The Monday must-read opinion pages, including Andrew Samick, E.J. Dionne and Mark Bittman
THE FISCAL GRAND CANYON
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The federal budget deficit is the difference between outlays and revenues, and has averaged $1.2 trillion over the past two years. Revenues of $2.4 trillion, depressed in the wake of the recession, have covered only two-thirds of the $3.6 trillion in outlays. And while Republicans would have you believe that this spending was dreamed up in Obama’s Oval Office, that’s simply incorrect. What costs the government the most, by far, is the $2 trillion of mandatory annual spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other health, retirement and insurance programs.These are the facts about the budget. Everyone knows them. Yet the two parties have continued to pursue their dangerously parallel approaches to the debt: Democrats pretending that minimal tax increases that spare the middle class can save us, Republicans generally pretending that spending cuts that exempt defense and tip-toe around Medicare and Social Security are sufficient.With apologies for the mixed metaphor, going over the cliff would have helped bridge our new, perhaps permanent, fiscal canyon between the government we all asked for and the government revenue we’re generating to pay for it.
G.O.P BEGINS SOUL-SEARCHING AFTER TAX VOTE
MICHAEL D. SHEAR AND JIM RUTENBERG
NEW YORK TIMES
…A changed tone alone may not do enough to smooth over the very real disagreements in the Republican Party. And it is not clear how the intraparty combatants can meet in the middle. For example, while some Republicans argued that the tax vote last week enshrined almost all of the Bush-era tax cuts into permanent law and should be seen as a victory, harder-line fiscal conservatives called it a shameful departure from the party’s two decades of successful opposition to tax increases.
CHOICES ON AFGHANISTAN
NEW YORK TIMES
The Afghan Army and police forces have taken responsibility for securing larger and larger swaths of the country, but the Pentagon has admitted that only 1 of 23 NATO-trained brigades can operate without American assistance. The recent alarming rise in fatal attacks by Afghan forces on their American military mentors has crushed whatever was left of America’s appetite for the costly conflict. Ideally, the 66,000 American troops would already be leaving, and all of them would be out as soon as safely possible; by our estimate, that would be the end of this year. The war that started after Sept. 11, 2001, would be over and securing the country would be up to Afghanistan’s 350,000-member security force, including the army and police, which the United States has spent $39 billion to train and equip over a decade.
THE REAL DEFICIT ARGUMENT
EJ DIONNE JR
It is entirely true that in the wake of two budget agreements, in 2011 and the just-passed deal on the “fiscal cliff,” we have not reduced the deficit enough. The issue is: How much is enough? …We could put the deficit on a sustainable path for the next 10 years with one more deficit-reduction package equal to about $1.2 trillion, plus the resulting interest savings. … We could then shelve our deficit obsession for a while and confront the problems that should be center-stage over the next few years: restoring shared economic growth, spurring the creation of good jobs, dealing with gun violence, reforming immigration laws, improving our education system, and taking steps on climate change.
WHY DO STARS THINK IT’S O.K. TO SELL SODA?
NEW YORK TIMES
Two things can slow down this machine: anti-tobacco-style legislation and public opinion. Because for the beneficiaries, the current system is working great: every aspect of the media industry that can pull in soda money is happy to take it, and Pepsi will undoubtedly enjoy something like 110 million viewers of the halftime show. (Last year, Madonna drew more viewers than the game itself.) Whether Knowles really believes in Pepsi’s public statement about what it stands for, about its “unique commitment to sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and our planet” (Pepsi’s words, obviously) is impossible to know. (Her publicist did not respond for a request to comment for this piece.) In a statement she gave to the The Times upon the announcement of the deal, Knowles said: “Pepsi embraces creativity and understands that artists evolve. As a businesswoman, this allows me to work with a lifestyle brand with no compromise and without sacrificing my creativity.”