Is the New York Times trying to tell me something?

Sometimes I get the impression that the layout staff at the New York Times is sending me a message. On today’s front page, for instance, there are two stories side-by-side that nicely illuminate some of what’s wrong with contemporary American politics. The first headline is "Millions Being Spent to Sway Democrats on Health Care Bill," ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Sometimes I get the impression that the layout staff at the New York Times is sending me a message. On today's front page, for instance, there are two stories side-by-side that nicely illuminate some of what's wrong with contemporary American politics. The first headline is "Millions Being Spent to Sway Democrats on Health Care Bill," and the article details how drug companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are showering dollars to try to derail the latest attempt to give Americans better health care. The second headline (in the print edition) is "Repair Costs Daunting as Water Lines Crumble," and the article describes how the sewer and water systems in Washington, D.C. -- the nation's capital -- are deteriorating after decades of neglect.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: Corporations have millions of dollars to spend on political advertising (and the Supreme Court recently made it even easier for them to sway politicians), while our national infrastructure crumbles and state and local governments flirt with bankruptcy. And don't get me started on the misplaced priorities that have us spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, while Mexico faces a rising drug war right next door.

All this suggests a political system that is badly out of whack.  And maybe that's what the Times was trying to tell me.

Sometimes I get the impression that the layout staff at the New York Times is sending me a message. On today’s front page, for instance, there are two stories side-by-side that nicely illuminate some of what’s wrong with contemporary American politics. The first headline is "Millions Being Spent to Sway Democrats on Health Care Bill," and the article details how drug companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are showering dollars to try to derail the latest attempt to give Americans better health care. The second headline (in the print edition) is "Repair Costs Daunting as Water Lines Crumble," and the article describes how the sewer and water systems in Washington, D.C. — the nation’s capital — are deteriorating after decades of neglect.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: Corporations have millions of dollars to spend on political advertising (and the Supreme Court recently made it even easier for them to sway politicians), while our national infrastructure crumbles and state and local governments flirt with bankruptcy. And don’t get me started on the misplaced priorities that have us spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, while Mexico faces a rising drug war right next door.

All this suggests a political system that is badly out of whack.  And maybe that’s what the Times was trying to tell me.

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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