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Room for Debate: “Will the New York Times Room for Debate Forum Ever Ask Good Questions?”

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The Times Room for Debate section seems like it would be a good idea–choose a question and get smart people to present different views. But so often the questions are just insipid and come with an ideological bent that precludes solid discussion, not to mention contributors that usually skewer to the Beltway-right orbit. Today’s is particularly galling: “Can’t Afford Foreign Aid, or Can’t Afford to Cut It.” That’s just a dumb question on the face of it given the relatively tiny size of the U.S. foreign aid budget. Yet it plays into conservative talking points that we waste all this money giving it to other countries (except Israel of course, for whom evidently we should dedicate 20% of GNP).

How bad is this debate? The person who makes the most sense is former Republican congressman Mark Green. Yes, I find myself agreeing with a former Republican member of Congress. This is a rare thing. But when the questions are this worthless, such things can happen.

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  • Murc

    Yes, I find myself agreeing with a former Republican member of Congress. This is a rare thing.

    It probably ain’t that rare if you’re allowed to include DEAD former Republican members of Congress. I mean, one imagines you and John Chafee would have gotten along just fine.

    • Given my personal hatred of Lincoln Chaffee for vetoing our union contract, I don’t think so.

      • Murc

        So Linc’s failures are John’s fault? That’s on him now?

        • The point is–even so-called moderate Republicans are usually awful on economic issues. The moderation is usually about social issues.

  • tonycpsu

    In the next “Room For Debate”…

    George W. Bush: Great President, or Greatest President?

    • Anonymous

      Since it’s GWB, shouldn’t that be Greaterest President

  • cackalacka

    I can’t help but be reminded of the Onion’s Voices section when I happen upon this article.

  • James E. Powell

    The most important job for the corporate press/media is to provide reassurance to the masses that all is well, that the big shots know what they are doing, and that every stupid thing they believe is good and true and ordained by God.

    • losgatosca

      The more stupider the more gooder and the more truthier.

  • Warren Terra

    (except Israel of course, for whom evidently we should dedicate 20% of GNP).

    A debate about aid to Israel would be entirely appropriate, but this claim is nuts. We give about $3 billion to Israel each year, says Wikipedia, all of it military. Also according to Wikipedia, the GDP of Israel is something like $240 billion.

    Now, this makes me think that Israel really ought to raise another 1.25% of GDP in taxes themselves, instead of receiving it from us. But, per your statement, 1.25% is not 20%.

    • Bill Murray

      well 1.25% is what we do, it seems Erik thinks many Americans think it should be 20% regardless of the actual amount

    • NonyNony

      He’s talking about conservative talking points in that sentence, not reality.

    • Dana

      Yes, pretty clearly a joke, one that almost made me LOL. Almost.

    • You should realize I was being sarcastic with that 20% number.

  • losgatosca

    It’s closer to the truth to say they can’t get enough – 20% of US GDP is more than a fair bargain to increase the probability of the Rapture occurring within the lifetime of the typical conservative Republican TeaBagger. Amirite?

    Their lights are on, but no one’s home.

  • shabadoo

    OK, but you’ve got to give them credit for using GWB’s “Is our children learning?” bit in a headline, apparently unironically.
    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/08/13/is-our-children-learning-enough-grammar-to-get-hired

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