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: Why the Lame Duck Congress Must Extend Jobless Benefits For Hard-hit Families But Not Tax Cuts For the Rich

America’s long-term unemployed – an estimated 4 million or more – constitute the single newest and biggest social problem facing America.

Now their unemployment benefits are about to run out, and the lame-duck Congress may not have the votes to extend them. (You can forget about the next Congress.)

The long-term unemployed can’t get work because there are still five people needing work for every job opening. And the long-term jobless are often at the end of the job line: Either they don’t have the right skills or enough eduction, or have been out of work so long prospective employers are nervous about hiring them.

They’re also a big problem for the economy. Without enough money in their pockets, they and their families can’t pay their mortgages, which keeps fueling the mortgage crisis. Nor can they replace worn-out cars and clothing, or buy muchof anything else, which is a drag on the economy.

Republicans and many blue-dog Dems say we can’t afford another extension.

But these are many of the same people who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for at least another two years.

Nicholas D. Kristof: A Hedge Fund Republic?

Earlier this month, I offended a number of readers with a column suggesting that if you want to see rapacious income inequality, you no longer need to visit a banana republic. You can just look around.

My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.

That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.

You see, some Latin Americans were indignant at what they saw as an invidious and hurtful comparison. The truth is that Latin America has matured and become more equal in recent decades, even as the distribution in the United States has become steadily more unequal.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Is the Tea Party out to banish Bush-style conservatism?

Will the Tea Party sell out for a mess of pottage in the form of a ban on earmarks?

That’s one possibility. But another is that this embrace of a purely symbolic approach to deficit reduction is a sign that the Tea Party’s central goals may lie elsewhere – in an effort to push the Republican Party away from those aspects of George W. Bush’s legacy that tried to steer the conservative movement in a new direction. The real point may be to get the GOP to say goodbye to the idea of a compassionate conservatism and to Bush’s peculiar but real brand of multiculturalism.

It was entertaining to watch Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly capitulate to the Tea Party by supporting a two-year ban on requests for earmarks from his chamber’s Republicans.

David Ignatius: Why is Congress protecting a tax code that benefits the rich?

It’s a strange populism that denounces Wall Street in one breath and, in the next, shouts down tax changes that would treat the financiers’ incomes like those of everyday folks.

But that pro-billionaire version of populism seems to have won big in the midterm elections. And it probably means the demise of a congressional effort to strike down one of the most outrageous provisions of our messed-up tax code, which is the special treatment of “carried-interest” compensation that’s paid to many investment fund managers.

This loophole is so unfair that it gets criticized even by some of the tycoons who have benefited from it, such as former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin and other prominent investors I’ve queried. Basically, it taxes the money paid to managers of private-equity funds and similar partnerships at 15 percent, as if it were risk capital, rather than at ordinary income rates of 35 percent. (I’m assuming that the neopopulist Congress will balk at letting that rate rise to its old, pre-Bush level of 38 percent.)

Timothy Egan: The Tao of Moonbeam

In choosing the oldest man ever to run the young state of California, voters decided that a grumpy penny-pincher is just what they need at a time when the state is so broke it cannot fix park benches or investigate burglaries.

Jerry Brown – welcome back! The man who eschewed the governor’s mansion to sleep on a mattress on his apartment floor when he ran California a long generation ago should feel right at home in the poorhouse of Sacramento 2010. Here’s what your outgoing governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had to say while trying to keep the lights on and foreclosure buzzards at bay:

“Our wallet is empty. Our bank is closed. Our credit is dried up.”

The only thing not in short supply, it seems, is California schadenfreude. The Golden State has become the American France – everyone professes to despise it, but loves to go there.

Robert Scheer: The Man Who Shattered Our Economy

Rejoice, the housing market is back. Sandy Weill just picked up a humdinger of a wine vineyard estate in Sonoma, Calif., for a record $31 million, so the foreclosure crisis-which the former CEO of Citigroup did so much to create when he successfully lobbied then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on radical deregulation of the banking industry-must be over.

After all, Weill wasn’t desperate for shelter, already being in possession of a 14-acre estate in über-exclusive Greenwich, Conn., and a 120-acre spread in New York state’s Adirondacks. Let’s also not forget the penthouse that he bought for $42.4 million in New York City in 2007 as the banking collapse he helped engineer was fast developing. Not too shabby for a guy who ran Citigroup into the ground by trafficking in what proved to be toxic mortgage-based securities.  

Joe Conason: The Earmark Sideshow

Bullying Republican Senate leaders into a “voluntary” ban on earmarks may represent a political triumph for the tea party movement, but as a measure to reduce the federal deficit it is a meaningless substitute for real action. The facts about earmarks-and the deficit, for that matter-are so simple that even the dumbest birther should be able to understand.

Funds directed to specific projects by legislators-which is what earmarks are-account for around 1 percent of any annual budget, so they represent far too little money to substantially reduce the budget. Besides, banning earmarks won’t reduce the budget (or the deficit) anyway, because they are drawn from funds that have already been appropriated.

So much for that sideshow, a cynical exercise whose only conceivable purpose is to deceive voters. How would serious people try to reduce the deficit? First, it is essential to understand how and why the deficit grew in the first place.

It isn’t the stimulus, stupid. And it isn’t the bailouts either.

Ruth Marcus: La Vie en Denial

It was, or so I thought, a dandy column idea: an imaginary, missing chapter of George W. Bush’s “Decision Points,” in which the former president would admit to having made the wrong call on taxes.

The imaginary but completely delusional: My inner Bush would not regret pushing for the tax cuts. But he would acknowledge-how hard could this be?-that Alan Greenspan was right when he suggested a trigger mechanism to cancel the cuts if the promised surplus failed to materialize.

If only …

Of course, that surplus was a mirage. Rather than presiding over erasure of the publicly held national debt, Bush watched it grow from $5.6 trillion to nearly $10 trillion.

Like the surplus, my quasi-apologetic chapter evaporated in the face of reality. I read “Decision Points” and it turns out that Bush is the Edith Piaf of fiscal policy: He regrets nothing.


    • on 11/18/2010 at 18:25
    • on 11/18/2010 at 19:17

    What a gem from Nicholas D.

    That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.

    And Robert Scheer may have done a disservice to Bill Clinton. If these wiki numbers for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act are accurate, Senate 90-8 and the House voting 362-57, then old Sandy Weill had a shit load of so called representatives in his pocket.  

    I’ll never forget a day on the Precor in a NYSC watching CNBC and Sandy Weill was being interviewed. Asked about the fact that Citibank and Travelers had merged illegally he said “Congress is moving slowly but we will fix that by the actual merger date.”  

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