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Mar 16 2013

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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Lincoln P. Brower and Homero Aridjis: The Winter of the Monarch

IN the village of Contepec, in Michoacán, a few hours northwest of Mexico City, every winter day, rivers of orange and black butterflies would stream through the streets in search of water, swooping down from the Oyamel fir forest on Altamirano Hill. One of us, Homero, grew up with the monarch butterflies. The other, Lincoln, saw them for the first time in 1977, also in Michoacán, on a mountain called Sierra Chincua, where the branches of hundreds of fir trees were covered with butterflies that exploded into glorious flight when warmed by the sun.

Today the winter monarch colonies, which are found west of Mexico City, in an area of about 60 miles by 60 miles, are a pitiful remnant of their former splendor. The aggregate area covered by the colonies dwindled from an average of 22 acres between 1994 and 2003 to 12 acres between 2003 and 2012. This year’s area, which was reported on Wednesday, hit a record low of 2.9 acres.

Josh Barro: Why Social Security Is the Best Retirement Saving Vehicle

Last week I wrote that Social Security is the healthiest component of the U.S.’s retirement saving system and should therefore be expanded. This isn’t a popular position; liberals tend to prefer defined-benefit pensions from employers and conservatives defined-contribution accounts, such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts. But the reason Social Security works so well is that it lacks a fundamental problem that undermines the effectiveness of these other retirement vehicles. [..]

.. 401(k) and traditional pensions are both just efforts to finance retirement on the cheap by taking on excessive risk. The problem created by risk manifests itself in different ways with the different vehicles. [..]

Social Security is also based on a bet about future economic performance, but it’s a much more reasonable bet. Forget the trust fund — Social Security is based on a bet that the payroll tax base and annual benefit payouts grow at approximately the same pace.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: As Senators Roast JPMorgan Chase, Are The Winds Shifting for Diamond Jamie?

Forgive us if we begin our discussion of the Senate Subcommittee for Investigation’s JPMorgan Chase hearing with a small victory lap, but as they say down South, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.” We’ve been saying for years that JPMorgan Chase is fundamentally a criminal enterprise, that “Obama’s favorite banker” Jamie Dimon is a fraud, and that “America’s best bank” is a nest of venality and criminality. Although we value civility as much as the next guy, we’ve been forced to suggest that this bank is the “Scandal of Our Time,” a leading contender for “Worst Corporate Outlaw of the Year.”

We were also forced, civility or no, to suggest that JPM’s relationship with Syracuse University is corrupting our young people, and that the most generous interpretation of Dimon’s own tenure is that he is so profoundly incompetent as an executive that “Jamie Didn’t Know.” We also noted that Jamie did know that the London Whale scheme had cost his bank billions, even as he told investors on a phone call that it was just a “tempest in a teapot.”

Kevin Gosztola: Obama’s I’m-No-Dick-Cheney Standard for Government Secrecy

Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, upset about not being provided with memos containing the legal justification for targeted killing operations, such as drone strikes, was apparently told by President Barack Obama not to worry because he is not Vice President Dick Cheney. [..]

This is the “Trust Us” defense for secrecy. It is in line with what Attorney General Eric Holder said to Republican Representative Ted Cruz when he was asked about whether it would be legal to target American citizens on United States soil. Holder said it would be inappropriate. But, the trustworthiness of an administration should never justify keeping official interpretations of the law secret.

Jared Berstein: Why Does Rep. Paul Ryan Get So Much Attention?

So, I’m doing a radio interview last night, and moderately impressed with myself for being able to speak coherently about four different budgets: Ryan’s, Senate’s, POTUS (not out yet, but we can guess at the mix), and the CPC. Then I got asked a question which threw me a bit: why is Paul Ryan and his budget taken so seriously?

It wasn’t a snarky question. It’s just that I’d been discussing the absolute non-reality of his proposal — how the numbers don’t begin to add up, the unrealistic budget cuts, the plethora of magic asterisks in the absence of actual proposals (the most egregious of which is: I’ll cuts taxes by $6-7 trillion over the next decade and offset the revenue losses with… um… sorry, gotta run). And the interviewer was like, “OK… but if you’re right, why is his budget front page news such that he’s driving the debate?”

David Macaray: From the Folks Who Brought You NAFTA

Although there hasn’t been much mainstream news coverage, the U.S. is currently in negotiations with nine APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) countries on what could become the biggest, most ambitious, most comprehensive FTA (free trade agreement) in history.  The proposed agreement is called TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).  Basically, if approved in its present form, it would resemble NAFTA on steroids.  And we all know how well.

NAFTA turned out.

The nine countries involved in TPP negotiations are: the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, New Zealand and Australia.  Trade analysts have noted that should TPP be approved in its present, open-ended form, it would allow additional countries to sign onto it whenever they liked (without having to negotiate) which would mean, in effect, that TPP could be the last trade agreement the U.S. ever signed.  In other words, it’s a critically important agreement.