Five Best Wednesday Columns

Jonathan Chait on Obama's economic action, Jonathan Cohn on how the President can make a difference, Greg Sargent on Obama's gamble, Alex Pareene on America's paranoid wealthy class, and Ezekiel J. Emmanuel on the Republican alternative to Obamacare. 

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Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer on Obama and economic action. "President Obama devoted his State of the Union address to the economy for a simple reason: Americans think he needs to spend more time talking about the economy," Chait writes. But "the basic underlying fact of the situation is that the economy is growing very slowly because Congressional Republicans have done everything in their power to apply the fiscal brakes to the recovery. Among macroeconomic forecasters, this is not a remotely controversial assertion but rather an obvious fact that they wearily plug into their models," Chait argues. "As the great cliché goes, it’s impossible to make a man understand something if his livelihood depends upon not understanding it, and the livelihood of the Republican Congress depends upon averting a rapid recovery under Obama," he insists. National Journal's Ron Fournier tweets, "Wow. An excuse wrapped in justification stuffed into the hollow shell of White House spin. Bravo." Chait responds, "You think a column calling Obama's speech a giant act of pretense is 'White House spin'? I don't think that's their message."

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic on how Obama can make a difference. "The prevailing consensus in Washington is that President Obama is done creating public policy. He may have the ambition to do more, the thinking goes, but he doesn’t have the political support," Cohn writes. "But it's not like the president is powerless. He can set the political agenda and, with some careful targeting, he can make some progress," Cohn argues. "The biggest executive action Obama is taking is the one that’s getting the least attention — and was virtually absent from the State of the Union. It’s his efforts to fight climate change, primarily through new regulations on power plants. Obama hasn’t been saying much about this, perhaps because it doesn’t help him or his party politically. But, as writers like Jonathan Chait keep reminding people, it’s a huge deal," he writes.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post on Obama's gamble. "What the vow of executive action really constitutes is a gamble that Americans, at bottom, agree more with the liberal economic vision than the conservative one," Sargent argues. "[Obama's] hope: If people support liberal economic policies like the minimum wage hike, they will support accomplishing them via executive action, won’t care about process, and will contrast this action favorably with Congressional Republicans, who will remain associated with Washington dysfunction and, by extension, economic pessimism," he writes. Fournier tweets, "From the left, a smart take on the by ."

Alex Pareene at Salon on America's paranoid wealthy class. "A funny prank would have been for Barack Obama to announce at his State of the Union address last night that he was going to confiscate all of Tom Perkins’ money and redistribute it to the masses. I mean, no matter what the president actually said in his speech, that proposal is what Perkins was going to hear. If our plutocrats insist on being paranoid cranks obsessed with their persecution fantasies, I say we might as well persecute them," Pareene writes. Last week, Perkins wrote an insane letter to the editor at The Wall Street Journal predicting a coming anti-rich "Kristallnacht." But "when you remove the always ill-advised Nazi analogy, Perkins’ comments are indistinguishable from the sorts of things hedge fund managers and venture capitalists and executives say on CNBC literally every day," Pareene argues. "We listen to their opinions, no matter how stupid they are, because our elected officials listen to their opinions, and their jobs depend on not recognizing or acknowledging how stupid they are. It is impossible to get elected president without the backing of a cadre of multimillionaires."

Ezekiel J. Emmanuel at The New York Times on the Republican alternative to Obamacare"After nearly four years, we finally have a Republican counterproposal [to Obamacare]: the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment (or Patient CARE) Act," Emmanuel, a bioethicist and Hastings Center fellow, writes. "While it is lacking in important details, this plan contains some interesting ideas that might have enabled bipartisan compromises had they been offered in 2009, when I was a health care adviser to the Obama administration and the Affordable Care Act was being debated. For instance, the plan would shift many low-income adults from Medicaid to subsidized private insurance. There are some Democrats who could certainly have supported such a proposal, if it had been offered as part of a deal to enact a bipartisan bill," he notes. But there are many problems with the Patient CARE Act, leading Emmanuel to conclude, "Now that Americans have the chance to examine the alternative, it might help them see the advantages of Obamacare."

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