Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, February 20, 2012

Updated
 
WHY IT MATTERS THAT OUR POLITICIANS ARE RICH
BY BRITT PETERSON
BOSTON GLOBE

Politicians would like us to believe that all this money doesn’t matter in a deeper sense-that what matters is ideas, skills, and leadership ability. Aside from a little extra business savvy, they’re regular people just like the rest of us: They just happen to have more money. But is that true? In fact, a number of new studies suggest that, in certain key ways, people with that much money are not like the rest of us at all. As a mounting body of research is showing, wealth can actually change how we think and behave-and not for the better. Rich people have a harder time connecting with others, showing less empathy to the extent of dehumanizing those who are different from them. They are less charitable and generous. They are less likely to help someone in trouble. And they are more likely to defend an unfair status quo. If you think you’d behave differently in their place, meanwhile, you’re probably wrong: These aren’t just inherited traits, but developed ones. Money, in other words, changes who you are. A THIRD VOICE FOR 2012
BY THOMAS FRIEDMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

Eventually the “circular firing squad” that is the Republican primary will be over and the last man standing will be the party’s nominee for president. If that candidate is Rick Santorum, I think there is a good chance a Third Party will try to fill the space between the really “severely conservative” Santorum (or even Mitt Romney) and the left-of-center Barack Obama. It would be fitting. After all, this is the 20th anniversary of Ross Perot’s independent candidacy. Perot won close to 20 percent of the vote, and his success was instrumental in making deficit reduction one of Bill Clinton’s top priorities. An independent candidate in 2012 who was a little more, shall we say, “normal” than Perot could have an equally big impact on the winner. I still don’t know if I’d support an independent… But I know what I’d pay good money to see: an intelligent independent candidate just taking part in the presidential debates, because it would make both Obama and his Republican opponent better. One independent I’d like to see play that role is David Walker.

PAIN WITHOUT GAIN
BY PAUL KRUGMAN
NEW YORK TIMES

[W]e could actually do a lot to help our economies simply by reversing the destructive austerity of the last two years. … Remember all the fuss about whether there were enough “shovel ready” projects to make large-scale stimulus feasible? Well, never mind: all the federal government needs to do to give the economy a big boost is provide aid to lower-level governments, allowing these governments to rehire the hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers they have laid off and restart the building and maintenance projects they have canceled. Look, I understand why influential people are reluctant to admit that policy ideas they thought reflected deep wisdom actually amounted to utter, destructive folly. But it’s time to put delusional beliefs about the virtues of austerity in a depressed economy behind us.

WIKILEAKS, A POSTSCRIPT
BY BILL KELLER
NEW YORK TIMES

The Obama administration has been much more aggressive than its predecessors in pursuing and punishing leakers. The latest case, the arrest last month of John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. terrorist-hunter accused of telling journalists the names of colleagues who participated in the waterboarding of Qaeda suspects, is symptomatic of the crackdown. It is this administration’s sixth criminal case against an official for confiding to the media, more than all previous presidents combined. The message is chilling for those entrusted with keeping legitimate secrets and for whistleblowers or officials who want the public to understand how our national security is or is not protected. Here’s the paradox the documentaries have overlooked so far: The most palpable legacy of the WikiLeaks campaign for transparency is that the U.S. government is more secretive than ever.

CIVILITY IS GOLDEN
BY KATHLEEN PARKER
WASHINGTON POST

The clearest solution [to our incivility problem] would be unacceptable to most of us. That is, the tamping down of speech. Better that incivility be revealed in the light of day than that it be forced underground, there to fester and the underlying sentiments to grow. Change — if we really want it — has to come from within, each according to his own conscience. The most that media can do, meanwhile, is strive to be honest, accurate and fair, and reward the coarsest among us with scant attention. The greatest threat to civility isn’t the random “You lie!” outburst. More threatening to our firmament is the pandering to ignorance, the elevation of nonsense and the distribution of false information. In the main, the Golden Rule works pretty well. Best taught in the home, it could use some burnishing.

THE SUPER PAC CONFUSION
BY ROBERT SAMUELSON
WASHINGTON POST

It’s always convenient to blame the nation’s problems on moneyed “special interests” and to pretend that controlling them will advance obvious solutions. This is usually a delusion. Solutions aren’t always obvious, and the most powerful constituencies are not those with big bags of money but those with huge blocs of voters. AARP outguns the American Petroleum Institute. The greater threat to our democracy arises from the well-intentioned effort to curb traditional First Amendment political freedoms under the guise of cleansing the system of the evils of money. There lies the true corruption of the Constitution.

LINMIGRAION SERVICE
EDITORIAL
WALL STREET JOURNAL

Lin proved the experts wrong with his play at Harvard and again when he bounced from pro basketball’s Developmental League to the end of the Knicks’ bench and then into the starting line-up. It turns out he can split a double team and distribute the ball in a way that makes his teammates better, not unlike (metaphorically speaking) immigrants in other fields. The policy lesson is that America wins when it welcomes talented people, whether or not they start semiconductor companies.

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Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, February 20, 2012

Updated