Five Best Monday Columns

Paul Krugman on poverty and politics, Greg Sargent on Republicans and unemployment benefits, Michael Tomasky on benefits in the George W. Bush era, Noam Scheiber on the rise of a new Left, and Gideon Litchfield on the late Ariel Sharon. 

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Paul Krugman at The New York Times on poverty and politics. "Suddenly it’s O.K., even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions to talk about helping the poor," Krugman writes. While Republican politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio are joining in the discussion, "it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election," Krugman argues. Democrats, on the other hand, are providing hope for the poor. "One of the unheralded virtues of Obamacare is that it ... doesn’t just improve the lot of the poor; it improves their incentives, because the subsidies families receive for health care fade out gradually with higher income, instead of simply disappearing for anyone too affluent to receive Medicaid," Krugman explains. Business Insider political reporter Danny Vinik disagrees: "Contra to Krugman here, the phase outs in Obamacare often create extremely high marginal tax rates on people."

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post on Republicans and unemployment benefits. "With a crucial Senate vote set for today on the Democratic plan to extend jobless benefits, Republicans continue to offer one reason after another for opposing the extension. At this point, their rationales are all over the place," Sargent argues. Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, thinks unemployment benefits should be overhauled but not extended right now. "The problem with the new GOP poverty agenda has been that Republicans have not convincingly explained why, if they are genuinely interested in helping poor people over the long term, they continue advocating for policies that will have an immediate punitive impact on them," Sargent writes.

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast on the history of unemployment benefits. "When George W. Bush was president, noted Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Jim Lehrer’s PBS show last week, unemployment benefits were extended five times, 'no strings attached any of those times,'" Tomasky writes. "The last extension under Bush, in late 2008, passed 368-28 in the House of Representatives. Remember, this was with no 'pay-fors,' in the argot," he explains. The only Republicans who opposed the extension were considered extreme. But "what was considered extreme and nutty then is standard operating procedure today. A key development here was Rand Paul saying a couple of weeks ago that benefits beyond 26 weeks just make people lazy. That unleashed the right-wing id," Tomasky argues. Former Republican budget official Bruce Bartlett tweets, "Extending UI in Republican administrations, good; extending them in Democratic administrations, bad."

Noam Scheiber at The New Republic on the rise of a new Left. "Ever since Bill de Blasio coasted to the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York, political taxonomists have fixated on a new left-wing ideology: 'deBlasioWarren populism,' a kind of Germanic rhetorical synthesis of the mayor and the Massachusetts senator," Scheiber explains. But de Blasio and Warren "stand for two distinct, if overlapping, worldviews," he argues. Warren is more radical, but she also has more national appeal. "De Blasio’s rhetoric sounds more leftist, implying a relentless competition between underclass and overclass. But the substance of Warren’s agenda is far more radical. She wants to upend a fundamentally corrupt system, one in which big banks and other interests have co-opted the apparatus of government. By contrast, de Blasio implicitly accepts 'the system' ... and wants to mitigate its least desirable effects," Scheiber argues.

Gideon Litchfield at Quartz on the late Ariel Sharon. Former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's "last major political act was to evict my cousins from the Gaza Strip," Litchfield writes. "The Gaza settlers were evacuated [in 2005] — some pulled from houses screaming and clawing, others walking out in silent dignity with children in their arms and tears running down their cheeks. My cousins went quietly, dispersing to temporary townships with small prefabricated houses before they found more permanent homes. But in some of the settlers’ eyes, at least, God did intervene. Ariel Sharon, the man who had sold them down the river, suffered a massive stroke in January 2006, five months after the gates of Kissufim checkpoint had been locked for the last time. He never woke from coma," Litchfield explains. The New York Times' Beirut bureau chief Anne Barnard tweets, "Punch line from on his Gaza settler cousins: Sharon's eviction planted them deeper in mainstream Israel."

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