Five Best Saturday Columns

On a 62% tax rate, Italy's lackluster revolution, and sympathy for John Edwards

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Stephen Moore on a the Proposed Democrat Tax Rate. Senate Democrats are considering a 3% surtax on income over $1 million to raise federal revenues. According to Stephen Moore, if this should happen, then, along with other leading tax hikes, the U.S. would have a combined federal and state top tax rate on earnings of 62%. "That's more than double the highest federal marginal rate of 28% when President Reagan left office in 1989. Welcome back to the 1970s," laments Moore, "we're headed back to the taxes that prevailed under Jimmy Carter, when the highest tax rate was 70%." This is worrisome to Moore because "this trend is the deterioration of the U.S. tax position relative to the rest of our economic rivals. In 1990, the highest individual income tax rate of our major economic trading partners was 51%, while the U.S. was much lower at 33%. It's no wonder that during the 1980s and '90s the U.S. created more than twice as many new jobs as Japan and Western Europe combined." The time is now, according to Moore, "for a pro-growth Steve Forbes-style flat tax."

Ruth Marcus on Freeing John Edwards. "As far as I’m concerned, John Edwards is pond scum," begins Ruth Marcus, "...But being a jerk, even on an Edwardsian scale, is not a felony, which is what federal prosecutors have been pursuing for more than two years." Edwards was originally under investigation under the theory that he misused funds to support his mistress, Rielle Hunter. After that failed, Edwards may now be indicted because during the 2008 campaign, Edwards, directly or indirectly, approached two financial backers to solicit support for Hunter, who gave  more than $750,000."Was that a contribution to the Edwards campaign, in which case it would be illegal because it was not reported as such and exceeded the allowable contribution limits?" Posits Marcus: "That’s a stretch... If I lend my daughter money so she can volunteer for a political campaign, that’s not an illegal contribution to the campaign." Moreover, even "if you were to conclude that the payments to Hunter constituted impermissible campaign contributions, there is the more serious question of whether criminal prosecution is the appropriate remedy... This use of resources is, I am astonished to say, enough to make me feel some sympathy for him."

The Economist on Why Italy Won't Be the Next Spain. "For a moment, it looked as if Spain’s protests might spread to Italy," write Economist. Certainly there is a need: "Italy too has an electoral system that gives party bosses absolute control over the selection of candidates. It too has a struggling economy and high rates of youth unemployment... moreover, Italy is a gerontocracy where the young feel politically stymied." However, the article suggests that while interest for a protest was drummed up over Twitter, "it soon became clear that many of these were written by Spaniards keen to export their protest... the few people who turned up were mostly young Spaniards living in Italy." So why the apathy? "Whereas Spaniards are angry (their economy has gone from prolonged boom to spectacular bust), Italians are simply numbed by a decade of negligible growth." Moreover, in Italy, "liberal economic ideas go almost unvoiced outside business schools. Until they are heard more widely, young Italians will continue to divide between those (mostly graduates) who flee to countries like Britain and America, and those who stay on in the hope of becoming pampered insiders themselves."

The New York Times on the Trouble with Water. The New York Times argues that "years of mismanagement of the vast Mississippi River ecosystem — the relentless and often inadvisable construction of levees and navigation channels, the paving over of wetlands, the commercial development of flood plains" are to blame for the current problems in flooding. It's not just nature that is to blame, but "human error." The weakness in the system derives from "the Army Corps of Engineers’ conviction that nature can be subdued by levees and dams, and its reflexive green-lighting of any flood control project that encouraged commercial or agricultural development." This has resulted in the upper Mississippi watershed losing "millions of acres of wetlands that could have served as a natural sponge for floodwaters." While the Corps has "performed nobly in the present emergency," had environmental concerns been more ably taken into account, they may not have had to take such action. Now the Obama administration is "completing an overhaul of the guidelines governing dams, levees and other water-related projects built with federal money."

Luke Stobart on the Continuing Unpopularity of the Spanish Government. Luke Stobart writes that the growing gulf between Spain's government and its population may not be solved by the recent election. "Despite the conservative Popular party's success in last Sunday's municipal and regional elections, there is little evidence that Spaniards want a more rightwing administration... Furthermore, surveys continually detect hostility towards both parties and politicians in general." Moreover, Zapatero's likely successor, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, is a controversial figure. Following a union strike, he limited legal changes for the union in exchange for the unions accepting an increase in the retirement age to 67 years, much to "the outrage of the population, 79% of whom rejected the increase." Additionally, "not only was he responsible for the attempt to ban Bildu, but was also a key player in the controversial militarisation of the airports during a labour dispute before Christmas." Stobart opines that "if Rubalcaba does take over, it is hard to imagine a new convergence between government and the street."

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