Timothy Noah on the Consequences of the Tech Boom In the latest of an ongoing series of articles about income equality, the Slate writer investigates to what extent the computerization of certain tasks has accelerated the decline of the middle class. The jobs eliminated by computers, he figures, "are those that require some thinking but not a lot--precisely the niche previously occupied by moderately skilled middle-class laborers." Specifically, cashiers, typists, bank tellers and appliance repairman, whose ranks are "hollowing out," while high-skilled technology jobs take their place. But computers are hardly the first technology to cause such a divergence: "earlier inventions had much the same effect as the computer...But...none of these consumer innovations coincided with an increase in inequality. Why not?" Noah's next few segments will tackle this question.
Andrew C. McCarthy on the Koran-Burning 'Stunt' "It's a shame that we need to waste time condemning minister Terry Jones," contends the National Review columnist, who nevertheless condemns Jones, comparing his actions with another religious leader, Imam Feisal Rauf, who has been at the center of the ongoing Cordoba House controversy. McCarthy sarcastically wonders whether Obama will be quick to pronounce, as he did during the height of the "mosque" debate, that the Koran-burning pastor has a First Amendment right to burn what he pleases on his own property. "The president can always come back the next day and explain that he wasn't talking about the wisdom of burning Korans," McCarthy argues, "only the irrelevant fact that a jackass has a right to be a jackass."
Joseph Stiglitz on Fixing the Housing Crisis The Obama administration's efforts "to get the housing and mortgage markets working again have largely failed," concludes the Nobel Prize-winning economist, and the idea that the government needs to prop up the housing market is based on perplexing and "possibly dangerous" thinking. He explains why a government-managed mortgage market is dangerous: "distorted interest rates, official guarantees and tax subsidies encourage continued investment in real estate, when what the economy needs is investment in, say, technology and clean energy." The economy needs to be "weaned" off its "real-estate addiction" and to do that, it's necessary to do a "quick write-down of the value of the mortgages. Banks will have to recognise the losses and, if necessary, find the additional capital to meet reserve requirements." It's time to let the private sector do what it is "supposed to excel" at: dealing with loans.
Patrick Reardon on the End of the Daley Era Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Reardon argues that the retirement of Chicago mayor Richard Daley couldn't come at a worse time. It's not that he will miss the "Kremlinlike secrecy in City Hall...[that] financially benefited those who were able to elbow their way close to [Daley's] throne." Rather, he worries that Daley's knack for "consolidating power" across all areas of civic affairs it inevitable that searching for a replacement will be chaotic. Under Daley's rule, he contends, an Iron Curtain sensibility governed local politics. Chicagoans enjoyed the "reality of democracy--but without the skills of democracy." Those skills will have to be learned on the fly as the city begins the process of choosing a new mayor.
David Ignatius on the Genius of Robert Gates With the Defense Secretary set to step down some time in the next year, the Washington Post columnist assesses the qualities that made him such an effective leader of the Pentagon. Quietly, Ignatius observes, Gates changed the Defense Secretary's job description. "Rather than battling the secretary of state, the national security adviser or the CIA director, as did so many of his predecessors," he writes, "Gates has helped bring the national security team together." The fact that he was originally appointed by a Republican makes this accomplishment all the more noteworthy. Ignatius believes this apolitical bent explains Gates's success. No soulless bureaucrat, Gibbs gets "angry--in a way we don't see often enough in Washington--when he encounters political or bureaucratic resistance." It's this "sense of accountability" that his successors should strive to emulate.