Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

Jul 23, 2012

  • Why Are Entitlements Growing? Your Budget Questions Answered.

    By David Wessel, The Wall Street Journal

    QUESTION: I did wonder if it was a little misleading to cite the 46% who paid no taxes in 2011 without putting this figure in context. Wasn’t this an abnormally high number last year because of the recession and because the government was intentionally trying to stimulate the economy? Isn’t the normal rate closer to 1/3? Not great, but not half. –Robert Fletcher

    ANSWER: Using 2011 as a snapshot has its shortcomings, as you suggest. It was not a normal year. Taxes, in general, were lower; spending, in general, was higher. The fraction of Americans who have been exempted from the income (though not the payroll tax) is higher in bad times because more people have low or no income. There are three reasons so many people don’t pay income taxes (although many of them do pay payroll taxes): (1) Their incomes are low, (2) They’re retirees whose Social Security benefits aren’t taxed, (3) The big way the federal government fights poverty is to give tax breaks to low-wage workers and families with children (and, through the Earned Income Tax Credit, actually gives cash to low-wage workers.)

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  • After Colorado shootings, Romney cautiously returns to campaign trail

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gingerly returned to the presidential race on Sunday, telling a San Francisco fundraiser that he would not be "as partisan." Addressing donors at roughly the same time President Barack Obama was speaking after meeting with survivors of last week's shooting spree in Colorado, Romney sought to focus his remarks on the state of the economy and not Obama's handling of it.

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  • On Display in Aurora, the Obama Ammunition Economy

    By Jim Tankersley, National Journal

    Two of the hottest-selling items in Tom Lewis’ gun shop are a once-banned model of semiautomatic rifle and a series of palm-sized pistols easily stowed in a purse or coat pocket. Together, they represent a firearms industry on a tear, soaring while the rest of the country struggles through an anemic recovery. President Obama – or more specifically, gun owners’ fear of some still-phantom anti-gun agenda from his administration – has helped drive the industry’s gains.

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  • Military marchers wear uniforms in gay pride parade

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Last week, the Defense Department gave a one-time exception to a longstanding policy that bars military troops from wearing uniforms in public, non-partisan parades. Conflicting decisions by military commanders who got requests from subordinates to wear uniforms in public apparently prompted the Pentagon to review its policy, and a July 19 ruling allowed troops to wear their uniforms, but only for the San Diego LGBT Pride parade.

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  • Colo. Shooting Suspect Booby-Trapped Apartment

    With Pierre Thomas, ABC News

    The alleged shooter's apartment was rigged to explode if somebody entered.

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Jul 20, 2012

  • Officials name alleged gunman in Colorado theater shooting

    With Pete Williams, NBC News

    The masked gunman who killed at least 12 people at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie in a suburb of Denver was allegedly a 24-year-old man named James Holmes, officials told NBC News on Friday.

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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  • More News Reports Show Up in Campaign Ads, to Journalists’ Chagrin

    By John Harwood, The New York Times

    While hiking the Appalachian Trail the other day, I became part of a Republican campaign attack on President Obama. Save the Mark Sanford jokes; I was (really) chaperoning a church youth group. Only after returning did I learn that my prevacation reporting about second-quarter job growth on CNBC had led off a television ad assailing Mr. Obama’s economic record.

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  • Will Romney's VP Pick Excite the GOP? Who Cares?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    The biggest question looming over Mitt Romney during the combative Republican primary was whether he would be able to unite the party. How could the former governor of true-blue Massachusetts and a onetime supporter of abortion rights, gay rights, and health insurance mandates excite the Republican faithful? Yet what is known about Romney's vice presidential search in recent weeks suggests that he doesn't think his ability to excite voters is a problem. The names at the top of the presumed short list--Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal--are solid Republicans more likely to let the establishment rest easy than to make the rank-and-file stand up. None of these men would overshadow Romney, nor would they make voters like him any more or less than they already do.

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  • The Upside Down Smile: Would Obama be able to govern in a second term amid acidic divisions widened by his own attacks?

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    It’s only July, and President Obama’s campaign has already called Mitt Romney an outsourcing, job-killing, company-bankrupting whiner who may also be a tax cheat and a felon. The brass knuckles are out, the presumptive Republican nominee is bleeding, and Obama is selling off his likability as if it were an inexhaustible commodity. But is it? Can voters tolerate the lurch from preaching hope and change to mocking Romney’s off-key rendition of “America the Beautiful” and hurling contestable allegations that he oversaw the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries? And even if they do, does Obama’s team see a governing path for a reelected president who has so toxically attacked his rival?

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  • Mitt Romney hopes overseas trip will show him as statesman

    By Philip Rucker and Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    Mitt Romney plans to depart next week for a visit to Britain, Israel and Poland, and the Republican presidential candidate hopes the trip will help him project the aura of a statesman and signal to voters back home that he would make a plausible commander in chief. He will listen to leaders of important U.S. allies, make symbolic appearances at historical sites and build personal relationships. He plans to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing St. and catch up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an old friend from their days as business consultants, while aides are preparing speeches for him to give in Israel and Poland.

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Jul 19, 2012

  • Romney, under pressure to release tax returns, turns fire on Obama

    By Karen Tumulty and Nia-Malika Henderson, The Washington Post

    Mitt Romney, trying to fend off mounting pressure to release more of his tax returns, stepped up his offense against President Obama on Wednesday, turning Obama’s words against him to argue that the current occupant of the Oval Office is anti-entrepreneur. For the second day in a row, the presumed Republican presidential nominee seized on a statement excerpted from a speech Obama made Friday in Virginia. At issue was the president’s quote: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

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  • Can Romney survive the summer storm?

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    Mitt Romney’s team has a more-than-plausible theory about how to win the presidential election in a time of economic duress. The key question is whether that theory can survive the summer storm that threatens to envelop the Republican’s candidacy. Romney’s operation is under a relentless and carefully choreographed assault from President Obama’s campaign, which has used the new media environment to feed and amplify a negative advertising effort that has cost tens of millions of dollars.

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  • All quiet on the war front

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Here's an important fact you haven't heard much about in the presidential campaign: The armed forces of the United States are at war in at least four countries, and that number could increase any day. About 87,000 Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan, and some are likely to stay past 2014. We're at war in neighboring Pakistan too, mostly using unmanned drones but with a handful of people on the ground.

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  • Philosophic Clash Over Government’s Role Highlights Parties’ Divide

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    It took only a few days for it to become a favorite Republican talking point. President Obama told an audience that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that; somebody else made that happen.” Suddenly his critics had proof that he does not believe in individual success or the free market. Mitt Romney scrapped much of his stump speech on Wednesday to focus on the line and sent surrogates to reinforce the point. Mr. Obama’s aides said he was taken out of context, that he was referring to the value of public structures like bridges and roads in the nation’s commerce.

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  • Oops: What Bernanke Said Five Years Ago Today.

    By David Wessel, The Wall Street Journal

    Five years ago, July 18, 2007, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Financial Services Committee as he is today. The housing bubble was bursting, cracks in the global financial system were just beginning to appear, but Bernanke didn’t sound terribly worried or prescient.

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Jul 18, 2012

  • Romney and Obama Resume Economic Attacks, Despite a Few Diversions

    By Peter Baker and Trip Gabriel, The New York Times

    The argument between Mitt Romney and President Obama over who is better suited to help American workers get back on their feet got personal again on Tuesday, with Mr. Romney saying he was “ashamed” of Mr. Obama for giving government loans to well-connected donors. The overarching dispute is which candidate’s view of government might lift a struggling economy: Mr. Romney’s belief in lower taxes and fewer regulations, or Mr. Obama’s vision of a vital role for government.

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  • Romney campaign says Obama should "learn to be an American"

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Republican Mitt Romney's campaign unleashed new attacks on President Barack Obama on Tuesday, with one of Romney's surrogates saying he wished Obama "would learn to be an American" before apologizing within hours for the remark. On a conference call with reporters, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu blasted Obama and his campaign, calling them a "bunch of liars."

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  • Obama Stresses Story Over Policy in Re-election Strategy

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    Michelle Obama put out the word Monday that President Obama will celebrate his 51st birthday next month with donor friends at their house in Chicago, including a few small-dollar contributors who will be flown in as winners of yet another campaign raffle. Last year at a dazzling Chicago extravaganza to celebrate his mid-century mark, the president raised funds from well-wishers at events small and large held in the sweltering Aragon Entertainment Center. Jennifer Hudson and Herbie Hancock supplied the music for an energized evening organized around a re-election race that still seemed distant.

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  • Pennsylvania in Play?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Just six weeks ago, conventional wisdom was that Pennsylvania was off the table. Mitt Romney's campaign didn't list it as a top target, and his state chairman said the GOP nominee himself was skeptical he could win there. A Republican nominee hasn't won the state since 1988 and it didn't look like 2012 would be any different. Today the picture does look different. The Rust Belt has been getting a lot of attention from both campaigns as they court white, blue-collar voters. Romney is holding a rally in Irwin, PA, Tuesday afternoon, and President Obama's campaign announced it is running a tough new anti-Romney ad exclusively in the state. Pro-Romney super PACs are also spending money there.

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  • U.S. economic fears shift from Europe toward ‘fiscal cliff’

    By Michael A. Fletcher and Zachary A Goldfarb, The Washington Post

    The main threat to the economy is shifting from what others may do to us to what we are doing to ourselves. For much of the year, economists worried about the impact of the slowdown in Europe on the U.S. economy. Now, analysts say anxiety about the impact of the fast-approaching fiscal cliff — the series of federal spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect at the beginning of 2013 if Congress and the Obama administration do not act — is displacing Europe as the primary threat to the nation’s sputtering economy.

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