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Dec 13 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 Block Those Metaphors

Like it or not – and I don’t – the Obama-McConnell tax-cut deal, with its mixture of very bad stuff and sort-of-kind-of good stuff, is likely to pass Congress. Then what?

The deal will, without question, give the economy a short-term boost. The prevailing view, as far as I can tell – and that includes within the Obama administration – is that this short-term boost is all we need. The deal, we’re told, will jump-start the economy; it will give a fragile recovery time to strengthen.

I say, block those metaphors. America’s economy isn’t a stalled car, nor is it an invalid who will soon return to health if he gets a bit more rest. Our problems are longer-term than either metaphor implies.

And bad metaphors make for bad policy. The idea that the economic engine is going to catch or the patient rise from his sickbed any day now encourages policy makers to settle for sloppy, short-term measures when the economy really needs well-designed, sustained support.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: The Specter Haunting Obama

American decline is the specter haunting our politics. This could be President Obama’s undoing – or it could provide him with the opportunity to revive his presidency.

Fear of decline is an old American story. Declinism ran rampant in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Stagflation, the Iranian hostage crisis, anxiety over Japan’s bid for economic dominance and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all seemed to be symbols of a United States no longer in control of its destiny. . . . . .

For Obama, political renewal requires a bold and persistent campaign for national renewal. This would challenge his political opponents. But more important, it would challenge all of us.

Robert Kuttner: Social Security: The Coming Cave-in

If you think the Democratic base is mad at Obama now for making a craven deal with Republicans that continues tax breaks for the richest Americans and adds new ones for their heirs through a big cut in the estate tax, just wait a few weeks until Obama caves on Social Security.

How will this occur? The deficit commission appointed by the President has called for an increase in the retirement age, as well as other cuts in benefits over time. And the deal that Obama made with the Republicans just gave deficit hawks new ammunition by increasing the projected deficit by nearly $900 billion over a decade. Social Security will be in the cross-hairs.

The deficit commission has tried to camouflage these cuts by emphasizing that Social Security benefits for the very poor would not be reduced, and might even be increased. But in the commission’s proposal, the cuts would affect middle-class retirees. Larry Summers, who is stepping down as Obama’s economic chief, has refused to rule out cuts.

Terry Plumb: Congress turns a deaf ear to the poor

Last year, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, caused a stir when he said on the House floor that the Republican alternative to the Democrats’ health care plan had two elements: 1. Don’t get sick; and 2. If you get sick, die quickly.

Some S.C. Republicans apparently don’t care how long it takes people without health insurance to die; they just don’t want to hear about it.

Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, authored a remarkable commentary article that appeared recently in The State newspaper. In his diatribe against federal Medicaid requirements, McConnell wrote: “If the federal money is not enough to cover the expense of any program, it is not enough, and therefore, the program must stop.

“Agencies simply cannot pretend that the money is never ending and continue to spend, incurring a deficit to pay the next year. The obligation of executive branch agencies, as I see it, under the constitution, is first and foremost to the taxpayers of this state and not to bureaucrats in Washington. The 30 pieces of silver that our state received in the form of federal stimulus dollars should not be enough for us to disregard either our constitution or our oaths of office.”

Sam Stein: Howard Dean On Tax Deal: ‘A Short-Term Washington Fix’ Filled With Easy Promises

WASHINGTON — One of the more noteworthy parts of the fallout over the debate on the Bush tax cuts is the opening it has given for progressives to grab the mantle of deficit hawkish-ness and fiscal responsibility.

Getting the nation’s budget in order has always been viewed by liberal-minded economists as a bit of political gimmickry — the type of feel-good line Republicans make with an eye on the ballot boxes, not job reports. But now, as a $900 billion agreement between the president and the GOP is set to be reached on expiring tax cuts, progressives have begun making a similar pitch.

“This is a short-term Washington fix,” former DNC header Howard Dean declared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It does nothing about this biggest long-term threat to America, which is the deficit. I don’t hear Republicans or Democrats talking about the deficit. There is no pain in this agreement. This is the easy way out for everybody, much as everybody is complaining, hooting and hollering, this is an inside-the-beltway fuss and somebody needs to do something about the long-term problems to this country. It is not in this bill.”

Paul Rieckhoff: #SenateFail: How the Senate May Have Doomed DADT (and the Defense Bill Along With it)

So how much does this Senate suck?

A lot. This has definitely been a year of incredible frustration and stagnation in Washington. Without a doubt, it’s the worst I’ve seen it in my short time working as an advocate on Capitol Hill. But in the last week, the inaction and incompetence in Congress was taken to a whole new level. This Senate is so backwards, so ineffective, so lacking in leadership, it’s almost hard to put it into words. Unless you use a term that comes from the military: FUBAR.

The Senate has been so FUBAR in the lame duck that they failed to make progress on some of the most important, defining, urgent issues facing our nation – within one action-packed, C-Span-dominated, frenzy of partisanship, selfishness and petty posturing. And in the end, our fearful leaders in Washington have not only failed to produce a result on taxes, but also “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” The Defense Bill, and even support for heroes who dug through rubble with their bare hands to save lives at Ground Zero after 9/11. (As a first responder myself, I feel obliged to post the names of the 42 Senators who made sure that support didn’t come through this year.) If Senator Reid and Senator McConnell don’t turn things around and make tremendous progress in the short weeks left before the end of the year, the legacy of the 111th Congress will be defined by one Twitter hashtag: #SenateFail.

Moshe Adler: Low Taxes Are the Problem, Not the Solution

“Every economist that I’ve talked to … acknowledges that this [tax] agreement would boost economic growth in the coming years and has the potential to create millions of jobs,” President Barack Obama said this week. But if low taxes are the solution, this must mean that high taxes are the problem. Yet the Bush tax cuts are already in effect; taxes are therefore low already, and the unemployment rate is nevertheless close to the same level that it was at a year ago and has risen in the last month. Nor did the Bush tax cuts boost the economy after they were passed in 2003, their name-“The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Act”-notwithstanding. In fact, the evidence shows that tax policies alone have no effect on the state of the economy. What is the problem, then?

The problem is that the level of uncertainty in the economy is so high that investors and entrepreneurs-not buyers and sellers of stocks on Wall Street but actual investors who build or expand places of work and install new pieces of equipment and machinery in them-have lost confidence in their own ability to predict what a good investment will be. With such uncertainty, it is no wonder that investors are not borrowing and that banks are not lending.

If uncertainty and a low level of investment are the problem, what is the solution? The current uncertainty in the economy was brought about by the subprime crisis, and there is little that the government can do to decrease it. But there is a lot that the government can do to increase uncertainty, and President Obama and the Republicans are doing it all.

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