Here are some recent comments by Winning Progressive on New York Times opinion columns regarding climate change, deficits, and international adoptions. (More)

david brooks

In response to Tom Friedman’s column The Market and Mother Nature, we challenged Mr. Friedman’s faulty attempt to equate fiscal concerns and climate change as equally pressing and disastrous problems:

I agree that a carbon tax should be on the table. It should be set high enough to achieve real reductions in CO2 emissions, and the revenue generated should be distributed between developing clean energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, and energy storage), investing in efficiency, offsetting increases in energy prices for the poor and working class, and reducing deficits.

But while climate change and deficits have at least one partial solution in common, Mr. Friedman’s attempt to equate the two problems falls flat on at least three fronts. First, climate change is a massive and looming threat, agreed on by nearly every scientist in the world, and that, should it occur, is irreversible except over hundreds of years or more. Many economists, meanwhile, point out that short term deficits pose little problem, and long term deficits are solvable through reducing health care spending growth and increased revenue.

Second, the primary solution to climate change – moving to clean energy – is highly beneficial to a wide swath of society that would see increased jobs, less pollution, and improved public health. Attacking deficits now, however, would simply tank our economy.

Third, people seeking to address climate change are working in the public interest. Deficit scolds, meanwhile, seek to use the fiscal “crisis” they created to eliminate programs that serve the public good.

In response to Ross Douthat’s column Boehner, American Hero, we explained just how ridiculous is Mr. Douthat’s attempt to portray John Boehner (R-OH) as some sort of political hero:

Is this column some sort of a joke? “Boehner has done his country a more important service over the last two years than almost any other politician in Washington”????? You’ve got to be kidding.

Yes, it was good that Boehner allowed a vote on the fiscal deal, which had a majority of support in Congress, but far from a majority of GOP support. But the reality is that this was an unprecedented step for Boehner only because he had been implementing a terribly obstructionist approach to governing the House. In particular, he has refused to allow matters come to a vote if they do not have the support of a majority of the House GOP caucus, even if a majority of House members supported the legislation. As a result, “bipartisanship” or even basic legislating has been impossible in the Boehner House. Such approach complements Mitch McConnell’s Senate obstructionism well, but it doesn’t allow for good governance.

If Boehner were truly anything approaching a “hero,” he would have been working to reign in the excesses of his own caucus and tried to steer them back towards a more sane and moderate path. But Boehner has shown no interest in doing so, and no amount of fantasizing by Mr. Douthat changes that fact.

In response to David Brooks’ column criticizing the “fiscal cliff” deal, Another Fiscal Flop, we took Mr. Brooks to task for continuing to blame earned benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare for fiscal problems that were actually caused by conservative economic policies:

As usual, Mr. Brooks is blaming the wrong people for the debt issues we face. It is probably easy from his $4 million mansion to blame middle class voters interested in preserving Social Security and Medicare, but they are not the problem. The problem is 30 years of conservative efforts to drive up deficits by giving the wealthy a free ride while increasing military spending, fighting unnecessary wars, and subsidizing corporations.

It is important to distinguish between the short term debt (5 or so years out) and the long term. The short term deficits are caused primarily by the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the unnecessary invasion of Iraq, a prescription drug plan that doesn’t allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prices, and low economic growth caused by the Bush Recession. By stimulating growth, getting the wealthy to pay their fair share, and reducing military spending, short term deficits would disappear.

The long term deficits can be blamed almost entirely on out of control health care costs. The GOP’s “solution” is to shift those costs to the less efficient private insurance market. Democrats propose, instead, to try to reign in cost escalation and took important first steps in the health care reform law. In response, Republicans demagogued those efforts as “cuts.” That is yet further proof that only the Dems have shown seriousness about solving our debt issues.

In response to Tom Friedman’s latest exercise in false equivalency, we explained that his column More Risk-Taking, Less Poll-Taking, falsely claimed that President Obama and progressives have focused only on raising taxes on the wealthy as the sole solution to deficits:

This column is typical, pox-on-both-houses false equivalency that Mr. Friedman traffics in far too often.

It is simply inaccurate to say that all President Obama campaigned on or offered in the fiscal “cliff” talks was raising taxes on the wealthy. In fact, he has long argued for a balanced approach to fiscal issues that combine revenue increases with short term stimulus and long term spending reforms. Obama’s opening offer included stimulus (infrastructure investment and mortgage relief), $400 billion in spending reductions through further health care spending reforms (not benefit cuts), and tax reform, along with increased revenue from the wealthy. And later, Obama offered (to the chagrin of many progressives) chained CPI.

It is also inaccurate to say that progressives think we can take care of deficits by just raising taxes on the wealthy. Yes, we need to increase upper bracket rates and the estate tax, and end economically ineffective favoritism of capital gains and dividends over earned income. But we also support efforts to reduce health care spending (rather than cutting Medicare benefits), end a wide array of corporate subsidies, and reduce military spending in order to reduce spending. And, of course, we promote stimulus to create the economic growth needed to generate revenue.

Unfortunately, today’s GOP has no interest in economic growth or deficit reduction.

In response to David Brooks’ misleadingly titled column Why Hagel Was Picked, Winning Progressive contended that Mr. Brooks’ continued scapegoating of Medicare is way off base:

The problem is not Medicare. It is skyrocketing health care costs. And the solution is curbing those costs by strengthening and building on the program that is best at holding down costs – Medicare. That is what President Obama started with ObamaCare, which included more than $700 billion in savings by using Medicare and other public insurance programs to begin implementing comparative effectiveness research, strengthening the IPAB, etc.

Unfortunately, when folks like David Brooks or Paul Ryan speak of Medicare, they focus on trying to destroy the program. Doing so wouldn’t save us money, as the private insurance systems that would replace Medicare are less cost effective. But it would shift those costs to individuals, rather than government, thereby creating the illusion of savings.

If you think conservatives are serious about getting health care costs under control, rather than looting Medicare, look at how they reacted to the first efforts in ObamaCare to bring skyrocketing health care costs under control. Rather than support those commonsense efforts, they demagogued them as death panels and cuts (while, at the same time voting to end Medicare), and recently voted in the House to end the IPAB.

Let’s take reasonable steps to address long-term fiscal problems posed by health care costs, not pit Medicare against other public investments in an effort to end both.

In response to Charles Blow’s column Dwindling Adoptions, which addresses the decline in international adoptions by people in the US, we expressed hope that more people would seek to adopt children here in the US who are waiting to be adopted:

International adoptions by people in the US have fallen in large part because of the Hague Adoption Convention, an international agreement that was signed by the US in 1993 but didn’t go into effect until 2008.

Under the Convention, countries from which children are adopted have to take basic steps to crack down on the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children, which was quite rampant in a number of the countries where children were being adopted from. The Convention requires each country to create a centralized adoption authority, and to make efforts to place a child in his or her own country first. The decline in international adoptions suggests that the Convention has been quite successful in achieving its goal of protecting parents and children in countries where international adoptions had become quite a money maker.

I hope that another impact of the Hague Convention is that more people in the US look to adopt children here in the US that need a loving home. There are more than 400,000 children in foster care, approximately 1/4 for whom a goal of adoption (rather than reunification) has been established. It would be great if we started making sure these children get good homes before we continue adopting children from other countries.