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Sep 03 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.

Paul Krugman: The Real Story

Next week, President Obama is scheduled to propose new measures to boost the economy. I hope they’re bold and substantive, since the Republicans will oppose him regardless – if he came out for motherhood, the G.O.P. would declare motherhood un-American. So he should put them on the spot for standing in the way of real action.But let’s put politics aside and talk about what we’ve actually learned about economic policy over the past 20 months.

When Mr. Obama first proposed $800 billion in fiscal stimulus, there were two groups of critics. Both argued that unemployment would stay high – but for very different reasons.

One group – the group that got almost all the attention – declared that the stimulus was much too large, and would lead to disaster. If you were, say, reading The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages in early 2009, you would have been repeatedly informed that the Obama plan would lead to skyrocketing interest rates and soaring inflation.

The other group, which included yours truly, warned that the plan was much too small given the economic forecasts then available. As I pointed out in February 2009, the Congressional Budget Office was predicting a $2.9 trillion hole in the economy over the next two years; an $800 billion program, partly consisting of tax cuts that would have happened anyway, just wasn’t up to the task of filling that hole.

Anthony D. Romero and Vincent Warren: Sentencing terrorism suspects to death — without trial

Since 2001, the United States has been carrying out “targeted killings” in connection with what the Bush administration called the “war on terror” and the Obama administration calls the “war against al-Qaeda.” While many of these killings have been carried out on battlefields in Afghanistan or Iraq, our government has increasingly been employing lethal force in places far removed from any zone of armed conflict, effectively carrying out executions without trial or conviction. Some of the individuals on the government’s kill lists are U.S. citizens.

On Monday, our organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of targeted killings that take place outside zones of armed conflict. We did not do this lightly. But we simply cannot accept the proposition that the government should have unchecked authority to carry out extrajudicial killings, including of U.S. citizens, far from any actual battlefield. Nor can we accept the contention that the entire world is a battlefield. In protecting this country from the threat of terrorism, the government cannot jettison the rights that Americans have fought for more than two centuries to safeguard.

Eugene Robinson: The spoiled-brat American electorate

According to polls, Americans are in a mood to hold their breath until they turn blue. Voters appear to be so fed up with the Democrats that they’re ready to toss them out in favor of the Republicans — for whom, according to those same polls, the nation has even greater contempt. This isn’t an “electoral wave,” it’s a temper tantrum.

It’s bad enough that the Democratic Party’s “favorable” rating has fallen to an abysmal 33 percent, according to a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. It’s worse that the Republican Party’s favorability has plunged to just 24 percent. But incredibly, according to Gallup, registered voters say they intend to vote for Republicans over Democrats by an astounding 10-point margin. Respected analysts reckon that the GOP has a chance of gaining 45 to 60 seats in the House, which would bring Minority Leader John Boehner into the speaker’s office.

Adam Serwer: The false ‘liberal overreach’ narrative

Adam Serwer of the American Prospect is guest blogging on The Plum Line this week.

Michael Scherer, who generally writes good stuff, succumbs fully to village fever here:  

It’s not as if the White House didn’t see this coming. After a meeting in December 2008 about the severity of the economic crisis, Axelrod pulled Obama aside. He recalls saying, “Enjoy these great poll numbers you have, because two years from now, they are not going to look anything like this.” But even as Obama aides were aware of a growing disconnect, it didn’t seem to worry their boss. Instead, the ambitious legislative goals usually trumped other priorities. Both in the original stimulus package and then in the health care and energy measures, the White House ceded most of its clout to the liberal lions who controlled the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. That maneuver helped assure passage of reforms, but it also confirmed some of the worst fears about how Washington works. “I’d rather be a one-term President and do big things than a two-term President and just do small things,” he told his team after Republican Scott Brown was elected Senator in liberal Massachusetts and some in the Administration suggested pulling back on health reform.

This isn’t even a remotely accurate reading of recent history. Liberals wanted a bigger stimulus package and more infrastructure spending, the moderate Republicans in a position to kill the bill wanted a smaller package and more tax cuts. With health care, liberals wanted a (popular) public option, centrist Democrats in the Senate arbitrarily decided that it was more important to make liberals unhappy than to have a more fiscally responsible and effective health-care bill. In the House, liberals agreed to stronger restrictions on abortion then they wanted to appease the pro-life faction led by Bart Stupak.

Robert Reich: The Stock Market Rally Versus the World’s Economic Fundamentals

What passes for business reporting in the United States is too often a series of breathless reports about the stock market. When the Dow rises precipitously, as it did today (Wednesday), the business press predicts an end to the Great Recession. When the stock market plummets, as it did last week, the Great Recession is said to be worsening.

Pay no attention. The stock market has as much to do with the real economy as the weather has to do with geology. Day by day there’s no relationship at all. Over time, weather and geology interact but the results aren’t evident for many years. The biggest impact of the weather is on peoples’ moods, as are the daily ups and downs of the market.

The real economy is jobs and paychecks, what people buy and what they sell. And the real economy — even viewed from a worldwide perspective — is as precarious as ever, perhaps more so.

Today’s rally was triggered by news that one of China’s official measures of its growth — its Purchasing Managers Index — rose. The index had been in decline for three straight months.

Why should an obscure measurement on the other side of the world cause stock markets in New York, London, and Frankfurt to rally? Because China is so large and its needs seemingly limitless that its growth has been about the only reliable source of global demand.

David Sirota: Despite Celebration, the Iraq War Continues

Something about 21st-century warfare brings out Washington’s lust for historical comparison. The moment the combat starts, lawmakers and the national press corps inevitably portray every explosion, invasion, frontline dispatch, political machination and wartime icon as momentous replicas of the past’s big moments and Great Men.

9/11 was Pearl Harbor. Colin Powell’s Iraq presentation at the United Nations was Adlai Stevenson’s Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation. Embedded journalists in Afghanistan strutted around like the intrepid Walter Cronkite on a foreign battlefield. George Bush was a Rooseveltian “war president.” The Iraq invasion was D-Day.

A byproduct of reporters’ narcissism, politicians’ vanity and the Beltway’s lockstep devotion to militarism, this present-tense hagiography ascribes the positive attributes of sanitized history to current events. And whether or not the analogies are appropriate, they inevitably help sell contemporary actions-no matter how ill-advised. As just one example: If 9/11 was Pearl Harbor, as television so often suggested, then American couch potatoes were bound to see “shock and awe” in Baghdad as a rational reprise of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

Michael Gerson: In mosque controversies, some Christians undermine their own faith

A church in Florida is poised to commemorate an act of violence committed in the name of Islam, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with an act of stupidity committed in the name of Christianity, the public burning of the Koran.

This threatened libricide proves little more than the existence of a few attention-seeking crackpots in a continental country — the natural resource that makes cable news possible. But the Manhattan mosque controversy has exposed a broader, conservative Christian suspicion of mosques and Muslims. Protests against the construction of mosques in California, Tennessee and Wisconsin have often included Christian pastors. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, recently wrote: “Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: Each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.”

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