailments; where lifetime benefit limits meant a cutoff in coverage for people with chronic or serious disease while they were still young; where arguing with your insurer over a rejected claim was a daily reality for millions." Salon's politics writer Brian Beutler tweets, "Great column by , though I think he understates global belief in reincarnation."

Alex Pareene at Salon on why mass transit is doomed in America. "In New York State, as in the country as a whole, more resources continue to be spend on drivers and roads than buses and trains," Pareene writes. "One transit blogger has calculated that, according to how Albany allocates transportation money, 'every driver is worth as much as 4.5 transit riders.'" Why don't politicians pay attention to mass transit? "There are certain richer Manhattanites, accustomed to walking, for whom anti-car policies improve their quality of life, but for most of the political class, everyone they know and interact with owns a car," Pareene explains. "When, even in New York, politicians ignore transit, because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere." Nick Widzowski, the policy director for New York City councilman-elect Costa Constantinides, tweets, "Why you should show up at boring Community Board and civic meetings, part 672."

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