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Apr 18 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”

Paul Krugman: Let’s Not Be Civil

Last week, President Obama offered a spirited defense of his party’s values – in effect, of the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. Immediately thereafter, as always happens when Democrats take a stand, the civility police came out in force. The president, we were told, was being too partisan; he needs to treat his opponents with respect; he should have lunch with them, and work out a consensus.

That’s a bad idea. Equally important, it’s an undemocratic idea.

Let’s review the story so far.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: America’s elites have a duty to the rest of us

The American ruling class is failing us – and itself.

At other moments in our history, the informal networks of the wealthy and powerful who often wield at least as much influence as our elected politicians accepted that their good fortune imposed an obligation: to reform and thus preserve the system that allowed them to do so well. They advocated social decency out of self-interest (reasonably fair societies are more stable) but also from an old-fashioned sense of civic duty. “Noblesse oblige” sounds bad until it doesn’t exist anymore.

An enlightened ruling class understands that it can get richer and its riches will be more secure if prosperity is broadly shared, if government is investing in productive projects that lift the whole society and if social mobility allows some circulation of the elites. A ruling class closed to new talent doesn’t remain a ruling class for long.

Eugene Robinson: Lines in the Sand

It was refreshing to hear all those unambiguous declarations from President Obama on Wednesday. “I will not” let Medicare become a voucher program or deprive families with disabled children of needed benefits. “We will” reform government health care programs without disavowing the social compact. “I refuse” to sign another renewal of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. Republicans “want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. … And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”

OK, there weren’t any lines with the simple heat of “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” or the terse power of “Make my day.” But Obama’s budget manifesto represented a significant warming of his usually cool rhetoric. He said he wanted to find common ground but instead devoted much of the speech to drawing lines in the sand.

And thank goodness. If ever there were a time when lines desperately needed to be drawn, it’s now.

Joe Conason: Democrats Can Win the Budget Debate

Having hesitated to fully enter the fiscal fray, President Obama has at last delivered a plausible, principled response to the budgetary flimflams of the far right. But one speech, even a very good speech, won’t fulfill his obligation in this fateful argument.

What Obama began to do this week is what Democrats ought to have been doing forcefully for many weeks, which is to ensure that Americans understand the central differences between Democratic and Republican budgeting-and how the party’s contrasting programs would affect them and their families. While acknowledging the need to bring the federal budget closer to balance in coming years, the president laid down real markers concerning how that objective should and should not be achieved.

David Sirota: Ikea Joins the Race to the Bottom

When it comes to ubiquitous symbols of mass American culture, the 1999 movie “Fight Club” aptly reminded us that bland Ikea furniture is now on par with mom and apple pie.

The film, of course, was lamenting more the ennui of homogenization than Ikea’s particular business model, because Ikea’s market saturation was always considered somewhat laudable thanks to the company’s seemingly special ethos. Based in Sweden, the blue-and-yellow behemoth was known to consumers as one of the few courageous anti-Wal-Marts in the big-box world-a firm whose Scandinavian-socialist flavor appeared to assure us that it was probably treating its workers better than most multinationals, thus giving America a rare haven of guilt-free shopping.

Or so it seemed, until the Los Angeles Times this week published a damning story about Ikea’s manufacturing plant in Danville, Va.

John Nichols: Paul Ryan’s Authoritarian Freakout: Losing Control of Budget Voting, Congressman Screeches ‘Shut it Down’

Paul Ryan claims to be a huge fan of novelist Ayn Rand, the libertarian favorite whose books and essays celebrated bold and unexpected acts of rebellion against autocrats and authoritarians

The House Budget Committee chair positions himself as such a Randifarian that he requires his staff to read the Russian immigrant’s objectivist tracks.

But, while Rand at her best celebrated creative dissent, Ryan’s got a big problem with it-a big-government problem.

The congressional prima donna was set to take his star turn Friday, with the easy passage of a plan that begins the process of privatizing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-not for the purpose of balancing the budget but rather to steer federal funds into the coffers of the Wall Street speculators who have funded Ryan’s rise to political prominence.

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