“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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Cutbacks in government spending directly reduce employment and curtail growth. Unfortunately, Republicans don’t get that
Here we go again: the GOP is ready to stall the US economy and shut down the government in a crusade to cut government spending. Proponents of austerity both in the United States and Europe are eager to claim success for their policies. In spite of economies that look awful by normal standards, austerity advocates are able to claim victory for their policies by creating a new meaning for the word.
In Europe, we have the bizarre story of both George Osborne, the UK’s chancellor of the exchequer, and Olli Rehn, the European Union’s commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, claiming success for their austerity policies based on one quarter of growth. Apparently, they are arguing that because their policies did not lead to a never-ending recession, they are a success. Remarkably, they seem very proud of this fact.
In the United States, we were treated to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) boasting of the success of the 2011 debt ceiling agreement on the eve of another standoff on the budget and the debt ceiling. The measure of success in this case appears to be that the sequester budget cuts put in place by the agreement are still in place and that the economy has not collapsed as a result. By this standard the WSJ has a case, but as with the austerity crew in Europe, this is a rather pathetic bar.
New York Times Editorial Board: Containing the Conventional Arms Trade
Efforts to control the $70 billion a year global market in conventional weapons got a big boost when the United States signed the United Nations arms trade treaty, joining more than 100 other countries in affirming the need to keep these weapons out of the hands of unscrupulous regimes, militants and criminals.
But the work is far from done. At least 50 member countries, including the United States, must still carry out the next step and ratify the treaty for it to take effect; only six have done so. Proponents fear final ratification could take years, and it would be a travesty if it does.
I start my approach to healthcare from two very basic premises. First, healthcare must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the healthcare they need regardless of their income. Second, we must create a national healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for all in the most cost-effective way possible.
Tragically, the United States is failing in both areas.
It is unconscionable that in one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are nearly 50 million people who lack health insurance and millions more who have burdensome co-payments and deductibles. In fact, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not get to a doctor when they should. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and other health outcomes, the United States lags behind almost every other advanced country.
Robert Kuttner: Beyond the Shutdown
We already know the next two acts of this drama. The Senate will refuse to accept the latest disingenuous House offer of allowing temporary government funding in exchange for a one-year delay in implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Barring a miracle, the government will then be forced to cease all non-emergency operations as of midnight tonight.
We also know that at some point, the government will have to re-open, and that Republicans will have to relent on their fantasy of destroying Obamacare. The Republicans picked the president’s signature achievement, the one issue on which he can’t be rolled. But what will be their price for allowing the government to function?
Norman Solomon: The NSA Deserves a Permanent Shutdown
To the people in control of the executive branch, violating our civil liberties is an essential government service. So — to ensure total fulfillment of Big Brother’s vast responsibilities — the National Security Agency is insulated from any fiscal disruption.
The NSA’s surveillance programs are exempt from a government shutdown. With typical understatement, an unnamed official told The Hill that “a shutdown would be unlikely to affect core NSA operations.”
At the top of the federal government, even a brief shutdown of “core NSA operations” is unthinkable. But at the grassroots, a permanent shutdown of the NSA should be more than thinkable; we should strive to make it achievable.
NSA documents, revealed by intrepid whistleblower Edward Snowden, make clear what’s at stake. In a word: democracy.
Dilip Hiro: [A World in Which No One Is Listening to the Planet’s Sole Superpower ]
The Greater Middle East’s Greatest Rebuff to Uncle Sam
What if the sole superpower on the planet makes its will known — repeatedly — and finds that no one is listening? Barely a decade ago, that would have seemed like a conundrum from some fantasy Earth in an alternate dimension. Now, it is increasingly a plain description of political life on our globe, especially in the Greater Middle East.
In the future, the indecent haste with which Barack Obama sought cover under the umbrella unfurled by his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the Syrian chemical weapons crisis will be viewed as a watershed moment when it comes to America’s waning power in that region. In the aptly named “arc of instability,” the lands from the Chinese border to northern Africa that President George W. Bush and his neocon acolytes dreamed of thoroughly pacifying, turmoil is on the rise. Ever fewer countries, allies, or enemies, are paying attention, much less kowtowing, to the once-formidable power of the world’s last superpower. The list of defiant figures — from Egyptian generals to Saudi princes, Iraqi Shiite leaders to Israeli politicians — is lengthening.