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Must Read Op-Eds for Monday, November 14, 2011


GUESS WHAT IT'S TIME FOR? A GOP DEBATE!  BY GAIL COLLINSNEW YORK TIMESGingrich explained very clearly that Freddie [Mac] gave him the three-hundred grand for his “advice as a historian.” This is fantastic and important news. Right now a great many college students are trying to decide on a course of study. Some of them would probably like to major in history but are wondering if they should pick something that might be more lucrative. Not to worry, college students! Look at Newt. Three-hundred-thousand dollars for advising! And the way he described it in the debate, it appeared to involve about only an hour of his time. So, if given a choice between an M.B.A. in finance or an M.A. in medieval studies, you know where to go. And tell them Newt sent you.


THE DEVIL AND JOE PATERNO  BY ROSS DOUTHATNEW YORK TIMES[The Catholic priests] believed in their church. They believed in their mission. And out of the temptation that comes only to the virtuous, they somehow persuaded themselves that protecting their institution’s various good works mattered more than justice for the children they were supposed to shepherd and protect... Sins committed in the name of a higher good, [Catholic essayist John] Zmirak wrote, can “smell and look like lilies. But they flank a coffin. Lying dead and stiff inside that box is natural Justice ... what each of us owes the other in an unconditional debt.” No higher cause can trump that obligation — not a church, and certainly not a football program. And not even a lifetime of heroism can make up for leaving a single child alone, abandoned to evil, weeping in the dark.


Election Day is nearly a year off and the first primaries aren’t until January, but I’m ready to skip ahead to the main event. The last serious hope of the Tea Partiers, Rick Perry, and their last not-so-serious hope, Herman Cain, are in campaign death spirals. Unless God has a cruel sense of humor, Newt Gingrich will pass like a tantrum. That leaves us with a general election between two serious and certifiably sane candidates. Phew!! ... But just to put the season of vaudeville firmly behind us, let’s contemplate the choice that awaits: two confident, intelligible, no-drama, rather distant men, each of whom seems to have overcompensated for bigot-arousing origins (Obama’s race, Romney’s religion) by being rational to a fault. Despite efforts to polarize our politics into ideological base camps, in presidential elections the deciding vote still belongs to the middle.


FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS  BY CHARLES BLOWNEW YORK TIMESGovernment is not the enemy. Not always. Don’t believe that right-wing malarkey. In fact, for millions of Americans down on their luck and at the end of their rope, they can quickly find that government is their last friend left... We learned this week that not only are there more poor people in America than had been previously reported, but that the only thing keeping millions more out of poverty are the very same social safety net programs that many Republicans despise. The Obama administration is far from perfect, and government is not beyond becoming bloated and being abused, but right is right and truth is truth: government can play a very positive role in protecting the less-well-off from the interests of the more-well-off, and this administration’s view of government is much more benevolent than those of the people who are seeking to unseat it. That’s worth remembering.


THE NEW PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT  BY JEFFREY SACHSNEW YORK TIMESOccupy Wall Street and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America. Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent... Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.


VOUCHERS FOR VETERANS, AND OTHER BAD IDEAS  BY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMES[I]t’s hard to avoid the sense that Republicans are especially eager to dismantle government programs that act as living demonstrations that their ideology is wrong. Bloated military budgets don’t bother them much — Mr. Romney has pledged to reverse President Obama’s defense cuts, despite the fact that no such cuts have actually taken place. But successful programs like veterans’ health, Social Security and Medicare are in the crosshairs. Which brings me to a final thought: maybe all this amounts to a case for Rick Perry. Any Republican would, if elected president, set out to undermine precisely those government programs that work best. But Mr. Perry might not remember which programs he was supposed to destroy.


BY SUSPENDING SYRIA, ARAB LEAGUE FINALLY BREAKS FROM ITS PAST  BY DAVID IGNATIUSWASHINGTON POSTOver the weekend, the Arab League suspended the Syrian regime’s membership. ... True to form, the Syrian president responded by calling for an emergency meeting of the Arab League — and suggested, bizarrely, that the effort was all part of a foreign plot to invade Syria. It was a classic Arab League move: Hide from your people and blame your troubles on sinister outside forces allied with the West. But this chapter of Arab history seems mercifully to be passing — with even the Arab League becoming a force that takes action to protect oppressed Arab citizens and restrain autocratic rulers. This is a snapshot of what’s changing in the Middle East, and why it’s worth celebrating. 


CAIN: SELECTED BY GOD, IMMUNE TO HUMAN SCRUTINY  BY JENNIFER RUBINWASHINGTON POSTCain has escaped deserved criticism from many on the right who have been charmed by him or felt compelled to defend the not-Obama, non-racial narrative that was central to his original message. But perhaps it’s time for them to consider whether his expressed self-image — if not “a sort of God,” then “designated by God” — and his lack of basic knowledge should be taken as a flashing red light. Conservatives, of all people, should be wary of a presidential contender whose messiah complex is entirely at odds with his abilities.


CONSERVATIVES' MINDLESS OPPOSITION  BY E.J. DIONNEWASHINGTON POST[Perry] was in the middle of describing sweeping changes in the federal bureaucracy closely connected to his spare vision of American government. One presumes a candidate for president ponders such proposals carefully, discusses them with advisers and understands their implications. ... For him, governing seems a casual undertaking. ... This is a long way from the conservatism I used to respect. Although I often disagreed with conservatives, I admired their prudence, their affection for tradition and their understanding that the intricate bonds of community are established with great difficulty over time and not easy to reweave once they are torn asunder. At their best, conservatives forced us to think harder. Now, many in the ranks seem to have decided that hard and nuanced thinking is a telltale sign of liberalism.


THE FOLLY OF THE FLAT TAX  BY ALAN BLINDERWALL STREET JOURNALAdvocates of the flat tax, or of regressive tax changes in general, often argue that it's unfair that 47% of American households pay no federal income tax at all. But is it? These alleged "freeloaders" don't get off the taxpaying hook; they pay payroll taxes, sales taxes and many others. The income tax and the estate tax are virtually the only progressive elements in our tax system. If you take away progressivity there, precious little remains. So the next time you hear the charge of "class warfare," ask yourself which class is waging war on which—and which class is winning.