Jun 13 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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Paul Krugman: The Fix Isn’t In

Eric Cantor and the Death of a Movement

How big a deal is the surprise primary defeat of Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader? Very. Movement conservatism, which dominated American politics from the election of Ronald Reagan to the election of Barack Obama – and which many pundits thought could make a comeback this year – is unraveling before our eyes. [..]

So whither movement conservatism? Before the Virginia upset, there was a widespread media narrative to the effect that the Republican establishment was regaining control from the Tea Party, which was really a claim that good old-fashioned movement conservatism was on its way back. In reality, however, establishment figures who won primaries did so only by reinventing themselves as extremists. And Mr. Cantor’s defeat shows that lip service to extremism isn’t enough; the base needs to believe that you really mean it.

In the long run – which probably begins in 2016 – this will be bad news for the G.O.P., because the party is moving right on social issues at a time when the country at large is moving left. (Think about how quickly the ground has shifted on gay marriage.) Meanwhile, however, what we’re looking at is a party that will be even more extreme, even less interested in participating in normal governance, than it has been since 2008. An ugly political scene is about to get even uglier.

New York Times Editorial Board: Iraq in Peril

Prime Minister Maliki Panics as Insurgents Gain

What’s happening in Iraq is a disaster and it is astonishing that the Iraqis and the Americans, who have been sharing intelligence, seem to have been caught flat-footed by the speed of the insurgent victories and the army defections. [..]

Last month, Mr. Maliki also asked for airstrikes. The United States has a strategic interest in Iraq’s stability and Mr. Obama on Thursday said America was ready to do more, without going into detail. But military action seems like a bad idea right now. The United States simply cannot be sucked into another round of war in Iraq. In any case, airstrikes and new weapons would be pointless if the Iraqi Army is incapable of defending the country.

Why would the United States want to bail out a dangerous leader like Mr. Maliki, who is attempting to remain in power for a third term as prime minister? It is up to Iraq’s leaders to show leadership and name a new prime minister who will share power, make needed reforms and include all sectarian and ethnic groups, especially disenfranchised Sunnis, in the country’s political and economic life – if, indeed, it is not too late.

Dean Baker: Tall tales about Texas

Lone Star State’s ‘economic miracle’ belied by low wages

Many American conservatives look to Texas as their bright shining light. They hold it up as a model of limited government, where low taxes and business-friendly regulation have led to job growth and economic growth surpassing the national average over the last three decades. If the rest of the country followed the Texas model, the tale goes, our economic woes would be behind us and we would all share in a more prosperous future.

The conservatives do have at least the beginnings of a case. Texas has outstripped the rest of the country in job creation. Since the business cycle peak in 1981, the number of jobs in Texas has increased by more than 78 percent. That compares with less than 52 percent for the country as a whole. [..]

Of course lower pay for those at the middle and bottom of the wage ladder can translate into better living for those at the top. To put it simply, low pay makes it easier to find good help in Texas. That’s good news if you’re among the group looking to hire people to clean your house or mow your lawn. It’s also good news for businesses looking for low-cost labor. It’s not very good news for the people who have to work at these jobs at low pay. And that’s the real story of the Texas economic miracle.

Zoë Carpenter: Bowe Bergdahl and the Pathologizing of Dissent

“[W]e are nothing but camping boy [scouts],” Bowe Bergdahl wrote sometime in the year before he wandered away from a remote Army post in eastern Afghanistan with a knife, a camera and a diary, and was captured by the Taliban. “Hiding from children behind our heavy armored trucks and our c-wire and sand bagged operating post, we tell our selves that we are not cowards.”  [..]

To the right, this sort of clear-eyed critique of America’s military hubris is more damning than the idea that Bergdahl was psychologically unfit. Bergdahl may have struggled with mental illness, and if that’s the case, then certainly the issues of his recruitment and whether he had access to proper care become pertinent. But there is something uncomfortable about the impulse to defend Bergdahl with suggestions of mental unsoundness; in it are echoes of America’s striking eagerness to pathologize dissent. There could be a valid debate about whether leaving one’s post is an acceptable form of expressing it, or if there were really other options. But as President Obama pushes to prolong military engagement in Afghanistan, it may be more useful to stop asking what went wrong with Bergdahl, and instead consider what went wrong with the war.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: 8 Lessons the Left Can Learn From Cantor’s Loss

Twenty-four hours have now passed since House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprise primary defeat. Oceans of pixelated ink have already been spilled interpreting its meaning. Cantor’s defeat has certainly put an end to the conventional wisdom that “establishment Republicans” were beating back the tea party this year (although only in today’s Bizarro World political universe could Eric Cantor have been considered an “establishment Republican”).

There are things we will miss about Eric Cantor: his walk, that funny way he had of tilting his head when he laughed…

We’re kidding, of course. There is nothing we will miss about Eric Cantor. Americans do owe him a debt of gratitude, however, for preventing a ghastly Grand Bargain between President Obama and the more sober-minded (at least in this context) and deal-ready John Boehner. Without Cantor’s intransigence, Americans would’ve gotten a lousy deal — and Democrats would probably have been blamed for Social Security and Medicare cuts that would have haunted them for a generation to come.

So thanks, Mr. Cantor. Now don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Wendall Potter: Skyrocketing Salaries for Health Insurance CEOs

If health insurance companies announce big premium increases on policies for 2015, I hope regulators, lawmakers and the media will look closely at whether they are justified, especially in light of recent disclosures of better-than-expected profits in 2013, rosy outlooks for the rest of this year and soaring CEO compensation.

Almost all of the publicly traded health insurers reported big increases in revenue and profits last year. The big winners have been the top executives of those companies, led by Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurer. Bertolini’s total compensation of $30.7 million in 2013 was 131 percent higher than in 2012.

If the stock prices of these firms keep growing at the current pace, Bertolini and his peers can expect to be rewarded even more handsomely this year, especially if they can hike premiums high enough to satisfy shareholders.

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