Are the new job numbers a hopeful sign?

It might be tempting to read today’s expectations-beating jobs number—163,000, against private forecasts in the neighborhood of 100,000—as a sign the economy is surging just in time to help Barack Obama. My take is a bit more pessimistic, though not quite demoralizing.

Noam Scheiber — The New Jobs Number: OK For Obama, Less So For the Country

Jonathan Cohn offers a close look at the candidates tax plans

Attention middle-class Americans: One of the men running for president wants to raise your taxes. And it’s not the guy who has the job already.

For some time, Mitt Romney has been promising to reduce income tax rates and then pay for these cuts by closing loopholes. But he’s never specified which loopholes he’d close and now we know why. A new analysis from the Brookings Institution (and first reported byLori Montgomery in the Washington Post) suggests that, in order to lower tax rates without increasing the deficit, Romney would have to close loopholes that benefit middle-class Americans as well as the wealthy. The end result, if I’m reading the report correctly, would be lower taxes for the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans but higher taxes on everybody else. (See the graph below, which Steve Benen of Maddowblog constructed based on the report’s findings.)

Jonathan Cohn — Sure, Mitt Romney Will Lower Your Taxes—If You’re Part of the Richest Five Percent

Which former president’s foreign policy does Barack Obama’s resemble most closely?

Pundits and, for that matter, the Obama campaign were right to ding Mitt Romney’s foreign policy address Tuesday for banging the table instead of putting anything substantive on it. But what could Romney do? Obama has given him almost nothing to work with. Foreign affairs won’t decide the 2012 election, but, if it did, President Obama would win walking away.

Replying to Romney’s speech, Robert Gibbs, an Obama adviser, said this: “It’s widely accepted that President Obama has an exceptionally strong record on national security issues, and I think, quite frankly, Mitt Romney is having a hard time making an argument against President Obama on these issues.” It pains me, as a supposedly crankily skeptical journalist, to agree with a partisan spin doctor, but here goes: Gibbs is right.

Jonathan Rauch — Love Classic Republican Foreign Policy? Vote For Obama

Why should the Obamas stop inviting people to dinner?

"Given these gloomy psychological facts, it’s somewhat surprising, even slightly shocking, that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have embraced the sweepstakes as a fund-raising, mailing-list-building tool—and at a moment when middle-class Americans have started to fear they’re permanently out of luck."

-Walter Kirn, "Suckerball" 

In case you weren’t convinced that we’ve reached the campaign’s silly season, the War on Dogs has arrived to erase all doubt.

"It started with Democrats poking fun at Mitt Romney’s dog-on-car incident. The Daily Caller retaliated earlier this week with a post “uncovering” the “shocking” “news” that Barack Obama once ate dog meat as a child (an event he had mentioned in his memoir). The battle moved to a new front when Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom alluded on Twitter to Obama’s dog-eating. And thus began the War on Dogs, just the latest of the innumerable wars waged this election cycle. We decided to look back at rhetorical wars of the past, from Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty to Rick Santorum’s war on pornography."

- Nick Robins-Early and Perry Stein and Eric Wen, “The War on [Insert Noun]: The Uses and Misuses of Martial Rhetoric

Photo courtesy of Politico

TNR presents a follow-up to our recent symposium on what the U.S. should do next in Afghanistan. 

"Back in July of 2010, TNR asked nine experts to explore what the United States should do next in Afghanistan. In the twenty months since that symposium, much has changed. Tragic developments—such as the downing of a military helicopter that claimed 38 Americans and the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant—have stoked widespread discontent with the current course of action, and have many rethinking their commitments to the mission. Given the new circumstances, we invited our original contributors to follow-up on the suggestions they offered two years ago.”

-TNR Staff,”Afghanistan Reconsidered: What the U.S. Should Do Now

Photo courtesy of Digital Journal.

Should President Obama use a second term to end the War on Drugs?

"If black America still considers racism a pressing issue, it is primarily because of the strained relationship between young black men and police forces. In my twelve years of writing on race and racism, I have seen that the police are the keystone of modern black alienation, to an extent rarely clear to outsiders. The massive number of black men in prison, ringingly decried in widely read books such as Michelle Alexander’s hit The New Jim Crow, stands as a resonant rebuke to all calls to “get past racism” or stress optimism. Persistence and hard work does work for many black men—but, against the background of these other systemic injustices, their achievements are often thought of as the products of luck (not least by themselves). The primary reason for this ongoing conflict between blacks and the police is the War on Drugs. 

- John McWhorter “End the Drug War, Mr. President

This article is part of a TNR symposium on Obama’s Second Term. Visit TNR.com for continued coverage this week. 

Photo courtesy of Time

The memo that Larry Summers didn’t want Obama to see.
" ‘[Christine] Romer was frustrated that she wasn’t allowed to present an even larger option,’ suggesting that while the memo he obtained may have been the end of the story, it was far from the whole story. … In [an early] version of the memo, Romer calculated that it would take an eye-popping $1.7-to-$1.8 trillion to fill the entire hole in the economy—the ‘output gap,’ in economist-speak. … Alas, these words never made it into the memo the president saw.”
Noam Scheiber, “The Memo that Larry Summers Didn’t Want Obama to See”
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
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The memo that Larry Summers didn’t want Obama to see.

" ‘[Christine] Romer was frustrated that she wasn’t allowed to present an even larger option,’ suggesting that while the memo he obtained may have been the end of the story, it was far from the whole story. … In [an early] version of the memo, Romer calculated that it would take an eye-popping $1.7-to-$1.8 trillion to fill the entire hole in the economy—the ‘output gap,’ in economist-speak. … Alas, these words never made it into the memo the president saw.”

Noam Scheiber, “The Memo that Larry Summers Didn’t Want Obama to See

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Does the “Catholic vote” still exist and if so, will its role in the upcoming election be all that decisive?

"The most thorough recent research on public opinion involving abortion and same-sex marriage—issues where the Catholic Church has clear, unambiguous positions that are frequently communicated to the laity via channels ranging from papal encyclicals to the parish pulpit—comes from the Public Religion Research Institute, which did a major survey examining the views of Americans of differing confessional backgrounds in June of last year. At that time, 56 percent of all Americans and 54 percent of Catholics indicated they thought abortions should be legal in all or most circumstances. Only 29 percent of white evangelical Protestants, however, support legalized abortion—another indication that the anti-choice base in American politics is now more Protestant than Catholic."

-Ed Kilgore, “Stop Talking About the ‘Catholic Vote’! It Doesn’t Exist

Photo courtesy of UCA News

How did Energy Secretary Steven Chu lose his battle with Washington?

"The president who brought him to Washington three years ago had promised nothing less than an environmental revolution, and Chu was supposed to be at its center, presiding over the most dramatic expansion of the clean energy industry the federal government had ever attempted. Now Chu may have no choice but to preside over its similarly dramatic retreat."

—Charles Homans, “The Experiment: How Steven Chu lost his battle with Washington.

Image by Sean McCabe.