Five Best Wednesday Columns

Arthur Laffer on 9-9-9, Robert Jeffress on religion and politics, and Jordan Tama on the Super Committee

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Kathleen Parker on African-American calls for solidarity with Obama "The call by some members of the black media for African Americans to support President Obama in racial solidarity is a terrible idea," Kathleen Parker writes in The Washington Post. "The man who was elected on a promise of unity -- neither black nor white nor red nor blue -- can't now play the race card," she says. Yet radio host Tom Joyner, "who reaches an astonishing one in four black adults," is "leading the charge." Rev. Al Sharpton also tells black voters about his regret in criticizing New York's black mayor David Dinkins, after which "we ended up with eight years of Rudy Giuliani... I said I'll never make that mistake again," Sharpton says. These arguments for loyalty undermine the idea that candidates shouldn't be judged on their race, Parker says. "Needless to say, such words from a white man would earn him only ruin. It would be considered racist and, of course, it is." It is also unhelpful to suggest that Obama serves only one constituency and can expect their reciprocal support. To Obama's credit, he hasn't "overtly played the race card," preferring to remind voters "of the uniqueness of both his story and the moral of that story." The country overcame "hideous and painful" history to elect Obama, but ceasing to evaluate him on his merits would be akin to "turn[ing] back now."

Arthur Laffer on 9-9-9 A tax code that once simply raised revenue for the government now seeks to accomplish much more, including "income redistribution, encouraging favored industries, and discouraging unfavorable behavior," all while encouraging millions of tax payers to expend time and energy trying to find their way around paying, writes Arthur Laffer in The Wall Street Journal. "Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's now famous '9-9-9' plan is his explicit proposal to right the wrongs of our federal tax code." Cain designed it to leave unchanged the amount of revenue collected by the government, and if it spurs economic growth, the plan could even increase government revenue, Laffer says. The plan is designed to reduce marginal revenue, and if it does, "both the demand for and the supply of labor and capital will increase." Simplifying the tax code will also allow individuals and companies to spend significantly less on lawyers, accountants, and tax experts. "This is the type of tax increase I wholeheartedly support. I support collecting more in taxes from people with high incomes who choose to actually pay taxes at lower tax rates than use lawyers and accountants to avoid taxes at higher tax rates." Many economists don't like the proposed 9 percent sales tax, saying that once implemented, it could be raised, "but what they miss is that any tax could be instituted in the future at a higher rate ... let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good."

Robert Jeffress on evaluating religion in elections Robert Jeffress met with sharp criticism from several leaders when he called Mormonism 'a cult' last week, but "I am concerned that these men are attempting to prematurely marginalize religion as a relevant topic in elections," he writes in The Washington Post. Before they do, voters should consider a few things, he says. "First, discussion of a candidate's faith is permissible." Many have cited Article VI of the Constitution, which bans a religious test for public office, to rebuke Jeffress, but "the Constitution is referring to religious litmus tests imposed by government, not by individuals," so it is "ludicrous" to say that voters cannot take a candidate's faith into question. "Second, discussion of a candidate's faith is relevant," he says. "Any candidate who claims his religion has no influence on his decisions is either a dishonest politician or a shallow follower of his faith." On the left and the right, people have already questioned candidates' faith, as when they asked Michele Bachmann whether her declared obedience to her husband would trump her own judgement as president. "Finally, discussion of a candidate's faith is multifaceted. I believe I have been misquoted repeatedly as telling the GOP not to vote for Romney." Jeffress says he will likely end up voting for Romney if he wins the nomination. "While I prefer a competent Christian over a competent non-Christian, religion is not the only consideration in choosing a candidate." But, he says, it is legitimate for evangelicals to use the primary process to eliminate such a choice by nominating a competent Christian. Secularists who argue against including religion in our debate will probably be frustrated through 2012, he says. "America is filled with religious people, and to religious people, religion matters."

Roya Hakakian on another Iranian hit job In September 1992, two men burst into a restaurant in Berlin, Germany where eight Iranian opposition leaders were dining and opened fire, killing four of them, writes author Roya Hakakian in The Wall Street Journal. Two weeks later, Germans arrested several men, only one of whom was Iranian, in connection with the shooting. "The rest belonged to a ring of small-time Lebanese crooks with histories of petty theft, forgery and other such violations." In 1993, the prosecutor indicted them, naming the Iranian intelligence minister as a conspirator, and angering Iran's leaders. "During the almost four years that the trial lasted, a top official of Iran's ministry of intelligence defected and became one of the court's key witnesses. He testified that there was a list of 500 individuals, 'enemies of Islam' who Tehran had systematically pursued to annihilate." A "Committee for Special Operations" made the decision of when to kill. "Many have said in the last few days that the recently disclosed bomb plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington in a restaurant could not have been ordered by Iran's regime -- or, if so, only by rogue elements within it -- because parts were planned incompetently, using non-Iranians. The staggering parallels between this and the Mykonos hit suggest otherwise."

Jordana Tama on committee secrecy "The Congressional 'super committee' charged with finding $1.5 trillion in debt savings through 2021 is under growing attack from both the left and the right for carrying out most of its work in secret." But American University professor Jordan Tama argues in The New York Times that transparency "would actually be harmful to the public interest. Private meetings are essential to give the committee's six Republicans and six Democrats the freedom to step away from party orthodoxies, conduct serious negotiations and search for common ground, rather than engage in political posturing." History has shown that similar bipartisan groups work better in private so they can "pursue compromise." "President Obama's fiscal commission endorsed a $4 trillion deficit reduction package, but only after months of private deliberations. When the panel did hold public hearings, they resulted in partisan grandstanding about fiscal stimulus and health care reform." The 9/11 commission was bipartisan and they disagreed on important issues but eventually endorsed all of their "findings and recommendations." The disadvantage of the current Super Committee is that "all of its members are sitting members of Congress," so Democrats face pressure on cuts to entitlements and Republicans face pressure on raising taxes. Most of those calling for transparency come from those on the more extreme end of their party, where politicians likely worried that compromise will be achieved. "The committee's success remains a long shot in our age of extreme ideological polarization, but its secrecy gives it a glimmer of hope."

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