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Sep 28 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”.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Terrible Ten in Congress

According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey released on September 22, for too many people in Kentucky’s 5th District, 2010 was not a good year: nearly 27 percent of the district’s more than 175,000 people lived in poverty, including 34 percent of children and more than one in four women. Nearly 20 percent of the district’s constituents had no health insurance.

You might think that the good news for residents of the 5th is that their congressman, Republican Hal Rogers, has enormous power and influence over Congress’s spending decisions as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

You’d be wrong.

John Nichols; ‘Save the Post Office’ Movement Defends ‘the Human Side of Government’

When I started covering politics, Jennings Randolph was completing his tenure as the grand old man of Capitol Hill. The last sitting member of Congress to have arrived with Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 (as a member of the House), he was still sitting as a senator from West Virginia more than fifty years later. Perhaps as importantly, he had been born only a little more than a century after the Constitution was adopted.

Randolph recognized the connection between the Constitution and the New Deal, seeing in both an element of nation-building that focused on the affirmative role of government and the necessary role of the extension of the federal government that could be found in every hinterland hamlet and urban neighborhood: the post office.

Randolph was the great defender of the postal service that Ben Franklin had established and that the framers of the Constitution had seen fit to recognize as an essential project of the federal endeavor.

Sue Sturgis; Nationwide Rallies Aim to Save US Postal Service

Rallies are scheduled for today in every congressional district across the nation in support of the U.S. Postal Service, which is facing a financial crisis because of past congressional action. Participants will be asking lawmakers to approve a bill that’s been introduced to fix the problem.

In 2006, Congress passed a postal reform law that, among other things, required USPS — a self-funded agency that receives no taxpayer money — to pre-pay 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits within just 10 years. The mandate, which no other federal agency is under, costs USPS $5.5 billion a year — and accounts for all of the Postal Service’s $20 billion in losses over the past four years.

Ed Pilkington: Wall Street Protests Reveal Slice of America’s Barely Tamed Brutality

One of the hardships of life as a reporter in New York City is that you so rarely get credited with the kind of heroism shown by colleagues in Helmand, say, or Baghdad. The assumption is that you’re spending time drinking gin martinis on the roof of Soho House (I prefer vodka) or dining at the Grand Central oyster bar (try the Rhode Island Cuttyhunks, they’re sumptuous), rather than dodging bullets in Tripoli.

I’d like to think that over the past few days perception of my job as a soft landing has started to change, and that its true nature as a tough, dangerous and – yes – heroic posting has begun to emerge. Take the events over the weekend in Wall Street. Admittedly, I wasn’t there, but that’s not the point. I could have been.

Maureen Dowd: Decoding the God Complex

Medical schools are starting to train doctors to be less intimidating to patients. And patients are starting to train themselves to be less intimidated by doctors.

We haven’t completely gotten away from the syndrome so perfectly described by Alec Baldwin’s arrogant surgeon in the movie “Malice”: “When someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trauma from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to? … You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God.”

But there have been baby steps away from the Omniscient Doctor. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has begun a new campaign to encourage patients to ask more pertinent questions and to prod doctors to elicit more relevant answers.

Paul Krugman: The Real Job Killer: Missed Opportunity

I’ve actually been avoiding thinking about President Obama’s latest cave-in, on ozone regulation; these repeated retreats are getting painful to watch.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s bad politics. Mr. Obama’s political people seem to think that their route to victory is to avoid doing anything that the Republicans might attack – but the G.O.P. will call Mr. Obama a socialist job-killer no matter what they do. Meanwhile, they just keep reinforcing the perception of mush from the wimp – of a president who doesn’t stand for anything.

Whatever. Let’s talk about the economics, because the ozone decision is definitely a mistake on that front. As some of us keep trying to point out, the United States is in a liquidity trap: private spending is inadequate for achieving full employment, and with short-term interest rates close to zero, conventional monetary policy is exhausted.

New York Times Editorial: Governing by Crisis

Thanks to some good luck and expert government accountants, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will limp, exhausted and nearly broke, to the end of the fiscal year on Friday. That removes its budget as the latest excuse for House Republicans to slash domestic programs they don’t like and momentarily defuses their threat to shut down the entire government to get their way.

But, make no mistake, the threat has hardly disappeared. In fact, the country will probably be wrung through several more near-shutdowns as the 2012 budget process stumbles along, all prompted by conservatives in the House who will use any choke point to achieve their obsessive goal of shrinking government.