Must Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Updated
 

CORZINE CRASHES LIKE ITS 2008
BY JOE NOCERA
NEW YORK TIMES

When Goldman Sachs went public on May 4, 1999, Jon Corzine, who was then the firm’s chief executive, held a stake that was suddenly valued at $305 million. So, perhaps, it’s uncharitable to complain about the piddling $12 million severance he was poised to gain if he had managed to sell his current firm, MF Global Holdings, over the weekend. But I’m going to complain anyway. The idea that Corzine, who single-handedly destroyed MF Global Holdings, was in a position to command so much as a penny in severance is horrifying. It suggests two things. The first is the extent to which “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” remains the operative concept for Wall Street compensation. The second is that one’s politics doesn’t much matter when it comes to lining one’s pockets. Corzine is an avowed liberal who has decried income inequality and Wall Street pay — but right up until the end, he had his hand out for millions he didn’t deserve.

THE WRONG INEQUALITY
BY DAVID BROOKS
NEW YORK TIMES

The zooming wealth of the top 1 percent is a problem, but it’s not nearly as big a problem as the tens of millions of Americans who have dropped out of high school or college. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the 40 percent of children who are born out of wedlock. It’s not nearly as big a problem as the nation’s stagnant human capital, its stagnant social mobility and the disorganized social fabric for the bottom 50 percent. If your ultimate goal is to reduce inequality, then you should be furious at the doctors, bankers and C.E.O.’s. If your goal is to expand opportunity, then you have a much bigger and different agenda.

LEADING FROM BEHIND
BY ROGER COHEN
NEW YORK TIMES

The American century is over and not coming back — this could be nobody’s century, as befits a globalized world — but that does not make American power any less critical. It just has to be exercised in ways consistent with the facts, as it was in Libya. Where Obama has failed to lead — from in front, atop, behind or anywhere — is on the domestic front, where America’s regeneration capacity has stalled. Great presidents lift the national mood. They are in sync with, and can summon, the American spirit. F.D.R. and Reagan and Clinton had this quality. Obama has not discovered it, which is why next year’s election is no shoo-in. Americans don’t think the president who took out Bin Laden is a wimp. They do wonder if he’s a wonk. It’s internal weakness — division and decay — that is the real danger to the United States as a global power, not the good sense of leading from behind.

LET HERMAN BE GONE
BY EUGENE ROBINSON
WASHINGTON POST

[Cain] needs to answer more questions about the alleged harassment. Beyond his categorical denial of wrongdoing, he could call on the National Restaurant Association to relax its confidentiality agreement and release records of the two cases — perhaps with names redacted — so voters can come to their own conclusions. Cain said Monday that he would not request such action. Why not release as much information as possible, if that will put the issue to rest? I hope he does, because we’re running out of bandwidth. Cain’s famous “9-9-9” tax plan would be ruinous. He wants to privatize Social Security. He believes that “extensive foreign policy experience” is not something a president needs, since when he was named chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, “I had never made a pizza — but I learned.” So many reasons to oppose this loopy candidacy, so little time.

THE CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR MITT ROMNEY
BY MICHAEL GERSON
WASHINGTON POST

Opponents accuse him of political pragmatism — of which he is clearly guilty. But Romney might put his pragmatism to good use. His economic advisers are solidly conservative. Before the primary season is done, we are likely to see some serious entitlement and tax reform proposals. A leadership team of Romney, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might be just what the moment requires: prudent adults who are conservative but not too far ahead of the public. They would stand a decent chance at doing what it takes to encourage job creation and avoid fiscal disaster. Prudence and the avoidance of disaster are not the most inspiring political themes. But they could appeal to conservatives and to others — if Romney can make the positive case for pragmatism.

A SLOW-GROWTH AMERICA CAN’T LEAD THE WORLD
BY JOHN TAYLOR
WALL STREET JOURNAL

The U.S. government should work to prevent interventionist trade and other policies abroad. But this is hard to do if America is moving in an interventionist direction internally. And it will have less and less influence if it continues to depart from sound fiscal policy, becoming more indebted to the negotiators on the other side of the table. … If … the U.S. starts to return to the principles of economic freedom—the best route to improving its own economy—then perhaps it will be able to reassert its economic leadership, benefit the world economy, and in turn create an even more prosperous American economy in a grand virtuous circle.

WHAT’S YOUR KID GETTING FROM COLLEGE?
BY WILLIAM MCGURN
WALL STREET JOURNAL

So yes, the student protesters with their iPads and iPhones may come across badly to other Americans. Yes too, even those who leave school thousands of dollars in debt will—on average—find their degrees a good investment, given the healthy lifetime earnings premium that a bachelor’s degree still commands. Still, when it comes to what our colleges and universities are charging them for their degrees, they have a point. Too many have paid much and been taught little. They’ve been ripped off—but not by the banks or the fat cats or any of the other stock villains so unwelcome these days in Zuccotti Park.

PULLING A CORZINE
EDITORIAL
WALL STREET JOURNAL

To prevent future bailouts on this side of the Atlantic, the key is to understand that big-bank CEOs can also be tempted to pull a Corzine. To protect taxpayers from the consequences, the solution is very high capital standards for the biggest firms. This will create a larger cushion so they are less likely to fail, and it may be an incentive for many firms to avoid getting too big in the first place, or to get smaller if they are already too big. Then they can do a Corzine for as long as their shareholders let them.

Must Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Updated