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

‘BUFFETT TAX’ AND TRUTH IN NUMBERSBY ROBERT J. SAMUELSONWASHINGTON POSTWhatever else they are, the super-rich have now become political props. ...

‘BUFFETT TAX’ AND TRUTH IN NUMBERSBY ROBERT J. SAMUELSONWASHINGTON POSTWhatever else they are, the super-rich have now become political props. ... By all means, Congress should pass the “Buffett Tax.” ... For starters, don’t pretend, as Obama does, that taxing the ultra-rich would solve the deficit problem. ... So, raise tax rates on Warren Buffett and others to upper-middle-class levels. But recognize that the anti-wealthy populist rhetoric is mostly political expediency. It distracts from the serious issues the country faces — creating jobs and closing long-term budget deficits. The anti-rich backlash is growing; a Pew poll finds 66 percent of Americans see “strong” conflicts between rich and poor, up from 47 percent in 2009. Pandering to this is easier than dealing with the future.

THE AUSTERITY DEBACLEBY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMESTrue, the federal government has avoided all-out austerity. But state and local governments, which must run more or less balanced budgets, have slashed spending and employment as federal aid runs out — and this has been a major drag on the overall economy. Without those spending cuts, we might already have been on the road to self-sustaining growth; as it is, recovery still hangs in the balance. ... The infuriating thing about this tragedy is that it was completely unnecessary. ... But policy makers, pundits and, I’m sorry to say, many economists decided, largely for political reasons, to forget what they used to know. And millions of workers are paying the price for their willful amnesia.NEW STRATEGY, OLD PENTAGON BUDGETEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESThe $259 billion in budget cuts over the next five years announced by the Pentagon may sound like a lot. But they are mainly a scaling back of previously projected spending. ... Much of the savings will come from cutting the size of the Army and Marine Corps by almost 13 percent and stretching out purchases of planes and ships. At the same time, the military will buy more unpiloted drones, add special operations units, equip submarines to carry more cruise missiles and expand its cyberwarfare capacities. That makes sense in a world where terrorism and unconventional attacks are a primary threat. Any plan to downsize ground forces must be matched by a credible plan to quickly build them up, if necessary. ... Mr. Obama needs to push the Pentagon to do better.OBAMA TO THE NATION: ONWARD CIVILIAN SOLDIERSBY GEORGE F. WILLWASHINGTON POSTObama, aspiring to command civilian life, has said that in reforming health care, he would have preferred an “elegant, academically approved” plan without “legislative fingerprints on it” but “unfortunately” he had to conduct “negotiations with a lot of different people.” His campaign mantra “We can’t wait!” expresses progressivism’s impatience with our constitutional system of concurrent majorities. To enact and execute federal laws under Madison’s institutional architecture requires three, and sometimes more, such majorities. There must be majorities in the House and Senate, each body having distinctive constituencies and electoral rhythms. The law must be affirmed by the president, who has a distinctive electoral base and election schedule. ... Like other progressive presidents fond of military metaphors, he rejects the patience of politics required by the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.GROWING FEDERAL DEBT RECEDES AS POLITICAL ISSUEBY FRED HIATTWASHINGTON POSTThe differences between Obama and either Romney or Gingrich on the role of government and the virtues of a progressive tax code may produce a clarifying autumn debate. But that debate will not produce momentum for debt reduction in 2013 as long as every candidate is dishonest about what such reduction will require. ... Romney has been more honest about needed Medicare and Social Security reform. But he and Gingrich are deceiving Americans when they say they can have the government they want, reduce debt and still pay as little tax as the candidates are proposing. ... Over the past two years, Obama and congressional Republicans have squandered one chance after another to get serious about fiscal reform. A better political moment is always just over the horizon. Now the horizon is the November election, and the moment is supposedly the lame-duck session afterward or the beginning of the next administration. But if the candidates can’t level with us now, they’ll have no mandate then. And the horizon will continue to recede.ADMIRAL OBAMAEDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALPresident Obama plans to cut the Pentagon budget by half a trillion dollars or more in the next decade. ... A closer look at the Navy reveals the damage. The Pentagon announced that seven cruisers will be decommissioned sooner than planned. Plans to purchase new Virginia-class submarines, a large-deck amphibious ship and smaller attack vessels will be delayed or reduced. …This is not good news. The Navy's fleet is already too small and its ships too old to perform its multiple missions. …An independent bipartisan panel said that the U.S. needed a larger Navy. …China's strategic goal is to undercut America's naval preeminence in the Pacific. … American military power has ensured global peace and prosperity since World War II. The Navy is the symbol and instrument of America's ability to project power. Its deterioration would hasten the end of the Pax Americana, carrying a high and dangerous price for the world.COALITION OF THE DEPARTINGEDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALThe usual slander against the French is that they have no stomach for fighting. ... That's the story again as Nicolas Sarkozy announces that he'll speed France's withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2013, a year earlier than planned. …The proximate cause seems to be the recent killing of four French troops by a rogue Afghan army soldier, though Mr. Sarkozy insists that's not the reason he wants out. Probably true. ... Still, it would be unfair to lay too much blame on Mr. Sarkozy, who is only trying to get ahead of the coming stampede for the exits. That was bound to happen the moment President Obama announced a timetable for the surge and a date-certain for withdrawal, thereby giving the Taliban hope that they could bide their time while giving America's coalition partners no good reason to stay. Mr. Sarkozy may not be the bravest of politicians, but in the matter of Afghanistan he is merely one of the herd.