Robert Samuelson on Sound-Bite Economics Lamenting the state of economic discourse, The Washington Post columnist notes that analysts either believe that "President Obama's policies ... averted another Great Depression--or have crippled the recovery." He explains that, although the process was "messy," the overall impact of Obama's actions have been "huge" and that "only a rabid partisan" could believe that the president's actions had nothing to do with staving off the financial "free-fall" the nation faced. Still, Samuelson hedges, "the right's sweeping indictment of Obama is wildly exaggerated. It is not, however, entirely misplaced." The president "loves to pick fights with Wall Street bankers, oil companies, multinational firms, health insurers and others." And sometimes his "partisan policies raise business costs, stymie job creation or augment uncertainty--and, thereby, undermine recovery."
James Surowiecki on Inflation's Good Side The New Yorker columnist thinks "that it's time for the Fed to try one more extraordinary measure: injecting the economy with a healthy dose of inflation." Really, it's not as much of a "crackpot theory" as it sounds: "If people believe that prices are going to rise in the future, they may be less cautious about spending in the present, since money that isn’t put to work will lose value. And, because inflation erodes the real value of debts, people’s debt burdens would shrink." When the Fed meets this week, it's "unlikely" that they'll discuss the merits of this theory (and voters already "really hate" the idea). That's unfortunate, says Surowiecki: "This intuitive prejudice against inflation may not be purely rational, but in normal times it’s beneficial: it encourages sober habits and discourages quick fixes. But, in times of crisis, other policies may succeed where pure rectitude can't."
Gordon Crovitz on How We Get Our News The news industry may be struggling, but content still clearly matters, argues the Wall Street Journal columnist. What has changed in recent years is the way people find the news "increasingly from one another." Enter social networking sites like Twitter, which Crovitz believes has "quietly morphed into a news service." In effect, every person on Twitter is a participant not in citizen journalism, but in "citizen editing." You put together a group of people to follow and trust their news judgment. The good news for traditional media outlets, according to Crovitz, is that with the exception of fast-breaking stories like an airplane crash, Twitter isn't usurping traditional media's role in covering the news. "Links to news through these online services," he writes, "are largely to the websites of old-fashioned media organizations...99% of the time it's to articles that originated in traditional media, according to another Pew Center study earlier this year."
Fouad Ajami on America's Poll Numbers in the Muslim World The notion that America is hugely unpopular with Arabs is just incorrect, contends Ajami--a Johns Hopkins professor and Hoover Institution senior fellow--in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Ajami cites recent polls conducted by Elaph ("the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world"), revealing that 58 percent of those surveyed objected to the construction of the so-called Ground Zero mosque. In another poll, 63 percent of those surveyed believed America was a tolerant nation. The numbers, Ajami believes, discredit the statements of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who has made it seem like anti-Americanism in the Arab world is widespread. Not so, argues Ajami.
Susan Engel on the Flaws of Standardized Tests What's to be done about the tricky business of standardized tests in American education? That's the question the Williams College professor considers in a guest editorial in The New York Times. She favors moving away from standardized tests and toward "assessments that truly measure the qualities of well-educated children." These qualities include knowledge of civics, an interest in reading, reading comprehension, a comfort moving between abstract and concrete principles, and the ability to recognize when a problem calls for math. The fundamental problem with standardized tests right now, according to Engel, is that they do not "measure students’ thinking skills." Rather, they seem to test "whether they can select a right answer from preset options." It's a test all right, but maybe not of something we need to know.