WP Comments on Catholicism, Drones, the Minimum Wage, and More

Pope and George W Bush

In our latest installment of comments at the New York Times, Winning Progressive commented on how Catholic leadership has become too close to the Republican Party, how we need more openness about our country’s drone policy, Thomas Friedman’s latest cheerleading in favor of cuts to earned benefits programs under the guise of a grand fiscal bargain, and how Fox “News” and MSNBC are not equally partisan.

 

In response to Ross Douthat’s column The End of a Catholic Moment discussing the decline of the Catholic vision in American society, Winning Progressive explained that:

The causes of the Catholic Church’s waning political influence go far beyond the sex abuse scandals. Instead, it stems from a leadership that has essentially abandoned issues of social justice, while becoming increasingly obsessed with a strident social conservatism that broad swaths of the country (not just liberal political elites) reject.

On issues of social justice, the Church has a long tradition of fighting for workers’ rights, alleviation of poverty, against war and the death penalty, etc. And there is still much good work going on in the Church on these issues, from the Nuns on the Bus to Pax Christi. But the leadership of the Church is largely silent on these issues, and rarely engages in high profile advocacy in support of helping the poor or to stop the latest neocon war fantasies.

Instead, the Church leadership focuses vast amounts of attention on a rigid social conservative agenda of fighting against reproductive freedom and LGBT equality. Yet, at the same time, the majority of Americans support choice and equality, and the overwhelming majority of Catholics disregard the Church’s policy on contraception.

In short the Church leadership has become largely a branch of the Republican Party, even as the majority of its members vote Democratic and reject the social and economic conservatism that the leadership is peddling.

In response to David Brooks’ column regarding the US’s drone policy, Florence and the Drones, Winning Progressive urged the Obama Administration to be far more open about the policy:

I grapple with this issue, and come out to approximately the same place you do, Mr. Brooks, though I think I would put more limits on the drones policy.

Drone killings are a horrible thing. They kill innocent people and engender anger towards the US. But war is an even more horrible thing. It kills far more innocents, disrupts entire societies, puts our troops in harm’s way, and wastes far more resources. We should do as much as we can to reduce both war and drone killings, but if forced to choose between the two, I’d reluctantly agree to drones.

The problem, of course, is setting checks, balances, and limits on a drones policy. Killing by drones with essentially no oversight is not in our nation’s best interest, and would be downright terrifying under, for example, a regime run by Dick Cheney. That’s why there needs to be judicial review before American citizens can be put on the drone kill list. In addition, the drones policy should be carried out by the military, which is at least subject to some oversight, rather than by the CIA, which is subject to virtually none. All kills should be publicly reported, including an accurate accounting of whether some of he deaths were of innocents, rather than of al-Qaeda members. And there must be Congressional oversight.

I urge the Obama Administration to have an open debate about this issue, not keep hiding it from public view.

Winning Progressive rebutted Thomas Friedman’s latest column, How to Unparalyze Us, urging President Obama to offer yet another “centrist” fiscal compromise that would cut earned benefits programs:

As is typical with Mr. Friedman’s columns on fiscal issues, this one is rife with errors.

First, the failure of corporations over the past few years to invest the vast sums of money they are sitting on is directly tied to the lack of demand created by the 2008 recession that we are still digging our way out of, an attempt by consumers to begin reducing their levels of personal debt, and 30 years of conservative economics that have caused wages to stagnate. Study after study has shown virtually no basis for contending that regulatory and tax uncertainty are causing corporate America to sit on the sidelines.

Second, why do we have to choose between giving younger generations opportunity and taking care of our senior citizens? If we ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, reduce military spending and corporate subsidies, and rationalize health care costs, we can do both (and invest in our infrastructure).

Third, why should a grand fiscal bargain include cuts to Social Security, which tens of millions of lower income seniors rely on, and which doesn’t contribute to our deficits.

Finally, how many times must the GOP flatly reject fiscal deals from President Obama that include things that anger his base before you acknowledge, as any sentient being should, that today’s GOP is simply unwilling to engage in reasonable compromise?

In response to Paul Krugman’s column Raise That Wage, Winning Progressive explained that economic stimulus is yet another reason why President Obama’s proposed increase of the minimum wage is a good idea:

In addition to helping millions of working class families who are struggling to get by, raising the minimum wage would provide another economic benefit – helping to stimulate the economy.

Our economy continues to lag for a simple reason – a lack of demand. The 2008 recession caused millions of people to lose their jobs, and while some of those jobs have returned, they are on average at lower wages. In addition, tens of millions of Americans have been amassing quite a bit of personal debt which they have finally been trying to pay down over the past couple of years. And thirty years of conservative economics have caused middle- and working-class wages and benefits to stagnate for the past nearly 40 years. As a result, far fewer Americans have far less money to spend which, in turn, means companies are unwilling to invest the vast sums of money they are sitting on. Combined, these impacts can create a vicious cycle of declining jobs, wages, economic growth, and tax revenue.

The way out of this cycle is to find a way to stimulate demand. And the most effective way to do so is to get money to the people who have the least, as they will spend virtually all of that money quickly. And one of the easiest ways to get money to the people who have the least is to increase the minimum wage. For the good of our economy and millions of low-wage workers, lets get it done.

In response to Frank Bruni column The Land of the Binge, Winning Progressive called out Mr. Bruni’s false equivalency between Fox “News” and MSNBC:

Portions of our society have been taken over by an extremism of consumption, though this is mainly an affliction of the top 40% and especially the top 1%, not the rest of folks who are struggling to get by.

But your extremism thesis falters when it comes to politics, especially to the extent that you are implying that both sides are extreme. Take, for example, your equating of MSNBC to Fox “News,” Yes, MSNBC’s prime time commentators are liberals who proudly stand up for the progressive viewpoint. But MSNBC’s morning show is hosted by a former Republican Congressman who largely parrots conservative talking points, and most of the rest of the daytime programming on MSNBC is standard news reporting. And even the primetime commentators are not reliably partisan (i.e., they will often criticize Democrats) and offer a fairly fact-based discussion of the issues.

By contrast, Fox “News” really is extreme. It offers virtually round-the-clock political propaganda intended to advance the interests of the Republican Party. Liberal voices are virtually never allowed, unless to be ridiculed, and virtual fabrication in support of the Republican cause is a regular occurrence.

Just as Dems and progressives are much more willing to compromise and see merit in the other side’s arguments, MSNBC is far closer to “fair and balanced” than the network that uses that slogan as an Orwellian joke.

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