“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”.
New York Times Editorial: France Votes Its Discontents
The first-round vote in the French presidential election produced a curious bi-directional backlash – from the left against the policies of austerity and from the right against immigration. The final round, which will be held on May 6, is likely to be important for all of Europe.
Sunday’s vote produced two front-runners: François Hollande, the Socialist Party challenger who received more than 28 percent of the vote; and President Nicolas Sarkozy, who got about 27 percent. Since neither got a majority, they will face each other in a runoff. [..]
A second-round victory by Mr. Hollande would signal a major change in fiscal direction for France and, by extension, for the entire 17-nation euro zone. A cautious moderate on most issues, and certainly not a socialist in the historic meaning of that term, Mr. Hollande, nevertheless, recognizes that the German-inspired austerity policies Mr. Sarkozy favors are not succeeding.
Eugene Robinson: Could overseas events drive the 2012 election?
It may not be the economy, stupid.
Then again, James Carville’s famous maxim about the 1992 presidential campaign might well be valid in 2012. But it’s quite possible that on Election Day, voters’ most urgent concerns – economic or not – will be driven by overseas events that neither President Obama nor his Republican opponent can predict or control. [..]
But it might be more pertinent to ask, for example, what the North Korean news agency meant Monday with its threat to reduce parts of Seoul to ash with a military attack “by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.”
North Korea’s apocalyptic rhetoric can usually be written off as bluster. But the Stalinist dynasty in charge of the world’s most isolated country has an inexperienced young leader whose first attempt to cover himself in glory – testing a provocative new long-range missile – was a humiliating failure. Could Kim Jong Eun actually be thinking the unthinkable?
: Health Insurer CEOs’ Big Paychecks Are Latest Target of Outraged Shareholders
One of my responsibilities when I was head of corporate communications at Cigna was to help ensure that the company’s annual meeting of shareholders ran smoothly and, if at all possible, attracted no negative publicity.
I always dreaded the annual meeting because you really never knew if one or more disgruntled shareholders might show up and ask rude questions of the CEO. But during all of my years of helping plan those meetings, we had an unblemished string of non-events. We considered the meetings marathons if they lasted more than 15 minutes. Most of them were over-long before then. Over the course of 10 years, I only recall two reporters who felt compelled to attend, and one of them got stuck in traffic and missed the whole thing.
Some of my peers at other health insurers were not that lucky, but relatively few of the big-profit insurers have had to cope with contentious shareholder meetings.
It is clear those days are over.
Dean Baker: Killing the Messenger: The Downsizing and Death of the Postal Service
It is fashionable to think of the postal service as an antiquated relic of a different era in the same way that all right-thinking people regarded standard 30-year fixed rate mortgages as old-fashioned at the peak of the housing bubble. Many of the same people who assured us that we could effectively manage risk through mortgage securitization are now anxious to hand the postal service a death sentence.
Death, or at least a near death experience, is the likely outcome of S.1789, the bill to downsize the Postal Service that the Senate is scheduled to vote on Tuesday night. The bill would end Saturday delivery and also raise the target delivery time from 1-2 days to 2-3 days.
The idea is that people won’t generally care if a letter takes 3 days rather than 2 to reach its destination. While that is probably true, this will certainly increase the frequency with which a letter takes a week or more to reach its destination, and people do care about and remember these instances. This additional delay is likely to seriously reduce the standing of the Postal Service in most people’s eyes, leading to a further erosion of business.
Ari Melber: Media Favored Horserace Over Issues in Presidential Primary
For all the griping about media bias in politics, good data is in short supply. Every four years, however, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center releases exhaustive, quantitative reports on how the press covers the presidential campaign. Their new report, out Monday, shows that the largest bias this year did not favor an ideology or candidate-though Santorum never got much love-but favored the coverage of the horserace and personal issues over public policy.
The press covered the horserace seven times more than domestic issues in the GOP primary. [..]
While it’s hard to see what voters are supposed to base their decisions on if most coverage is about tactics, not the actual issues in the race, Pew notes that 2012 was actually better on this score than last cycle. Then, strategy made up a whopping 80 percent of press coverage about the GOP field, and 78 percent for the Democrats. That may have been because the 2008 race had even more drama between the candidates.
Paul Buchheit: The Middle Class Hasn’t Disappeared. It’s Just Sliding Toward the Bottom
It used to be that the average American resided halfway between two extremes:
Steven Schwarzman’s home was being partially replicated in a Park Avenue hall for his gala $5 million 60th birthday party. The guest of honor’s full-length portrait greeted the invitees as they proceeded past rows of orchids and palm trees to the dining area, where they feasted on lobster, filet mignon, baked Alaska, and the finest of wines. Martin Short provided the laughs, and the music came compliments of Marvin Hamlisch, Patti LaBelle, and Rod Stewart.
Eloise Pittman’s home had been purchased in the 1950s by her mother, who washed dishes to pay off the mortgage. In 1985 the younger Ms. Pittman, a schoolteacher, went to Chase Bank and took out a loan on the house. It was a predatory loan with balloon payments, and Ms. Pittman was forced to borrow more and more money to keep from defaulting. When she died in November 2011, she was $400,000 in debt. A week after her death her family received an eviction notice.
There’s no ‘average’ anymore, in the sense of a normal curve with most of the people and most of the money in the middle.
Today, 400 individuals have as much wealth as an entire HALF of America.