Bill Keller in The New York Times on Ron Wyden as the last bipartisan senator Oregon Democratic Senator Wyden, who introduced a Medicare reform proposal with Paul Ryan, has become the bipartisan talking point for Romney-Ryan. The whole thing is telling of "the decline of the honorable craft of lawmaking," Keller says. Wyden is one of the few Senators to still reach out to the other side, and did so with Ryan. But when Ryan drafted a budget, many of the compromises were killed in favor of a Republican-only plan. "[T]his episode may well shrink the already diminished pool of lawmakers who are willing to buck party orthodoxy," Keller says.
Stephen Smith in Bloomberg View on how Americans pay too much to build mass transit American taxpayers pay much more than their European and Asian counterparts to build public transportation. Manhattan's Second Avenue subway plans, for example, costs as much as five times more than European and Asian transit. American agencies haven't been good at keeping private contractors accountable. Politicians here also have different priorities, opting for expensive name-brand architects rather than focusing on user need, like Spain's far cheaper metro system-- ultimately taking more time and money to build.
Allan S. Weiner in The Washington Post on human rights and economics in Vietnam Hillary Clinton announced last month that the U.S. would sign a regional trade agreement with Vietnam by year's end, but economic promises should be reeled in until Vietnam does a better job with human rights, Weiner writes. In the past year, the Vietnamese government has arrested a myriad of people that include social and political activists, religious minorities, and online journalists engaged in "legitimate forms of political expression." "The United States should not reward Vietnam by including it in the Trans-Pacific Partnership while the government in Hanoi uses its legal systems to stifle dissent and perpetrate human rights abuse."
Nicholas Sambanis in The New York Times on identity and ethnic conflict in Europe "The European debt crisis is not just an economic crisis," Sambanis writes, "it is an escalating identity conflict — an ethnic conflict." The EU was at first a political concept to tame Germany. As long as Europe prospered, that identity worked. But as the EU declines, richer European nations are more likely to identify as Germans or Frenchmen than as Europeans. "This will increase their reluctance to use their taxes for bailouts of the ethnically different Southern Europeans, especially the culturally distant Greeks; and it will diminish any prospect of fiscal integration that could help save the euro."
Michael Barone in The Wall Street Journal on the evolution of Republicans Republican voters, throughout history, have thought themselves to be "typical Americans," even though they don't make up a majority of a diverse nation. Those people have changed throughout history. Core Republican voters went from northern Protestants to white, married Christians. But the GOP should keep in mind that it'll need votes from other groups eventually, and Romney will have to govern in a way to hold the larger party together rather than succumbing to the small base. "But that is the challenge the Republican Party has always faced," Barone says, "and over its 158 years it has won more presidential elections than it has lost."