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Nov 29 2013

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”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: Government in Slow Motion

Last week, in a fit of fury after they lost the ability to filibuster President Obama’s nominees, several Congressional Republicans threatened to retaliate by slowing things down on Capitol Hill. Democrats “will have trouble in a lot of areas because there’s going to be a lot of anger,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, specifically warning that a United Nations disability treaty was now in danger of being rejected for the second time. [..]

The most immediate priority for Congress is to reach a budget agreement by mid-December, to relieve the sequester cuts that have decimated so many important programs and now threaten the Pentagon’s readiness beginning next year. Negotiators from both chambers have had more than a month to come up with a solution, but Representative Paul Ryan, the House budget chairman, has resisted the most obvious one: ending a group of tax loopholes for the very rich and using the money to replace the worst aspects of the sequester. Instead, he simply wants to make other cuts, or raise fees on purchases like airline tickets and duck stamps that affect many people of modest means, thereby protecting high-end tax shelters.

Paul Krugman: Obamacare’s Secret Success

The law establishing Obamacare was officially titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And the “affordable” bit wasn’t just about subsidizing premiums. It was also supposed to be about “bending the curve” – slowing the seemingly inexorable rise in health costs.

Much of the Beltway establishment scoffed at the promise of cost savings. The prevalent attitude in Washington is that reform isn’t real unless the little people suffer; serious savings are supposed to come from things like raising the Medicare age (which the Congressional Budget Office recently concluded would, in fact, hardly save any money) and throwing millions of Americans off Medicaid. True, a 2011 letter signed by hundreds of health and labor economists (pdf) pointed out that “the Affordable Care Act contains essentially every cost-containment provision policy analysts have considered effective in reducing the rate of medical spending.” But such expert views were largely ignored.

So, how’s it going? The health exchanges are off to a famously rocky start, but many, though by no means all, of the cost-control measures have already kicked in. Has the curve been bent?

The answer, amazingly, is yes. In fact, the slowdown in health costs (pdf) has been dramatic.

Richard Kirsch: We’re Not Broke – We’ve Been Robbed

Slashing government spending now is just going to make our nation poorer

With the Friday the 13th December deadline for a federal budget deal, the cries of “we’re broke,” and “we can’t afford to keep spending,” are ringing again. But we’re not broke and acting like we are is making us poorer.

One of the biggest common misunderstandings is that governments are like households, which need to tighten their spending when times are tough. Actually, governments and households work in opposite ways.

Governments can and should spend more when times are tough. Government spending makes up for lack of spending by families and businesses, and it helps get the economy moving by getting people back to work, putting money in their pockets, and contracting with businesses.

Harold A. McDougall: The Democrats Need a Tea Party

The Tea Party pushes the Republicans to the right. The Democrats need a party to push them to the left. Not the old left of big government and high taxes on the middle class, but a new left of participatory democracy, economic cooperatives, and diversity, not just of race and lifestyle, but of income, class and culture as well. This new party would be based in neighborhoods and workplaces, and steer clear of fat-cat funding.

By “the Democrats,” I mean people who vote Democratic, not the Democratic Party establishment. Beginning with DNC Chair Tony Coelho’s “Right Turn” in the 1980s, executed to bring in more campaign dollars, the Democratic Party establishment has moved further to the right, into an unholy alliance with big business–banks, multinationals, military contractors, insurance and drug companies–enabling these interests to feed on the middle class and the working class, while the rich get richer.

Dave Johnson: Corporations Owe Hundreds of Billions of Taxes But GOP Goes After Federal Employees

Congress is again fighting over the budget with Republicans now demanding cuts in federal employee benefits. Is this really about the budget? Or is it about destroying government? Meanwhile hundreds of billions of taxes owed by corporations remain uncollected.

The recent Republican shutdown of the government ended with the can being kicked down the road, and the budget still in sequester and unresolved. The temporary funding runs out mid-January, and negotiators are trying to come up with a compromise. But Republicans insist that only cuts will be allowed, and that the sequester spending levels are the new normal.

Robert C. Koehler: Trivializing Peace

What goes around comes around . . . and around, and around.

Last month, the day after I left Santa Rosa, Calif., a 13-year-old boy carrying a toy replica of an AK-47 was shot and killed on the outskirts of that town by a Sonoma County deputy sheriff with a reputation for being trigger-happy. The officer had ordered the boy to drop the “gun,” then in a matter of two or three seconds opened fire, giving him no chance to comply.

This is not an isolated incident, which is why it’s yet one more tragedy I can’t get out of my mind – one more logical consequence of the simplistic militarism and mission creep that’s eating us alive. This is gun culture running unchecked from boyhood to manhood, permeating national policy both geopolitically and domestically. This is the trivialization of peace. It results in the ongoing murder of the innocent, both at home and abroad, at the hands of government as well as criminals and terrorists.