“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”.
Eugene Robinson: Something to Squawk About
Washington has many lazy habits, and one of the worst is a reflexive tendency to see equivalence where none exists. Hence the nonsense, being peddled by politicians and commentators who should know better, that “both sides” are equally at fault in the deadlocked talks over the debt ceiling.
This is patently false. The truth is that Democrats have made clear they are open to a compromise deal on budget cuts and revenue increases. Republicans have made clear they are not.
Put another way, Democrats reacted to the “grand bargain” proposed by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner by squawking, complaining and highlighting elements they didn’t like. This is known throughout the world as the way to begin a process of negotiation.
Republicans, by contrast, answered with a definitive “no” and then covered their ears. Given the looming Aug. 2 deadline for default if the debt ceiling is not raised, the proper term for this approach is blackmail.
John Nichols: If Obama Hikes Medicare Eligibility Age, That Will Be A Twelve Percent Benefit Cut
The word in Washington is that President Obama has, in negotiations with congressional Republicans, offered to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.
A report in the Washington Post quoted “a Democratic official familiar with the discussions,” while other media outlets quoted multiple unnamed sources with knowledge of the talks the president and congressional leaders have been engaged in with regard to raising the debt ceiling. All the reports suggest that Obama would trade the change in the eligibility age for a Republican agreement to accept some new taxes.
Obama essentially acknowledged as much Monday, when he said: “I’m prepared to take significant heat from my party to get something done.”
And rightly so.
The Euro is crashing today to record lows against the Swiss Franc, and interest rates on Italian and Spanish bonds have hit record highs. This latest episode in the Eurozone crisis is a result of fears that the contagion is now hitting Italy. With a two-trillion dollar economy and $2.45 trillion in debt, Italy is too big to fail and the European authorities are worried. Although there is currently little basis for the concern that Italy’s interest rates could rise high enough to put its solvency in jeopardy, financial markets are acting irrationally and elevating both the fear and the prospects of a self-fulfilling prophesy. The fact that the European authorities cannot even agree on how to handle the debt of Greece – an economy less than one-sixth the size of Italy – does not inspire confidence in their capacity to manage a bigger crisis.
The weaker Eurozone economies – Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain – are already facing the prospect of years of economic punishment, including extremely high levels of unemployment (16, 12, 14 and 21 percent, respectively). Since the point of all this self-inflicted misery is to save the Euro, it is worth asking whether the Euro is worth saving. And it is worth asking this question from the point of view of the majority of Europeans who work for a living, i.e., from a progressive point of view.
James M Cypher: Nearly $2 Trillion Purloined from US Workers in 2009
In 2009, stock owners, bankers, brokers, hedge-fund wizards, highly paid corporate executives, corporations, and mid-ranking managers pocketed-as either income, benefits, or perks such as corporate jets-an estimated $1.91 trillion that 40 years ago would have collectively gone to non-supervisory and production workers in the form of higher wages and benefits. These are the 88 million workers in the private sector who are closely tied to production processes and/or are not responsible for the supervision, planning, or direction of other workers.
From the end of World War II until the early 1970s, the benefits of economic growth were broadly shared by those in all income categories: workers received increases in compensation (wages plus benefits) that essentially matched the rise in their productivity. Neoclassical economist John Bates Clark (1847-1938) first formulated what he termed the “natural law” of income distribution which “assigns to everyone what he has specifically created.” That is, if markets are not “obstructed,” pay levels should be “equal [to] that part of the product of industry which is traceable to labor itself.” As productivity increased, Clark argued, wages would rise at an equal rate.
George Zornick: Will Eric Cantor’s Financial Backers Allow Him to Kill a Debt Ceiling Increase?
House Democrats are circulating a resolution accusing majority leader Eric Cantor of a salacious conflict of interest: he owns shares in a fund that takes a short position on long-dated government bonds, which in layman’s terms means Cantor stands to profit if the government defaults on its debt, and so probably shouldn’t be such a prominent negotiator in the ongoing debt ceiling talks.
It’s a juicy bit of meat, but the attack is actually pretty silly. According the resolution, which was obtained by the Huffington Post, Cantor’s shares in that fund total $3,300, and it’s quite a stretch to imagine that someone who is worth as much as $7.7 million would tank the US economy in order to profit on such a paltry investment. (As Cantor’s spokesman also pointed out, his $263,000 government pension means he would lose more than he would gain if the government defaulted anyhow).
Cantor is a good target for Democrats, as he is now back in the driver’s seat of his party’s debt limit talks after House Speaker John Boehner was unable to win a large-scale deal. However, if one is to examine Cantor’s finances in search of a motive-and the finances that really matter, his campaign account and leadership PAC-a different story emerges. Cantor, much like the GOP as a whole, is so thoroughly beholden to Wall Street firms it’s hard to imagine he won’t agree to a deal by August 2.
Robert Weiner and John Horton,: End Trickle Down Economics to Pay Off Debt
President Obama has given speech after speech calling on Congress to reduce tax breaks for the wealthy to balance the budget. When President Clinton left office, the budget had been balanced for four consecutive years with surpluses projected through 2011. The tax rate for the wealthiest 2 percent of wage earners was 39.6 percent. President George W. Bush, however, chose to pursue the system of so-called “trickle-down” economics through tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
The result: surplus turned into deficit. By the end of Bush’s second term, the United States was embroiled in the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Trickle-down economics has not worked since Herbert Hoover tried it. It is a myth that adding money to the wealthy through tax cuts stimulates jobs and grows the economy. Under Democratic presidents since 1930 who have emphasized people programs and resisted tax breaks for the richest, annual growth in GDP has averaged 5.4 percent, according to Commerce Department and Office of Management and Budget statistics.
Mike Farrell: Extremely Unctuous
Raised in the Catholic Church, I was a pretty confused kid. Father O’Reilly, one of the priests at St. Peter’s, the church our family attended most of the time, spoke with such a pronounced brogue that I couldn’t follow him. But I didn’t understand the Mass either, so I smiled and pretended he made sense, just accepting him on faith along with the rest of it.
But at some point it all began to itch. Ours was the “One True Faith” and everyone else was damned to hell. Really? That was tough to think about, because some non-Catholics we knew seemed like pretty nice folks-well, most of them, anyway. And what about the people in Africa and other places who maybe never even had a chance to know about Jesus and Peter, The Rock Upon Which He Built His Church?
Hell for everybody but us? It clearly made some feel special, but I couldn’t make it sit right.