Aug 10 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Robert Reich: The Jobs Emergency

Washington’s latest answer to the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression is $26 billion in aid to state and local governments. This still leaves the states and locales more than $62 billion in the hole this fiscal year. And because every state except Vermont has to balance its budget, the likely result is 600,000 to 700,000 more state and local jobs vanishing over the next 12 months (including private contractors and other businesses that depend on state and local governments) according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Say goodbye to even more of the teachers, firefighters, sanitary workers, and police officers we depend on.

In July alone, state and local employment dropped 48,000. Not counting temporary census workers, the federal government shed 11,000. So with private payrolls increasing a paltry 71,000, July’s overall increase in payrolls was just 12,000.

Robert Kuttner: Who Are You Going to Believe — Tim Geithner or Your Own Lying Eyes?

The jobs situation stinks, even as corporate profits keep rising. Another 131,000 jobs were lost to the economy in July, according to the Labor Department’s latest report released Friday. The measured unemployment rate stayed stuck at 9.5 percent.

The only reason it wasn’t worse was because more workers gave up looking for nonexistent jobs, leaving a smaller labor force to measure against the meager supply of work. Small comfort.

Meanwhile, another important government report, by the Social Security Trustees, showed only a trivial improvement in the gap between what Social Security owes the next generation of retirees and the tax receipts that it can expect.

There is, of course, a direct connection between rising unemployment, declining wages, and the condition of Social Security. That’s because Social Security is funded by payroll taxes.

If wages had continued to rise with the growth of the economy’s productivity, instead of profits and bonuses taking an ever larger share, Social Security would be enjoying an endless surplus.

Based on recent trends and a dismally pessimistic projection of our economic future, Social Security’s Trustees assume wage growth of just 1.2 percent a year. But that can be changed by better policies.

Robert Reich: Notes From a Class Worrier

The decline of America’s middle class can be charted directly. In the three decades after World War II, the median wage (smack in the middle) grew rapidly, right along with productivity gains. Even as late as 1980, the richest 1 percent of Americans received only about 9 percent of the nation’s total income.

But starting in the 1980s — and increasingly since then — the economy has made the rich far richer without doing squat for the vast middle. The median hourly wage has barely grown, if you take inflation into account. Indeed, it dropped in the last so-called “recovery” between 2001 and 2007. And health-care and pension benefits have declined; we’ve gone from defined-benefit pensions to do-it-yourself pensions, while health insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-payments have skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, the rich have been getting a larger and larger portion of total income. From 9 percent in 1980, the top 1 percent’s take has increased to 23.5 percent in 2007. CEOs who in the 1970s took home 40 percent of the compensation of average workers now rake in 350 times. Financiers who forty years ago made only modest fortunes today, even after the Great Recession they helped bring on, routinely earn seven and eight-figures. In 2009, when most of the nation’s middle class was deep in recession, the 25 best-paid hedge-fund managers took in an average of $1 billion each. (Their marginal income tax, by the way, was barely over 17 percent, while the typical family paid a marginal tax far higher.)

Greg Sargent: The “responsible” argument against the Ground Zero mosque

Let’s label it the “responsible” argument against the Ground Zero mosque.

As you know, the Anti-Defamation League says it’s adamantly opposed to bigotry against Muslims. But it’s opposing the construction of the Islamic center near the site of the attacks on the grounds that it will cause pain to relatives of 9/11 victims, undermining the center’s stated goal of promoting reconciliation.

Chris Caldwell, a senior editor for the Weekly Standard, adds his voice to this argument, denouncing those who label the project’s foes bigots while insisting that the project is wrong because the 9/11 victimes “were killed in Islam’s name.” Andrew Sullivan responds to Caldwell here, skewering Caldwell’s “guilt by association.”

Eugene Robinson: Adm. Thad Allen on what can be learned from the gulf oil spill

Flying back to Washington from Pensacola, Fla., on June 15, President Obama and the man he put in charge of handling the gulf oil spill, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, had a come-to-Jesus talk. The administration was getting hammered for a slow and disorganized response to the environmental disaster, and the president wanted to know, then and there, what resources Allen needed to get the job done. Obama made clear, in Allen’s words, that “there would be no do-overs.”

That conversation aboard Air Force One marked what Allen, in a recent interview, told me was the “pivotal point” in the effort to contain the biggest spill in U.S. history. Allen said he told Obama that his most urgent problem wasn’t with anything that was taking place underwater or along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, but in the sky.

Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg: From Google and Verizon, a path to an open Internet

We have spent much of the past year trying to resolve our differences over the thorny issue of “network neutrality.” This hasn’t been an easy process, and Google and Verizon are neither regulators nor legislators. But as leaders in our respective fields, we have searched for workable public policies that serve consumer interests and create a climate for investment and innovation. What has kept us at the table and moving toward compromise was our mutual interest in a robust Internet and our recognition that progress would occur only when players from across the Internet space work together.

The we outlined Monday as a suggested policy framework for lawmakers translates these principles into a fully enforceable broadband Internet policy. In developing this framework, we were guided by two principles: our commitment to an open Internet, and the need for continued investment in broadband infrastructure, which is critical to U.S. global competitiveness.

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