Five Best Tuesday Columns

Ramesh Ponnuru on the GOP's defense spending hypocrisy, Richard Cohen on the Bain debate, Luigi Zingales on ethics at business school, Frank Bruni on selfishness in America, and John Podhoretz on Romney's apology demands. 

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Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg View on Republican defense spending hypocrisy Republicans who fear the automatic cuts to the defense budget are lately criticizing Obama by expressing concern for local economies dependent on defense contracts that might take a hit, Ponnuru reports. "There is, of course, no reason to think that defense spending is more helpful to the economy than other kinds of federal spending. Republicans have been dead-set against sending federal money to states to help them avoid laying off teachers." He argues that cuts might hurt individual communities that rely on the government, but won't hurt the broader economy. "The Republicans resisting big defense cuts generally think that they would jeopardize our national security. That's a debatable proposition. So debate it."

Richard Cohen in The Washington Post on the Bain debate Cohen argues that the fight over when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital, and thus, whether he had a hand in the offshoring jobs at companies it controlled, is beside the point. "Let there be no doubt (at least in my mind) that if Romney did not approve offshoring jobs in companies controlled by his Bain Capital, he certainly would have," he says. "It hardly matters who was running Bain when some steelworkers were fired and their jobs sent across the great ocean. If Romney was really in charge, he was doing what he was being paid to do." The campaigns should focus, he says, on the economic causes of outsourcing, and the education problems that lead to it. "I have an idea for this campaign: Offshore it. We deserve better."

Luigi Zingales in Bloomberg View on morality and business school Recent scandals at big banks "might give the impression that the financial sector has some serious morality problems," writes Zingales, a Chicago Booth School professor. "Unfortunately, it's worse than that: We are dealing with a drop in ethical standards throughout the business world, and our graduate schools are partly to blame." It's the result of an economic philosophy among academics that describes ethical dilemmas without addressing morality. One colleague, he says for example, taught students to compare the benefits of committing a crime with the probability of being punished, but he writes that some students interpreted this as a prescriptive lesson in when to commit crime. "[E]thics should become an integral part of the so-called core classes," he says.

Frank Bruni in The New York Times on American selfishness Bruni highlights a travel story in the Times in which self-help guru Tim Ferriss advised readers to pack an unloaded pistol in checked luggage so that airlines would flag it and ensure it wasn't lost. "It’s extra work and fretting for them but, hey, you get peace of mind. Isn't that what counts?" Bruni writes, pointing to the mentality as a broad problem in America. "Too many people behave as if they live in a civic vacuum, no broader implications to their individual behavior." He points to those who draw more disability insurance than they deserve or game tax systems. "Looking out for No. 1 is the pox on our politics. No industry wants to let go of a loophole and no constituency acquiesces to a significant sacrifice without being assured first that other industries or constituencies are doing as much or more."

John Podhoretz in the New York Post on Romney's apology demands Romney makes a mistake by demanding an apology from President Obama for his spokesperson's assertion that Romney might have committed a felony. "The tactic here is hard to understand — if, that is, there is a tactic here and not just an outraged candidate losing his cool," Podhoretz writes. He outlines some of Romney's potential thought processes, but notes that demanding an apology historically doesn't do anything but make a candidate look weaker. "If [Obama] wins, it will be because Romney lost. And this whole I-demand-an-apology business made Romney look like a loser for the first time. But it might be the last — if Romney gets his head screwed on straight again, and stops complaining about rough-and-tumble campaign tactics (which, incidentally, he's now freer to use himself)."

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