Five Best Monday Columns
Matt Berman on Martin Luther King Jr.'s forgotten radicalism, Paul Krugman on the undeserving rich, Jonathan Chait on the deficit and unemployment, Elizabeth Kolbert on Chris Christie, and Jonathan Cohn on Republican governors and Obamacare.
Matt Berman at National Journal on Martin Luther King Jr.'s forgotten radicalism. "Martin Luther King Jr. was not just the safe-for-all-political-stripes civil-rights activist he is often portrayed as today. He was never just the 'I Have a Dream' speech. He was an antiwar, anti-materialist activist whose views on American power would shock many of the same politicians who now scramble to sing his praises," Berman writes. For example, "the man who said that his dream of equality was 'deeply rooted in the American Dream' also believed the American government, with what he saw as its weapons testing in Vietnam, was on par with 'the Germans [who] tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe.' In the same speech, King said that, if U.S. actions were to continue, 'there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam.'"
Paul Krugman at The New York Times on the undeserving rich. The fact that "American capitalism as currently constituted is undermining the foundations of middle-class society" shouldn't be up for argument, Krugman writes. "But it is, of course. Partly this reflects Upton Sinclair’s famous dictum: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it," Krugman argues. "I’ve noted before that conservatives seem fixated on the notion that poverty is basically the result of character problems among the poor. This may once have had a grain of truth to it, but for the past three decades and more the main obstacle facing the poor has been the lack of jobs paying decent wages. But the myth of the undeserving poor persists, and so does a counterpart myth, that of the deserving rich," he writes. Americans are wealthy because they made the right choices, the story goes. "But the main thing about this myth is that it misidentifies the winners from growing inequality. White-collar professionals, even if married to each other, are only doing O.K." It's the top 0.1 percent that are growing in wealth. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent tweets, "Nice takedown of David Brooks' latest on inequality from @NYTimeskrugman (without ever mentioning Brooks' name)."
Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on the deficit and unemployment. "The deficit scolds," Chait explains, "are a loose amalgamation of business executives, activists, and pundits, often centered around Pete Peterson and his network of activist groups, allied around the goal of bringing both parties together to agree on a plan to reduce the long-term budget deficit." But "the deficit scolds have consistently failed in their quest to achieve [the] bipartisan deficit-reducing dream. Despite this, they have dominated the economic-policy debate for most of the Obama era, and their influence has been an unremitting disaster for America," Chait argues. The problem is, the deficit scolds have identified the deficit as the country's number one crisis, when unemployment is the real, urgent problem. "To be sure, the deficit scolds would prefer to alleviate immediate suffering and reduce the long-term deficit; but if this proves unattainable, they will take suffering over even tiny, temporary increases in the deficit," he writes. That's why Congress still has not been able to extend unemployment benefits. Economist Mark Thoma recommends the post.
Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker on Chris Christie. "Last week, as the scandal inevitably known as Bridgegate bubbled away, Governor Chris Christie delivered his fourth annual State of the State address, in Trenton. It was, to paraphrase A. A. Milne, a Sad Christie, a Melancholy Christie, a Small and Sorry Christie who spoke to state lawmakers," Kolbert writes. The scandal started, Kolbert explains, with the Port Authority. "As soon as Christie took office, in 2010, he set about stuffing the weakened agency with his supporters. A lawsuit filed by a former employee revealed that within two years the new administration had sought berths at the Port Authority for nearly fifty loyalists," Kolbert writes. "Politics, as everyone knows, is not a profession for the fastidious. But there are rules even about stretching the rules, a precept that Christie either never bothered to learn or chose to ignore. As a consequence, his political career is now quite possibly in ruins," she argues.
Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic on Republican governors and Obamacare. "Everybody knows that red state officials aren’t enthusiastic about Obamacare. Some of them are even trying to undermine it. But are they succeeding? Are they actually holding back the law?" Cohn asks. Apparently, yes, they are. A greater percentage of eligible citizens have signed up for Obamacare in blue states versus red states. "It's possible the numbers will even out over the next few weeks and months, now that healthcare.gov is working and outreach campaigns ... are underway. But a red-blue divide in health insurance coverage is going to remain, thanks to a more familiar and ultimately more significant distinction between the states," Cohn explains. Many red states have opted not to expand Medicaid — "the end result will almost surely be fewer people in Republican-leaning states getting health insurance," Cohn writes.