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Nov 17 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”.

Michael Moore: Let’s Pass Some Laws Before the Republicans Head Into Town

Dear Congressional Democrats:

Welcome back to our nation’s capital for your one final session of the 111th Congress. Come January, the Republicans will take over the House while the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.

But Dems — here’s something I don’t understand: Why do you look all sullen and depressed? Clearly you’re not aware of one very important fact: you are still completely, totally, legally in charge! When (and if, mostly if) you wake up to the reality that you can do whatever you want for the next seven weeks, you will realize that you have two clear options:

1. You can continue your “Sit Quietly and Hope No One Hits Me” strategy and thus lay the groundwork for an even bigger ass-kicking two years from now;

Or…

2. You can actually use the power you hold for the next seven weeks and have the Senate pass the legislation that the House has already passed!

Paul Krugman: At the Federal Reserve, It’s Lonely at the Top

What I would do if I were in charge of the Fed is the same thing I suggested that Japanese officials do in 1998: announce a fairly high inflation target over an extended period and commit to meeting that target. As I have said before, when you’re up against the zero lower bound, it doesn’t matter how much money you print unless you credibly promise higher inflation.

What does this mean? Let’s say the Fed commits to achieving 5 percent annual inflation over the next five years – or, perhaps better, to hitting a price level 28 percent higher at the end of 2015 than today’s level. Crucially, this target cannot be called off if the economy recovers. Why? Because the point is to change expectations, and that means locking in the price rise.

The sad truth is, of course, that the chances of our achieving anything like this are no better than those for implementing an adequate fiscal stimulus – at least for now.

At best, the limited quantitative easing that was just announced will only provide mild mitigation of the country’s current problems. Perhaps when the reality that the United States is caught in a liquidity trap sinks in – as the fact that we’re doing worse than Japan starts to finally penetrate our arrogance (amazing how long that’s taking) – we will eventually get there.

But it is not likely to happen soon.

Jane Hamsher: Investigate the TSA, Not Tyner

The TSA is opening an investigation targeting John Tyner, the man who earned himself an aggressive “pat down” at the airport when he refused to go through the TSA’s new AIT “porno scanners.”

But it’s the TSA that should be investigated, not Tyner.

Tyner was now allowed board his flight after he refused to allow himself to be groped, and now he could face both prosecution and a fine of $11,000.

But his real crime was making the “don’t touch my junk” video showing exactly what happened during his encounter with the TSA, which sparked a public backlash.

Jon Walker: Where are the “Obama Tax Cuts?”

Why didn’t the White House draft up a new tax law, with a few minor changes, that permanently extended the current tax rate for people making less than $250,000, and label that the “Obama tax cut.” By making a few small modifications, they could even have slightly reduced some tax rates for the middle class. This would allow the White House to legitimately claim the “Obama tax cuts” are not just an extension of the “Bush tax cuts,” they are, in fact, better!

Christopher Phelps: The Democrats’ Problem Was Not Overreach

The consensus in Washington and the mainstream news media is that last week’s election represents the repudiation of the Obama administration and its policies, which tilted much too far to the left.

“A nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government” is how George Will put it in The Washington Post. “We were too deferential to our most zealous supporters,” wrote the departing Senate Democrat Evan Bayh, of Indiana, in The New York Times.

That analysis is fundamentally mistaken. It misreads the will of a variegated electorate that sought above all to register profound discontent with the state of the economy. It mischaracterizes the Democrats’ policies. And it has given both parties a new zest for fiscal austerity that may cut short the economic recovery and further damage the prospects of the very working-class voters who cast their midterm ballots in desperation for jobs.

David Gans: Antonin Scalia — The Tea Party’s Court Justice

It’s rare to see a sitting Supreme Court Justice call for repeal of parts of our Constitution, but that’s what in fact happened last week when Justice Antonin Scalia took a page from the Tea Party playbook and urged a return to the document as it was first written. Calling the framing of the Constitution by the Founders of America “providential,” Justice Scalia argued that we should “change it back to what they wrote” and specifically called for repealing the Seventeenth Amendment. Giving Americans the right to vote for Senators in the Seventeenth Amendment, Scalia argued, was a mistaken “burst of progressivism in 1913, and you can trace the decline of so-called states’ rights throughout the rest of the 20th century. So, don’t mess with the Constitution.” Apparently, for Justice Scalia, Americans who used the Article V amendment process the Framers of the Constitution provided in order to make the Constitution a better, more just document — such as by insisting on more democracy for all Americans in the Seventeenth Amendment — were “mess[ing] with the Constitution.”

In siding with the Founders’ Constitution (even though this “providential” document, among other things, sanctioned slavery) over the document that exists today, Justice Scalia ignores the reasons why we actually have the Seventeenth Amendment. As described in detail here, the election of Senators by state legislatures — the process provided in the Constitution as first written — led to rampant and blatant corruption, letting corporations and other moneyed interests effectively “buy” U.S. Senators, and tied state legislatures up in numerous, lengthy deadlocks over whom to send to Washington. In fact, although Justice Scalia decries the Seventeenth Amendment as precipitating an alleged decline in “states’ rights,” the states themselves were instrumental in securing the approval and ratification of that Amendment. For someone so well versed in the Constitution’s history, Justice Scalia got the history here dead wrong.

Matthew Rothschild: Bush Can’t Travel Abroad Without Risking Arrest

George W. Bush better stay at home.

The confessed waterboarder is a marked man. If he travels abroad, other countries can-and should-nab him and try him for the crime of torture.

In his memoir and in last week’s NBC interview, Bush acknowledged ordering waterboarding.

He says the lawyers told him it wasn’t torture. But he got bad legal advice. . . .

Under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, countries that have ratified the accords have a binding obligation to exercise jurisdiction over those accused of grave breaches. (See “Stripping Rumsfeld and Bush of Impunity,”)

So if I were Bush (and what a horrifying thought that is!), I’d cancel those plans to visit Spain or Germany or any other country where some prosecutor, somewhere, respects international law.

Sen. Dick Luger: Eliminating Earmarks Cuts No Spending

I made the following statement today regarding the Senate Republican Conference voluntary moratorium banning earmarks.



I oppose the Senate Republican Conference voluntary moratorium on so-called “earmarks.” At a moment in which over-spending by the Federal government perpetuates annual deficits of over $1 trillion a year, the Congress is being asked to debate a Congressional earmark spending resolution which will save no money even while giving the impression that the Congress is attempting to meet the public demand to reduce spending.

Instead of surrendering Constitutional authority to Washington bureaucrats and the Obama Administration, Congress should focus on reducing spending on both entitlement and discretionary spending programs. Providing the Obama Administration with greater authority to direct spending does not accomplish this goal, and eliminating earmarks does not reduce spending.

The Constitution explicitly states that it is the responsibility of Congress to make decisions on the appropriation of federal taxpayer funds. Earmarks should be considered and treated like amendments to any underlying spending bill. Members should have the opportunity to offer earmarks, review them, and offer motions to strike or modify them. And each of these steps — from the committee process, to the floor, to the conference committee — should take place in an absolute transparent and deliberate manner and be publicly disclosed at each step along the way with a final public up or down vote.

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