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Jan 14 2014

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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Dean Baker: Medical Travel: If Bill Gates Wanted to Do Something Good for the World

Everyone knows Bill Gates, the man who got incredibly rich by gaining a near monopoly in the computer operating system market. In the last decade Gates has devoted much of his money to the foundation he created for the ostensible purpose of helping humanity.

Whatever the merits of his foundation’s programs, he is missing out on an enormous opportunity to do good for the United States and the world. As has been often documented, health care costs in the United States are hugely out of line with health care costs elsewhere in the world. There is a huge gap with costs in the developing world, but the ratio of costs for most items and procedures is more than two to one even in comparison with other wealthy countries.

And, this gap is not explained by better care in the United States. We actually have worse outcomes compared with most other wealthy countries.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: No, Congress, You Shouldn’t ‘Pay For’ Extending Unemployment Insurance

Despite record-high levels of unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — Republicans are refusing to permit any extension of unemployment insurance benefits unless it’s “paid for” with money taken from other government programs. They’ve never demanded that of Republican administrations. [..]

Even worse, Senate Democrats have proposed something Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik called a “flinthearted idea“: to pay for the extension by cutting Social Security benefits for the disabled. That sort of thing used to be considered too ruthless even for Republicans. Now it’s the “liberal” party’s proposal.

The Democrats’ offer perpetuates the misguided obsession with “pay-fors.” It also stigmatizes the recipients of government benefits, another preferred Republican theme, in this case by exaggerating the impact of “double dipping” between government programs.

Leo W. Gerard: Fast Track to Poverty

That giant sucking sound predicted by Ross Perot commenced 20 years ago last week. It is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) vacuuming up U.S. jobs and depositing them in Mexico.

Independent presidential candidate Perot was right. NAFTA swept U.S. industry south of the border. It made Wall Street happy. It made multi-national corporations obscenely profitable. But it destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of American workers.

NAFTA’s backers promised it would create American jobs, just as promoters of the Korean and Chinese trade arrangements said they would and advocates of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal contend it will. They were — and still are — brutally wrong. NAFTA, the Korean deal and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization killed American jobs. They lowered wages. They diminished what America cherishes: opportunity. They contributed to the very ill that President Obama is crusading against: income inequality. There is no evidence the TPP would be any different. American workers need a new trade philosophy, one that protects them and puts people first, not corporations.

Andrew Bacevich: The Misuse of American Might, and the Price It Pays

The United States no longer knows how to win wars, but it continues to start them.

The U.S. military is like the highly skilled, gadget-toting contractor who promises to give your kitchen a nifty makeover in no time whatsoever. Here’s the guy you can count on to get the job done. Just look at those references! Yet by the time he drives off months later, the kitchen’s a shambles and you’re stuck with a bill several times larger than the initial estimate. Turns out the job was more complicated than it seemed. But what say we take a crack at remodeling the master bath?

That pretty much summarizes the American experience with war since the end of the Cold War. By common consent, when it comes to skills and gadgets, U.S. forces are in a league of their own. Yet when it comes to finishing the job on schedule and on budget, their performance has been woeful. [..]

How can we explain this yawning gap between intention and outcomes? Fundamentally, a pronounced infatuation with armed might has led senior civilian officials, regardless of party, and senior military leaders, regardless of service, to misunderstand and misapply the military instrument. Force is good for some things, preeminently for defending what is already yours. Not content to defend, however, the United States in recent decades has sought to use force to extend its influence, control and values.

Ralph Nader: Medical Price Gouging and Waste Are Skyrocketing

An epidemic of sky-rocketing medical costs has afflicted our country and grown to obscene proportions. Medical bills are bloated with waste, redundancy, profiteering, fraud and outrageous over-billing. Much is wrong with the process of pricing and providing health care.

The latest in this medical cost saga comes from new data released last week by National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest nurse’s organization. In a news release, NNU revealed that fourteen hospitals in the United States are charging more than ten times their costs for treatment. Specifically, for every $100 one of these hospitals spends, the charge on the corresponding bill is nearly $1,200. [..]

Enacting a single payer, full Medicare-for-all system is the only chance the United States has of unwinding itself from the spider web of waste, harm, and bloat that currently comprise its highly flawed health insurance and health care systems. It’s time to cut out the corporate profiteers and purveyors of waste and fraud and introduce a system that works for everybody.

Norman Solomon: Why the Washington Post’s New Ties to the CIA Are So Ominous

A tip-off is that the Washington Post refuses to face up to a conflict of interest involving Jeff Bezos — who’s now the sole owner of the powerful newspaper at the same time he remains Amazon’s CEO and main stakeholder.

The Post is supposed to expose CIA secrets. But Amazon is under contract to keep them. Amazon has a new $600 million “cloud” computing deal with the CIA.

The situation is unprecedented. But in an email exchange early this month, Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron told me that the newspaper doesn’t need to routinely inform readers of the CIA-Amazon-Bezos ties when reporting on the CIA. He wrote that such in-story acknowledgment would be “far outside the norm of disclosures about potential conflicts of interest at media organizations.”

2 comments

  1. with Bacevic’s statement about “the American experience with war since the end of the Cold War.”

    See, for instance, the War in Viet Nam.  We certainly didn’t win that one, did we?  But a whole lot of people on both sides died unnecessarily.  And that was way before the end of the Cold War.

    And how about the Korean War?  Technically, that one is still not over, and we didn’t “win” that one, either.

    We have a long, long history of waging wars that showcased our willingness to start wars, but leaving “the kitchen,” as it were, in a shambles.

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