Jul 07 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”.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Washington Dysfunction: A Scorecard

Here’s why getting to a deal on the debt ceiling is so complicated.

   President Obama’s main goal is to get through this fight with the government still running and his support from the political center intact, even if this means substantial concessions to Republicans.

   House Republican leaders want to get by without inciting a revolt among right-wing tea partiers, which means they’re having trouble accepting Obama’s concessions.

   And the Senate-well, the Senate resembles the Balkans without a peacekeeping force. Poor Harry Reid. The Democratic leader’s caucus sprawls from ardent progressives to moderates from conservative states absolutely petrified of casting votes that might endanger their seats in 2012. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell senses that a GOP majority is just around the corner, and wouldn’t mind dragging this struggle out.

Robert Sheer: The Tea Party and Goldman Sachs: A Love Story

Face it. We live in two nations, sharply divided by an enormous economic chasm between the super-rich and everyone else. This should be an obvious fact of life for most Americans. Just read the story in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal headlined “Profits Thrive in Weak Recovery.” Or the recent New York Times story pointing out “that the median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million,” a 23 percent gain over the year before.

In the midst of a jobless recovery, those same corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in reserves, refusing to invest in this country, as increasing percentages of their profits are garnered in tax-sheltered operations abroad. And the bankers who caused the economic meltdown have turned against President Barack Obama, who saved them; instead they favor a tea-party-dominated Republican Party that seeks to limit any restraint on corporate greed while destroying the ability of state and federal governments to bring some measure of relief to ordinary folk.

New York Times Editorial: Fumbling Toward Default

An outright default by Greece on nearly a half-trillion dollars of outstanding debt obligations would be a catastrophe for Greece, for its European creditor banks and for financial institutions everywhere as credit-default swaps on Greek debt worked their way through the derivatives markets. It does not need to happen, but barring an unexpected show of European political and economic leadership, that outcome is becoming increasingly likely.

The latest chapter in the sorry saga was written over the past week. At the insistence of European political leaders, Greece’s governing Socialists voted to apply another dose of growth-killing austerity to the country’s nearly inert economy. Austerity measures in the past have done more harm than good, but threatened with a cutoff of needed European loans, the Socialists saw no other responsible course. (Opposition conservatives ignored European pressures and voted no.)

David Cay Johnston: A Cosmic Visitor’s Take on Taxes

It is a human tendency to assume the world we are born into is as it should be — a Panglossian assumption that colors our understanding of the abstract, like tax policy.

To get grounded in what is, without assuming it is natural, let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine you are a researcher from a distant planet, part of a team sent to stealthily observe and report your findings. Telemetry has revealed the watery and volcanic nature of our planet, so you focus on the organized activities of Earth’s top sentients. Your protocol requires you to identify the biggest common enterprises first and then work your way down.

So what would lead your report? What is the biggest human enterprise? Industry? Digital activity? Military? Healthcare? Food production? No, the biggest enterprise, by far, is tax.

Nicholas D. Kristoff: Taxes and Billionaires

The House speaker, John Boehner, suggests that the Republican threat of letting the United States default on its debts is driven by concern for jobs for ordinary Americans.

“We cannot miss this opportunity,” he told Fox News. “If we want jobs to come to America, we’ve got to give American businesspeople the confidence to invest in our economy.”

So take a look at one of the tax loopholes that Congressional Republicans are refusing to close – even if the cost is that America’s credit rating blows up. This loophole has nothing to do with creating jobs and everything to do with protecting some of America’s wealthiest financiers.

David Sirota: Progressives Were Right: Obama’s Health Plan Not Solving Crisis

New Data Show Why Simply Having Insurance Isn’t Enough

 While the contest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination is already revolving around conservative-themed attacks on “Obamacare,” back when the healthcare bill was being legislated, the most important debate was within the Democratic Party, which held large majorities in both houses of Congress. On one side were the drug companies, the insurance companies and President Obama — the latter who had not only disowned his prior support of single-payer healthcare but had also worked with his corporate allies to actively undermine a modest public insurance option. On the other side were progressives who opposed any bill which further cemented the private insurance industry as the primary mediator between doctors and patients.

Ultimately, Obama and his corporate-backed allies organized enough conservative Democrats in Congress to win, effectively turning healthcare “reform” into a blank-check TARP-style bailout for the health industry. But, of course, to even whisper that last truism is to now run the risk of being labeled a blasphemer in a conversation that can only tolerate misleading red-versus-blue analyses. In today’s national political debate, there are Republicans who insist “Obamacare” is a Canadian-style “takeover” of America’s healthcare system, and there are Democrats who insist that the health bill is a major Medicare-like achievement — any other argument, no matter how valid, has been vaporized by election-season pressure to fall in ideological line

Jim Hightower: Massey Energy’s Manmade Hellhole

In March of last year, Massey Energy Corp.’s official record book for recording unsafe conditions in its Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia said flatly: “none observed.” It turns out that this was a flat-out lie. Just one month later, Upper Big Branch exploded, killing 29 miners and devastating their families.

Massey’s in-house “observers” had indeed found safety problems – as they often did in this shoddily run, notoriously dangerous mine. But the corporation kept a dual set of books in order to mislead state and federal safety regulators.

The official record book, which Massey and all other coal giants are required to keep for review by government inspectors, is filled with such rosy reports as “none observed.” But the true dangers at Upper Big Branch and other Massey mines have been secretly recorded in a set of internal books that executives kept sealed in the corporate closet.

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