5 Best Monday Columns

In defense of Ben Bernanke, on TSA procedures, and a "hedge" strategy towards China

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  • Janet Napolitano on TSA Pat-Downs   As the holiday traveling season begins, the Homeland Security Secretary seeks to allay troubling concerns about the invasive scanners that are used to screen passengers before they board their flights. In a USA Today op-ed she explains the uses and safeguards of the new Advanced Imaging Technology that will screen passengers (unless they prefer a pat down). Independently evaluated by numerous federal agencies, the AIT units have "rigorous privacy safeguards" in place to protect travelers including: images that will be reviewed by an officer who doesn't interact with the passenger, and technology that can't store, print or export the images. If a passenger does not want to be scanned by the technology, he or she has the right to be submitted to a pat down by a same-gendered officer with a traveling companion in the same room. Napolitano explains that "the implementation of these measures represent the evolution of our national security architecture, an evolution driven by intelligence, risk and a commitment to be one step ahead of those who seek to do us harm."
  • Ross Douthat on the Real Party of No  The Simpson-Bowles joint recommendation for reducing the budget didn't solve the deficit problem "once and for all," but it "did manage to include good ideas from right and left alike," argues The New York Times columnist. These ideas, which include reducing corporate welfare, making Social Security more progressive, and slashing the defense budget, still were immediately denounced by prominent Democratic politicians. "Needless to say, none of the liberal lawmakers attacking the Simpson-Bowles proposals offered alternative blueprints for restoring America’s solvency," remarked Douthat. The current Democratic leadership, he argues, has no plans to balance the budget and has instead focused on preserving federal jobs, facilitating rising government spending and hiking corporate tax rates to some of the "highest" levels in the developed world. There are flaws in the Simpson-Bowles plan "but it has this great virtue: It treats Americans not as clients but as citizens, and not as children but as adults."
  • Hillary Clinton and Robert M. Gates on Ratifying START  The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense take to The Washington Post to explain the necessity of ratifying the latest iteration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia. START will reduce "the number of deployed nuclear weapons while retaining a safe and effective deterrent," provide "direct insight" into Russia's nuclear arsenal and "put in place an effective verification regime to track each side's progress in reducing its arsenal to 1,550 strategic warheads." It will also allow strategic weapons to be counted more accurately, set the stage for "future arms reductions," and will "solidify" the "reset" of relations with Russia. START will not "limit our ability to develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses," and will not "restrict our ability to modernize our nuclear forces," the officials argue. Until a new treaty is ratified by the Senate, "our inspectors will not have access to Russian missile silos and the world's two largest nuclear arsenals will lack the stability that comes with a rigorous inspection regime," they write.
  • Alan Blinder on the Case For Ben Bernanke  Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the Princeton economics professor says Ben Bernanke's domestic and international critics "need an Economics 101 refresher." Particularly troubling is the response to the new round of quantitative easing (QE2) announced by the Fed last week. While critics seem convinced QE2 represents a "radical departure from past practices and a dangerous experiment," Blinder says it is "garden-variety monetary policy." He explains: "short-term rates are practically zero in the U.S. now, so the Fed wants to push down medium- and long-term interest rates instead. How?...By creating new bank reserves to purchase medium- and long-term government securities." Those who worry about QE2 being inflationary are similarly misguided. "Yes," writes Blinder, "Yes, it might, leaving us with, say, 3% inflation instead of 2%. Or it might err in the opposite direction and produce only 1%. Neither outcome is desirable, but each is quite tolerable." In the end, the Fed's policy--while neither "foolproof nor perfect"--is also not radical or dangerous.
  • Fareed Zakaria on American Policy Toward China  Those who deem President Obama's trip to Asia a bust are missing the real point of the visit, says The Washington Post columnist. Going to India, South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia represented "America's opening move in a new great power game unfolding in Asia," now that China's rise--once "an abstraction"--has become "more tangible." Rather than equating U.S.-China relations to the old Cold War policy of containment ("a too-easy analogy"), Zakaria believes it is illustrative to think of America's relationship with China as a "hedge." In Zakaria's analogy, it is in the United States' interest to "maintain a close and productive relationship with China, hoping that this will ensure a peaceful and prosperous Asia. If, however, China's rise becomes threatening and destabilizing, America should also have in place strong alliances with other Asian powers such as India and Japan - which Obama's trip sought to accomplish - as building blocks to balance Chinese expansionism." Zakaria makes it clear that engaging China is preferable to "entering into a new, long Cold War with what is soon likely to be the world's largest economy."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.