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Mar 25 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”

New York Times Editorial: Let Them Eat Cutbacks

Food stamps are part of the social safety net, but they work more as the ultimate ground-level crutch for Americans staggering against poverty. During the recession, food stamps were an important factor in helping an estimated 4.5 million Americans stave off the official poverty (no more than $21,756 annually for a family of four) that engulfed nearly 16 percent of the nation. The stamps are win-win: $9 in fast economic stimulus for every $5 spent on food for a hungry family.

Sad wonder, then, that cuts in food stamps are the latest proposal heading for the House Republicans’ budgetary chopping block. An attempt to set them back at the levels of 2007 – and cost a family of four $59 out of their $294 monthly allotment – is part of welfare “reform” legislation being proposed by leaders of the powerful Republican Study Committee. This group, embraced by two-thirds of the House majority, is the conservative engine driving much of the deficit-slashing mania to extremes.

Paul Krugman: The Austerity Delusion

Portugal’s government has just fallen in a dispute over austerity proposals. Irish bond yields have topped 10 percent for the first time. And the British government has just marked its economic forecast down and its deficit forecast up.

What do these events have in common? They’re all evidence that slashing spending in the face of high unemployment is a mistake. Austerity advocates predicted that spending cuts would bring quick dividends in the form of rising confidence, and that there would be few, if any, adverse effects on growth and jobs; but they were wrong.

It’s too bad, then, that these days you’re not considered serious in Washington unless you profess allegiance to the same doctrine that’s failing so dismally in Europe.

Eugene Robinson: Dazed and confused by the Libyan mandate

Is it just me? Am I the only one who’s utterly confused about the rationale, goals, tactics and strategy of the U.S.-led military intervention in Libya?

Thought not.

I call it a U.S.-led operation because, people, let’s be real. Without U.S. diplomatic leadership, there would have been no U.N. Security Council resolution. Without U.S. military leadership, there would have been no coordinated shock-and-awe attack to put dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s rampaging forces back on their heels. On Thursday, after days of bickering, we heard a grand announcement that NATO will take command of at least part of the operation. Don’t believe it. The United States will be functionally in charge, and thus on the hook, until this ends.

So what the hell are we doing? I realize that President Obama and his advisers have answered this question many times, but I feel it’s necessary to keep asking until the answers begin to make sense.

Robert Reich: Why Governor LePage Can’t Erase History, and Why We Need a Fighter in the White House

Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.

The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.

The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”

Are we still in America?

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Wake Up! End the Silence on Afghanistan

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the war in Afghanistan isn’t worth fighting, almost 75 percent want “a substantial number” of US troops withdrawn from Afghanistan this summer, and yet Congressional staffers widely report that Members do not hear from their constituents about this war.

This radical disconnect between the poll numbers and action isn’t seen only at the grassroots, but also within much of the political class (with some notable exceptions), and in the very few opportunities for action up for offer by the antiwar movement.

Robert Naiman: When the House Comes Back, You’re Gonna Get in Trouble

Here is some unsolicited advice for the Obama administration: you essentially have four days to put US involvement in the Libya war on a path that doesn’t look like open-ended quagmire.

Otherwise, when the House comes back next week, you’re going to get in trouble.

Many people have difficulty imagining the possibility that Congress could give the Obama Administration difficulty over the Libya war. Since 2001, many people think, Congress has rolled over for both the Bush and Obama Administrations on questions of war and peace. Why should now be any different?

John Nichols: Wisconsin’s Last La Follette Blocks a ‘Dictator’ Governor’s Power Grab

From his office atop a building opposite the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, Secretary of State Doug La Follette keeps watch on the comings and goings of the political mandarins who see governing as a game rather than the serious work of democracy. Once, decades ago, La Follette was one of the young stars of Wisconsin politics and he too played the games, as a state senator and contender for congressional nominations. But long ago he settled into what has always been the least partisan of state constitutional offices.

Now, however, La Follette finds himself at the center of the political wrangling of a state he has loved and served for four decades. A governor born just three years before La Follette entered Wisconsin politics forced legislators to enact an ill-conceived law designed to radically restructure state government while stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights. The governor’s actions have been so extreme that the senior member of the state legislature characterizes the newly-elected executive as “dictatorial.” La Follette cannot abide by that. As a longtime champion of the system of checks and balances that has served Wisconsin well since 1848, the secretary of state says, “I thought there were too many unanswered questions, I noted confusion and I worried about all legal challenges and the concerns about possible violations of open meetings rules.”

Ari Berman: Obama Doesn’t Need a Foreign Policy Doctrine

Depending on who you listen to, the Obama administration’s humanitarian intervention in Libya is either an illustration of an emerging foreign policy Obama doctrine or the lack thereof.

“Libyan Raids Show Obama Doctrine in Action,” read a Wall Street Journal headline this week. “Sussing Out An Emerging Obama Doctrine,” said another headline from NPR. According to this reading, Obama is willing to use force to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe but only if it involves a real multilateral coalition in accordance with international law, which stands in stark contrast to the Bush Doctrine of unilateral, pre-emptive war.