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Must-Read Op-Eds for Wednesday, March 21, 2012

THE CARELESS HOUSE BUDGETEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESIn the long run, the premium support plan could shift costs to beneficiaries because it would limit annual per c

THE CARELESS HOUSE BUDGETEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESIn the long run, the premium support plan could shift costs to beneficiaries because it would limit annual per capita spending growth to well below the level required by the health care reform act. The plan would also cap the federal contribution to Medicaid by turning the program into a block grant to states. These extreme cuts and changes would greatly impede the nation’s economic recovery, and hurt those on the middle and lower economic rungs who suffered most from the recession. The contrast with President Obama’s budget, which raises taxes on the rich to protect vital programs while reducing the deficit, could not be more clear.

HEART OF DARKNESSBY MAUREEN DOWDNEW YORK TIMESThere was an exhausted feel to the oversight hearing, lawmakers on both sides looking visibly sapped by our draining decade of wars. Even hawks seem beaten down by our self-defeating pattern in Afghanistan: giving billions to rebuild the country, money that ends up in the foreign bank accounts of its corrupt officials. ... But most of the politicians seemed resigned to the fact that President Obama is resigned to settling for a very small footprint and enough troops to keep terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base to attack the U.S. or our allies. The White House seems ready to forget eliminating the poppy trade and expanding education for girls. We’re not going to turn our desolate protectorate into a modern Athens and there’s not going to be any victory strut on an aircraft carrier.

Read Tuesday's must-read opinion pages

Read Monday's must-read opinion pages

OIL UNDER OUR NOSESBY STEPHEN KELLYNEW YORK TIMESIn our own backyard, the Senate should quickly ratify an agreement with Mexico, which the administration initialed last month, that establishes joint rules for exploring trans-boundary oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. ... Moreover, the administration should expedite approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, intended to bring more Canadian oil to the United States. ... While Keystone’s merits have been debated at length, from a national security standpoint, the more crude flowing peacefully from our next-door neighbor, the safer we will be during the next international oil crisis. ... If we want to avoid being held hostage over oil, we should shift our focus away from the Persian Gulf and work with our neighbors to develop even more reliable sources closer to homePAUL RYAN'S DANGEROUS, AND INTENTIONALLY VAGUE, BUDGET PLANEDITORIALWASHINGTON POSTMr. Ryan argues that he would strengthen the safety net by transforming programs such as Medicaid and food stamps into block grants for the states. But the plan would cut Medicaid funding by one-fifth over the next decade, not to mention repealing the new health-care law’s expansion of Medicaid to those slightly above the poverty level. Mr. Ryan is right about the risks posed by the nation’s mounting debt. But we think his lopsided approach is dangerously wrong for the country. The blank spaces in his plan suggest he knows that many Americans would think so too.THE GOOD NEWS IN AFGHANISTAN SHOULD COME FROM PRESIDENT OBAMAEDITORIALWASHINGTON POSTIt’s important that the United States, United Nations and other outside parties begin to work on creating the conditions for elections that Afghans will accept as free and fair — and to commit to fully fund the Afghan army and government after 2014. Mr. Obama must do more to build support in the United States for his policy. ... Recent public comments have focused on bringing troops home, rather than completing their mission. While Gen. Allen is doing his best this week, the most prominent advocate for continuing to put U.S. lives on the line should be Mr. Obama.THE REFORM REPUBLICANSEDITORIALWALL STREET JOURNALDetails aside, the Ryan budget shows a House majority that realizes it has an obligation to reform the listing, unaffordable entitlement state. ... Many Republicans are still afraid and would prefer to dodge these great debates. But if voters want the status quo, they can vote for Pelosi Democrats. The country wants leaders who are willing to risk their popularity to address America's serious problems. The Ryan budget is a worthy marker.ROMNEY'S ILLINOIS VICTORY SIGNALS AN END TO THE GOP PRIMARYBY MARK HALPERINTIMEMitt Romney’s Illinois win could be the beginning of the end of the Republican nomination fight. In order to get there, he faces two challenges: He’ll have to convince on-the-sidelines Republicans to endorse his candidacy, contribute to his campaign, and muscle Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the race. ... In the last days before the Illinois vote, and in his election night victory speech, Romney refocused his rhetoric on a philosophical contrast with President Obama, virtually ignoring his GOP opponents. With Santorum’s failure to best Romney in another major industrial state, it may well be that the Republican frontrunner can now focus on his rival in the White House all the way through November.IN IL, ROMNEY FINALLY GETS A CLEAN HITBY BETH REINHARDNATIONAL JOURNALMitt Romney finally won a big-state primary without any ifs, ands, or buts. Unlike the Republican presidential front-runner’s other major victories in recent weeks, Tuesday’s triumph in Illinois wasn’t pocked with asterisks. As in, of course he won Michigan, where he was born and where his father served as governor. Or, how can he brag about Ohio, where he creamed Rick Santorum in spending but only beat him by a single percentage point? And what’s the big deal about Romney winning Virginia, where Santorum and Gingrich weren’t even on the ballot? Illinois, in contrast, was a clean hit.PAUL RYAN'S PLAN OR AMERICAN DECLINEBY JOE CONASONNATIONAL MEMOFollowed to its absurd conclusion, [the Ryan budget] would lead America toward a withered state, approaching the point where Marxian dreams and Randian dogma converge. Or at least that’s the view suggested by the sober analysts at the Congressional Budget Office, whose report on the Ryan budget shows that nearly every department of government today, from law enforcement and border patrols to scientific research, food safety ... and all the other essential functions of a great country. There would not be much left for Medicare and Medicaid, either. Social Security would continue in some form, and defense – of course – would increase. But in a nation stripped of science and infrastructure, with a people demoralized by insecurity, unemployment and inequity, exactly what would be left to defend?