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Nov 16 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”.

Paul Krugman: The World as He Finds It

On Wednesday David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political adviser, appeared to signal that the White House was ready to cave on tax cuts – to give in to Republican demands that tax cuts be extended for the wealthy as well as the middle class. “We have to deal with the world as we find it,” he declared.  

The White House then tried to walk back what Mr. Axelrod had said. But it was a telling remark, in more ways than one.

The obvious point is the contrast between the administration’s current whipped-dog demeanor and Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric as a candidate. How did we get from “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” to here?

But the bitter irony goes deeper than that: the main reason Mr. Obama finds himself in this situation is that two years ago he was not, in fact, prepared to deal with the world as he was going to find it. And it seems as if he still isn’t.

Bob Herbert: This Raging Fire

When I was a kid my Uncle Robert, for whom I was named, used to say that blacks needed to “fight on all fronts, at home and abroad.”

By that he meant that while it was critically important to fight against racial injustice and oppression, it was just as important to support, nurture and fight on behalf of one’s family and community.

Uncle Robert (my father always called him Jim – don’t ask) died many years ago, but he came to mind as I was going over the dismal information in a new report about the tragic conditions confronting a large portion of America’s black population, especially black males.

The report, titled “A Call for Change,” begins by saying that “the nation’s young black males are in a state of crisis” and describes their condition as “a national catastrophe.” It tells us that black males remain far behind their schoolmates in academic achievement and that they drop out of school at nearly twice the rate of whites.

Black children – boys and girls – are three times more likely to live in single-parent households than white children and twice as likely to live in a home where no parent has full-time or year-round employment.

In 2008, black males were imprisoned at a rate six-and-a-half times higher than white males.

The terrible economic downturn has made it more difficult than ever to douse this raging fire that is consuming the life prospects of so many young blacks, and the growing sentiment in Washington is to do even less to help any Americans in need. It is inconceivable in this atmosphere that blacks themselves will not mobilize in a major way to save these young people. I see no other alternative.

Robert Reich: The Failure of the G-20 Summit

The president emerged Friday from a meeting with the heads of state and finance ministers of the 20 biggest economies, in Seoul, South Korea, saying they had agree to “get the global economy back on the path of recovery.”

But where are the specifics? The three-page communique that also emerged from the session brims with bromides about the importance of “rebalancing” the global economy, “coordinating” policies, and refraining from “competitive devaluations.”

All nice, but not a single word of agreement from China about revaluating the yuan, or from the United States about refraining from further moves by the Fed to flood the U.S. economy with money (thereby reducing interest rates, causing global investors to look elsewhere for higher returns, and lowering the value of the dollar).

Naomi Klein: G20 Trials and the War on Activism

So we are here to raise money.

But more fundamentally, we are here because we know what happened in this city during the G20 and the wrong people are on trial for it.

There are police officers that should be facing charges for assault and harassment — and so should any supervisors who enabled or covered over those abuses.

So far no one in authority has paid any price for what happened. . . . .

But this is not just about the cops. There are also high-level politicians who should be under investigation — for their role in ordering the militarization of our city, for subverting the legislative process to increase police powers, for grossly misappropriating public funds, using them to buy off constituents and grease donors. Tony Clement, we are talking about you.

Fred Hiatt: On Afghanistan, Obama shifts away from July 2011

When it comes to Afghanistan policy, December 2014 is the new July 2011.

It makes sense to push further into the future any talk of the United States stepping back, and the major players have bought in: Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has pushed for the benchmark; the NATO alliance, which is likely to commit to it at a meeting later this week; and President Obama, who will attend the NATO summit in Lisbon.

So far, in fact, you could say that only the American people have yet to be clued in.

Eugene Robinson: Trimming a bloated defense budget

I come not to bury the manifesto issued last week by President Obama’s debt-reduction commission, but to praise the most welcome of its ideas: Slash defense spending along with everything else.

The panel’s co-chairmen, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, identify $100 billion in defense cuts that could be made in 2015. That would be too little and too late, but what’s almost revolutionary is the notion that if we’re ever to get this nation back on sound economic footing, we have to cut what Dwight Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” down to size.

The United States accounts for 46.5 percent of the world’s total defense spending, according to a widely accepted recent estimate. The next-biggest spender is China, which has undertaken an immense buildup to become a military as well as economic superpower – yet accounts for just 6.6 percent of the world’s toThe panel’s co-chairmen, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, identify $100 billion in defense cuts that could be made in 2015. That would be too little and too late, but what’s almost revolutionary is the notion that if we’re ever to get this nation back on sound economic footing, we have to cut what Dwight Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” down to size.

The United States accounts for 46.5 percent of the world’s total defense spending, according to a widely accepted recent estimate. The next-biggest spender is China, which has undertaken an immense buildup to become a military as well as economic superpower – yet accounts for just 6.6 percent of the world’s to

E.J. Dionne Jr.: A lame and spineless duck?

The lame-duck session of Congress that kicks off this week will test whether Democrats have spines made of Play-Doh and whether President Obama has decided to pretend that capitulation is conciliation.

Congress faces an enormous amount of unfinished business, largely because of successful GOP obstruction tactics during the regular session. Republican senators who declare themselves moderate helped block action on important bills, objecting to provisions they didn’t like or to Democratic procedural maneuvers.

Robert Kuttner: What Planet Are Deficit Hawks Living on?

To read the papers and watch TV news during the past week, you would think that the most dire problem afflicting Americans was the federal deficit in 2020 or 2030.

But for most people, the crisis right now is lost income, lost jobs, lost homes.

And the recommendations of the two co-chairs of the fiscal commission would make the prolonged stagnation worse, by commencing belt-tightening less than a year from now, at the beginning is fiscal year 2012 (October 2011) when most economic forecasts say unemployment will still be around ten percent.

The economy is on the brink of a period of prolonged deflation. With the Obama stimulus of February 2009 already starting to peter out, state budgets in free fall, home foreclosures proceeding at the rate of several hundred thousand a month, and job creation too low to cut the unemployment rate, the outlook is for endless slump — unless we get more public investment, not less.

Dean Baker: Aqua Buddha, the Number 21 and the Deficit Commission

At this point most of the country has heard the story of “Aqua Buddha.” According to an anonymous account, during his college days, Kentucky Sen.-elect Rand Paul dragged a woman down to a river and told her to bow down to the river, which he referred to as “Aqua Buddha.” His opponent in the campaign tried to make an issue out of this incident by implying that Paul worshiped the river as a god.

Whatever the truth of this incident, it doesn’t come close to the silliness exhibited by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit commission. Among the items on the to-do list of the chairs was a cap of government spending at 21 percent of GDP. One can only assume that the number 21 bears some sort of religious significance for Simpson and Bowles because it certainly makes no sense to have this sort of rule on policy grounds.

The standard way to determine the size of government is to have the government perform the services that are more efficiently and effectively done by the government than the private sector. If the total value of these services is less than 21 percent of the economy, that would be fine. On the other hand, there is no obvious problem created if it is more than 21 percent, except for those with religious beliefs about the number 21.

1 comment

  1. TMC

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