The Economist on the coming public debt crisis.
Economist, June 13 The cover article cautions that "massive public debt" will loom after the recession fades away, exacerbated by the "slow-motion budget-bust caused by the pension and health-care costs of a greying population." Currently, debt "is an essential antidote to the slump." But "governments' thirst for funds will eventually crowd out private investment and reduce economic growth." The solution? "The rich world's governments need to promise, credibly, that they will [slash deficits] once their economies are stronger."… One article lambastes the "worryingly revisionist history of the credit crunch" wherein the several banks now paying government money back, including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, "did not really need government help and were bullied into accepting it." Buying that canard would "be a disaster," potentially leading regulators to institute "a two-tier approach, judging that those banks able to avoid or repay quickly state capital early had more or less vindicated their business models."
New York Times Magazine, June 14 A report on California's proposed high-speed rail system notes the plan's benefits—Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours; decreased highway and airline traffic; "thousands of jobs"—and obstacles—"construction time generally exceeds the term, or terms, of elected politicians." Following a harrowing, 12-hour train-to-bus-to-train ride from L.A. to Sacramento, the author yearns for a quality system like France's, which, one French geographer says, instills "a feeling of belonging to a common or interconnected city."…"America is one big pothole," says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in an interview. He's not anti-car—he owns a 1998 Buick—but he does want "livable communities, where people don't have to get in a car every day."… An article examines the data centers that store everyone's Internet information. "For companies like Google, Yahoo and, increasingly, Microsoft, the data center is the factory." In total, they use more energy than Sweden.
Time, June 22 An article outlines the "blueprint" for making Tyson's Corner—a nebulous collection of office parks and massive malls in northern Virginia—into "a dense, walkable green city." The plan gained steam in March when the Transportation Department allocated $900 million to extend Washington, D.C.'s Metro to Dulles International Airport, including four Tyson's stops. The plan could influence reconceptions of other suburban mega-mall towns, like King of Prussia, Pa., and Schaumberg, Ill. The author notes a paradox: "To undo sprawl ... we might have to build a lot more on top of it."… A columnist praises President Barack Obama for applying pressure to halt Israeli settlement-building in the Palestinian territories. He predicts success because, compared with an Iranian nuclear program and its own arsenal, settlements aren't a deal-breaking issue for Israel. Meanwhile, "[t]his crisis has already revealed something about Obama: he's not timid."
The Nation, June 29 One article asserts that after Obama's "serene, common-sense address" in Cairo, "a very substantial number of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are rooting for him rather than against him." Meanwhile, "Republicans' clamor against his speech arose from a petty refusal to treat Muslims even-handedly and with basic decency."… The cover story addresses the massive rise in college tuitions, which has left two-thirds of graduates with student debt. The author suggests higher education be "socialized": "Not many politicians want to go there yet. … But if a movement demanded it, who knows what might happen?"… Katha Pollitt responds to the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller. She laments the post-Roe v. Wade rise of "the fetus" in public discourse at the expense of "the voices of women" and chastises Obama for picking a prominent pro-life Catholic to control millions in funding for faith-based family planning.
New York Review of Books, July 2 Reviewing the health care manifesto of bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel (brother of Rahm), one author concludes, "Obama's health reform policies do not address the central causes of rising costs and propose nothing likely to have much effect on them." Only a plan, like Emanuel's or a single-payer one, that "starts with the elimination of private employment-based insurance and depends largely on public funding" can provide regulation of treatment and thereby bring expenses down. … Nicholas Kristof reviews several books on Sudan's "slaughter" in Darfur, which has lasted "longer than World War II" and killed an estimated 400,000. "The most urgent need is less for sophisticated technical solutions than for political will," he says. "It's too early to know whether President Obama will do this, but at the moment I'm not optimistic." Still, there are smaller victories: "Those protests and 'Save Darfur' lawn signs prompted a vast relief effort that is keeping millions alive."
Newsweek's profile of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which focuses on his past entanglements with Iran's revolutionary regime and his current efforts to weaken Iranian influence in his country, sheds new, informed light on one of Iraq's most daunting issues.
The New York Times Magazine's primer on Internet data centers is a great idea—this type of infrastructure is critical to our lives, and most people know almost nothing about it. But the piece reads like little more than a curious layman's write-up of some casual travel and research.
Best Politics Piece
New York's profile of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is a study in quiet but outsized ambition.
Best Culture Piece
Newsweek's report on the tussle between the British Museum and Greece over the ancient Greek sculptures and reliefs known as the Elgin Marbles reaches just the right conclusion: "The marbles, really, belong to everyone."
Log-Axing in Our Time
The New York Review of Books often gets derided as the New York Review of Each Other's Books because of its authors' tendency tend to pat one another on the back. Yet in reviewing a book by Columbia University professor Mahmood Mamdani, Nicholas Kristof does the opposite. "Mamdani is also deeply critical of my own reporting about Darfur and regards my kind of journalism as a central part of the problem," Kristof writes. "He would certainly consider me to be the last person to provide a dispassionate examination of these issues or his book." Kristof proceeds to tear into Mamdani's tome.
Marc Tracy is a writer living in New York.