Best columns: The U.S.
Judging Trump by what he delivers
The fate of Donald Trump’s presidency will be decided by “Trumpcurious voters,” said Josh Barro. Polls show that about 37 percent of Americans are “Trump superfans,” viewing him favorably despite or even because of his abrasive personality. About another 15 percent disapprove of Trump personally—but still say they’re optimistic about the next four years and how Trump will perform as president. These are the Trump-curious voters—people who are willing to give him a chance, because they hope that his pro-business policies will create jobs, cause wages to rise, revitalize communities in decline, and rev up the economy. They also hope that as a change agent, “he can knock some heads together” and get Congress to do something other than talk. The catch here, of course, is that Trump has made many grand promises: bringing back manufacturing jobs from abroad, renegotiating better trade deals, eradicating crime and ISIS, and replacing Obamacare with something that’s both cheaper and better. If Trump fails to deliver, “he will not be able to fall back on a reservoir of goodwill,” since a majority of Americans dislike him personally. If he loses the Trump-curious, he will be in big political trouble.
Extreme wealth is not ‘obscene’
Jeff JacobyThe Boston Globe
“The world’s eight richest men own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 3.7 billion people—half the planet’s population,” said Jeff Jacoby. That’s what the international charity Oxfam tells us, calling the vast income gap “a moral and social calamity.” It’s a striking statistic, but “it’s also irrelevant.” To begin with, “the Oxfam 8”—Microsoft’s Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett, telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, clothing magnate Amancio Ortega, Amazon creator Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, and New York City’s entrepreneur ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg—aren’t parasites exploiting the masses. Through hard work and ingenuity, they’ve created enterprises that improve the lives of billions; moreover, each gives massive amounts to charity. Meanwhile, thanks to capitalism, “the world’s poor have been climbing out of poverty at the fastest rate in human history.” Over the past 30 years, the number of people in extreme poverty has dropped by 75 percent, or 1.2 billion people. Liberals keep insisting that extreme wealth is “obscene,” as if the economy were a zero-sum game in which people get richer only if poor people get poorer. That’s not true. “Wealth is good, and the more people who can create and earn it, the better.”
When every president is illegitimate
Andres MartinezThe Washington Post
For four consecutive presidencies, many Americans have insisted that an illegitimate leader was occupying the White House, said Andres Martinez. This destabilizing trend began in 1992, when Bill Clinton won a three-way race with 43 percent of the vote. Republicans insisted Clinton had no mandate for his liberal policy initiatives, personally attacked and investigated him relentlessly, and gleefully sought to impeach him in his second term. After the bitterly contentious 2000 election, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Democrats refused to accept George W. Bush as a legitimate president, and hatred against him ran deep. Barack Obama’s “resounding win” in 2008 briefly quieted the legitimacy debate, but critics— including our current president—soon charged that Obama was a secret Muslim born in Kenya and was therefore a fraudulent president. Now it is President Trump who’s haunted by challenges to his validity. Where does this end? There’s nothing wrong with opposing presidents and policies we disagree with. “But the haste of recent years to delegitimize opponents, and to call them un-American, is itself un-American.” Extreme partisanship has left us with a political system that’s “devoid of shared narratives, aspirations, values, and, increasingly, facts.”
“Living in bubbles is the natural state of affairs for human beings. People seek out similarities in their marriages, workplaces, neighborhoods, and peer groups. The preferred sociological term is ‘homophily’—similarity breeds affection—and the implications are not all positive. White Americans have 90 times more white friends than they have black, Asian, or Hispanic friends, according to one analysis from the Public Religion Research Institute. That’s not a description of a few liberal elite cliques. It’s a statistic describing the social networks of 200 million people. America is bubbles, all the way down.’’
Derek Thompson in TheAtlantic.com