Five Best Tuesday Columns

Gideon Rachman on the French elections, Ramesh Ponnuru on Reagan's memory, David Brooks on competition, Peter Beinart on anti-Mormonism, Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez on raising taxes

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Gideon Rachman in The Financial Times on the French election President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande will compete in a runoff election in a few weeks. "This election has already revealed a deep French anxiety about globalization, austerity and national identity that all candidates pandered to. That will be reflected in France's behavior in Europe," Rachman writes.  He describes the various forces throughout Europe putting pressure on the French, and the changes both candidates have proposed to combat those forces. Hollande, the probable winner, has solutions that will put him at the greatest odds with other European countries. "The French exception is clearly alive. But it does not seem to be very well. That could soon become a problem for Europe as a whole."

Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View on abusing the Reagan record Arguing for his proposed "Buffett Rule," President Obama often mentions Ronald Reagan's belief that 'the wealthiest should pay their fair share." Ponnuru writes, "The wrangling over Reagan's legacy is evidence of his rising historical reputation ... But while politicians in both parties offer him praise, they also ransack his record for their present-day purposes." Obama and Democrats often praise Reagan's willingness to raise taxes, when in fact he mostly lowered them, choosing instead to close loopholes. Meanwhile, conservatives borrow his policy prescriptions from foreign diplomacy to Federal Reserve policy, even though they were designed for the situation in 1981. "The top tax rate is now 35 percent, not 70 percent. Yet many conservatives act as though the current tax rate is just as much an impediment to growth as the old one."

David Brooks in The New York Times on capitalism and creativity Peter Thiel often tells students that he once tried for a super-competitive Supreme Court clerkship, but he failed, so instead he founded PayPal, and became a tech billionaire. "In fact, Thiel argues, we often shouldn't seek to be really good competitors. We should seek to be really good monopolists. Instead of being slightly better than everybody else in a crowded and established field, it's often more valuable to create a new market and totally dominate it." Yet Brooks points out ways our economic and educational system encourage competition often to the detriment of creativity. Good students must excel at every subject, not just those about which they are passionate. "Competition has trumped value-creation. In this and other ways, the competitive arena undermines innovation."

Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast on Democrats and anti-Mormonism Just as Republicans had to figure out ways to attack Obama in 2008 without playing on racism, Democrats will have to criticize Romney without engaging in anti-Mormon bias. "Despite the media's obsession with the alleged anti-Mormonism of evangelical Christians, the party with the larger anti-Mormon problem is the Democrats," writes Beinart. He uses polls to show that Democrats, far more even than evangelicals, distrust Mormons, and he puts forward reasons for this. "[U]sing the church's historic (and even present-day) intolerance to justify intolerance toward its members is idiotic. LDS is hardly the only faith with a history of antiblack racism, and individual Mormons should be held no more responsible for the LDS Church’s antigay views than individual Catholics should be held responsible for the Vatican’s."
Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez in The Wall Street Journal on raising tax rates Diamond and Saez, both economics professors, argue against popular conservative assumptions on the effects of raising the top tax rate. "According to our analysis of current tax rates and their elasticity, the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in or near the range of 50%-70% ... Thus we conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during the first Reagan administration." So raising tax rates won't reduce revenue, they write, nor will it impede economic growth. They argue that historical and comparative studies show that times with the higher top tax rates coincided with healthy growth. "By itself, a suitable increase in the taxation of top earners will not solve our unsustainable long-term fiscal trajectory. But that is no reason not to use this tool to contribute to addressing this problem."

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