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Must Read Op-Eds for Friday, January 20, 2012

THE GOP'S SUICIDE MARCHBY CHARLES KRAUTHAMMERWASHINGTON POSTEconomic inequality is an important issue, but the idea that it is the cause of America’s

THE GOP'S SUICIDE MARCHBY CHARLES KRAUTHAMMERWASHINGTON POSTEconomic inequality is an important issue, but the idea that it is the cause of America’s current economic troubles is absurd. Yet, in a stroke, the Republicans have succeeded in turning a Democratic talking point — a last-ditch attempt to salvage reelection by distracting from their record — into a central focus of the nation’s political discourse. ... All eyes are on South Carolina and Romney’s taxes. This is no mainstream media conspiracy. This is the GOP maneuvering itself right onto Obama terrain. The president is a very smart man. But if he wins in November, that won’t be the reason. It will be luck. He could not have chosen more self-destructive adversaries.

TAXES AT THE TOPBY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMESDefenders of low taxes on the rich mainly make two arguments: that low taxes on capital gains are a time-honored principle, and that they are needed to promote economic growth and job creation. Both claims are false. When you hear about the low, low taxes of people like Mr. Romney, what you need to know is that it wasn’t always thus — and the days when the superrich paid much higher taxes weren’t that long ago. Back in 1986, Ronald Reagan — yes, Ronald Reagan — signed a tax reform equalizing top rates on earned income and capital gains at 28 percent. ... Mr. Romney’s tax dance is doing us all a service by highlighting the unwise, unjust and expensive favors being showered on the upper-upper class.THE WEALTH ISSUEBY DAVID BROOKSNEW YORK TIMESRomney’s salient quality is not wealth. It is, for better and worse, his tenacious drive — the sort of relentlessness that we associate with striving immigrants, not rich scions. ... Romney seems to share his family’s remorseless drive to rise — whether it’s trying to persuade the French to give up wine and join his church, or building a business, or being willing to withstand heaps of abuse in pursuit of the presidency. He may have character flaws, but he does not have the character flaws normally associated with great wealth. His signature is focus and persistence. The wealth issue is a sideshow.MORALIZING'S HIGH COSTEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESMultiple marriages and even adultery are not automatic disqualifications for the presidency. ... But when a political party decides that moralizing about personal conduct is as important as public policy, it inevitably makes some of its leaders vulnerable to the worst charges of hypocrisy. In this political cycle, it is Newt Gingrich who has been unable to escape the toxic combination of infidelity and sermonizing. ... When Republican officials then get caught violating one of the Ten Commandments, they make an enormous show of contrition and repentance and ask for the public’s forgiveness. But as the hypocrisy level continues to rise, that forgiveness may become much harder to provide.A POVERTY OF SOLUTIONSBY MICHAEL GERSONWASHINGTON POSTA significant and growing portion of the population lives in poverty. In 2007, the rate was 12.5 percent. By 2010, it was 15.1 percent. ... GOP candidates seldom mention the problems of the poor, for fear of being viewed as ideological weaklings. Elected Democrats are advised by their pollsters to focus on the challenges of the voter-rich middle class. No president — including Barack Obama — is naturally inclined to talk about conditions that have grown worse on his watch. Yet a debate on poverty is needed. And it would benefit from specificity, which often challenges ideology.REPUBLICANS WITH A ONE-TRACK MINDBY EUGENE ROBINSONWASHINGTON POSTIt’s striking that, in [South Carolina,] where unemployment is at 9.9 percent, the last message Romney decides to send voters before the primary is not “jobs” or “growth” — but rather, “We’ve got to get rid of this guy.” From the sound of it, this whole thing isn’t political. It’s personal. The candidates go back and forth across the state, exhorting voters to “take the country back,” and I wonder: Take it back from whom? ... On Monday, [Romney] made the pitch that Obama had to be replaced right now, because if he remains in office for four more years, the country will be transformed into “something we wouldn’t recognize.” Bingo. The Obama administration, to state the obvious, doesn’t look like any of its predecessors. In its diversity, however, it does look a lot like the nation.THE NO-OBAMA DRAMABY PEGGY NOONANWALL STREET JOURNALWe have entered a new phase, the Republican primary as John Grisham novel. Secret offshore bank accounts, broken love, the testimony of anguished ex-wives... If you are a Republican who hates a mess, or if you are a member of that real but elusive and hydra-headed thing, the GOP establishment, you are beside yourself with anxiety and unhappiness. You think: "They're losing this thing! ... How will they look by the fall? ... We all know politics ain't beanbag, but it's not supposed to be a clown-car Indy 500 with cars hitting the wall and guys in wigs littering the track!" There's been a lot of damage. We lose sense of it in the day to day, but in the aggregate it's going to prove considerable.ROMNEY: THE CONSERVATIVE WHO CAN BEAT OBAMABY JOHN BOLTONWALL STREET JOURNAL[E]lectability. Competitors and politicos are already endlessly analyzing this question, so I'll make only three brief points. First, there is an infinitesimally small chance that Mr. Romney will self-destruct in September or October. "No-drama Obama," meet your match. Second, Mr. Romney has the overwhelming lead in endorsements from Republican senators and representatives—the most aware, self-interested community, bar none, regarding our nominee's electability. No propensity there to grandiosity or suicide. Third, Mr. Romney shares one of Reagan's most important and attractive characteristics: being critical without being angry or scornful. The late Bill Buckley bequeathed us the right test: Pick the most conservative candidate capable of winning. That is clearly Mitt Romney. HOW MUCH THE RICH PAYEDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALWhen the top income-tax rate was as high as 70% in the 1970s, the top 1% paid about 19% of all federal income taxes. At the current rate of 35% the top 1% pay just under 40% of all income taxes. Liberals say this is because the rich earn a larger share of income. But when tax rates are lower, the rich have less incentive to seek tax shelters and more incentive to put their money to work in income-earning, revenue-producing ventures. Mr. Romney said at Monday's Republican presidential debate that he would like to see a top income-tax rate of about 25%. Mr. Obama is seeking a rate closer to 42%, for starters. Mr. Romney's challenge is to persuade Americans that lower rates will mean more jobs and growth, and more revenues for the government. ...[I]f he stays on his current path of playing defense, Mr. Romney won't deserve to be the GOP nominee because he's likely to lose the fall election.