Jonathan Chait

Will vs. Krugman

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George Will explains why the Rangel scandal is drawing vastly more attention than the Ensign scandal -- it's all about tax reform:

KRUGMAN: No, I think it's fair enough. But, you know, let me ask -- there's something I don't understand about this whole thing. There are actually two major investigations of members of Congress underway right now. There's Charlie Rangel, who's accused of some fairly petty, although stupid and wrong, ethical violations, and there's Senator John Ensign, who's facing a criminal investigation and which actually -- it's even a story that involves sex. And you get no publicity whatsoever on the Ensign investigation.

Why is Rangel getting all this attention?

AMANPOUR: Is that fair, George?

WILL: Well, Rangel is much more important, because he's chairman of an important committee. And in fact, Rangel's misfortune is a national misfortune, because we desperately need -- and after the deficit commission reports in December, we might have had -- serious tax reform in this country. That requires a cooperative member leading that committee in the House.

Except Rangel has already stepped down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. So even if you take the almost certainly wrong position that tax reform is a serious possibility, Rangel's future bears little impact on the outcome. Is his position really so different than (actual current chairman) Sandy Levin's? Or could the attention to Rangel have some other significance:

The trials would also stand to remind voters that Democrats, who in recent years extended their reach into the traditionally Republican turf of the rural West and South, are still anchored by an urban, liberal base and led by entrenched veteran lawmakers from big cities.

And the cases could feed racial strains both inside the Democratic caucus, where black members are asking why so many investigations seem to be aimed at them, and out among voters, especially in rural and white districts where many conservative Democrats face tight races.

No, no I'm sure it's all about tax reform. The media is obsessed with tax reform. They will whore out any story that carries even the slightest whiff of it.

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