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Is envy one of the seven deadly political sins?

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It is the disparity that dares not speak its name: Income inequality. The focus of the Occupy movement and an increasing number of studies and reports, the gap between rich and poor has now become a prime battle in the most unlikely of places, the GOP presidential primary.

President Obama has made it clear that increasing taxes on the wealthiest will be his focus on the campaign trail. Three of Mitt Romney’s fellow White House wannabes are hammering the frontrunner for his time spent with Bain Capital, buying and selling – and in some cases, dismantling – smaller companies while reaping hundreds of millions in profits.

A “Super PAC” supporting Newt Gingrich has released a 30-minute video hauntingly titled “When Mitt Romney came to town” and is running $3.4 million in ads in South Carolina based on the film’s premise -- that Romney and Bain strip-mined smaller companies and then left them to die while throwing people out of work and into the streets. You’d almost think they were channeling the ghost of Ted Kennedy.

The film, by the way, could also have an unexpected effect of pumping up President Obama’s health care reform, the bane of Republicans everywhere. All the people in the film who talked about losing their jobs also said that when they became unemployed they lost their health care coverage and some talked about having to pay for treatments of children with cancer.

Gingrich, who’s beginning to slowly back away from his attacks, had called Bain’s investment strategy “indefensible” while Rick Perry labeled it “vulture capitalism.” Jon Huntsman jumped on Romney’s declaration that he likes “being able to fire people” to show he’s out of touch with people who are hurting in the economy, even though the statement came in reference to health care providers who are not performing their jobs.

Romney had been trying to stay above the attacks, claiming they give succor to the Obama campaign and just feed into the class warfare that the term income inequality engenders. Romney takes the position that many wealthy people have: It’s distasteful to talk about your – or someone else’s money – in polite company.

“I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms,” Romney told NBC’s Matt Lauer.

Following his New Hampshire win, Romney has dismissed the attacks from the Democrats as “the politics of envy” and has left it to GOP stalwarts to put the hammer to fellow Republicans to get away from the line of attacks lest they stick like cooked pasta to the wall.

Some conservatives are even denying any real gap exists anymore than it has in the past. But very few others who see the damage done by a persistent five-year recession will admit there is not an increasing chasm between rich and poor. We devoted our Fall issue to the American Dream and the gap between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Romney’s preference for quiet contemplation among friends is relevant now; as the issue will blare from television, print, and the Internet. There’s no putting the toothpaste back in the tube and the Republicans have as much responsibility for squeezing it out as do Democrats.


                                                                                                                                                       --JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

State Treasurer Steve Grossman defended the decision to allow bettors to use debit cards to purchase Lottery tickets and left to door open to the use of credit cards.

Gov. Deval Patrick explains how the state benefits from trade missions.

The Bay State Banner looks at a racial discrimination case that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination had to be prodded on to render a decision.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A New Bedford city councilor wants to extend the term of mayor from two years to four, saying the job requires running for reelection almost immediately after inauguration with the current setup.

Two Bridgewater officials gave the first ever State of the Town address after a year of upheaval since the community changed its form of governance and said the switch has brought some positive results.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who ran on an anti-casino platform, tells Hard Rock casino developers and their local allies that the city isn’t interested in a destination resort. The developers say that they didn’t hear “anything definitive” about casinos from Morse. Really? Perhaps they should read the current CommonWealth profile of the mayor. Meanwhile, Brimfield, which already hosts one of the country’s largest outdoor antiques and collectibles fairs three times a year, throws its hat into the casino ring.

Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy abandoned plans for a special committee on gambling and indicated that the gambling issue would be dealt with by the economic development committee, the Globe reports.

There’s a labor fight brewing in Somerville.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Warren Buffett calls the GOP’s bluff, pledging to match one for one (and 3 for 1 in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s case) every voluntary tax contribution they make to pare down the national debt, Time reports in a cover story on the billionaire.

ELECTION 2012

The Washington Post examines Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and the idea of “creative destruction.” The Romney campaign says his showing in New Hampshire shows the attacks failed, but GOP oracle Karl Rove says Romney needs to come up with a better defense against the Bain attacks. Because they’re letting Rick Perry back into this race, for Pete’s sake!
Show us the money: The Post also wonders why Romney won’t release his tax returns.

Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren continues to outpace US Sen. Scott Brown in fundraising, bringing in $5.7 million during the last three months of 2011, the Worcester Telegram reports (via AP).

Not sure what else there is to explore. After announcing formation of an exploratory committee to look at a run for the new 9th Congressional district, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter said, “I’m in, I’m running.”

Keller@Large says if Mitt Romney wins in South Carolina, it’s over. South Carolina is a long way from New Hampshire, though. And for that matter, so are Florida and Nevada.

The Republican says that if “Massachusetts moderate” has replaced “Massachusetts liberal” in the world of GOP insults, the state should embrace it. Joan Vennochi argues that “Massachusetts moderate” seems to be the title Scott Brown is aiming for.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Fall River Herald News picks up the CommonWealth story about what went on behind the scenes in the battle between Meditech and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

MGM Resorts International reportedly has its sites on a casino location in Brimfield, WBUR reports (via AP). The Sun Chronicle looks at the Kraft Group’s shifting stories on its private meeting with town officials.

An MIT professor says the U.S. Postal Service can save itself by entering the email management industry. Via Universal Hub.

The Boston Globe reports on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum renovation, to be opened to the public on January 19th.  

EDUCATION

The state appoints Jeffrey Riley, the chief innovation officer for the Boston Public Schools, to be the receiver for the Lawrence Public Schools, the Eagle-Tribune reports. The newspaper has local reaction and a small profile of the first receiver to take over a public school system and run both its educational programs and its finances.

Radio Boston examines disinvestment in higher education in Massachusetts.

TRANSPORTATION

The Boston Globe argues that the MBTA should follow the example of the Washington, DC transit system in concretely demonstrating its value.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Cape Cod Times looks at a proposal to close sections of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to fishing.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

DNA testing from evidence in an unsolved 1991 Seattle murder connects the suspect to a family that came over on the Mayflower. Well, not them but one of their male descendants and now it’s just a matter of finding the suspect among the thousands of descendants centuries later.

A lawyer for Onyango Obama, the uncle of President Obama who has been charged with driving under the influence, says that he is seeking the driving records of the police officer who cited him.

MEDIA

The Nieman Journalism Lab answers why a media company would also want to be a tech incubator.

PLAYOFFS AND JESUS

Fran Tarkenton takes to the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to ask: Does God care who wins football games?

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