Must Read Op-Eds for October 10, 2011

Updated

PANIC OF THE PLUTOCRATS BY PAUL KRUGMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent… What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens… So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.

IS THE TEA PARTY OVER? BY BILL KELLER
NEW YORK TIMES

In this race, Rick Perry is the Tea Party’s dream candidate, the one remaining figure who could translate a noisy backlash into serious power. If Rick Perry loses, the Tea Party will have missed the opportunity of a lifetime. If he wins, Perry being Perry, it’s not entirely clear whether he will appease its members, but my guess is he’ll try.  “Rick Perry is the only candidate who would actually close down a cabinet department,” one longtime admirer told me, when I asked whether a President Perry would disappoint the Tea Party. “You would see a very happy base — at least for the first term.” The rest of us are left to recall the advice handed down 10 years ago by the late, wisecracking Cassandra of Texas politics, Molly Ivins: “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, JOE DIMAGGIO? BY THOMAS FRIEDMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

What is John Boehner’s vision? I laugh just thinking about the question.
What is President Obama’s vision? I cry just thinking about the question. The Republican Party has been taken over by an antitax cult, and Obama just seems lost. Obama supporters complain that the G.O.P. has tried to block him at every turn. That is true. But why have they gotten away with it? It’s because Obama never persuaded people that he had a Grand Bargain tied to a vision worth fighting for. We cannot bail or tax-cut our way to prosperity. We can only, as [Steve] Jobs understood, invent our way there. That is why America needs to be for the world in the 21st century what Cape Canaveral was to America in the 1960s: the place where everyone everywhere should want to come to start up and make something - something that makes people’s lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, entertained, educated or secure.

PROTESTORS AGAINST WALL STREET EDITORIAL
NEW YORK TIMES

No wonder then that Occupy Wall Street has become a magnet for discontent. There are plenty of policy goals to address the grievances of the protesters - including lasting foreclosure relief, a financial transactions tax, greater legal protection for workers’ rights, and more progressive taxation. The country needs a shift in the emphasis of public policy from protecting the banks to fostering full employment, including public spending for job creation and development of a strong, long-term strategy to increase domestic manufacturing. It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself. It is also the first line of defense against a return to the Wall Street ways that plunged the nation into an economic crisis from which it has yet to emerge.

WALL STREET WEEKS BY GAIL COLLINS
NEW YORK TIMES

Democrats are hoping that Occupy Wall Street will become their version of the Tea Party, firing up the troops into the election. But the Tea Party was bankrolled by big Republican donors and cheered on by a big Republican cable network. Also, it is composed mainly of middle-aged and elderly people who have far less energy for meetings. My bet is that these folks will only be remembered for having been there, taken a stand. But that’s no little thing. We all complain, but they showed up.

DESPERATELY SEEKING SOMEONE BY CHARLES BLOW
NEW YORK TIMES

[Republicans’] last glimmers of hope disappeared this week when both the Mama Grizzly from Alaska and the Papa Bear from New Jersey announced that they would not run. That means this is it… The Imperfect 10. This time around, [Romney’s] positioning himself as the Great Right Defender of Social Security to run opposite Thick Rick Perry… but Romney is on the record as having been open to the idea of privatizing the program himself. Now he’s hopping around the country in the Gap skinny jeans his wife bought him, trying to be down with the common folks, tweeting about flying Southwest and eating at Subway. All the while he’s nearly quadrupling - or doubling if you follow his logic - the size of his $12 million California vacation home. Then there’s Perry, who during the last debate was pushed back on his spurs. All of America had a chance to see what many have known from the beginning: that dog isn’t smart enough to hunt.

THE DEPRESSION- IF ONLY THINGS WERE THAT GOOD BY DAVID LEONHARDT
NEW YORK TIMES

In recent years, on the other hand, the economy has not done an especially good job of building its productive capacity. Yes, innovations like the iPad and Twitter have altered daily life. And, yes, companies have figured out how to produce just as many goods and services with fewer workers. But the country has not developed any major new industries that employ large and growing numbers of workers. There is no contemporary version of the 1870s railroads, the 1920s auto industry or even the 1990s Internet sector. Total economic output over the last decade, as measured by the gross domestic product, has grown more slowly than in any 10-year period during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s.

THE RICH, BESEIGED BY ROBERT SAMUELSON
WASHINGTON POST

The trouble is that the wealthy don’t fit the stereotypes: They aren’t all pampered CEOs, hotshot investment bankers, pop stars and athletes. Many own small and medium-sized companies. Half the wealth of the richest 1 percent consists of stakes in these firms. That’s double their holdings of stocks, bonds and mutual funds, according to figures compiled by economist Edward Wolff of New York University. Reid would pay for Obama’s jobs plan by taxing the people who are supposed to create jobs. Does that make sense?   The backlash against the rich is the start of debate, not the end. Are the rich to be punished for succeeding or merely asked to pay their “fair” share? Who is wealthy or who’s just well-off? Is $250,000 a reasonable cutoff for couples, as Obama once indicated, or has that been repudiated? If taxes do rise, what approach would best preserve incentives for hard work, investment and risk-taking? Are Obama’s assaults on wealthy business leaders just deserts or political cheap shots? However measured, the rich are besieged; the attacks almost certainly will intensify.

THE LONER PRESIDENT BY SCOTT WILSON
WASHINGTON POST

Beyond the economy, the wars and the polls, President Obama has a
problem: people. This president endures with little joy the small talk and back-slapping of retail politics, rarely spends more than a few minutes on a rope line, refuses to coddle even his biggest donors. His relationship with Democrats on Capitol Hill is frosty, to be generous.
Personal lobbying on behalf of legislation? He prefers to leave that to Vice President Biden… Obama’s circle of close advisers is as small as the cluster of personal friends that predates his presidency. There is no entourage, no Friends of Barack to explain or defend a politician who has confounded many supporters with his cool personality and penchant for compromise. Obama is, in short, a political loner who prefers policy over the people who make politics in this country work.

‘THEY WON’T CARE UNTIL THEY’RE AFFECTED’ BY PEGGY NOONAN
WALL STREET JOURNAL

We are in a remarkable moment. Everyone understands the stakes. Everyone wants action. From comfortable professionals to people barely scraping by, everyone wants both parties to work together, to think of our country and not themselves. And of course everyone really gets this except Washington, which says it gets it and doesn’t. But those who think 2012 is just a clash of big parties had better wake up. They think they’re pulling and pushing in a tug of war, but they are dancing on the precipice.

OBAMA’S ECONOMIC BURDEN BY STEVE CHAPMAN
CHICAGO TRIBUNE

At first glance, Obama’s plight may not look so terrible. The unemployment rate in September was 9.1 percent, compared to 9.2 percent in September 1983. But those figures are snapshots that conceal the overall direction of the economy. At this point, Reagan’s economy was roaring back to life. Obama’s is curled up in the fetal position, whimpering… It’s always possible that Republican hubris or ineptitude will come to Obama’s rescue. But if he wins the race, it appears, he will have to do it carrying a piano on his back.

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Must Read Op-Eds for October 10, 2011

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