Best columns: The U.S.
President Biden? It could happen
If he runs, former Vice President Joe Biden will be the man to beat in 2020, said Albert Hunt. Democratic and Republican insiders alike have roundly dismissed talk of another Biden presidential bid. After all, he was a “terrible candidate” when he ran for the White House in 1987 and 2007. But hear me out: A Biden candidacy “could work, with caveats.” Because he’d be 78 if elected—and from Day One would be the oldest person ever to occupy the office—Biden would need to release all his medical records and pledge to serve only one term. He’d also have to pick a younger running mate whom voters could easily see as the next president. Most important, he’d have to be running against President Trump. After three and a half years of discord and dysfunction, swing voters will be looking for a mature statesman who is “savvy about the ways of Washington.” With eight years’ experience as an influential vice president, Biden fits the bill perfectly. Yes, there will be gaffes—“otherwise it wouldn’t be Joe”—but they’ll be nothing compared with Trump’s mean-spirited outbursts. “What’s a better antidote to the poison of Trumpism than the buoyant maturity of Biden?”
Americans don’t pay enough taxes
The Washington Post
We’re “having the wrong debate” about taxes, said Robert Samuelson. The argument over the GOP’s proposed tax bill has focused on two issues: Will lower taxes stimulate economic growth? And does the plan unfairly favor the wealthy over the middle class? “Interesting questions, to be sure, but mostly irrelevant to the nation’s long-term wellbeing.” The fact is, we simply cannot afford to reduce taxes. Or, to put it another way, “Americans are undertaxed.” In only five of the past 50 years have tax revenues covered federal spending. The rest of the time, we’ve run deficits—during peace and war, “with strong economies and weak, with low inflation and high.” From 1990 to 2016, borrowing represented nearly 14 percent of annual federal spending. “That’s one dollar of every seven.” And the budget deficit, already $666 billion, will only grow as more Baby Boomers retire and claim Social Security and Medicare, putting us at true risk of a financial calamity. To rebalance the budget, painful steps would have to be taken: some programs cut, some taxes hiked. But that’s not a vote-winning message. “Americans like big government. They just don’t like paying for it.”
Blinded by our love for the troops
I’m a proud Army veteran, but “I’m getting very worried about our nation’s military-worship,” said David French. As anyone who’s served knows, our armed forces are as prone to incompetence and corruption as any other institution. Last week we discovered that the Texas church shooter was able to buy the guns he used to kill 26 innocents because the Air Force failed to alert law enforcement about his violent past. A few days later, it was revealed that 440 active-duty and retired personnel, including 60 admirals, had been implicated in the Navy’s so-called Fat Leonard corruption scandal. In any other government agency, such scandals would have triggered a public crisis of confidence. Yet the public’s faith in the Department of Defense remains resolute—a product of our growing civil/military divide. Too many civilians, politicians, and pundits who haven’t served view members of the military “with a degree of deference, sometimes even awe, they haven’t always earned.” Combine this awe with ignorance and it’s easy to see how military scandals can fester and grow into something terrible—like “mass murder in Texas.” Loving the troops and supporting the military should mean we hold both accountable. “Honorable soldiers don’t fear scrutiny. But when you worship the military, you hurt the military.”