May 07 2015

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: Transgender Today

A generation ago, transgender Americans were widely regarded as deviants, unfit for dignified workplaces, a disgrace for families. Those who confided in relatives were, by and large, pitied and shunned. For most, transitioning on the job was tantamount to career suicide. Medical procedures to align a person’s body with that person’s gender identity – an internal sense of being male, female or something else – were a fringe specialty, available only to a few who paid out of pocket.

Coming out meant going through life as a pariah.

Being transgender today remains unreasonably and unnecessarily hard. But it is far from hopeless. More Americans who have wrestled with gender identity are transitioning openly, propelling a civil rights movement that has struggled even as gays and lesbians have reached irreversible momentum in their fight for equality. Those coming out now are doing so with trepidation, realizing that while pockets of tolerance are expanding, discriminatory policies and hostile, uninformed attitudes remain widespread.

They deserve to come out in a nation where stories of compassion and support vastly outnumber those that end with a suicide note. The tide is shifting, but far too slowly, while lives, careers and dreams hang in the balance.

David Cay Johnston: A small victory in the war over pensions

Religious exemptions to pension guarantees have led to theft, but workers at one New Jersey hospital fought back

Former employees of a defunct New Jersey hospital gathered at a modest banquet hall last week to celebrate their victory over one of the most pernicious forms of wage theft in America. Applause and cheers for the nurses and lawyers who saved the workers’ pensions filled the evening, as did dire warnings for millions of other workers.

The rare victory of Hospital Center at Orange workers in saving their pensions matters because hundreds of thousands of employees at hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and even a religious publishing house have been quietly cheated out of their retirement benefits. Many of those cheated are not even aware yet that wages they deferred until old age will never be paid, barring government action.

This is a multi-billion dollar crime that Congress can remedy. So far, though, Congress has not even held hearings. The lack of interest on Capitol Hill is surprising since these massive thefts were enabled by a favorite whipping boy – the Internal Revenue Service.

Amy Goodman: The American Dream: Living to 18

“What do you hope to accomplish with this protest,” I asked a 13-year-old girl marching in Staten Island, N.Y., last August, protesting the police killing of Eric Garner.

“To live until I’m 18,” the young teen, named Aniya, replied. Could that possibly be the American dream today?

Aniya went on: “You want to get older. You want to experience life. You don’t want to die in a matter of seconds because of cops.” It’s that sentiment that has fueled the Black Lives Matter movement across the country.

Most recently, a week of protest in Baltimore was largely quelled when a remarkable prosecutor announced that six police officers would be charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Marilyn Mosby, the 35-year-old state’s attorney for the city of Baltimore, is the youngest lead prosecutor in any major U.S. city. Just 100 days into office, she made national headlines on Friday, May 1, with the stunning announcement that the officers would face various charges, from assault to second-degree murder. [..]

With determination like this, demanding accountability for all, maybe Aniya will get her wish: to celebrate her 18th birthday, and many, many more.

Dave Johnson: Enormous, Humongous March Trade Deficit Creating Jobs Elsewhere

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday (pdf) that the March goods and services trade deficit was $51.4 billion. This was an increase of $15.5 billion, or 43.1 percent, from the revised figure of $35.9 billion in February.

March exports were $187.8 billion, up $1.6 billion from February. March imports were $239.2 billion, up $17.1 billion from February.

The monthly U.S. goods deficit with China increased in March to $37.8 billion, up from $27.3 billion in February. This is the highest monthly deficit with China on record.

The U.S. goods deficit with Japan increased in March to $6.3 billion, up from $4.3 billion in February. [..]

t’s time to change our trade policies so they work for We the People not just a few already-wealthy people. We should demand balance. Trade partners should agree to actually “trade” with us, not just sell to us. We should also balance the interests of working people, the environment and other stakeholders with the interests of businesses in our trade negotiations. We should set a priority of lifting wages and prosperity on all sides of trade borders, instead of a priority of lifting only the world’s 1 percent.

Democracy and transparency can work for all of us. All of us do better when all of us do better.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel: How to Solve the E.R. Problem

Back in 2009, a big selling point of health care reform was the idea that expanding insurance coverage would increase Americans’ access to preventive and primary care and decrease the unnecessary use of emergency rooms, saving billions. President Obama said it this way: “One of the areas where we can potentially see some saving is a lot of those patients are being seen in the emergency room anyway, and if we are increasing prevention, if we are increasing wellness programs, we’re reducing the amount of emergency room care.”

There is one big problem with this logic: data. A new survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians found that 75 percent of emergency room doctors reported increases in patient volume since the Affordable Care Act went into effect. [..]

In Seattle, an unusual partnership seems to have found a solution. Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, a nonprofit that provides health care and insurance, and SEIU Healthcare NW Health Benefits Trust, which delivers health benefits to thousands of home health care workers, have reduced emergency room use among a subset of the trust’s membership by 27 percent over four years. [..]

The partnership realized that providing insurance was not enough. Instead it adopted a four-pronged strategy.