Five Best Tuesday Columns

Paul Krugman on class realities, Jonathan Cohn on Obamacare and the debt ceiling, Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on the bag selfie, Carolyn Edgar on the right's single mom mistake, and Eugene Robinson on climate change. 

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Paul Krugman at The New York Times on class realities. "One of the odd things about America has long been the immense range of people who consider themselves middle class — and are deluding themselves. Low-paid workers who would be considered poor by international standards, say with incomes below half the median, nonetheless considered themselves lower-middle class; people with incomes four or five times the median considered themselves, at most, upper-middle class," Krugman explains. "But ... According to a new Pew survey, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people calling themselves lower class, and a somewhat smaller rise in the number calling themselves lower-middle," he writes. That makes the combined "lower" categories close in "on, um, 47 percent," Krugman notes. "This is, I believe, a very significant development. The whole politics of poverty since the '70s has rested on the popular belief that the poor are Those People, not like us hard-working real Americans. This belief has been out of touch with reality for decades — but only now does reality seem to be breaking in," he argues. Al Jazeera columnist Sarah Kendzior tweets, "40 percent of Americans now self-identify as lower class, versus 25 percent in 2008."

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic on Obamacare and the debt ceiling. "Republicans and their allies are still insisting that a key Obamacare provision amounts to a taxpayer-funded 'bailout' of the insurance industry. And now they may demand its repeal in exchange for giving the U.S. Treasury authority to borrow money and pay the government’s bills," Cohn writes. Republicans are referring to the "risk corridor" program, which is a "shock absorber" to make sure insurance companies don't lose money in the first couple years of Obamacare. "The Swiss national health care plan, which delivers universal coverage through private insurance carriers, has risk corridors. So does Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drug coverage to America’s seniors," Cohn notes. But Republicans are calling risk corridors a bailout and want to see that part of the law (along with the rest of it) repealed. "Will any of this matter when Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats repeal the risk corridors? Or when 30-second ads about 'insurer bailouts' flood the airwaves this fall? Maybe not. But the risk corridors make perfect sense as policy — and conservatives should know this as well as anybody," Cohn argues. Daily Intelligencer's Jonathan Chait and The Atlantic's Matt O'Brien recommend the post.

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian at Pacific Standard on our bags, ourselves. "There was a time when the contents of people’s bags were, more or less, private. A woman’s purse was a mystery; a businessman’s briefcase an anonymous mess of ink and paper," Abrahamian writes. "Today, the practice of opening up one’s bag for display has become something of a national pastime. For years, celebrity magazines like Us Weekly and InStyle have made a show of asking stars what they carry in their handbags." Now The Wall Street Journal regularly features the contents of top exec's bags. Foreign Policy revealed the items carried by a Tahrir Square protester. "This very public game of show-and-tell has come to include ordinary people too. Self-submitted YouTube videos lay bare the contents of purses and carry-ons. Entire Flickr groups are dedicated to displaying what members keep in their clutches, backpacks, and messenger bags," Abrahamian notes. She argues, "The 'what’s in your bag' phenomenon helps us situate ourselves — and others — within this hierarchy. ... When the lines between what’s public and what’s private and between work and play are more blurred than ever, the safest move is to observe, to compare— and to conform." Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce tweets, " on the pseudo- 'minimalist enlightenment' ideology behind the bag-selfie craze."

Carolyn Edgar at Salon on the right's single mom mistake. "When I was in law school at Harvard, I didn’t know Wendy Davis, the Democratic Texas state senator now running for governor of Texas, although we were in the same graduating class. But Davis’ story reminds me of other young mothers I knew at Harvard, some of whom were single mothers. Whether married or single, the mothers in our class were fortunate enough to have a network that assisted them in raising their children while they pursued their educational and career dreams," Edgar writes. "Conservatives are now attempting to discredit Davis’s up-by-her-bootstraps story by questioning the period Davis spent as a single mother between her first and second marriages, and by casting her as a bad mother for supposedly putting her career before her children," she argues. But Republicans shouldn't disparage single mothers — "it is costing Republicans elections. Much has been made in recent months of a 'marriage gap' in GOP support: Republicans maintain strong support among married white women, but unmarried women voters of all races and married women of color tend to vote Democrat," Edgar writes.

Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post on climate change. "Another insane cold wave — not the infamous 'polar vortex ' but its evil twin — is bringing sub-zero and single-digit temperatures to much of the nation. And global warming may be even more extreme, and potentially more catastrophic, than climate scientists had feared," Robinson writes. "President Obama, who understands the science, should use his executive powers as best he can, not just to reduce carbon emissions but also to prepare the country for confronting the environmental, political and military hazards of a warmer world. The day will come, I predict, when world leaders are willing, even desperate, to curb greenhouse gases. But by then, I’m beginning to fear, it will probably be too late," he argues. 

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