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.

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New York Times Editorial Board: A Senate Bill That Makes Roads and Railroads Less Safe

Last month the House passed an appropriations bill that would put bigger trucks with overworked drivers behind the wheel on the nation’s highways. If that weren’t irresponsible enough, the Senate is now considering legislation that would allow trucking companies to hire 18-year-old drivers for interstate routes and undermine safety on roads and railroads in numerous other ways.

Even by the low standards of the current Congress, these bills are egregious examples of faithfully saying yes to everything industry wants, in this case the transportation companies. The Senate is expected to take up its disingenuously named Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015 this week as part of a larger transportation package that reauthorizes federal agencies and programs.

Dean Baker: Wolfgang Schauble, the Hero of the Greek Austerity Crisis?

Like many people following the negotiations between Greece and its creditors, I was inclined to see Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, as the villain of the story. After all, Mr. Schauble insisted on severely punitive measures for Greece as a condition for continuing support from the European Central Bank (ECB). He appeared to be the bad cop relative to others in the negotiations, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was willing to make at least some concessions to keep Greece in the euro. But a more careful analysis arguably leads to the opposite conclusion.

Schauble did not argue for throwing Greece out of the euro simply as a punitive measure, although he quite obviously disapproved of the way Greece had run its budget and its economy. He argued, quite possibly sincerely, that at least a temporary departure from the euro zone would be the best path forward for Greece. [..]

The Greek government had not prepared itself for the process of leaving the euro. Perhaps the world will be surprised and the deal it reached with its creditors will provide a basis for renewed growth. But if not, it may want to get back in touch with Mr. Schauble.

Wendell Potter: Revolving Door Puts Former Medicare Czar In Charge Of Health Insurance Lobby

Washington’s notorious revolving door was in full swing again last week as the health insurance industry snagged another top federal official to help it get what it wants out of lawmakers and regulators. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s biggest lobbying and PR group, announced Wednesday that its new president, starting next month, will be none other than Marilyn Tavenner, who served as the chief administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services from 2013 until she stepped down in February.

Tavenner’s appointment comes just a few months after the industry recruitedformer Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, a Pennsylvania Democrat, to head its newest front group, the Better Medicare Alliance.

These two hires tell us all we need to know about where insurance companies see their pot of gold in the not-too-distant future. Some insurers, in fact, have already discovered that taxpayer-supplied pot of gold and want to make doubly sure that nobody in Washington dares take it away.

Nathan J. Robinson: A frightening proposal to intern Muslim citizens

In the wake of the Chattanooga shooting, a dangerous suggestion appears from right and left

Terrorist violence can make the previously unthinkable suddenly seem acceptable. The levels of surveillance introduced after 9/11 could have been considered reasonable only in the climate of collective panic that the attacks induced. But this week’s reaction to the fatal shooting of four Marines and a Navy petty officer in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by a 24-year-old Muslim has to win the prize for the worst proposed civil liberties infringement to come out of a violent disruption. No matter how high tensions may have run after the Boston Marathon bombing or 9/11, few dared to propose what figures of both left and right have now suggested: the segregation and internment of Muslim citizens. [..]

One might point out, in the first place, that the idea of detaining people for “the duration of the conflict” means, in practice, imprisoning them forever. Since the “war on terrorism” is a fight without end, it will never have some ticker-tape-strewn V-Day, and Clark’s suggestion is for the government to deem particular Muslims too radical to live freely and isolate them permanently in camps.

But more generally, one might inform him that the United States’ heinous civil liberties abuses during World War II are often considered a particularly dark patch in the nation’s history. The rounding up of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans – and their placement in squalid camps – was a racist disgrace that the country apologized for in 1988 and left traumatic scars that last to this day. The lesson supposedly learned was that the humiliation and segregation of an entire ethnic group is an indefensible assault on principles of dignity and equality. Clark, however, appears to have taken this cautionary tale as a useful suggestion.

Lawrence Lessig: The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance

FOR the first time in modern history, the leading issue concerning voters in the upcoming presidential election, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, is that “wealthy individuals and corporations will have too much influence over who wins.” Five years after the Supreme Court gave corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns, voters have had enough.

Republican candidates, including Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, and the main Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, all acknowledge the problem, with some tying it to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which unleashed virtually unlimited “independent” political spending.

The solution proposed by some, notably Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Graham and Mr. Sanders, is amending the Constitution.

It sounds appealing, but anyone who’s serious about reform should not buy it. For a presidential candidate, constitutional reform is fake reform. And no candidate who talks exclusively about amending the Constitution can be considered a credible reformer.

Scott Ritter: On Military Service and Politics

The chattering class is abuzz over erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent attack of Arizona Senator (and fellow Republican) John McCain’s record of military service. In front of an enthusiastic audience, Trump snidely remarked that he “liked people who weren’t captured,” noting that Senator McCain was a “war hero because he was captured.”

Many pundits have declared that Trump’s attack on Senator McCain has dealt a fatal blow to his bid for the presidency, but such analysis is disingenuous — Donald Trump has never been a serious candidate for president. His presence among the ranks of Republican presidential hopefuls is more a reflection of a certain segment of America’s infatuation with the baser aspects of reality television than any viability as a contender for office. Donald Trump is the Kim Kardashian/Kaitlyn Jenner of American politics — all self-promotion, no substance and, among serious company, downright embarrassing.