Nov 11 2010

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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Robert Reich: Obama’s First Stand

The president says a Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts to everyone for two years is a “basis for conversation.” I hope this doesn’t mean another Obama cave-in.

Yes, the president needs to acknowledge the Republican sweep on Election Day. But he can do that by offering his own version of a compromise that’s both economically sensible and politically smart. Instead of limiting the extension to $250,000 of income (the bottom 98 percent of Americans), he should offer to extend it to all incomes under $500,000 (essentially the bottom 99 percent), for two years.

Dan Fromkin: Ten Flash Points In The Fiscal Commission Chairmen’s Proposal

The two deficit-hawk extremists President Obama put in charge of his fiscal commission released their personal suggestions for cutting the federal budget deficit on Wednesday. And while it’s quite possible that not a one of them will make it into the commission’s official recommendations, which require the approval of 14 of the 18 commissioners (not just two), the document will inevitably be welcomed as a “serious” contribution to the debate – at least by Republicans and conservative Democrats.

But taken as a whole, the plan authored by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson would have devastating effects on the government and its ability to help the most vulnerable in our society, and it would put the squeeze on the middle class, veterans, the elderly and the sick – all in the name of an abstract goal that ultimately only a bond-trader could love.

Here are the top 10 flash points:

Joe Conason: Meet the leader of the Obama witch hunt

If past is prologue, Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa will aim low and cheap — by probing stimulus road signs!

How Darrell Issa will conduct the vital business of the House Oversight Committee when he takes over as chairman isn’t clear yet. When the California Republican describes his plans in the mainstream media, he strives to sound reasonable, bipartisan and public-spirited; but when speaking with media outlets and personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh, he sounds like a hard-line right-winger aiming to revive the paranoid partisan style of the Gingrich era — which would be more in keeping with the reputation he has already established. He displayed the fugue state that preoccupies him when he denounced President Obama on CNN as “the most corrupt” occupant of the Oval Office in modern times – and then withdrew that accusation with an apology.

Now Issa has announced that he expects the Oversight committee and its subcommittees to hold nearly three times as many investigative hearings over the next two years as Henry Waxman, an active and successful chairman, ran during the final years of the Bush administration. He may consider the federal government (and the White House) to be bottomless pits of waste, fraud and abuse, but are there really three times as many troubling issues for Issa and his colleagues to study now as there were in the Bush years?

Dean Baker The Wall Street TARP Gang Wants to Take Away Your Social Security

Just over two years ago, the Wall Streeters were running around Congress and the media saying that if they don’t immediately get $700 billion the world will end. Since they own large chunks of both, they quickly got their money.

Even more important than the hundreds of billions of loans issued through the TARP was the trillions of dollars of loans and guarantees from the Fed and the FDIC. This money came with virtually no strings attached. . . .

The thing about Wall Streeters is that no matter how much money you give them, they always want more. Now they are using their political power and control over the media to attack Social Security.

This effort is being led by billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson. Mr. Peterson has personally profited to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from the “fund managers’ tax subsidy,” an obscure provision of the tax code that allows billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than schoolteachers and firefighters. However, Peterson believes in giving back. He has committed $1 billion to an effort that is intended to take away the Social Security benefits that people have worked and paid for.

Jane Slaughter : Billionaire Launches Campaign to Slash Social Security

Why does a billionaire want to take away your Social Security benefits?

Peter Peterson is 84 years old. He’s old enough to relax and enjoy the fruits of the years he was well paid for managing other rich people’s money. Why is he spending his fortune to convince politicians they should ruin the average guy’s retirement?

Today Peterson announced the next facet in his long campaign to hack Social Security, including a joke Presidential candidate named Hugh Jidette (“huge debt”) and a website called Owe No. His aim is to convince Congress to raise the retirement age, cut Social Security’s cost-of-living increases-and raise the payroll taxes we pay for Social Security and Medicare.

It wouldn’t matter what one cranky octogenarian billionaire had to say if he weren’t putting $6 million into ads, funding “expert” commissions, and spreading lies designed to panic the populace.

Maybe Peterson figures offense is better than defense-he’s got a lot to defend. He made his fortune as a hedge fund manager-that is, moving money around-so he ought to be living in fear. Someone might get the idea he and his buddies would be good folks to tax. It’s like Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber, once said. Asked why he robbed banks, Sutton replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Peterson and pals are the ones George Bush gifted with big tax breaks that are set to expire December 31. Although he says his top priority is reducing the deficit, Peterson doesn’t want to cut that deficit by putting his own taxes back where they were in the 1990s.

Dana Milbank: Bill O’Reilly’s threats

On Thursday night, the Fox News host asked, as part of a show that would be seen by 5.5 million people: “Does sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?” He then added, “That was a joke.”

Hilarious! Decapitation jokes just slay me, and this one had all the more hilarity because the topic of journalist beheadings brings to mind my late friend and colleague Danny Pearl, who replaced me in the Wall Street Journal’s London bureau and later was murdered in Pakistan by people who thought sharia justified it. . . .

O’Reilly has every right to quarrel with my opinion or question my accuracy. But why resort to intimidation and violent imagery? I don’t believe O’Reilly really wants to sever my head, but if only one of his millions of viewers interprets his message otherwise, that’s still a problem for me. Already, Beck fans have been accused of a police killing, threatening to kill a senator and having a highway shootout en route to an alleged attack on liberal groups.

Let’s drop the thuggish tactics – before more people get hurt.

Robert Sheer: The Life and Times of Bush the Clueless

It takes a Harvard MBA to raze an economy. Perhaps that is too narrow a judgment given that a law degree from that institution or from Yale University seems to serve as well. But the Harvard MBA is the degree that George W. Bush and his last treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, had in common, and their shared ignorance as they presided over the collapse of the U.S. economy is on full display in the former president’s newly published memoir.

Bush makes clear that the economic crisis came late to his attention and that it was not until March of 2008, as the Wall Street investment firm Bear Stearns was tottering, that it dawned on him that something was seriously amiss:

I was surprised by the sudden crisis. My focus had been kitchen-table economic issues like jobs and inflation. I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies.” He assumed that because he had signed off on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act “[i]n response to the Enron accounting fraud and other corporate scandals.

It is instructive that this is the only reference in the memoir to Enron, a company headed by his old friend Ken “Kenny Boy” Lay, who chaired Bush’s presidential campaign finance committee the year before Enron collapsed. The grief caused by Enron’s contrived electrical blackouts and the lost jobs and savings following its collapse did not make for one of the “Decision Points” worthy of examination by Bush in his book of that title. Had he done so he might have discovered that the primary problem with Enron was not its fraudulent accounting but rather the wild trading practices in derivatives and other suspect financial gimmicks that had brought the company to its knees and which the accounting trickery was designed to conceal.

Ira Glasser: Calling the Republican Bluff

The Republicans have increased their power by advocating for lowering the deficit, lowering taxes and, ostensibly, increasing jobs. But there is no way they can deliver all three. They can’t even deliver two of the three. . . .

Given what the Republicans say they want to do, they have no capacity to lead us out of this dilemma, no matter how many elections they win with their campaigns of disinformation. President Obama should not be reaching out to them, he should be charting a different path and articulating a different vision. If he will not lead us along a different path at this critical moment, and the Republicans can’t, then who will?

David Fiderer: The Bush Tax Cuts and the Republican Cult of Economic Failure

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as an honest case for extending the Bush tax cuts. Ten years of hard data prove they were a complete failure. They did not work while Bush was in office and they did not work during the first two years of the Obama administration. No wonder the Congressional Budget Office says that the GOP’s proposed extension of tax cuts to the rich will reduce future economic growth.

Bush’s failure was masked by a sleazy accounting trick that Bill Clinton had tried to stop in 1999, when the government’s operations approached break-even.

The Social Security surplus is supposed to be invested in Treasuries, which generate compound interest to build up a nest egg for the day when baby boomers start retiring. Of course a real Treasury instrument is a legal promise to pay. So Bush took the cash paid out by you, me and our employers into the Social Security “Trust Fund” and used it to reduce his current operating deficits. Instead of exchanging the cash for real Treasuries, the Trust Fund bought “Special Treasuries,” which the government can change at will. USA Today said it best:

The Bush administration opposes including Social Security and Medicare in the audited deficit. Its reason: Congress can cancel or cut the retirement programs at any time, so they should not be considered a government liability for accounting purposes.

Scam artists like Mitch McConnell justify their talk about “reforming” Social Security by pointing to “unfunded liabilities.” This nonsense about unfunded obligations is one of the biggest frauds of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Social Security was funded by you, me and our employers. Bush took the surplus funds and used them to subsidize his failed tax policies. The Trust Fund’s liabilities are unfunded for one reason and one reason only: Bush, more than any other President, defunded them. Because Republican politicians can’t handle the truth, they cry out, “Class warfare!” But all their screaming cannot alter the immutable rules of simple arithmetic. Now they want to double down on their past failures.

1 comment

  1. TMC

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