5 Best Monday Columns

The homeownership "fetish", the Republican divide, and more

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  • Robert Samuelson on the Homeownership 'Fetish'  The relentless promotion of homeownership has crossed the line from being a "sensible goal" to becoming a "foolish fetish," argues The Washington Post columnist. While the amount of homeowners has dramatically increased since 1940 and these owners are now occupying bigger and better quality houses, the government has made a habit of subsidizing high-income borrowers. This practice is both unfair and unnecessary. "In an ideal world, we would discard failed policies. We would trim or end the mortgage-interest tax deduction," Samuelson writes. " The consequences need not be dire." But suddenly withdrawing support from government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might only deepen the housing recession.

  • Neal Gabler on Disincentivizing Greed  In a Los Angeles Times op-ed contribution, the Woodrow Wilson public policy scholar details the problems with "nearly all" attempts at real financial reform. Tracing the history of such reform from the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1933 to its repeal in 1999, he explains why such laws can never account for human nature and greed. "We now live in a country that seems to worship wealth, and we may just have to live with the consequences," Gabler writes. "The alternative is regulation that goes to the source by raising those marginal tax rates (and capital gains taxes) and forcing the super-rich to merely be rich again. And honestly, that's not going to happen."

  • Ahmed Rasid on Europe's Fear of a Petraeus Surge  European governments have been "haunted" by the possibility of Gen. Petraeus calling for an additional surge of troops to bolster the war effort in Afghanistan, notes Ahmed Rasid at the Financial Times. These states are facing increased pressure to draw down or completely withdraw their troops, but don't want to necessarily "cut and run" because it could not only damage Afghanistan but tarnish the credibility of NATO. "European officials are coming to the consensus ... to reach a position where negotiating with the Taliban is the political strategy around which military strategy is determined." General Petraeus, Rasid reports, wants to convince officials "to do just the opposite, determining withdrawals on the basis of the military, not the political, situation."
  • Timothy Carney on the Republican Divide  There's a schism developing in the Republican Party between Tea Party true believers and K Street insiders, contends Carney in The Washington Examiner. Bob Dole's recent $1,000 donation to a Charlie Crist--a "non-Republican"--in the Florida senate race is representative of the "fundamental split within the Republican Party." It can be broken down, Carney argues, into two fundamental factions: "Team Lott" (the insiders, named after Senator-turned-lobbyist Trent Lott) and "Team DeMint" (named after current South Carolina firebrand Jim DeMint). Team DeMint's aggressiveness--especially against the money and influence of D.C.--turns off Team Lott. "To the K Street wing," explains Carney, "the Tea Party types are like the guy who's playing too hard in a co-ed softball game."
  • Richard Just on Obama's Gay Marriage Hedge  The Obama administration's schizophrenic position on LGBT rights should give the nation pause, argues The New Republic's Richard Just. In examining the president's public statements on gay rights dating back to 1996, Just observes "a pattern that can only be described as illogical and cynical." Just fails to see the point--moral or political--in Obama "[arguing] that he is against gay marriage while also opposing efforts like Prop 8 that would ban it." By resorting to legalese to explain his position (lots of talk about state constitutions and the like), argues Just, Obama is lagging behind history in a fashion that tends, historically, to look bad.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.