Paul Krugman on Cash Strapped America It's inconceivable to The New York Times columnist that wealthy Americans would choose to let their country's infrastructure and educational system crumble in order to avoid shouldering the burden of higher taxes. And make no mistake: street lights have been shut off, highways have returned to gravel and teachers and school programs have been eliminated in droves. How did the nation come to this? "It’s the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right," Krugman writes.
Michael Barone on What's Next For Republicans The GOP has been gaining all the momentum in the run-up to the November elections, but that's not to say that they have been successful in selling their message. Or that, as National Review's Michael Barone puts bluntly, they even have an agenda at all. "Some cynical Republicans say candidates should just harp on their opposition to the policies of the Obama Democrats and figure out what to do if they’re in the majority when they get there," Baron writes. "...That’s a good idea. Politicians like to win elections. But if they’re not in the business in order to shape public policy, why are they there at all?"
Jaron Lanier on the First Church of Robotics In a New York Times op-ed contribution, the Microsoft Research architect questions the pervasive public desire to see artificial intelligence as some sort of equivalent to personhood. Whether it's a smiling machine, a music recommending algorithm or a robot schoolteacher, we often hail these breakthroughs as "Frankensteinian" advances. He concludes: "What bothers me most about this trend, however, is that by allowing artificial intelligence to reshape our concept of personhood, we are leaving ourselves open to the flipside: we think of people more and more as computers, just as we think of computers as people."
Jill Lawrence on the Senate's Efficiency Writing in Politics Daily, Jill Lawrence offers a rebuttal to those who question the efficiency of the Senate. She concedes the upper chamber can be "frustrating, dilatory, partisan, always making things harder than necessary" but it is "hardly stagnant." Over the past two years, Lawrence argues, the Senate has put together "an impressive record, but it has not been treated that way." Instead, undue attention is paid to its "high-profile failures, especially in contrast with the House." But the House has always gone at a faster pace. Whether one agrees or disagrees with its priorities, she says, this Senate has hardly been slow to react to pressing issues.
Judith Miller on Iraq and the Oil Curse The news from Iraq has been good of late, but the question lingers as to whether the country will benefit from its vast oil supplies, observes Judith Miller in the Wall Street Journal. The columnist cites the "oil curse"--specifically, the tendency of oil-rich nations "to continue running an oil-centric, top-down command economy and to largely pay lip service to creating private-sector jobs and economic diversification." Right now in Iraq oil "accounts for almost 95% of all government revenues and over 60% of gross domestic product, while employing only 1% of the Iraqi workforce." Kurdistan, Miller argues, is the only region of Iraq with a truly diversified economy.