Op-Eds From the New York Times

The Times requires you to register to see their site, and they further require you to pay to see content older than a couple of weeks. So here are an article, a couple Op-Ed pieces and an editorial.


OP-ED COLUMNIST

Bush’s Class-War Budget

By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: February 11, 2005

It may sound shrill to describe President Bush as someone who takes food from the mouths of babes and gives the proceeds to his millionaire friends. Yet his latest budget proposal is top-down class warfare in action. And it offers the Democrats an opportunity, if they’re willing to take it.

First, the facts: the budget proposal really does take food from the mouths of babes. One of the proposed spending cuts would make it harder for working families with children to receive food stamps, terminating aid for about 300,000 people. Another would deny child care assistance to about 300,000 children, again in low-income working families.

And the budget really does shower largesse on millionaires even as it punishes the needy. For example, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities informs us that even as the administration demands spending cuts, it will proceed with the phaseout of two little-known tax provisions – originally put in place under the first President George Bush – that limit deductions and exemptions for high-income households.

More than half of the benefits from this backdoor tax cut would go to people with incomes of more than a million dollars; 97 percent would go to people with incomes exceeding $200,000.

It so happens that the number of taxpayers with more than $1 million in annual income is about the same as the number of people who would have their food stamps cut off under the Bush proposal. But it costs a lot more to give a millionaire a break than to put food on a low-income family’s table: eliminating limits on deductions and exemptions would give taxpayers with incomes over $1 million an average tax cut of more than $19,000.

It’s like that all the way through. On one side, the budget calls for program cuts that are small change compared with the budget deficit, yet will harm hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Americans. On the other side, it calls for making tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, and for new tax breaks for the affluent in the form of tax-sheltered accounts and more liberal rules for deductions.

The question is whether the relentless mean-spiritedness of this budget finally awakens the public to the true cost of Mr. Bush’s tax policy.

Until now, the administration has been able to get away with the pretense that it can offset the revenue loss from tax cuts with benign spending restraint. That’s because until now, “restraint” was an abstract concept, not tied to specific actions, making it seem as if spending cuts would hurt only a few special interest groups.

But here we are with the first demonstration of restraint in action, and look what’s on the chopping block, selected for big cuts: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health insurance for children and aid to law enforcement. (Yes, Mr. Bush proposes to cut farm subsidies, which are truly wasteful. Let’s see how much political capital he spends on that proposal.)

Until now, the administration has also been able to pretend that the budget deficit isn’t an important issue so the role of tax cuts in causing that deficit can be ignored. But Mr. Bush has at last conceded that the deficit is indeed a major problem.

Why shouldn’t the affluent, who have done so well from Mr. Bush’s policies, pay part of the price of dealing with that problem?

Here’s a comparison: the Bush budget proposal would cut domestic discretionary spending, adjusted for inflation, by 16 percent over the next five years. That would mean savage cuts in education, health care, veterans’ benefits and environmental protection. Yet these cuts would save only about $66 billion per year, about one-sixth of the budget deficit.

On the other side, a rollback of Mr. Bush’s cuts in tax rates for high-income brackets, on capital gains and on dividend income would yield more than $120 billion per year in extra revenue – eliminating almost a third of the budget deficit – yet have hardly any effect on middle-income families. (Estimates from the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution show that such a rollback would cost families with incomes between $25,000 and $80,000 an average of $156.)

Why, then, shouldn’t a rollback of high-end tax cuts be on the table?

Democrats have surprised the Bush administration, and themselves, by effectively pushing back against Mr. Bush’s attempt to dismantle Social Security. It’s time for them to broaden their opposition, and push back against Mr. Bush’s tax policy.


Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ruling in C.I.A. Leak Case

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: February 15, 2005

Filed at 11:42 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling against two reporters who could go to jail for refusing to divulge their sources to investigators probing the leak of an undercover CIA officer’s name to the media.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with prosecutors in their attempt to compel Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper and The New York Times’ Judith Miller to testify before a federal grand jury about their confidential sources.

“We agree with the District Court that there is no First Amendment privilege protecting the information sought,” Judge David B. Sentelle said in the ruling, which was unanimous.

Floyd Abrams, the lawyer for both reporters, said he would ask the full appeals court to reverse Tuesday’s ruling. “Today’s decision strikes a heavy blow against the public’s right to be informed about its government,” Abrams said in a statement.

In October, Judge Thomas F. Hogan held the reporters in contempt, rejecting their argument that the First Amendment shielded them from revealing their sources. Both reporters face up to 18 months in jail if they continue to refuse to cooperate.

The special prosecutor in the case, Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, is investigating whether a crime was committed when someone leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her name was published in a 2003 column by Robert Novak, who cited two senior Bush administration officials as his sources.

The column appeared after Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote a newspaper opinion piece criticizing President Bush’s claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. The CIA had asked Wilson to check out the uranium claim. Wilson has said he believes his wife’s name was leaked as retaliation for his critical comments.

Disclosure of an undercover intelligence officer’s identity can be a federal crime if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and the person who released that information knew of the officer’s secret status.

Cooper is a White House correspondent for Time who has reported on the Plame controversy. He agreed in August to provide limited testimony about a conversation he had with Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, after Libby released Cooper from his promise of confidentiality.

Fitzgerald then issued a second, broader subpoena seeking the names of other sources.

Miller is facing jail for a story she never wrote. She had gathered material for an article about Plame, but ended up not doing a story.

Prosecutors have interviewed President Bush, Cheney, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and other current or former administration officials in the investigation. Journalists from NBC and The Washington Post also have been subpoenaed.


EDITORIAL

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Published: February 15, 2005

New evidence about the torture of prisoners by American soldiers and intelligence agents – and by foreign governments working secretly for the United States – is appalling for all the obvious reasons. This kind of brutality violates both American law and international treaties. It endangers American soldiers who may in the future find themselves captives of a hostile nation. It debases the nation at home and abroad.

Now it is also becoming increasingly clear that this extensive, random prisoner abuse is a wretched failure that does nothing to aid the war on terror.

Report after report shows that a vast majority of those swept up in American anti-terrorism campaigns were innocent. Those who may have been guilty produced little if any useful information – and now cannot be put on trial and punished because they were illegally detained and tortured. Others simply lied under duress, providing an ample supply of disinformation purchased at the cost of American self-respect. Military doctrine says that interrogation becomes pointless after a few days, while torture produces false confessions.

Jane Mayer wrote recently in The New Yorker about Maher Arar, a Syrian-born citizen of Canada arrested by American agents on vague suspicions of terrorist ties. He says he was was shipped to Syria, a country routinely denounced by Washington for its brutality, and tortured for a year. Ms. Mayer wrote that Mr. Arar “eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say,” but the Syrians said they had found no terrorist link.

In Sunday’s Times, Raymond Bonner wrote about Mamdouh Habib, accused of helping to train some of the 9/11 hijackers. Even if he is guilty, he’ll never be charged. Mr. Habib says he was beaten by American jailors at Guant

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