Friday, February 16, 2007

Today's Wall Street Journal and recent ENS posts

Today's WSJ has several articles that relate to recent posts, as follows:
---The front page column five title is "Democrats Focus On Tax Relief For Middle Class, Bush may acquiese to higher levies on rich to pay for curbing AMT". This issue is described in the ENS post "Bush's attack on the middle class" of 2/6. The WSJ article documents an AMT penalty reaching as far down as someone making $75,000 a year. It states that Democrats argue that many middle class families haven't benefitted from the Bush tax cuts because of the AMT. There is no argument at all here. It is a fact. The issue now is whether Bush can convinced to comply with a rule reinstated by the Democrats this year that requires new tax cuts to be offset by tax increases or spending cuts. Let's hope that this issue is not one in which the middle class gets sacrificed on the altar of politics, with the Democrats blaming the President for preventing an AMT change and the President pointing the finger at Democrats for wanting to roll back his tax cuts. Stay tuned. A change in AMT is absolutely needed.
---An opinion piece entitled "Putin and Progress" by Padma Desai, a Columbia professor, gives a different perspective on Russia than the perhaps alarmist comment in the ENS post of 2/11. Citing the 70% approval ratings that Vladmir Putin receives from the Russian people, the author justifies Russia's aggressive political approach to nations that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, sounding like the "spheres of influence" arguments from the Europeans in 1900's China, and saying that it is what the Russian people want. The article provides reassurance about the fate of democracy, stating that "the transformative changes in Russia... are phenomenal. Russians are acquiring private housing, automobiles, and telephones at dizzying speed. The overall poverty rate has declined from around 35% in the mid-1990's to about 10% today, and 70% of college age youngsters receive a higher education". If accurate, these are impressive statistics and based on this the writer makes the case that a market economy and democracy are an inevitable outgrowth of an educated and prosperous citizenry. That should still be open to question if there is no independent judiciary and an erosion of a free political process is underway. It is presumably possible for a prosperous majority to accept a limitation on freedoms to preserve their way of life and nationalistic pride.
---An editorial today, "Iran's Smoking Guns", asks the question "is it too much to expect American journalists and Members of Congress to devote as much skepticism to Iran's motives and behavior as they do to Mr. Bush's?" Of course it's not too much to ask. Yesterday's ENS post focused on the differences of opinion between Bush and his military commanders(not the press or Congress) and, admittedly, expressed frustration with the President's cavalier responses to important questions. Is it too much to ask that the President of the United States have a statesman-like demeanor and respond to questions in a way that not only addresses the important issues and the American political debate, but can also be understood and respected by the broader world community?

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