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Apr 12 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”

Dean Baker: Paul Ryan in Your Pockets: Government by People Who Hate You

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan put out a budget proposal last week that will leave the vast majority of future retirees without decent health care by ending Medicare as we know it. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, most middle-income retirees would have to pay almost half of their income to purchase a Medicare equivalent insurance package by 2030. They would be paying much more than half of their income in later years.

This sort of broadside against the living standards of the middle class might have been expected to draw an outraged response in a nation that exalts the lifestyle and values of the middle class. Instead the punditry rallied around Mr. Ryan’s plan to deal with the problem of run-away entitlement spending, crediting it for being “serious” even if they did not embrace all the details.

Eugene Robinson: In budget wars, the GOP demands the impossible

Far-right Republicans are winning the budget wars because they understand something that nobody else in Washington seems to grasp: The old truism about politics being the art of the possible is no longer true.

There’s no question who won last week’s showdown. The outcome – nearly $40 billion in painful cuts – goes well beyond the GOP’s initial demands. That Democrats were able to save a few pet programs is something but not much. You really don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

And as anyone who’s paying attention can plainly see, The Great Shutdown Standoff was just a skirmish in a much bigger conflict. At issue is a fundamental question – what is the nature and purpose of government – that was first answered more than two centuries ago, when Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson duked it out as warring members of George Washington’s first Cabinet. Hamilton’s centralized government was victorious. There are those who have never forgiven him.

Cenk Uygur: Progressives Must Stand Up to the President

These budget negotiations were a giant win for the Republican Party. President Obama initially cut $40 billion from his own budget proposal — and he got absolutely no credit for that. It was a very typical preemptive concession by the president. It was so typical, you wonder if he recognizes what an indisputably terrible strategy it is or if he has a different agenda.

So, after getting no credit for his original $40 billion concession, then the negotiations began at square one. The Republicans claimed in February that they wanted $32 billion in cuts from that point on. About a week ago, the president came out and announced that they had given the Republicans another $33 billion in cuts — a billion more than they originally asked for. And still the Republicans wanted more.

Ari Berman: Why President Obama Is Losing the Budget Fight

Friday night’s dramatic budget agreement represented a major defeat for President Obama and Congressional Democrats. On substance, John Boehner and Congressional Republicans received $7 billion more in spending cuts than they originally asked for. From a messaging standpoint, the entire debate unfolded on the GOP’s terms (excerpt for a brief interlude concerning Planned Parenthood)-the discussion was about how much to cut, not whether to cut or who would be impacted by such cuts or if such cuts would depress economic growth. The word “jobs” was practically absent from the debate.

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The president is following the example of Bill Clinton after the 1994 election, who brought in Dick Morris to “fast-forward the Gingrich agenda.” Often lost in this story is how Clinton, en route to a balanced budget, fought Gingrich over steep spending cuts and vowed to protect “Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment,” as part of the budget deal. Clinton confronted, then compromised. Obama has fast-forwarded the Boehner agenda with no pushback, even bragging about enacting “the largest annual spending cut in our history.” The president is practically doing Boehner’s job for him!

Chris Hedges: Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers-those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential-and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.

Richard Dreyfuss: Libya and Humanitarian War

Two elder American statesman, at least one of which might better be put on trial for war crimes, have come up with an attempt to square the circle by reconciling “realism” and “idealism”-that is, neoconservative interventionism-in regard to “humanitarian” wars. They fail.

Writing in the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger and James Baker make an effort to describe the principles that ought to be applied when invading, bombing or otherwise attacking a country over cases in which direct national security interests aren’t at stake but human life is. Leaving aside whether or not readers ought to take Kissinger seriously on a matter of public policy, the two men declare: “Having served four US presidents during a variety of international crises, we view the choice between ‘idealism’ and ‘realism’ as a false one. Just as ideals must be applied in concrete circumstances, realism requires context for our nation’s values to be meaningful. To separate them risks building policy on sand.”

Amanda Marcotte: What Is and Isn’t Abortion: A Primer

Repeat after me: The recent standoff over the budget came down to funding for contraception, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screening. Make special note of what word was not in that list: abortion. That’s because abortion wasn’t on the table in the fights—there was pre-existing consensus that the government will not subsidize abortion care.

Of course, if you read the mainstream news, you would not know this. For instance, this front page article from the New York Times falsely characterized the fight over “abortion funding,” even though the funding in question was over health care that is not abortion.  The actual funding fight over contraception, cancer screening, and STD testing and treatment was not mentioned, though it was alluded to parenthetically. This article is failed journalism.  Yes, I realize the anti-choicers say “abortion” a lot, but our job as journalists is not to report lies as if they were truths, but to report the truth, no matter how much kicking and screaming the liars are doing.  We certainly do not write something as searingly unprofessional as this:

   Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, stressed repeatedly on Friday that his party was committed to defending abortion rights, and he characterized the fight as one over women’s health.

Unless you believe a woman with untreated cancer or chlamydia is “healthy”, his statement is just a matter of fact, not a “he said/she said” sort of thing.

Mike Farrell: Believe It or Not

In Washington, Tea Party types and their Republican acolytes kept threatening to shut down the government, their mantra, a paraphrase of the old Reagan canard, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

In Florida, their spiritual doppelgangers, Pastor Terry Jones and his Islamophobic Christian zealots, tried, convicted and destroyed by fire a copy of the Quran, mindlessly heaping insult on Afghan injury and igniting a riotous defense of their faith against Western invaders that cost many lives.

Elsewhere in our country, Birthers, Tenthers and others, angry but not sure why, decry socialistic, fascistic, communistic, Hitlerian Obamaesque schemes and warn lawmakers to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”

What’s happening here?

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