5 Best Monday Columns

On racial profiling in airports, the data dump from WikiLeaks, and cutting the deficit without raising taxes

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  • Simon Jenkins on the Media's Role in the WikiLeaks Dump  "Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation's secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens?" That's the case that The Guardian columnist makes, defending the publication of classified U.S. State Department documents. The media's job, he writes, is not to protect powerful people from embarrassment, of which there is plenty in the "high grade gossip" revealed in the cables. Moreover, the newspaper took precautions to avoid "putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk," or exposing "material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces." The revelations provide valuable insight into the America's foreign policy. "Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event," Jenkins observes. "If that is not in the public's interest, I fail to see what is."
  • Asra Q. Nomani on Profiling Muslims in Airports  The Daily Beast contributor, an American Muslim, has "come to recognize, sadly" the common denominator of "those who've got their eyes trained on U.S. targets: MANY of them are Muslim." While profiling has recently become a word synonymous with prejudice, Nomani argues that the technique does not have to be about harassment, and that it should be included in with the other security procedures that airports already have. She traces the arc of Muslim terrorist plots against airlines and airports since 1989 (the year of the bombing of Pam Am 103 over Scotland) and observes that the "track record" of Muslims plots is "clear" and Americans should not "bury our heads in the sand anymore." She concludes: "We have to choose pragmatism over political correctness, and allow U.S. airports and airlines to do religious and racial profiling."
  • Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser on Modernizing America's Food Supply  "The best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply will come as early as Monday night, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization bill," write the authors in a New York Times op-ed. This bill would give the FDA the ability to test for dangerous pathogens, recall contaminated food and hold foreign imports to the same standards as the American food supply. But the bill is facing fierce opposition in the Senate, "egged on" by Tea Party elements, Glenn Beck and Senator Coburn, who argue that the new regulations are "too costly." While the legitimate cost concerns have been addressed in the bill, the opponent's argument that the bill's cost ($300 million) is too high is just "wrong." The annual cost of food-borne illness in the United States is about $152 billion, the authors note. That would make this bill "a bargain."
  • James Carroll on Nuclear 'Schizophrenia'  Failing to ratify the new START treaty would be the latest 'schizophrenic' act from the politicians who control America's nuclear arsenal, writes The Boston Globe columnist. Particularly troubling to Carroll is the belief among START's critics that the threat of nuclear war has been eclipsed by "the odd terrorist blowing up a mere city, or a brief local war, say, on the subcontinent of Asia." Not only is this "nonsense," it sets a dangerous precedent whereby nations will again begin to stockpile nuclear weapons. "Once nuclear weapons are accepted as normal armaments, their accumulation will skyrocket everywhere," says Carroll. "Once the international covenant toward abolition is abandoned, dozens of nations will join the nuclear club. Inter-state war will be inevitably genocidal, and outbreaks of non-state mass violence will invariably launch irrational escalations."
  • Martin Feldstein on Cutting the Deficit Without Raising Taxes  Writing in The Washington Post, the Harvard economics professor argues there is a simple way to cut the deficit without raising taxes: capping the total benefits a citizen can reap from tax deductions. Feldstein explains: "Someone with a 25 percent marginal tax rate who pays annual mortgage interest of $4,000 would still deduct that $4,000. The cap would apply to the $1,000 tax saving that individual could expect on mortgage interest, not to his or her deduction." Because eliminating tax expenditures is "politically impossible" (a reality Feldstein says deficit commission co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson recognize), it is necessary to scale back these expenses without giving the appearance of targeting any one expenditure. Feldstein believes dropping the threshold for certain deductions would pay immediate dividends. Even dropping the deduction for charity donations "would reduce the 2011 revenue gain by some $45 billion."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.