Five Best Monday Columns
A Christie candidacy, college cost-benefit, and irritating office workers
Ross Douthat Again Calls for Christie to Run This weekend's news sets up a showdown between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry for the Republican nomination at at time when President Obama is weak, writes Ross Douthat in The New York Times. "Six months ago, it still seemed as if Republican primary voters might be choosing a sacrificial lamb to run against Barack Obama. Now it looks as if they might be choosing the next president," Douthat writes. Romney has been campaigning, not taking strong positions, for too many years, and this lack of conviction will hurt him as president. Perry has strong convictions and personal narrative but he lacks the uniting spirit that most successful candidates have. That, too, would hurt him in a divided Washington if he were elected. Douthat says that with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Republicans can do better than the current front runners. Christie has downsides: he's already said he won't run, he would be abandoning his New Jersey governorship, he is too moderate for the GOP base, and he is overweight. However, "serving as the budget-cutting Republican governor of a Democratic state is a far, far better preparation for what awaits the next president than either Perry’s small-government idyll or Romney’s permanent campaign," Douthat says. Christie has had a successful record there. "Six months ago, the best argument for a Christie campaign was that the Republican Party needed him. That wasn’t nearly enough to justify the risk. But if the country needs him? Then it might be worth considering."
The Chicago Tribune on Irritating Office Workers "Office politics can be deadly. Now there are numbers to prove it," declares the Chicago Tribune editorial board. The board points to a Tel Aviv University study that tracked 820 people for 20 years and found that those with lower peer support on the job were more likely to die. "Surprisingly, having a jerk for a boss doesn't seem to have an effect on longevity. It's the clown who wants to be your boss that you need to watch out for," they write. "Countless studies have shown that a toxic work environment zaps productivity, drives away talent, increases turnover and absenteeism, inhibits creativity and problem-solving, and destroys team cohesion." The board points to self-help books and seminars that help workers rant about their annoying co-workers and potentially find solutions. "Alternately, you could visit annoyingcoworker.com and let 'er rip in an anonymous email, or even send one of the pre-written screeds helpfully provided on the site, though this wouldn't be a particularly collegial gesture on your part. Remember, co-workers can kill. It's safer for everyone if we all play nice."
Warren Buffett Says Raise Taxes on the Super-Rich Famed investor Warren Buffett says he and his "mega-rich" friends have not been asked to share in the fiscal sacrifices the rest of America is making. Buffett last year payed about 17 percent of his taxable income, putting him at a lower rate than anyone in his office, he writes in The New York Times. Those who "make money with money" consistently pay a far lower tax rate than those whose income comes from a job. Buffett's tax rates were higher in the 80s and 90s, but he says this did not disincentive him or others from investing and generating profits, as some argue a higher tax rate would. Buffett says he knows many of America's richest people. "Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering." The 12-person congressional committee must do more than cut the budget, Buffett writes. "I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get. But for those making more than $1 million--there were 236,883 such households in 2009--I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains... It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."
Paul Krugman Debunks the Texas Jobs Miracle Myth Rick Perry's campaign will likely center on "the economic miracle in Texas," writes Paul Krugman in The New York Times. "So what you need to know is that the Texas miracle is a myth, and more broadly that Texan experience offers no useful lessons on how to restore national full employment," Krugman writes. High oil prices and "surprisingly strict regulation" on mortgage lending delayed and muted the 2008 recession in Texas, but eventually unemployment rose as it did everywhere. Texas has an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, which is lower than some states, but higher than others, including Massachusetts where nearly everyone has health care, compared with only three in four Texans. The "Texan miracle" arises largely from misunderstandings about its population growth, which is higher than in most of the country because of immigration from Mexico and from other states where people envy its warm weather and low cost of living. "Many of the people moving to Texas--retirees in search of warm winters, middle-class Mexicans in search of a safer life--bring purchasing power that leads to greater local employment. At the same time, the rapid growth in the Texas work force keeps wages low... and these low wages give corporations an incentive to move production to the Lone Star State." But America cannot lower wages and implement deregulation to similarly encourage job creation since "every state can't lure jobs away from every other state," Krugman notes. For this reason, we must scrutinize Perry's claims at job creation.
Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney on College as an Investment Many question whether college has become too expensive without ensuring employment at the other end. "We've just completed a study that draws on a variety of data to help answer those questions, and our research suggests that college is not only worth it; it's probably going to be the best investment a person makes in a lifetime," write Those with college degrees, on average, earn far more than those without them." Even looking at those who graduated in the last three years, over 90 percent of the college graduates are employed whereas 64 percent of those who sought employment straight out of high school have jobs. The college graduates outearn the high school ones as well. The authors also looked at the value of college as an investment, comparing it to a high school graduate who put the money otherwise spent on college in the bond market or elsewhere. They found a much higher rate of return than in the stock, bond, or gold markets in the last 60 years. "We live in difficult economic times filled with challenging financial trade-offs. There is no guarantee with regard to any investment, but the evidence on education is clear: The more education you obtain, the better off your job prospects and future earnings."