We commented at the New York Times on topics including the fiscal cliff, Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and why progressive philanthropists should focus more on progressive political change. (More)

In response to the New York Times editorial decrying the weakness of the “fiscal cliff” deal that has reportedly been reached by the White House and Senate leadership, Winning Progressive urged people to put the blame where it lies – i.e. with the House Republicans:

As usual, when you are negotiating with hostage takers, the options are never good. Therefore, it is not surprising that the result is far from ideal.

Many of my fellow progressives will criticize the President for backing away from lines in the sand that we thought had been drawn. And there is something to that – President Obama did set forth various points (such as no further tax cuts for folks bringing in more than $250k) that have now been backed away from. And it appears that the President and/or Senate Democrats folded on those points.

But let’s focus our outrage and opposition on the real troublemakers here – the Republicans in the House. It is those folks who have been willing to hold everything hostage in their ideological zeal to ensure that billionaires and big corporations are not required to pay even a cent more in taxes. In order to achieve that goal, House Republicans are more than willing to end unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, raise taxes on working Americans, undermine the economic recovery, and hold the nation’s credit rating hostage.

So, yes, we need to encourage President Obama and Senate Democrats to stand firmer (though note they did decline to give in on Social Security and Medicare). But our primary focus needs to be on getting the House out of GOP hands in 2014.

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.