Five Best Monday Columns
Robert Grady on Obama's misguided inequality focus, Molly Ball on Democrats' split, James McAuley on "affluenza," Kevin Drum on long-term unemployment, and Vacy Vlazna on Christmas in Gaza.
Robert Grady at Wall Street Journal on Obama's misguided inequality focus. "Unlike the other presidents since World War II, [President Obama] places inequality above economic growth as the organizing principle of U.S. economic policy," Grady, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's chief economic adviser, writes. But "here is the bottom line: In periods of high economic growth, such as the 1980s and 1990s, the vast majority of Americans gain, and have the opportunity to gain. In periods of slow growth, such as the past four and a half years since the recession officially ended, poor people and the middle class are hurt the most, and opportunity is curbed." Grady insists that generating economic growth, not figuring out how to redistribute wealth, is the defining challenge of our time. Middle East scholar Andrew Exum tweets, "A good argument here, but if economy continues to grow at this pace, Obama will get to have his cake and eat it too."
Molly Ball at The Atlantic on Democrats' split. The Democratic party "now finds itself in a swoon: President Obama’s ratings have hit an all-time low. The implementation of healthcare reform remains a mess. Vulnerable Democrats are scrambling to distance themselves from the White House, and the party is on track to lose seats in the House and Senate next year," Ball explains. "Parties in distress tend to fall to bickering, and today’s Democrats are no exception." And "if Republicans manage to mend the current rifts that so help their opponents and unite behind a candidate with broad appeal, a Democratic Party already on the rocks could find itself in serious trouble."
James McAuley at The New York Times on "affluenza." "The case of Ethan Couch — the drunk 16-year-old who mowed down four bystanders in a Fort Worth suburb with his 'super duty' F-350 pickup truck, but got off with 10 years’ probation after his defense team’s psychologist blamed 'affluenza,' or a state of immense, amoral privilege, for the crime — has become something of a national outrage," McAuley explains. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, for example defended the judge in an editorial. As McAuley sees it, "The disparity between the televised outrage over what was perhaps the cleverest legal argument since the 'Twinkie defense' and the relative local indifference to the role of wealth in insulating the guilty from justice illuminates how much of North Texas itself has been constructed for the purpose of insulating wealth from any unpleasant reality." Nomaan Merchant, an AP reporter who covers North Texas courts, tweets, "Wonder who James McAuley has been talking to about #affluenza. DFW folks who know I cover courts won't stop asking about it." MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart recommends the column.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones on long-term unemployment. "There's a common belief that long-term unemployment mostly affects older workers and only in certain industries. In fact, with the exception of the construction industry, which was hurt especially badly during the 2007-08 recession, 'the long-term unemployed are fairly evenly distributed across the age and industry spectrum,'" Drum explains. Most damaging, long-term unemployment "dramatically reduces the prospect of getting another job." Drum argues. "We continue to do nothing about it. Republicans in Congress have declined to extend unemployment benefits further, and they show no sign of changing their minds when Congress reconvenes in January."
Vacy Vlazna at Al Jazeera English calls on Pope Francis to help Palestinians. The Christmas holiday "embraces the season of refugees recalling The Holy Family's flight to Egypt to escape Herod's massacre of the innocents. Their journey from Bethlehem meant passing through Gaza, which, since 1948, is itself in a wretched refugee limbo," Vlazna writes. "As the world makes merry this festive season, the people of Gaza have deliberately, cruelly, been deprived of fuel by Israel for two months: They suffer in freezing temperatures, with no electricity, no light, no heat, scarcity of food, no essential services." She calls on Pope Francis to send a message since "The signs of your papacy are hope-filled."