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Jul 11 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”.

Paul Krugman: No, We Can’t? Or Won’t?

If you were shocked by Friday’s job report, if you thought we were doing well and were taken aback by the bad news, you haven’t been paying attention. The fact is, the United States economy has been stuck in a rut for a year and a half.

Yet a destructive passivity has overtaken our discourse. Turn on your TV and you’ll see some self-satisfied pundit declaring that nothing much can be done about the economy’s short-run problems (reminder: this “short run” is now in its fourth year), that we should focus on the long run instead.

This gets things exactly wrong. The truth is that creating jobs in a depressed economy is something government could and should be doing. Yes, there are huge political obstacles to action – notably, the fact that the House is controlled by a party that benefits from the economy’s weakness. But political gridlock should not be conflated with economic reality.

Paul Rosenberg:

As things stand today, the US is hurtling toward a budget showdown in less than a month. Either President Obama will once again capitulate to extreme Republican budget-slashing demands, making Democrats seem as much of a threat to Medicare as Republicans, and virtually ensuring a GOP electoral sweep in 2012, or the US will default on its debt for the first time in its history, most likely plunging the world economy back into another five-continent recession, also costing Democrats the 2012 elections. These are the options left for a president and a political class completely divorced both from reality, and its own history of how one of the three greatest US presidents of all time steered the country from the brink of collapse eight decades ago

Entirely forgetting the real history of how Franklin D Roosevelt used activist government to save American capitalism from itself, the entire US political establishment is instead hypnotized by the false history woven around its most over-hyped president of all time: Ronald Reagan. Idolatry of Reagan’s supposed tax-cutting wonders propels the now widespread economic belief that up is down, that cutting government spending is the way out of – rather than into – a severe recession. At the same time, idolatry of Reagan’s supposed political wonders propels GOP extremists to ignore all other considerations.

Joseph E. Stiglitz: The Evils of Unregulated Capitalism

Just a few years ago, a powerful ideology – the belief in free and unfettered markets – brought the world to the brink of ruin. Even in its hey-day, from the early 1980s until 2007, US-style deregulated capitalism brought greater material well-being only to the very richest in the richest country of the world.

Indeed, over the course of this ideology’s 30-year ascendance, most Americans saw their incomes decline or stagnate year after year.

Moreover, output growth in the United States was not economically sustainable. With so much of US national income going to so few, growth could continue only through consumption financed by a mounting pile of debt.

I was among those who hoped that, somehow, the financial crisis would teach Americans (and others) a lesson about the need for greater equality, stronger regulation, and a better balance between the market and government.

Alas, that has not been the case.

Eugen Robinson: A little more revenue could go a long way

Do progressives care about reducing the national debt? Of course they do, no matter what the White House might believe.

“We think that obviously there are some Democrats who don’t feel as strongly about deficit reduction as [President Obama] does,” senior adviser David Plouffe said Wednesday at a breakfast with reporters and columnists. But that’s not obvious at all. It isn’t even true.

There’s no dispute about where we need to go. The question is what path to take.

Clearly, the federal government cannot continue spending at a rate of 25 percent of gross domestic product while taking in revenue that equals less than 15 percent of GDP, as is the case this year. We would reach the point where debt service crowds out health care, education and other priorities dear to progressives’ hearts. Major investments the nation desperately needs to make – for infrastructure and energy research, for example – would be impossible. Decline would be inevitable.

Steven J. D’Amico: Trade Deals are No Deal for US

LONG BEFORE 2008, when Wall Street’s unchecked greed brought the world’s economy to its knees, we in the middle class could feel our future slipping away. We knew that we were working longer and harder – we could see that even with two salaries, most families had less disposable income than families did in the 1960s and ’70s when one income was the norm. We knew that good quality jobs were harder to find and hold. And we knew that a big reason we were falling behind was a flawed trade policy that shipped many of our jobs overseas.

Yet even after losing 682,000 jobs to NAFTA since it took effect in 1994, and 2.4 million to China since it joined the World Trade Organization, Washington continues in its blind faith that somehow these trade deals are good for us. This summer Congress is expected to take up three new trade deals – with Korea, Panama, and Colombia. These trade pacts are bad for American workers, bad for our domestic economy, and bad for democracy.

New York Times: An Aggressive Ruling on Clean Air

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued a welcome and overdue rule compelling power plants in 27 states and the District of Columbia to reduce smokestack emissions that pollute the air and poison forests, lakes and streams across the eastern United States. The regulation reflects the E.P.A.’s determination to carry out its mandates under the Clean Air Act despite fierce Congressional opposition, and bodes well for progress on a host of other regulatory challenges the agency faces.

The rule, which takes effect in 2012, would cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain, and nitrogen oxide, a component of smog, by more than half by 2014 compared with 2005 levels. The E.P.A. administrator, Lisa Jackson, said the rule would improve air quality for 240 million Americans in the states where the pollution is produced and in areas downwind.

Caroline Arnold: How Much Blame Do We Share for Our Leaders’ Failures?

Six years ago, in the wake of the botched management of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, a friend warned me against blaming Republicans.

I replied flippantly that as an unrepentant progressive, I quite enjoyed blaming Republicans, though I recognized that even the GOP, PNAC, and all their associated think-tanks and trained media rescue-dogs couldn’t have single-handedly created a disaster of that magnitude. I added that if the Republicans had planned Katrina, they probably would have directed it to Ohio. Of course there aren’t any hurricanes in Ohio, but heck, there weren’t any WMDs in Iraq, either.

Another friend who had volunteered in the cleanup of Katrina running a ham radio operation observed that among the agencies and organizations trying to help, the farther up the hierarchy of any institution, public or private, the worse prepared the people were, the more out of touch, the more incompetent, and the more their efforts were downright damaging.

… sounds like The Peter Principle to me. And an interesting corollary would probably be that the higher the hierarchy, the greater the level of incompetence.

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