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Must Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, January 31, 2012

REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAMEBY RICHARD COHENWASHINGTON POSTIt is entirely appropriate that last week’s GOP debates fell between “Pawn Stars”

REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAMEBY RICHARD COHENWASHINGTON POSTIt is entirely appropriate that last week’s GOP debates fell between “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” in the 10 most-watched cable television shows. They are sheer entertainment having little to do with us and our problems. The Republican Party has veered so far from reality that Gingrich is lambasting Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate.” ... Romney, who has all but collapsed his rib cage to conform to conservative dogma, must be perplexed. Others have prudently stayed out of the race. The Republican establishment that has now risen up to smite the bratty Gingrich has only itself to blame. For too long it has been mute in the face of a belligerent anti-intellectualism, pretending that knowledge and experience do not matter and that Washington is a condition and not a mere city. The endorsement of Gingrich by Cain was not a bulletin. It was a feeble blip on a scope. The GOP is brain-dead.

DON’T STOP THE DEBATESEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESConsider some of the “bold ideas” the country learned about in just the last two debates in Florida. ... Newt Gingrich wants to build a lunar colony on the moon in just eight years, and he seems to believe that the private sector can be induced to pay for it… Mitt Romney promised to get millions of illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” apparently by making their lives miserable. He would veto the Dream Act. ... The debates that Mr. McCain so deplores also gave voters a taste of the incompetent candidacies of Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann… Most of all, the debates have shown the complete lack of interest by all the Republican candidates in the issues of economic fairness. While the candidates argue over their investments and their complex tax returns and who can cut taxes for the rich the most, the contrast to Mr. Obama’s newfound voice on shared responsibility could not be more clear. The long series of debates are an open window onto the failed policies and dubious values of the Republican Party. No wonder some people want to close it.A HARDER SQUEEZE ON THE POOREDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESHouse Republicans have hit upon a noxious scheme to help pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut: a tax increase on millions of poor working families. A bill passed…seeks to deny cash refunds under the child tax credit to those who file tax returns using “individual taxpayer identification numbers.” ... Leaving aside the cruelty of squeezing the poorest workers for a greater portion of their wages to make a point about illegal immigration, the bill punishes not just the undocumented, but the communities they live in, because a poor family’s hard-earned wages get spent: on things like groceries, child care, utilities, gas and rent. This would be the bottom line of the House bill: a Congress that has failed for years to fix the immigration system, using its failure to harm children and hurting those at the bottom of the ladder to avoid the slightest pressure on millionaires. The Senate would be mad to go along with it.THE END OF THE ROAD FOR NEWT GINGRICH?BY DANA MILBANKWASHINGTON POSTReal polls…had Mitt Romney with a 14-point lead over Gingrich in Florida. If such a drubbing occurs in the state’s primary on Tuesday, that would, for all intents and purposes, end Gingrich’s campaign… But Gingrich is losing people power. As crowds thin and poll numbers drop, the press corps following him has begun to dissolve… No wonder Gingrich’s campaign has had enough of the meddling media. His team had called a news conference for Monday afternoon in Tampa, and many of the heavies in the business — Fox’s Carl Cameron, ABC’s Terry Moran, CBS’s John Dickerson — were on hand, but minutes before the event, the campaign canceled it… Gingrich, his midsection bumping against the lectern as he delivered his broadsides without notes, promised there would be more earth to burn. He said there shouldn’t be “any doubt” that he will remain in the race after Florida. “The establishment in both parties is terrified,” he boasted. Well, at least the Republicans are.WHY IS TEAM GINGRICH PARROTING A PRO-OBAMA UNION’S ATTACK?BY MARC A. THIESSENWASHINGTON POSTWhy is Gingrich once again reaching into the Obama playbook to attack Mitt Romney? Doesn’t Gingrich have plenty of fodder for legitimate attacks on Romney’s record as governor? As for Romney, while there is nothing illegal about having Swiss bank accounts or money in the Cayman Islands, those holdings show him to be remarkably tone-deaf and politically clueless. The man has been running for president for nearly a decade — plenty of time to bring his assets onshore. He should have realized that having Swiss bank accounts and money in the Cayman Islands would open him up to attacks from the left this fall, when President Obama will surely try to paint him as an out of touch multimillionaire. But attacking and distorting Romney’s success in the free market is the job of Obama and the liberal Democrats. We should expect more from Gingrich, the man claiming to be the true conservative in this race.WHY DOES MITT ROMNEY WANT TO BE PRESIDENT?BY EUGENE ROBINSONWASHINGTON POSTIt is remarkable that the well-orchestrated blitzkrieg to save Florida for Romney was designed solely to raise doubts about Gingrich’s character and electability — rather than convince voters that Romney, on the merits, should be president. It makes you wonder whether the GOP luminaries supporting this guy really believe in him… “Free enterprise” seems to be what he’s most passionate about, but that’s not really an answer to the question of core beliefs. ... Gingrich, of course, wants free-market spaceships to fly us to the moon. Obama wants to rearrange our priorities to make the nation more prosperous, competitive and humane. ... Santorum’s policy positions add up to a return to “compassionate conservatism” and, perhaps, a war with Iran. Paul wants to decimate the federal government and force the few remaining workers to surrender their computers and use quill pens. ... Romney has become a very good debater, and his attack lines about Obama are honed and barbed. The only reason he still has a fight on his hands for the nomination, really, is that he let his opponents reduce his argument for the presidency to a defense of how he earned and manages his great wealth.HOW MITT CAN FINISH OFF NEWTBY WILLIAM MCGURNWALL STREET JOURNALIt looks like it's all over in Florida. ... In the end, the arguments for Mr. Romney come down to this: He has executive experience in both business and government, he's got the most money and the best organization, and he's electable… Those of us who believed that a primary fight would toughen Mr. Romney up have little to show for it. Far from sharpening his proposals to reach out to a GOP electorate hungry for a candidate with a bold conservative agenda, Mr. Romney has limited his new toughness to increasingly negative attacks on Mr. Gingrich's character. It's beginning to make what we all assumed was a weakness look much more like arrogance.WHY GINGRICH’S TAX PLAN BEATS ROMNEY’SBY ARTHUR B. LAFFERWALL STREET JOURNALTo minimize the damages taxes cause the economy, the best way for government to raise revenue is a broad-based, low-rate flat tax that provides people and businesses with the fewest incentives to avoid or otherwise not report taxable income, and the least number of places where they can escape taxation. On these counts it doesn't get any better than Mr. Gingrich's optional 15% flat tax for individuals and his 12.5% flat tax for business… Fairness in taxation means that people and businesses in like circumstances have similar tax burdens. A flat tax, whether on business or individuals, achieves fairness in spades… The current administration's notion of fairness—taxing high-income earners at high rates and not taxing other income earners at all—is totally unfair… Mr. Gingrich's tax proposal is not revenue-neutral, nor should it be. If there's one truism in fiscal policy, it's this: Wasteful spending will always rise to the level of revenues. Whether you're in Greece, Washington, D.C., or California, overspending is a prosperity killer of the first order. Mr. Gingrich's flat tax proposals—along with his proposed balanced budget amendment—would put a quick stop to overspending and return America to fiscal soundness. No other candidate comes close to doing this.