“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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Paul Krugman: Jobs and Skills and Zombies
A few months ago, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, and Marlene Seltzer, the chief executive of Jobs for the Future, published an article in Politico titled “Closing the Skills Gap.” They began portentously: “Today, nearly 11 million Americans are unemployed. Yet, at the same time, 4 million jobs sit unfilled” – supposedly demonstrating “the gulf between the skills job seekers currently have and the skills employers need.”
Actually, in an ever-changing economy there are always some positions unfilled even while some workers are unemployed, and the current ratio of vacancies to unemployed workers is far below normal. Meanwhile, multiple careful studies have found no support for claims that inadequate worker skills explain high unemployment.
But the belief that America suffers from a severe “skills gap” is one of those things that everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it’s true. It’s a prime example of a zombie idea – an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.
And it does a lot of harm. Before we get there, however, what do we actually know about skills and jobs?
New York Times Editorial Board: The Senate’s Discourtesy to Judges
The job of federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for more than eight years, one of the longest vacancies of 83 on the federal bench around the country. Last June, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the position, but she hasn’t even received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because Richard Burr, the state’s Republican senator, is blocking her. [..]
Senators with real complaints should state them on the floor and hope to persuade a majority. At the moment, unfortunately, Republicans believe they have a serious chance of regaining the Senate in November, and they seem to have no interest in approving any of Mr. Obama’s judicial nominations through the end of his term. That’s an abuse of the system, and Mr. Leahy is running out of time to stop it.
The Hobby Lobby case has raised questions that the founders would find absurd
The Supreme Court appears to be on the verge of opening a Pandora’s box, spilling forth all sorts of travails by inventing another new right for corporations, this time for religious worship. The founders would surely be astounded.
At issue in a March 25 Supreme Court hearing on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby was whether two corporations with thousands of employees could refuse to pay for some forms of birth control under the Affordable Care Act because it violates the religious beliefs of the corporations. [..]
Can a corporation hold religious beliefs? It cannot.
Can a corporation engage in the free exercise of religion? It cannot.
Indeed, a corporation cannot exercise religion or have any beliefs because it is merely an inanimate vessel, a box, as it were, to contain liability for debts, for misconduct and even for criminality, thus shielding its owners. [..]
The framers were skeptical of corporations, few of which existed in the 18th century. They disliked their limits on personal responsibility and their history of abuses. The framers also made sure that America would be a secular nation, protecting equally the beliefs of the faithful and atheists while prohibiting any test of religious belief for those seeking office.
And if we could resurrect the framers, they would surely find the idea that a corporation has First Amendment religious rights laughable. We should too.
John Nichols: Serious coverage of trade issues is essential – but all too rare
President Obama used his European tour to make another pitch for sweeping new free-trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Recognizing that there is mass opposition to these sorts of deals in the U.S. and abroad – based on the profound concerns about job security, wages, the circumstance of working farmers, environmental protection and democracy raised by the North American Free Trade Agreement, the permanent normalization of trade relations with China, and more recent trade arrangements – Obama urged critics of race-to-the-bottom trade policies to trust that he would negotiate better deals. [..]
Unfortunately, once agreements of this sort are reached – using the fast track authority sought by the administration – they are almost impossible to alter. And the pressure on Congress to approve them “as is” becomes immense. This is why the overwhelming majority of House Democrats and many Republicans, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have expressed opposition to granting the fast track authority.
It’s not just that corporate lobbyists and their political allies have learned how to rush these deals through Congress. It is also that the media, for the most part, do a lousy job of covering trade debates and trade policy.
Arun Kundnani: No NSA reform can fix the American Islamophobic surveillance complex
Muslim Americans likely make up the bulk of US domestic spy targets. This is what it’s like for innocent citizens to live in fear
Better oversight of the sprawling American national security apparatus may finally be coming: President Obama and the House Intelligence Committee unveiled plans this week to reduce bulk collection of telephone records. The debate opened up by Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing is about to get even more legalistic than all the parsing of hops and stores and metadata.
These reforms may be reassuring, if sketchy. But for those living in so-called “suspect communities” – Muslim Americans, left-wing campaigners, “radical” journalists – the days of living on the receiving end of excessive spying won’t end there.