Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, March 26, 2012

Updated
 

THE OUTSOURCED PARTY
BY KEVIN BAKER
NEW YORK TIMES

The Republican party has been moving to the right for half-a-century now and generally carrying the country with it. But in the past… Republican candidates and officeholders had to accommodate themselves to real-world situations and the qualms of their constituents… Participating in a democracy means more than simply insisting… in as loud and arrogant a voice as possible… what it is that you want. It means listening, it means convincing, it means compromising - all those things that political parties and their leaders used to be fairly good at. At long last, Republicans seem to be finally coalescing around Mitt Romney’s candidacy… But the longer-term problem will remain: how to maintain a coherent, mass political party when so many individuals are empowered as never before to redirect it to their own, personal ends.

A FESTIVAL OF LIES
BY THOMAS FRIEDMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

[N]othing good can be built on a soil so rich with lies on our side and so rich with sectarianism, tribalism and oil-fueled fundamentalism on their side. Don’t get me wrong. I believe change is possible and am ready to invest in it. But it has got to start with them wanting it. I’ll support anyone in that region who truly shares our values - and the agenda of the Arab Human Development Report - and is ready to fight for them. But I am fed up with supporting people just because they look less awful than the other guys and eventually turn out to be just as bad. Where people don’t share our values, we should insulate ourselves by reducing our dependence on oil. But we must stop wanting good government more than they do, looking the other way at bad behavior, telling ourselves that next year will be different, sticking with a bad war for fear of being called wimps and selling more tanks to people who can’t read.

LOBBYISTS, GUNS AND MONEY
BY PAUL KRUGMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population. Now, the American Legislative Exchange Council isn’t single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters — a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda — is one good way to highlight what’s going on.

THE RICH GET EVEN RICHER
BY STEVE RATTNER
NEW YORK TIMES

Next week’s package from House Democrats will almost certainly be more appealing. And to his credit, President Obama has spoken eloquently about the need to address this problem. But with Democrats in the minority in the House and an election looming, passage is unlikely. The only way to redress the income imbalance is by implementing policies that are oriented toward reversing the forces that caused it. That means letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy and adding money to some of the programs that House Republicans seek to cut. Allowing this disparity to continue is both bad economic policy and bad social policy. We owe those at the bottom a fairer shot at moving up.

OBAMA’S EGO TRIP
BY ROBERT SAMUELSON
WASHINGTON POST

Considering the ACA’s glaring — and predictable — economic and political shortcomings, why did Obama make it his first-term centerpiece? The answer seems to be his obsession with securing his legacy as the president who achieved the liberal grail of universal coverage. … The ACA is Obama’s ego trip, but as a path to presidential greatness, it may disappoint no matter how the court decides. Lyndon’s Johnson’s creation of Medicare and Medicaid was larger, and he isn’t deemed great. And then, unlike now, government seemed capable of paying for bigger programs.

PROMOTING THE ECONOMIC REBOUND
BY LARRY SUMMERS
WASHINGTON POST

Contingent commitments have the virtue of providing clarity to households and businesses as to how policy will play out, and in areas where legislation is necessary, eliminating political uncertainty. They allow policymakers to project a simultaneous commitment to near-term expansion and medium-term prudence — exactly what we require right now. An element of contingency in policy is always there in a volatile world. Recognizing it explicitly is the way to provide confidence and protect credibility in a world whose future no one can gauge with precision.

WHY ROMNEY’S DIXIE DROUGHT COULD DOOM THE GOP
BY JOE SCARBOROUGH
POLITICO

Romney’s performance south of the Mason-Dixon line has been pathetic. Despite having all the money, organization and endorsements that matter, Romney finished third in Alabama, third in Mississippi and a distant second in Louisiana. He was stomped by Newt Gingrich by an average of 20 points in South Carolina and Georgia and had his 13 worst performances in 2008 in the Deep South. There was a time when the South was solidly Republican but those days are gone. Barack Obama won Virginia and North Carolina four years ago and came close to beating John McCain in Georgia. Bill Clinton beat George Bush in Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

HOW ROMNEY COULD BECOME DUKAKIS
BY MICHAEL HIRSH
NATIONAL JOURNAL

It would be a cruel irony indeed for Mitt Romney, whose father’s political career was ended with one indelible word–“brainwashed”–if the son suffered the same fate at the hands of one of his most loyal aides, Eric Fehrnstrom. But if the Obama campaign were smart, right now it would be using some of its millions of dollars to hire the best former “Saturday Night Live” writers out there, all in an effort to keep the country laughing at the image of Mitt Romney as “the Etch A Sketch candidate.”… The Obama team had already been calling him a man without a “core,” but now the internet is filled with images of Romney’s face about to be erased on the iconic children’s toy. Much as Michael Dukakis handed George H.W. Bush–who was losing in the polls at the time– a priceless gift, the Romney campaign seems to have done the same for Obama.

AMERICA NEEDS A 2-PAGE TAX CODE
BY FAREED ZAKARIA
CNN

Most Americans - Republicans and Democrats - dislike the tax code. They’re right to do so. America has what is arguably the world’s most complex tax code. The federal code plus IRS rulings is now 70,000 pages long. The code itself is 16,000 pages. The statist French, for example, have a tax code of only 1,909 pages - only 12% as long as ours. … You have to understand, complexity equals corruption. … For those who despair at the role of money in politics, the simplest way to get the corruption out of Washington is to remove the prize that members of Congress give away - preferential tax treatment. A flatter tax code with almost no exemptions does that.

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Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, March 26, 2012

Updated