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Apr 22 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”

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Paul Krugman: Patients Are Not Consumers

Earlier this week, The Times reported on Congressional backlash against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key part of efforts to rein in health care costs. This backlash was predictable; it is also profoundly irresponsible, as I’ll explain in a minute.

But something else struck me as I looked at Republican arguments against the board, which hinge on the notion that what we really need to do, as the House budget proposal put it, is to “make government health care programs more responsive to consumer choice.”

Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car – and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.

Robert Reich: Beware the “Middle Ground” of the Great Budget Debate

How debates are framed is critical because the “center” or “middle ground” is supposedly halfway between the two extremes.

We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides: The President and the Democrats want to cut the budget deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing Medicare. On the other side are Paul Ryan, Republicans, and the right, who want cut the deficit by privatizing Medicare and slicing programs that benefit poorer Americans, while lowering taxes on the rich.

By this logic, the center lies just between.

Baloney.

New York Times Editorial: Rethinking Their Pledge

Senator Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma, has had the good sense to demand an end to the $5 billion annual tax credit to makers of corn ethanol, a wasteful subsidy to farm states that is also dubious environmental policy. For his outspokenness, Senator Coburn was pilloried by anti-government activists of his own party who cannot stand the idea of more revenues flowing into the federal Treasury. But he and a few others in the Senate are holding fast, suggesting that at least some Republicans are willing to break with party orthodoxy to reduce the long-term budget deficit

The loudest criticism came from Grover Norquist, whose group, Americans for Tax Reform, is the author of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge that has become a sacred covenant for virtually anyone wishing to run as a Republican. More than 95 percent of the Republicans in Congress have signed it (including Senator Coburn), as have many Republican governors and state lawmakers.

Eugene Robinson: Field Manual for Despots

WASHINGTON-If I were a Middle Eastern despot, I’d know how to handle the pro-democracy movement that threatens my rule: Crack down viciously, using deadly force against civilians, and make no meaningful concessions. The West will fulminate and posture but won’t intervene decisively. I can survive.

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, Bahrain’s al-Khalifa royal family and others have surely been watching events in Libya and taking notes. The NATO-led attempt to dislodge Moammar Gadhafi is going nowhere fast. Bickering allied leaders have no stomach-or popular support at home-for war making of the kind that would be necessary to defeat Gadhafi’s army and take Tripoli. The regime is bloodied but unbowed.

One wonders why we bothered at all.

David Sirota: Beware of Vampire Squids and Their Stadium Schemes

When it comes to media voyeurism and the economic insights it can provide, the ads in Vanity Fair rival Charlie Rose’s television program as the best peep show of all. Between rip-and-sniff Dolce & Gabbana pages and come-hither Gucci models, readers get to see not what the kings are selling the lowly serfs, but what the royal family is telling itself.

This is why I read Vanity Fair-its ads provide a valuable glimpse into the palace. May’s edition is no exception, thanks to Goldman Sachs-aka the investment bank at the center of Wall Street’s 2008 meltdown.

On page 123 of the glossy mag, this very same bank presents itself as the savior of one of those Middle-American cities whose averageness (and baseball bats) makes it synonymous with good ol’ fashioned Americana: Louisville, Ky.

Joe Conason: The Trouble With Trump

Everything we really need to know about the character of Donald Trump was revealed when the wannabe president frivolously accused Barack Obama’s late grandparents of committing fraud with his birth announcement. Trump told CNN that they had placed the Aug. 13, 1961, announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser because they wanted to get “welfare” and other benefits. But this casual falsehood revealed only the tiniest hint of the truth about Trump that Americans will discover if he actually runs for the White House.

Anticipating such scrutiny, Trump should use more caution when mouthing off about “welfare,” for instance. His family wealth and his own business have both depended heavily on the corporate welfare that supports the real estate industry, starting with the Federal Housing Administration support that undergirded his father Fred’s residential empire more than half a century ago.

Noam Chomsky: Is the World Too Big to Fail?

The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces — coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called “the most strategically important area in the world” — “a stupendous source of strategic power” and “probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment,” in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the U.S. intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins: One Year After BP Oil Spill: Communities Lead While Congress Fails

One year ago today, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit exploded in the Gulf of Mexico – a catastrophe that most Americans will never forget.

11 people lost their lives. According to Good, roughly 5 million barrels of oil gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf – eventually covering more than 60 miles of shoreline. Areas of the shore remain oil-soaked to this day.

The tragedy highlighted the need for new regulations to strengthen oversight of offshore drilling.  In response, Congress held more than 60 hearings related to the BP disaster; more than 100 oil spill-related bills were introduced.

How many passed?  None.  Zero.

Stephen Bradberry: A Developing Health Crisis Across the Gulf Coast

NEW ORLEANS – Days after the BP oil disaster began, on Apr. 20, 2010, BP and the U.S. administration pledged that Gulf Coast communities would be made whole. One year later that promise remains unfulfilled: across the Gulf there is a developing health crisis as a result of the oil spill.

Our state and federal governments, and BP itself, must demonstrate the will to take actions promised a year ago.

The BP spill poured over 170 million gallons of crude oil and immeasurable amounts of toxic gases into the waters and atmosphere of the Gulf of Mexico, in addition to the two million gallons of chemical dispersants used in the response operations, the full impact of which is yet unknown. For coastal communities exposed to these poisons, and that continue to find oil in their marshes and fishing nets, the health impact, we can be sure, will be severe and long term.

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