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Apr 26 2011

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”

Dean Baker: The Battle Is Over Money, Not Philosophy

Ever since House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan put out his proposal for voucherizing Medicare we have seen a steady drumbeat of stories telling us that this is a battle over the size and role of government. This is not true. It is a battle over money.

This point is important because there are very few people in this country who are interested in debates over philosophy. Insofar as they do give it any thought, most people will say that they prefer small government over big government. They want to see government play a less intrusive role in our lives.

There are probably less than a hundred people in the entire country who support “big government” as a matter of principle. Unfortunately, most of them write columns in major national papers.

Eugene Robinson: The word most politicians ignore: Jobs

What is it about the word “jobs” that our nation’s leaders fail to understand? How has the most painful economic crisis in decades somehow escaped their notice? Why do they ignore the issues that Americans care most desperately about?

Listening to the debate in Washington, you’d think the nation was absorbed by the compelling saga of deficit reduction. You’d get the impression that in households across America, parents put their children to bed and then stay up half the night sifting through piles of think-tank reports on the kitchen table, trying to calculate whether there will be enough in the Social Security trust fund to pay benefits beyond 2037.

And you’d be wrong. Those parents are looking at a pile of bills on the kitchen table, trying to decide which ones have to be paid now and which can slide. The question isn’t how to manage health care or retirement costs two decades from now. It’s how the family can make it to the end of the month.

Bruce Fein: A Choice Between Honor and Ignominy

Vice President Joe Biden is an honorable man.

It is not that he loves the Constitution less, but that he adores political power more, which explains his tacit endorsement of President Barack Obama’s usurpation of the exclusive congressional power to commence war. In Reid v. Covert, the Supreme Court declared that treaties and laws enacted pursuant to them must comply with the provisions of the Constitution.

Last March 19, President Obama initiated war against Libya without congressional authorization as mandated by Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution (“the War Clause”). Moreover, the president proclaimed that the White House is empowered to unilaterally commence war not only to play Good Samaritan to the Milky Way, but also to advance “regional stability” or the “credibility” of the United Nations Security Council. That unprecedented principle would justify endless presidential wars anywhere, including South Ossetia, Chechnya, Tibet, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kashmir, the South China Sea, etc. Unless repudiated by the political leadership of the United States, the principle will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for invocation by some future self-deified Caligula to justify martial law.

Robert Auerbach: Bernanke’s Press Conferences Will Not Remedy the Fed’s Corrupt and Deceptive Public Records Policies

Chairman Ben Bernanke’s public press conferences are intended to open the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, to needed public sunlight. Bernanke may well dodge any questions on Fed policies, the only policies the Fed has authority to alter. He will be eager to talk about fiscal and budget policy over which the Fed has no direct control except for Fed loans. Some of these loans were forced into public view by the recent Fed audit required under the 2010 Chris Dodd-Barney Frank Act.

What is needed is a complete record of the discussions at the Fed meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee, FOMC (12 members), and its Board of Governors (7 governors when all seats are filled). These unelected officials determine the size of the nation’s money supply and the payment of billions of dollars of interest to private sector banks that currently (4/20/2011) hold $1.486 trillion in reserves at the Fed. Bernanke has said he may raise the rate of interest on these reserves, as he will be forced to do if market interest rates rise.

John Nichols: As Congressional GOP Faces Voter Anger at Town Meetings, Senator Urges Hiding Out in DC

Polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to GOP proposals to start hacking away at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to cut deficits, Instead, voters favor raising taxes on the wealthy.

How overwhelmingly?

Eighty percent of Americans oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll. Just 18 percent agree with approach approved by most House Republicans.

In contrast, 64 percent of Americans back using tax hikes for the rich to balance budgets, while just 33 percent oppose.

But voters aren’t just telling it to the pollsters. They are telling it to Republican members of the House and Senate.

George Zornick: With Economy as a Hostage, the GOP Presents Extreme Demands

The standoff du jour in Washington is about a vote to raise the federal debt ceiling. Democrats and the White House insist it must be done-as does Wall Street-while fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists are demanding serious concessions, and in some cases, an unconditional “no” vote. As the conversation reaches a crescendo, it’s useful to take a quick look at what the debt ceiling actually is, and what forces are at play in the debate.

When the United States needs to borrow money, the Treasury Department issues bonds in order to pay for the deficit spending. Before 1917, Congress had to approve this borrowing every time it happened, but World War I created a need for more flexibility and lawmakers gave the federal government unchecked borrowing powers, provided the total amount was less than a certain limit.

Congress now needs to approve any borrowing past the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, which the United States will reach “no later” than May 16, according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. If Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the government would have to stop spending-including stopping interest payments on those Treasury bonds, meaning that the United States would effectively default on its debt.

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