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!

Oct 31, 2011

  • A tax reform fairy tale

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Tax reform proposals are the political equivalent of science fiction: entertaining but imaginary. No tax proposal ever passes through Congress unscathed. There are too many interests that believe their survival depends on tax preferences — hence the tax code's immutable tendency to accumulate complexities as a ship collects barnacles.

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  • The debt fallout: How Social Security went ‘cash negative’ earlier than expected

    By Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post

    Last year, as a debate over the runaway national debt gathered steam in Washington, Social Security passed a treacherous milestone. It went “cash negative.”     For most of its 75-year history, the program had paid its own way through a dedicated stream of payroll taxes, even generating huge surpluses for the past two decades. But in 2010, under the strain of a recession that caused tax revenue to plummet, the cost of benefits outstripped tax collections for the first time since the early 1980s.

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  • U.S. Seeks Aid from Pakistan in Peace Effort

    By Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, The New York Times

    Just a month after accusing Pakistan's spy agency of secretly supporting the Haqqani terrorist network, which has mounted attacks on Americans, the Obama administration is now relying on the same intelligence service to help organize and kick-start reconciliation talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan. 

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  • U.S. Service Members Killed in Afghan Suicide Bomb Attack

    By Nick Schifrin, Martha Raddatz, and Aleem Agha, ABC News

    At least five NATO service members and eight civilian contractors, many believed to be American, were killed in Kabul today when a land cruiser with 1,500 pounds of explosives blew up next to an armored U.S. bus -- the deadliest attack on U.S. troops in the Afghan capital in 10 years of war.

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Oct 28, 2011

  • More Than Luck: A veteran intelligence chief talks about finally connecting the dots.

    By James Kitfield, National Journal

    In a string of successful operations this year, U.S. counterterrorism forces have drawn a bead on the top tier of the terrorist hierarchy. They killed Qaida chief Osama bin Laden last May, and then Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, two top leaders in al-Qaida’s dangerous franchise in Yemen. Ten years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, U.S. officials seem to be accurately “connecting the dots” from terrorism plots back to the masterminds who hatched them. National Journal Senior Correspondent James Kitfield spoke recently with David Shedd, an intelligence veteran who is now deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, about what the recent successes say about post-9/11 intelligence reforms. Edited excerpts from the interview follow.

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  • Clause and effect: The business cycle matters when assessing the cost of new regulations

    By The Economist

    American policymakers are pulling every lever they can to revive the economy, from fiscal stimulus to quantitative easing. The big exception has been regulatory policy. From environmental protection to bank oversight, the rule book has steadily thickened in recent years. Republican critics of Barack Obama think this explains America’s economic malaise. Scrap the rules, they claim, and the economy will spring to life. Nonsense, responds the Treasury. In a recent article, Jan Eberly, an assistant secretary for economic policy, scrutinised the behaviour of corporate-bond yields, corporate profits and other indicators. She found no evidence that regulatory uncertainty is holding businesses back from hiring or investment; weak demand is the big culprit.

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  • 2012: What a Long, Dull Road It's been (So Far)

    By Susan Davis, National Journal

    The good folks at Pew Research Center put a data point on what most American already know: so far this presidential race has been dull. According to their latest poll, a majority, 51 percent, of Americans say the campaign has been "dull" while 35 percent say it has been "interesting." Fully half, 50 percent, say the campaign season is too long--and there's still more than a year to go.

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  • White House turns the screws on Congress over 9 percent approval

    By Sam Youngman, The Hill

    A number of White House officials, sensing momentum on their side, blasted Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail, mocking recent measures and Congress's 9 percent approval rating.

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  • Super Committee & the Budget Debate

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    The Super Committee is just weeks away from having to decide on a massive new budget plan. CNBC's John Harwood has the details on whether Europe's deal has put more pressure on Congress to follow suit.


Oct 27, 2011

  • Taxpayers' Billions: Missing in Baghdad

    With Eamon Javers, CNBC

    A report on the billions of dollars in cash, sent to Iraq from the New York Fed, are missing.

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  • Paul Ryan Slams Obama Over Economy, ‘Divisive Rhetoric’.

    By Naftali Bendavid, Wall Street Journal

    Rep. Paul Ryan delivered a blistering speech Wednesday criticizing President Barack Obama for dividing Americans and offering unworkable solutions to the country’s economic problems.

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  • Sneak Preview of Fall Attractions? Romney Visits NoVa

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling thanked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for taking “time away from his campaign’’ on Wednesday to come to this Washington, D.C., suburb, but the gratitude was certainly mutual. Sure, Romney offered a jolt of media exposure to the local and state candidates running on the Nov. 8 ballot who joined him at the party’s Fairfax County headquarters. But as the Republican front-runner himself pointed out, northern Virginia will undoubtedly be a battleground once again in the 2012 general election.

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  • Black Voters’ Support for Obama Is Steady and Strong

    By Helene Cooper, New York Times

    Abdul Malik seems the prototype of a disenchanted Barack Obama voter. Mr. Malik, 48, lost his job as a grading and landscape worker a year and a half ago, another victim of the housing bust. Since then, he has been searching for something, anything, to help make ends meet.

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  • Economy, Politics Fan American Discontent

    With David Wessel, Wall Street Journal

    The 30% of Americans with four-year college degrees are less likely to be unemployed and make more money than the others, but they're just as pessimistic about the economy and the direction of the country. David Wessel explains on The News Hub.

  • In Ohio, praise and questions for Herman Cain

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    First impressions are important in politics, and no one has introduced himself better in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination than businessman Herman Cain.

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Oct 26, 2011

  • Inside Rick Perry's 20/20 Tax Plan

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    A discussion of the Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's tax reform plan.

  • Republican candidates offer a diverse set of economic plans

    By Perry Bacon Jr. and Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    At a moment when the fragility of the economy ranks at the top of American concerns, sharp differences have begun to emerge in how the leading GOP presidential contenders would solve the problem — illuminating not only a diversity in approach, but a striking contrast in the candidates’ governing philosophies.


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  • Obama Touts Two Lists: Campaign Promises Kept, and To-Do

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    President Obama is keeping his own report card, and gives himself an "incomplete." At multiple stops in California Monday and Tuesday while raising money for his campaign, the president told audiences that he keeps a list of his 2008 campaign promises in his desk drawer. "About once a week I take it out and make a check," he said Tuesday in San Francisco before heading off to Denver. He boasted that he has successfully tackled about 60 percent of that list in less than three years.

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  • Perry calls for sweeping tax cuts, benefit changes

    By Charles Babington and Kasie Hunt, Associated Press

    Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry proposed dramatic tax and spending changes Tuesday, saying he would let Americans choose between a 20 percent flat tax and the current system, allow private Social Security accounts and slash government spending and regulation.

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  • Romney Targeted in High-Dollar Ad Onslaught

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    For now, the attacks on the Republican front-runner for president are mostly confined to snarky Internet videos, e-mails and Twitter posts. But the big-dollar war on Mitt Romney is coming, just as surely as winter. Millions of dollars raised by his Republican opponents and the so-called super PACS, as well as by groups on the extreme left and right of the political spectrum, will be hurled in his direction.

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