Weekly Roundup 1/17/2012

The Benefits of Bain Capitalism
Ross Douthat, The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2012

America Isn’t a Corporation
Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2012

The C.E.O. in Politics
David Brooks, The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2012

Synopsis: With Mitt Romney’s victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, more attention is being focused on his record as a venture capitalist. Romney says his business experience proves his qualifications for the presidency and refutes criticism of Bain Capital for having destroyed, not created, jobs. Three New York Times columnists comment, from different perspectives. Ross Douthat argues the “private equity revolution” has benefited the economy but that Romney needs to acknowledge its costs. Paul Krugman criticizes Bain’s record and asks whether Romney “understands the difference between running a business and managing an economy.” And David Brooks concludes: “There’s little correlation between business success and political success.”

For CQ Researcher coverage, watch for the upcoming February report on the “Presidential Election.”

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Hidden Dangers of Low Interest Rates
David Cay Johnston, Reuters, Jan. 10, 2012

Synopsis: Longtime tax blogger and analyst David Cay Johnson explains the overlooked consequences, especially for retirees, of the Fed's low bank interest rates, which have been maintained near zero for years on the grounds that they will help the struggling economy by increasing the supply of money and credit.

Takeaway: "Low rates keep alive the banks that the government considers too big to fail and reduce the cost of servicing the burgeoning federal debt. Low rates also come at a cost, cutting income to older Americans and to pension funds. This forces retirees to eat into principal, and may put more pressure on welfare programs for the elderly."

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation
Tom Robbins, The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 16, 2012

Synopsis: Judith Clark has been in a maximum security women’s prison for three decades for her role in the infamous Brinks robbery in upstate New York in 1981, which caused the death of a bank guard and two policemen. When she entered prison, she was an angry, unrepentant militant.

Takeaway: By all accounts – including the prison warden -- Clark has been a model prisoner who earned college degrees, helped hundreds of other inmates, and now deeply regrets the deaths she helped to cause. She has also served far more time than her accomplices, who played more crucial roles in the robbery. Given the apparent changes Clark has undergone, author Robbins asks, Why is she still in prison?

For background, see “Downsizing Prisons,” by Peter Katel, March 11, 2011.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor