WP Comments on the Fiscal Cliff, Chuck Hagel, Philanthropy vs. Politics, and Sad Republicans

Krugman fiscal cliff

Here are our latest installment of comments at the New York Times, this time urging Democrats to stand strong on the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, explaining that Chuck Hagel would be a good choice for Secretary of Defense (though we’d prefer a Democrat), why progressive philanthropists should focus more of their resources on progressive political change, and why we don’t feel bad for conservatives in the wake of their electoral losses.

 

In response to an article about how Senate leaders and the President are scrambling to reach a “fiscal cliff” deal that could get passed through the House, we urge the Democrats to stand firm and be willing to go over the cliff instead of accepting a bad deal:

Democrats need to realize two things. One, they have the upper hand because starting next month, there will be a more progressive Senate and House, and because the public realizes who has been and continues to be intransigent here – the GOP. In addition, starting in January, the debate would be over whose taxes to cut and what spending to restore as the baseline will shift back to before George W. Bush’s unaffordable tax giveaways.

Two, there is no reason to believe that McConnell and Boehner are negotiating in good faith. They haven’t negotiated in good faith for the past four years, and Boehner has no control over his caucus full of tea partiers. Why they want to shift the vote to the Senate is any deal there would have to get 60 votes, including Republicans. The House would then amend it to make it more conservative and try to force Senate Dems to vote for an even worse deal.

Given this situation, the Dems should stand firm and refuse to accept any deal now unless it : (1) doesn’t extend tax breaks to people making over $250k, (2) doesn’t cut earned benefits programs, (3) extends unemployment benefits, and (4) restores the discretionary spending cuts in the sequester. If the GOP won’t go for that now, then go over the cliff, reform the filibuster, pass those things on day 1 of the new Senate, and dare House Republicans to vote against it.

In response to Tom Friedman’s op-ed Give Chuck a Chance, Winning Progressive notes we would prefer a Democrat be nominated for Secretary of Defense, but agrees with Friedman that Chuck Hagel would be a good choice and that the neoconservatives’ attacks on him are baseless:

I would prefer to see President Obama nominate a Democrat for Secretary of Defense. But if we are going to go with a Republican, Chuck Hagel is a good pick. And the brewing opposition from Republicans is yet another reminder of just how far off the deep end today’s GOP has gone.

As is typical, conservatives are trying to use the Israel issue as a way to both stop Hagel and to demonstrate yet again that anyone who questions the militaristic approach of the right wing government in Israel will once against be labelled as anti-Israel or, worse, anti-Semitic. In fact, the truth is just the opposite. The continuing effort by Netanyahu and others to undermine the peace process and expand settlements may be good for the political fortunes of right wing politicians. But it is dooming Israel to an endless future of war, terror, and fear in an area where Jews are becoming a minority. Such a future certainly cannot be considered “pro-Israel” as it is not good for that country, the region, or the world.

That Hagel seems to get the fundamental point that militarism and saber-rattling is often far from the best solution says a lot good about him. And I would be happy to have a Defense Secretary who thinks that the Pentagon budget should be cut, and that war isn’t always the answer (in fact, it rarely is). It is a shame that too many of today’s Republicans don’t understand the same thing.

 

In response to Nick Kristof’s column How Giving Became Cool, in which he praises billionaires such as Ted Turner for their philanthropy focused on global poverty and disease, Winning Progressive urges that progressive leaning billionaires could do far more good by focusing their money on progressive political change:

It is wonderful that billionaires such as Ted Turner are devoting large sums of money to addressing issues such as global disease and poverty. I would certainly prefer they be doing that than following the lead of people like the Koch Brothers who spend so much of their wealth trying to get government policies enacted that will make themselves even richer.

That being said, these well-meaning billionaires could do far more good if they devoted their wealth to achieving meaningful policy change, rather than just to philanthropy. And the reason is that changes in government policies can lead to far greater sums of money being targeted at important societal issues.

For example, over the past decade, the US has spent well over $1 trillion fighting an unnecessary war in Iraq. In addition, we spend approximately $15 billion per year on foreign military aid. If Turner and a handful of other billionaires had spent $1 billion putting global poverty and disease on the national agenda and unseating warmongers, far more money could have been directed towards addressing global poverty and disease.

Plutocrats are currently burying progressive causes under barrels of cash. It would be great if well-meaning, progressive billionaires would help shift the scales in favor of positive social change.

In response to Charles Blow’s column Holiday Doldrums, explaining how many conservatives are feeling depressed and despondent in the wake of the November election results, Winning Progressive offered little sympathy:

I can’t really muster much sympathy for Republicans who are feeling sad in the wake of the 2012 elections.

Over the past few years, the Republicans have had a lot going for them. They’ve had vast sums of money from billionaires who are able to spend freely trying to impact elections. They’ve had a media that ranges from credulous stenographers to active promoters of virtually every conservative talking point. And they succeeded in passing a number of voter ID laws that they thought would win important states for them.

The GOP, however, lacked two important things that would have been necessary for them to win. First, they lacked economic ideas that work. Instead, for thirty years they have offered a combination of letting Wall Street run wild, providing more tax cuts to billionaires and big corporations, and increased military spending that has led to higher deficits, the erosion of the middle class, and the crumbling of our national infrastructure. Second, they lacked the connection with reality needed to realize that these policies were failing and that they needed to adjust to a changing nation.

In short, the GOP brought their bad fortune on themselves by allowing the party to be taken over by birthers, climate deniers, Medicare privatizers, Grover Norquist servants, and clowns like Michelle Bachmann. Rather than feel sad, the GOP needs to return to reality.

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