09/20/2010 archive

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.

Robert Reich: The Defining Issue: Who Should Get the Tax Cut — The Rich or Everyone Else?

Who deserves a tax cut more: the top 2 percent — whose wages and benefits are higher than ever, and among whose ranks are the CEOs and Wall Street mavens whose antics have sliced jobs and wages and nearly destroyed the American economy — or the rest of us?

Not a bad issue for Democrats to run on this fall, or in 2012.

Republicans are hell bent on demanding an extension of the Bush tax cut for their patrons at the top, or else they’ll pull the plug on tax cuts for the middle class. This is a gift for the Democrats.

But before this can be a defining election issue in the midterms, Democrats have to bring it to a vote. And they’ve got to do it in the next few weeks, not wait until a lame-duck session after Election Day.

Plus, they have to stick together (Ben Nelson, are you hearing me? House blue-dogs, do you read me? Peter Orszag, will you get some sense?)

Not only is this smart politics. It’s smart economics.

Eric Alterman: How Obama Screws His Base

The president’s party desperately needs to rev up liberals to stave off disaster this fall. So why does he keep punching them in the face?

In case you hadn’t heard, yes Barack Obama did go before a $30,000-per-person Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Greenwich, Connecticut-the hedge-fund capital of the world-and (at the home, I kid you not, of a guy named “Rich Richman” ) complain about how silly his base was being. . . .

Look, we understand that politics is a frustrating business and holding together the disparate coalition that is the Democratic Party these days is no simple matter. But facing an “enthusiasm gap” of epic proportions between a right-wing base that is “loaded for bear” and a Democratic one that is bordering on catatonic, what possible sense can it make to unload on the folks you should be trying hardest to motivate? Just who the hell do you expect to go out and vote Democratic this November? Somehow I don’t think the pundits at the Post and Politico who enjoy this kind of thing are going to be enough.

On This Day in History: September 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

September 20 is the 263rd day of the year (264th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 102 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1973, in a highly publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, top women’s player Billie Jean King, 29, beats Bobby Riggs, 55, a former No. 1 ranked men’s player. Riggs (1918-1995), a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, had boasted that women were inferior, that they couldn’t handle the pressure of the game and that even at his age he could beat any female player. The match was a huge media event, witnessed in person by over 30,000 spectators at the Houston Astrodome and by another 50 million TV viewers worldwide. King made a Cleopatra-style entrance on a gold litter carried by men dressed as ancient slaves, while Riggs arrived in a rickshaw pulled by female models. Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell called the match, in which King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King’s achievement not only helped legitimize women’s professional tennis and female athletes, but it was seen as a victory for women’s rights in general.

Billie Jean King (née Moffitt; born November 22, 1943 in Long Beach, California) is a former professional tennis player from the United States. She won 12 Grand Slam  singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. King has been an advocate against sexism in sports and society. She is known for “The Battle of the Sexes” in 1973, in which she defeated Bobby Riggs, a former Wimbledon men’s singles champion.

King is the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation, and World Team Tennis, which she founded with her former husband, Lawrence King.

Despite King’s achievements at the world’s biggest tennis tournaments, the U.S. public best remembers her for her win over Bobby Riggs in 1973.

Riggs had been a top men’s player in the 1930s and 1940s in both the amateur and professional ranks. He won the Wimbledon men’s singles title in 1939, and was considered the World No. 1 male tennis player for 1941, 1946, and 1947. He then became a self-described tennis “hustler” who played in promotional challenge matches. In 1973, he took on the role of male chauvinist. Claiming that the women’s game was so inferior to the men’s game that even a 55-year-old like himself could beat the current top female players, he challenged and defeated Margaret Court 6-2, 6-1. King, who previously had rejected challenges from Riggs, then accepted a lucrative financial offer to play him.

How to feel poor on $500,000 a year

Monday Business Edition

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

The Angry Rich

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: September 19, 2010

(I)f you want to find real political rage – the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason – … (y)ou’ll find it … among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

(W)hen Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.

Tax-cut advocates used to pretend that they were mainly concerned about helping typical American families. Even tax breaks for the rich were justified in terms of trickle-down economics, the claim that lower taxes at the top would make the economy stronger for everyone.

These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don’t really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class – the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.

And among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it.

In Which Mr. Deling Responds to Someone Who Might Be Professor Todd Henderson

J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, U.C. Berkeley

September 18, 2010

As best as Michael O’Hare could determine (and Professor Henderson or whoever it is does not challenge him), the Henderson annual family budget is this:

$455,000 a year of income, of which:

  • $60,000 in student loan payments
  • $40,000 is employer contributions to 401(k) and similar retirement savings vehicles
  • $15,000 is employer contributions to health insurance
  • $60,000 is untaxed employee contributions to tax-favored retirement savings vehicles
  • $25,000 building equity in their house
  • $80,000 in state and federal income taxes
  • $15,000 in property taxes
  • $10,000 for automobiles
  • $55,000 in housing costs for a $1M house (three times the average price in the Hyde Park neighborhood
  • $60,000 in private school costs for three children
  • $35,000 in other living expenses

And of this budget, Professor Henderson (or whoever) writes:

Like most working Americans, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (no movie channels) round out our monthly expenses. We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby…. [W]e have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income. We occasionally eat out but with a baby sitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive. If our taxes rise significantly… the (legal) immigrant from Mexico who owns the lawn service we employ will suffer, as will the (legal) immigrant from Poland who cleans our house a few times a month. We can cancel our cell phones and some cable channels, as well as take our daughter from her art class at the community art center…

Now it is time for a reality check on this “most working Americans.” The median household income in the United States today is $50,000. Half of all households make more than this. Half of all households make less. The big expenses in the Henderson family budget–their $60,000 a year in contributions to tax-favored retirement savings vehicles, their $25,000 a year savings building home equity, their $55,000 for housing, their $60,000 in private school costs, even their $10,000 a year for new cars–are simply out of reach for the overwhelming majority of Americans. Half of all households make less than $50,000 a year–the Hendersons make nine times that. 90% of households make less than $100,000 a year–the Henderson’s make 4.5 times that. The Henderson’s are solidly in the top 1% of American households, in the select 1% group that receives more than $350,000 a year.

By any standard, they are really rich.

But they don’t feel rich. They have a cash flow problem. When the bills are paid at the end of the month, the money is gone–and they feel that they have to scrimp.

Professor Henderson’s problem is that he thinks that he ought to be able to pay off student loans, contribute to retirement savings vehicles, build equity, drive new cars, live in a big expensive house, send his children to private school, and still have plenty of cash at the end of the month for the $200 restaurant meals, the $1000 a night resort hotel rooms, and the $75,000 automobiles. And even half a million dollars a year cannot (get) you all of that.

(W)hy does he think that that is the way things should be? … (H)ere is the dirty secret: Professor Henderson thinks that that is the way things should be because he knows people for whom that is the way it is.

Professor Henderson in 1980 would have known who the really rich were, and they would on average have had about four times his income–more, considerably more, but not a huge gulf. He would have known people who were truly rich, and he would have seen himself as one of them–or as almost one of them.

Now fast forward to today.

Of the 100 people richer than he is, fully ten have more than four times his income. And he knows of one person with 20 times his income. He knows who the really rich are, and they have ten times his income: They have not $450,000 a year. They have $4.5 million a year. And, to him, they are in a different world.

And so he is sad. He and his wife deserve to be successful. And he knows people who are successful. But he is not one of them–widening income inequality over the past generation has excluded him from the rich who truly have money.

And this makes him sad. And angry. But, curiously enough, not angry at the senior law firm partners who extract surplus value from their associates and their clients, or angry at the financiers, but angry at… Barack Obama, who dares to suggest that the U.S. government’s funding gap should be closed partly by taxing him, and angry at the great hordes of the unwashed who will receive the Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security payments that the government will make over the next several generations.

And in the real world-

Poverty stats show the damage

By Carol Morello, Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, September 17, 2010

In the second year of a brutal recession, the ranks of the American poor soared to their highest level in half a century and millions more are barely avoiding falling below the poverty line, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

About 44 million Americans – one in seven – lived last year in homes in which the income was below the poverty level, which is about $22,000 for a family of four. That is the largest number of people since the census began tracking poverty 51 years ago.

Business News below the fold.

Morning Shinbun Monday September 20

Monday’s Headlines:

The well is dead, but Gulf challenges live on

New footage shows tigers can thrive in Himalayas


Sickle cell testing of athletes stirs discrimination fears

Investors seeing farmland as safer bet than stocks


Sweden’s ruling coalition heads for minority government

Across Europe, support for populist parties is on the rise

Middle East

Netanyahu’s ‘catastrophic success’

US troops still forced to bolster Iraqi forces in battle


Japanese Playing a New Video Game: Catch-Up

Prostitutes of god


World leaders warned that approach to African aid needs a total rethink

Obama amps up intervention to prevent Sudan war

There Is No Reason, And The Truth Is Plain To See

The truth is plain to see. It doesn’t happen quite so much here, but all across the blogosphere people sit in front of their computers all day and argue about which national political party is “better”. Which one is more likely to give the people what they want.

On the “left” blogs people talk about one party being tools of multinational corporations and the ultra rich, and say the other party is somehow “better” because it promises “hope” for the future somewhat in the same way religion promises salvation in some heaven, but only after death and only if you’ll “believe” (clap) hard enough, and don’t ask questions.

On the “right” blogs people talk about one party being tools of evil socialists and sex fiends and dopers who hate “freedom”, and say the other party is somehow “better” because it promises “freedom” someday in the future somewhat in the same way religion promises salvation in some heaven, but only after death and only if you’ll “believe” (clap) hard enough, don’t ask questions, and kill anyone who gets in your way.

The truth is plain to see. Big money did not take over any one party at all. Big money took over politics and the media so they could carry on happily while people unwittingly play their game by choosing between between coke or pepsi – and like a Vegas casino, the house always wins in the long run. Always.

There is no ‘reason’. This is not a ‘reasonable’ choice, and it is not ‘reasonable’ to get sucked into making it.

Prime Time

Professional Throwball- Giants @ Traitors.  You know how to root.  Miss something last night?  See it tonight.  Not a lot of original programming.


The Venture Brothers Episode 2 of Season 4 and a half (premier), Pomp & Circuitry (last week’s episode summary).  Childrens Hospital, Joke Overload (premier).  Frankenhole, Heal Hitler (Episode 4).

How do you go about writing a detective story?

Well, you forget detection and concentrate on crime. Crime’s the thing. And then you imagine you’re going to steal something or murder somebody.

Oh, is that how you do it? It’s interesting.

Yes, I usually put myself in the criminal’s shoes and then I keep asking myself, uh, what do I do next?

Do you really believe in the perfect murder?

Mmm, yes, absolutely. On paper, that is. And I think I could, uh, plan one better than most people; but I doubt if I could carry it out.

Oh? Why not?

Well, because in stories things usually turn out the way the author wants them to; and in real life they don’t… always.


No, I’m afraid my murders would be something like my bridge: I’d make some stupid mistake and never realize it until I found everybody was looking at me.

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

From Yahoo News Top Stories

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Twin Baghdad car bombs kill 29

by Sabah Arar, AFP

1 hr 46 mins ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Two near-simultaneous car bombs rocked the Iraqi capital on Sunday, killing at least 29 people and wounding 111 in the city’s deadliest day in a month.

The violence, which saw 38 people killed across the country, was the worst to hit Iraq since US troops declared an official end to combat operations on September 1, and comes with no new government yet formed since a March poll.

The twin blasts struck near the Aden junction in north Baghdad and in the residential district of Mansur in the west at around 10:10 am (0710 GMT), AFP journalists and security officials said.