US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. Taxes at the top (New York Times)

The tax policy question of why the rich bear a light tax burden comes up with Mitt Romney's "Dance of the Seven Veils" around his own taxes, says Paul Krugman.

2. Happy trails, Rick Perry (Los Angeles Times)

The departure from the GOP race of "the divisive, inarticulate Texas governor" is good news to everybody except late-night comedians, argues this editorial.

3. Get politics out of infrastructure (Politico)

Though maybe good for electroral politics, shunning foreign investment is not going to boost the economy, according to Christopher Lee and Sean Medcalf.

4. The Americans no one wants to talk about (Washington Post)

Political debates seldom touch on the most pressing issues of hardship, writes Michael Gerson.

5. What Ron Paul wants (Wall Street Jorunal) ($)

Even though he knows he can't win, the republican candidate wants to make clear his views on national security and presidential power, according to Kimberley A. Strassel.

6. Buying democracy (Denver Post)

Spending on political advertising is an assault on democracy, writes Ken Gordon.

7. Where are the republican populists? (Washington Post)

The economically conservative and corporate wing of the Republican party always seem to win, according to E.J. Dionne.

8. The things soldiers do (Chicago Tribune)

What seems acceptable in war is deplorable outside of it, writes Leonard Pitts.

9. What to do about Iran (Boston Globe) ($)

The US should have strategic patience instead of rushing to war, argues Nicholas Burns.

10. State of the Union: A civil action (Politico)

Congress should appear as one body, not two sides, according to Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler.

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François Fillon's woes are good news for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron

It is too late for the Republicans to replace their scandal-tainted candidate.

It's that time of the week again: this week's Le Canard Enchaîné has more bad news for François Fillon, the beleagured centre-right candidate for the French presidency. This week's allegations: that he was paid $50,000 to organise a meeting between the head of the French oil company Total and Vladimir Putin.

The story isn't quite as scandalous as the ones that came before it: the fee was paid to Fillon's (legitimate) consultancy business but another week with a scandal about Fillon and money is good news for both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

The bad news for the Republicans is that Fillon is on the ballot now: there is no getting off the train that they are on. Destination: blowing an election that was theirs to be won.

Who'll be the ultimate beneficiary of the centre-right's misery? Although Macron is in the box seat as far as the presidential race is concerned, that he hasn't been in frontline politics all that long means that he could still come unstuck. As his uncertain performance in the first debate showed he is more vulnerable than he looks, though that the polls defied the pundits - both in Britain and in France - and declared him the winner shows that his popularity and charisma means that he has a handy cushion to fall back on.

It looks all-but-certain that it will be Macron and Le Pen who face each other in the second round in May and Macron will be the overwhelming favourite in that contest.

It's still just about possible to envisage a perfect storm for Le Pen where Fillon declares that the choice between Macron and Le Pen is a much of a muchness as neither can equal his transformative programme for France, Macron makes some 11th-hour blunder which keeps his voters at home and a terrorist attack or a riot gets the National Front's voters fired up and to the polling stations for the second round.

But while it's possible he could still come unstuck, it looks likely that despite everything we've thought these last three years, the French presidency won't swing back to the right in 2017.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.