“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.
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Scarcely a decade ago, the US was running a budget surplus, with unemployment at 4%. It had little to do with cuts or taxes
People in Washington have incredibly bad memories. The last time that the United States balanced its budget was just a decade ago. Even though this is not distant history, almost no one in a policymaking position or in the media seems able to remember how the United States managed to go from large deficits at the start of the decade to large surpluses at the end of the decade.
There are two often-told tales about the budget surpluses of the late 1990s: a Democratic story and a Republican story. President Clinton is the hero of the Democratic story. In this account, his decision to raise taxes in 1993, along with restraint on spending, was the key to balancing the budget.
The hero in the Republican story is News Gingrich. In this story, the Republican Congress that took power in 1995 demanded serious spending constraints. These constraints were ultimately the main factor in balancing the budget.
Fortunately, we can go behind this “he said/she said” to find the real cause of the switch from large budget deficits to large surpluses. This one is actually easy.
House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Tea Party, and their circle even attempted — in unsettlingly bumbling manner — to read the document into the Congressional Record at the opening of the current Congress.
Now, however, with a backdoor plan to commit the United States to a course of permanent warmaking, they are affronting the most basic premises of a Constitution that requires congressional declarations of all wars and direct and engaged oversight of military missions.
The House Republican leadership, working in conjunction with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, has included in the 2012 defense authorization bill language (borrowed from the sweeping Detainee Security Act) that would effectively declare a state of permanent war against unnamed and ill-defined foreign forces “associated” with the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The means that, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (which GOP leaders in the House have refused to officially recognize as a significant development), the Department of Defense will be authorized to maintain a permanent occupation of Afghanistan, a country bin Laden abandoned years ago, and a global war against what remains of bin Laden’s fragmented operation.
The contrast between these two headlines from this morning tells a significant story: From The Guardian
Julian Assange awarded Australian peace prize
Case Against WikiLeaks Part Of Broader Campaign
As Julian Assange wins the Sydney Peace Prize for “exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights,” NPR reports that “a federal grand jury in Virginia is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday from witnesses” in the criminal investigation of his whistle-blowing group, as “prosecutors are trying to build a case against [the] WikiLeaks founder whose website has embarrassed the U.S. government by disclosing sensitive diplomatic and military information.” The NPR story — based in part on my reporting of a Grand Jury Subpoena served two weeks ago in Cambridge — explains what has long been clear: that “the WikiLeaks case is part of a much broader campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers.”
New York Times Editorial: Republican Demands and the Debt Limit
Even before the White House and the Republicans began talks on the debt limit, John Boehner made clear that he was looking for a political fight, not a compromise.
Then, in a speech on Monday, the speaker of the House said that Republicans would insist on trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for votes to raise the debt limit. He did not mention a time frame, but even a fraction of “trillions” in the near term could do huge damage to the recovery. He also did not offer specifics on how he planned to make those cuts. After the beating Republicans took for their plan to slash Medicare, he clearly decided generalities were politically safer.
There is no way to solve the country’s fiscal ills without an accurate diagnosis and rigorous prescriptions for a cure. Mr. Boehner’s speech was devoid of both.
Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein: Obama Health Law Unlikely to Stem Medical Bankruptcies
When President Obama kicked off his health reform push, he highlighted our research finding that 2 million Americans suffer medical bankruptcy each year, promising to end this disgrace. Our latest figures warn that his reform won’t stanch the flow of medical debtors.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed by Congress in March 2010 was modeled after Massachusetts’ 2006 health reform plan – a plan that’s now been up and running for more than three years. So Massachusetts offers a preview of what to expect when the ACA is fully implemented in 2014.
Unfortunately, medical bankruptcies haven’t dropped much – if at all – in Massachusetts. When we surveyed bankruptcy filers there in August 2009, 53 percent cited illness or medical bills as a cause of their bankruptcy, a percentage that’s statistically indistinguishable from the 59 percent figure we found in early 2007. Indeed, because the total number of bankruptcies soared in 2009, the actual number of medical bankruptcies increased from 7,504 in 2007 to 10,093 in 2009.
Why are so many people still suffering medical bankruptcies despite Massachusetts’ health reform? While only 4 percent of the state’s residents remain uninsured, much of the new coverage is so skimpy that serious illness leaves families with crushing medical bills.
Europe and America’s ghastly military intervention in Libya’s civil strife – supposedly for humanitarian reasons – has created its own humanitarian crisis, especially for Black African migrant workers trapped in that country. Whether by death at sea or by lynching at the hands of U.S.-backed “rebels,” the death toll among migrant workers and their families is certainly in the thousands – although the U.S. superpower and its European allies seem not to care in the slightest. Dead Africans – whether Arab or sub-Saharan, Muslim or Christian – are of no consequence to the rulers in Washington, Paris, London and Rome, who seek to strengthen their grip on the region and its resources by force of arms. In their mouths, “humanitarian intervention” is an oxymoron.
For the 72 Black passengers of a rickety vessel that ran out of fuel shortly after leaving Libya in late March, there was no humanity in NATO’s intervention. All but 11 died from thirst and starvation during 16 days of agony in the Mediterranean Sea. At one point, they passed very close to a NATO aircraft carrier, almost certainly the Carl Vinson. Two warplanes buzzed the stricken ship as the Africans on deck held up their babies to show their distress. But then the planes went back where they came from. The NATO fleet could not be bothered with rescuing otherwise doomed Africans – even though NATO claims the purpose of its mission is to save civilian lives. Clearly, the Black American commander-in-chief did not give his sailors and flyers the impression that Black lives matter. The dead included men, women and children from Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ghana and Nigeria.
White House poetry night is one of those ceremonial events that you never hear about unless there’s a controversy. Or a fake controversy. But today’s conservative kerfuffle over a White House invitation for Common — a socially conscious, mainstream hip hop artist and sometime actor (most recently in Tina Fey’s Date Night) — is interesting, since the faux outrage targets an artist who actually embodies many values of his critics.
In a different universe, where conservative culture warriors listened to music before demonizing it, Common would perform at pro-life rallies. Take his famous duet with The Fugees’ Lauryn Hill, Retrospect for Life, which strongly questions abortion. “Musta really thought I was God to take the life of my son,” he raps, “from now on, I’m using self-control, instead of birth control, because $315 aint worth your soul.” The last line, comparing the cost of an abortion to the value of life, is a repeating hook. Common also uses the song to dialogue with his unborn child, saying “Knowing you the best part of life, do I have the right to take yours?,” and lamenting the thought of turning his “woman’s womb into a tomb.”