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Sep 14 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 t 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.

Dean Baker: The Soft Bigotry of Incredibly Low Expectations: The Case of Economists

In a country with almost 15 million people out of work, it is amazing that any economists still have jobs. This one is their fault first and foremost. Economists are supposed to know about the economy and provide advice on how to avoid disasters before they happen and help us recover from the bad things happen in spite of good advice.

The economics profession has not done well on this simple scorecard. Remarkably, rather than improve their game, economists are now busy dampening down expectations so that the public will not hold them responsible for the state of the economy.

Towards this end, a group of Fed economists recently put out a new studyclaiming that it was impossible for economists to recognize the $8 trillion housing bubble before it wrecked the economy. In effect, they argued that economists should not be blamed for this failure because:

“The state-of-the-art tools of economic science were not capable of predicting with any degree of certainty the collapse of U.S. house prices that started in 2006.”

This raises the obvious question: if economists can’t see an $8 trillion housing bubble, what can they see? This is bit like the firehouse where everyone sits around calmly sipping their coffee as the school across the street burns down. Completely missing the largest financial bubble in the history of the world is pretty inexcusable, even if economists continue to make excuses.

Bob Herbert: A Recovery’s Long Odds

We can keep wishing and hoping for a powerful economic recovery to pull the U.S. out of its doldrums, but I wouldn’t count on it. Ordinary American families no longer have the purchasing power to build a strong recovery and keep it going.

Americans are not being honest with themselves about the structural changes in the economy that have bestowed fabulous wealth on a tiny sliver at the top, while undermining the living standards of the middle class and absolutely crushing the poor. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a viable strategy for reversing this dreadful state of affairs. (There is no evidence the G.O.P. even wants to.)

Robert Reich, in his new book, “Aftershock,” gives us one of the clearest explanations to date of what has happened – how the United States went from what he calls “the Great Prosperity” of 1947 to 1975 to the Great Recession that has hobbled the U.S. economy and darkened the future of younger Americans.

David Weigel: Newt Is Nuts!

Why is Gingrich pushing Dinesh D’Souza’s crazy theory about Obama’s “Kenyan anti-colonialism”?

The release of a new book by Dinesh D’Souza prompts a perennial question: Why do people keep publishing books by Dinesh D’Souza?

There’s a simple answer. Newt Gingrich provided it to me and National Review’s Robert Costa on Saturday night. After the premiere of his documentary America at Risk, Gingrich mused about the brilliance of D’Souza’s Forbes magazine cover story about the “roots of Obama’s rage,” based on his upcoming book with that title. The roots, according to D’Souza, were in mid-1960s, Marxist-inspired, Kenyan anti-colonialism. Gingrich repeated those words-“Kenyan, anti-colonial”-and called the article “brilliant.”

Eugene Robinson: Gingrich, unhinged on Obama

Is Newt Gingrich just pretending to have lost his mind, or has he actually gone around the bend?

His lunacy certainly seems genuine enough. It’s one thing to be a rhetorical bomb-thrower, as Gingrich has long fancied himself, and another to lob damp squibs of pure nonsense into the fray. The man’s contributions to the public discourse have become increasingly unhinged.

The latest example comes in an interview with the conservative Web site National Review Online. Unsurprisingly, he was criticizing President Obama. Bizarrely, according to the Web site, he said the following: “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” According to Newt, this is “the most accurate, predictive model” for the president’s actions, or policies or something.

What in the world is “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” supposed to mean? That Obama is waging a secret campaign to free us from the yoke of British oppression?

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