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Mar 27 2012

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”.

Joe Nocera: Government’s Not Dead Yet

I met up recently with my old mentor, Charlie Peters, the founder, editor and driving force behind The Washington Monthly, where I worked in the late-1970s. Charlie is a supreme idealist who believes deeply in the good that government can do. He saw it growing up with Roosevelt’s New Deal and then again as a member of Sargent Shriver’s Peace Corps, where he served as the agency’s first director of evaluation.

Now 85, Charlie still believes that that government can make a difference in people’s lives. Knowing that many Americans have turned against this idea, he is writing a book “to give evidence that it has happened – and to show it can happen again,” he told me. The New Deal and the Great Society were eras when “money was not the driving force in choosing a career,” he said. “Passion was. People wanted to be able to do something about the country’s most pressing problems – and government was the place to do that.”

As Charlie spoke, it occurred to me that there is one agency in today’s government where you can still see that passion: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Last week, I went to Washington to spend some time with some of the bureau’s new employees.

Dean Baker: The Paul Ryan Rorschach Test

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan did a great public service when he released his budget last week. By throwing a piece of total garbage on the table and pretending it is a real budget plan, he allowed us to see who in Washington is serious about the budget and who just says things that will push their agenda.

It is easy to see that Ryan himself could not possible be serious about the document he put out as a “Path to Prosperity.” The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan, which was prepared under Representative Ryan’s direction, shows that all categories of government spending outside of health care and Social Security will shrink to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050.

Robert Reich< Health Care Jujitsu

Not surprisingly, today’s debut Supreme Court argument over the so-called “individual mandate” requiring everyone to buy health insurance revolved around epistemological niceties such as the meaning of a “tax,” and the question of whether the issue is ripe for review.

Behind this judicial foreplay is the brute political fact that if the Court decides the individual mandate is an unconstitutional extension of federal authority, the entire law starts unraveling.

But with a bit of political jujitsu, the president could turn any such defeat into a victory for a single-payer healthcare system — Medicare for all.

Here’s how.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: The Right’s Etch A Sketch Imperative

Clarifying moments are rare in politics. They are the times when previously muddled issues are suddenly cast into sharp relief and citizens are given a look behind the curtains of spin and obfuscation.

Over the last week, Americans were blessed with three separate clarifying moments.

Rep. Paul Ryan made absolutely clear that he is not now and never was interested in deficit reduction. After a couple of years of being lauded by deficit hawks as the man prepared to make hard choices, he proposed a budget that would not end deficits until 2040, but would cut taxes by $4.6 trillion over a decade while also extending all of the Bush tax cuts, adding another $5.4 trillion to the deficit. Ryan would increase military expenditures, and then eviscerate the rest of the federal government.

Oh yes, Ryan claims he’d make up for the losses from his new tax cuts with “tax reform,” but offered not a single detail. A “plan” with a hole this big is not a plan at all. Ryan’s main interest is in cutting the top income tax rate to 25 percent from the current 35 percent. His message: Solving the deficit problem isn’t nearly as important as (1) continuing and expanding benefits for the wealthy, and (2) disabling the federal government.

John Nichols: How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes in Other States

Wisconsin is a rod-and-gun state, with a hunting history that has fostered traditions of broad gun ownership and respect for the right to bear arms.

So how did Wisconsin get saddled with a “Castle Doctrine” law that mirrors some of the worst aspects of the Florida legislation that’s now at the center of the controversy over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Not because sportsmen and women, law enforcement officers, legal scholars or grassroots citizens decided Wisconsin should borrow bad ideas from distant states.

Wisconsin has a “Castle Doctrine” law because the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded group that aligns special-interest organizations and corporate donors with pliable legislators, made the Florida law “model legislation.” Then ALEC-aligned political insiders such as Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, a national ALEC task-force member, and Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC alumnus, introduced, passed and signed “Castle Doctrine” legislation-despite warnings from Wisconsin law enforcement leaders and responsible gun owners that it was a poor fit for the state.

Ari Berman: Minnesota’s War on Voting

Last year, Republicans introduced legislation in thirty-four states to mandate government-issued photo IDs to cast a ballot. Nine GOP states have passed voter ID laws since the 2010 election, including Pennsylvania earlier last month. Minnesota, another important battleground state, could be next.

Last year, Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill from the GOP legislature that would have given the state the strictest voter ID law in the nation, prohibiting passports, military IDs and student IDs as valid documentation. Now the legislature is bypassing the governor by approving a constitutional amendment for voter ID that will go on the November ballot. The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the legislation; once agreed upon, the measure will go on the 2012 ballot. If approved by voters, the 2013 legislature will implement the particulars of the law.