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Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, April 30, 2012

HERE'S WHAT WASHINGTON REALLY DOESBY ROBERT J. SAMUELSONWASHINGTON POSTThe real Washington has government paid for by the rich and well-to-do.

HERE'S WHAT WASHINGTON REALLY DOESBY ROBERT J. SAMUELSONWASHINGTON POSTThe real Washington has government paid for by the rich and well-to-do. Benefits go mainly to the poor and middle class, while politicians of both parties live in fear that they might offend the “will of the people” — voters. Political leaders don’t lead. They take the path of least resistance, which has been to do little except to find scapegoats — “the rich,” “special interests,” “liberals,” “conservatives” — that arouse their supporters’ angriest antagonisms. It helps explain polarization.

THE IMPERILED PROMISE OF COLLEGEBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESFor a long time and for a lot of us, “college” was more or less a synonym for success. We had only to go. We had only to graduate. And if we did, according to parents and high-school guidance counselors and everything we heard and everything we read, we could pretty much count on a career... and more or less expect security. A diploma wasn’t a piece of paper. It was an amulet. ... College was seen as a glittering centerpiece of the American dream, a reliable engine of social mobility. I’m not sure things were ever that simple, but they’re definitely more complicated now. ... No good can come from letting college — as a goal, as an option — slip away. But as a guarantor of a certain quality of life, it already has. And we need to look at a whole lot more than loan rates to fix the problem.

WASTING OUR  MINDSBY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMES[T]here’s also a war on the young, which is just as real even if it’s better disguised. And it’s doing immense harm, not just to the young, but to the nation’s future. [E]ven if students do manage, somehow, to “get the education,” which they do all too often by incurring a lot of debt, they’ll be graduating into an economy that doesn’t seem to want them. And research tells us that the price isn’t temporary: students who graduate into a bad economy never recover the lost ground. Instead, their earnings are depressed for life. We should be expanding student aid, not slashing it. And we should reverse the de facto austerity policies that are holding back the U.S. economy.SAVING CHEN GUANGCHENGBY BOB FUWASHINGTON POSTChen’s desire for justice and freedom should put him firmly on the “right side” of history. By extending the United States’ hand to Chen, the Obama administration can help the dictators of Beijing unclench their fist. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken out for Chen in the past and advocated his release. Her visit to Beijing this week is a chance to connect words and deeds. China’s future will be built by those who act with Chen’s integrity and seek the light of justice, equality and freedom for all Chinese citizens. China will move toward the “right side of history” only when it recognizes that people like Chen are its strength, not its enemy.INDISPENSABLE BUT INVISIBLE IN THE SYRIAN CRISISBY JACKSON DIEHLWASHINGTON POSTThe United States, after all, is more than capable of creating and defending a humanitarian zone in Syria, with help from Turkey and NATO. To do so, [Obama} would have to set aside the idea that any action must be authorized by the U.N. Security Council. He would have to forge an ad hoc coalition with Turkey and other NATO members, led by the United States. And he would have to order U.S. diplomats to work intensively with Syria’s opposition movements and ethnic communities to build an accord on a post-Assad order. Obama would have to behave as if the United States were still what Bill Clinton understood it to be: the indispensable nation.THE GROWTH DEFICITEDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALThere's more danger ahead, as the tax-increase cliff approaches at the end of this year. Even liberal economists and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are suddenly warning about the big tax increases that will hit the economy, but they are the ones who insisted that tax cuts be temporary. They created the cliff we may all leap off. President Obama says tax cuts don't work, but he has never explained why the Reagan recovery that followed policies Mr. Obama rejected was so robust while the current recovery is so anemic. A new Fox poll finds that 83% of voters think the country is still in a recession. It isn't, but it's understandable if Americans feel that way.HOW BIG BANKS THREATEN OUR ECONOMYBY WARREN STEPHENSWALL STREET JOURNALEvery well-managed business should have contingencies and ways to assess its health and viability. But the fact that the Dodd-Frank financial regulations require the largest banks to submit detailed plans for worst-case scenarios suggests something is seriously amiss. The solution isn't to demand that the big banks plan for disaster—it's to take steps to prevent disaster. We need bank reform that addresses the root of the problem: Some banks are simply too big—for their own good, as well as that of investors, the economy and their customers.AL QAEDA IS FAR FROM DEADBY SETH JONESWALL STREET JOURNALA year after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, most policy makers and pundits believe al Qaeda is near collapse. In testimony before the Senate in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the core al Qaeda is likely becoming of "symbolic importance." This conclusion is presumptuous. As the administration looks eastward—a strategy that incorporates China's rise—underestimating al Qaeda would be a dangerous mistake. With a handful of regimes teetering from the Arab Spring, al Qaeda is pushing into the vacuum and riding a resurgent wave as its affiliates engage in a violent campaign of attacks across the Middle East and North Africa. ... Al Qaeda is far from dead. Acting as if it were will not make it so.