5 Best Friday Columns

On Google's tax dodging, Obama's post-election outlook, and why business should fear the Tea Party

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  • David Brooks on How the White House Can Bounce Back  President Obama is primed to absorb substantial losses in the House and Senate this coming Tuesday, but all may not be lost, argues The New York Times columnist. Brooks outlines a four-point plan for recovery. "First," he writes, "the president is going to have to win back independents." Moderates powered President Obama's rise and he will need their support again if he wants a second term. "Second, Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly." This lack of a clear political identity also helped the president in 2008, but it has hindered him upon taking office, fostering the impression that he is a political waffler. Third, he must to "respond to the nation’s fear of decline." And finally, he needs to "build an institutional structure to support a more moderate approach." This means reengaging with civic groups and local chambers of commerce.

  • Steven Pearlstein on Google: Tax Dodger  "The company that once promised to do no evil, turns out to be an ingenious tax dodger that has found a way to stash billions of dollars in profit in overseas tax havens," notes The Washington Post columnist. Google is estimated to have saved $1 billion dollars between 2007 and 2009 by routing funds to a shell company based in Bermuda (among other places). While these efforts are "perfectly legal" such tax games "damage the U.S. economy by misallocating capital, distorting business decisions and reducing government revenue at a time of escalating deficits." A typical businessperson's refrain is that the United State's high corporate tax rate hinders companies from being globally competitive. Next time this refrain is heard, "think of Google." Pearlstein concludes: "The conventional wisdom is that it will take presidential leadership to reform the tax code and balance the budget, but the reality is that it will require the support of the business community."

  • Ronald Brownstein on Obama's Post-Election Outlook  While the president appears to be in for an even greater "pasting" in the midterms than Bill Clinton got in 1994, Obama seems at peace with the results whereas Clinton was "tormented." The National Journal political director weaves together his interviews of the former and current president to show differences in their leadership styles. Whereas Clinton "agonized" and ultimately rehabilitated his presidency by emphasizing his independence from both parties, Obama's "equanimity" may not play well in the face of a Democratic "calamity." Brownstein argues that Clinton's triangulation probably isn't an applicable strategy for Obama. Instead he must "challenge his own assumptions" and "ruthlessly" reconsider how he governed in the first half of his term. This may mean "importing new advisers." Even if it's a difficult process, Brownstein writes, "for Obama, more agonizing now might mean less of it in 2012."

  • Paul Krugman on What Will Happen If Republicans Control the House  Some pundits say that there's little to fear from a divided government. After all, look at what the latter Clinton years did for "rapid job creation" and "responsible budgets." The New York Times columnist bluntly informs his readers that this result will not occur when Republicans (barring a "huge upset") take control of at least one branch of Congress. "This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness," fumes Krugman. While Republican Mitch McConnell has signaled his willingness to work with Obama if he's willing to do a "Clintonian back-flip," the president shouldn't take the offer. It would only hurt Obama's chances of reelection. Krugman, echoing the refrain of his earlier columns, insists that "we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap." That won't happen if Republicans control the House.

  • Robert Reich on the Anti-Business Tea Party  Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the former Secretary of Labor says that far from applauding them, business leaders should be worried about the rise of Tea Party-backed candidates. Candidates like Rand Paul have run campaigns "targeting the central institutions of American government... they blame the Fed for creating the Great Recession and believe that the economy would be better off without a single institution in Washington setting monetary policy." Corporate CEOs may have valid concerns about "uncertainties caused by Mr. Obama's policies," but Reich argues this uncertainty is infinitely preferable to the "dangerous idiocy" of the Tea Party's economic plan. Reich cites polls showing Tea Partiers are hardly pro-business: a "higher proportion of tea party adherents believes that free trade agreements hurt the nation overall (61%) than does the general population (53%)," he notes, and in "a poll earlier this year by the Mellman Group, a majority of tea party supporters favored putting taxes on imports from countries with lower environmental standards than the United States."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.