“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 Secret Big-Money Takeover of America
Not only is income and wealth in America more concentrated in fewer hands than it’s been in 80 years, but those hands are buying our democracy as never before — and they’re doing it behind closed doors.
Hundreds of millions of secret dollars are pouring into congressional and state races in this election cycle. The Koch brothers (whose personal fortunes grew by $5 billion last year) appear to be behind some of it, Karl Rove has rounded up other multimillionaires to fund right-wing candidates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funneling corporate dollars from around the world into congressional races, and Rupert Murdoch is evidently spending heavily.
No one knows for sure where this flood of money is coming from because it’s all secret.
But you can safely assume its purpose is not to help America’s stranded middle class, working class, and poor. It’s to pad the nests of the rich, stop all reform, and deregulate big corporations and Wall Street — already more powerful than since the late 19th century when the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of cash on the desks of friendly legislators.
Paul Krugman: The End of the Tunnel
The Erie Canal. Hoover Dam. The Interstate Highway System. Visionary public projects are part of the American tradition, and have been a major driver of our economic development.
And right now, by any rational calculation, would be an especially good time to improve the nation’s infrastructure. We have the need: our roads, our rail lines, our water and sewer systems are antiquated and increasingly inadequate. We have the resources: a million-and-a-half construction workers are sitting idle, and putting them to work would help the economy as a whole recover from its slump. And the price is right: with interest rates on federal debt at near-record lows, there has never been a better time to borrow for long-term investment.
But American politics these days is anything but rational. Republicans bitterly opposed even the modest infrastructure spending contained in the Obama stimulus plan. And, on Thursday, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled America’s most important current public works project, the long-planned and much-needed second rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Mike Lux: Obama Comes Through on Foreclosure Issue: What’s Next?
When the notarization on foreclosures issue suddenly flared up over the last 24 hours, my heart sank. Just as regular homeowners were starting to get some legal traction to fight back against fraud and predatory lending by big banks, it seemed, some bank lobbyist had managed to sneak something through in the dead of night that would screw people over again. It was Washington at its worst: the bank lobbyists in control, and Congress asleep at the wheel.
But then, that most delightful and rare of Washington moments happened: the system worked. Consumer advocates started raising hell on the blogs and in traditional media, the White House started looking more closely at the issue, and literally within a matter of hours, Obama announced that he was not going to sign the bill. No long, painful, drawn out internal debate at 1600 Pennsylvania. No twisting round trying to split the middle on the issue. As soon as the issue was raised, the White House team focused on it, and made the right decision quickly. Elizabeth Warren, the new Assistant to the President and Treasury Secretary, weighed in. Pete Rouse, the new Chief of Staff, got engaged immediately. And the President made the right decision.
So what did we learn? First, that exposing sleazy dead-of-night deals cut by the special interests does sometimes work. And second, that having good people in key government roles really does matter. Obama might well have done the right thing without Warren and Rouse there, but it sure did happen quickly and easily with them around.