Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic on Medicare No budget will ever be balanced without taking Medicare and Medicaid into account. But even with the gulf between the programs' revenue and spending ever widening, Jonathan Cohn argues that now is not the best time to cut healthcare benefits. "Strange as it sounds, the best strategy for reducing the deficit might be to delay making those reductions—at least until we know whether we need to make them at all," he writes, citing Affordable Care Act reforms and pursuing more cost-effective treatments as ways to balance the Medicare budget without slashing benefits. "Given the very significant chance we can reduce health care spending without reducing benefits, we have an obligation to try."
Grover Norquist in The Hill on the fiscal cliff The New York Times' Frank Bruni noted on Monday that Grover Norquist, chief preacher of the GOP's "no new taxes" gospel, has taken a beating from his former allies recently. But today, he's back to arguing that Congressional Republicans should not cut a deal that includes any new taxes, no matter what. "Will Obama force the nation over the fiscal cliff to 'prove' his mandate?" Norquist asks himself. "Maybe," he answers. But still, in his opinion, "Raising taxes harms the economy. See George H.W. Bush’s second term. Raising taxes is what politicians do instead of reforming government and spending less: see 1982, 1990, 1993. Raising taxes is not part of solving the problem of spending too much."
Lynette H. Ong in Foreign Affairs on China's construction craze China's economic boom has ushered in an age of rapid construction, with shiny new skyscrapers and malls cropping up all across the country. Looking at this landscape, Lynette H. Ong sees a bubble ready to burst, potentially bringing China's gigantic financial markets down with it. "The Chinese economy depends on a buoyant real estate market to keep grinding," she writes. "If housing and land prices fall dramatically, a fiscal or banking crisis would likely soon follow. Meanwhile, local officials' hunger for land has displaced millions of farmers, leading to 120,000 land-related protests each year."
Bess Lovejoy in The New York Times on exhumations Why are we suddenly digging up so many dead bodies, author Bess Lovejoy wonders. The latest exhumation will bring up Yasir Arafat's body to test for polonium-210—traces of this poison in his bones would strongly suggest that he was indeed assassinated. But the former Palestinian leader isn't the only deceased person to be exhumed recently. Tycho Brahe, Bobby Fischer, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Christopher Columbus have all been dug up over the last decade for DNA testing. Lovejoy finds this practice ethically sticky, writing, "When does scientific imperative shade into idle curiosity—and who gets to decide? Surprisingly, there’s little widely agreed-upon policy to guide us through this ethical quandary, and disputes have mostly been a matter for local courts."
Jane Kramer in The New Yorker on female bishops The Church of England decided last week to keep excluding women from becoming bishops. The rejection upset many parishioners, who thought that revisions to canon law in recent years signalled a move toward greater gender equality in the church. Jane Kramer finds the vote especially troubling considering the Church of England's ties to the state. "No one knows what will happen now," she writes. "There are already calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England; this won’t happen, but there is some chance that its bishops will be asked to leave the House of Lords, at least until the Church accepts its obligations under the country’s anti-discrimination laws."