Aug 06 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”.

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Michael Moore: 30 Years Ago: The Day the Middle Class Died

From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, “When did this all begin, America’s downward slide?” They say they’ve heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent’s income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how “lowly” your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.

Young people have heard of this mythical time — but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, “When did this all end?”, I say, “It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981.”

Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to “go for it” — to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.

And they’ve succeeded.

Noam Chomsky: America in Decline

“It is a common theme” that the United States, which “only a few years ago was hailed to stride the world as a colossus with unparalleled power and unmatched appeal is in decline, ominously facing the prospect of its final decay,” Giacomo Chiozza writes in the current Political Science Quarterly.

The theme is indeed widely believed. And with some reason, though a number of qualifications are in order. To start with, the decline has proceeded since the high point of U.S. power after World War II, and the remarkable triumphalism of the post-Gulf War ’90s was mostly self-delusion.

Another common theme, at least among those who are not willfully blind, is that American decline is in no small measure self-inflicted. The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country and bewilders the world, may have no analogue in the annals of parliamentary democracy.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Is Wisconsin Ground Zero for the “American Spring” or a Third Party?

People watching the news over the past week might have thought that Congress was the only place where battles for our future were being won and lost. That’s wrong. There are other battles, better battles, battles far from the glare of the Beltway spotlights. And more are on their way.

So forget Washington for a minute. (If you feel like I do right now, that’ll be a pleasure.) If you want to see where the next wave of corporate-sponsored political attacks is being launched, look to New Orleans. And if you want a shot of optimism, a ray of light, a sign that battles can be won against overwhelming odds, turn your eyes toward Wisconsin.

John Nichols: Wasn’t the Debt-Ceiling Deal Supposed to Avert a 512-Point Dow Collapse?

You see, President Obama had to surrender to the Tea Party Republicans on every major issue in order to get the debt ceiling deal.

If the president had not agrees to massive cuts, the establishment of a structure that could undermine Medicare and and an approach to future economic debates that virtually assure that the United States government will have neither the ability nor the will to stimulate job creation, he could not have gotten a deal.

And if Obama had not gotten the debt ceiling deal, the markets would have tanked. That was the calculus at the White House, and among the Democrats who made the mistake of backing Obama as he veered far to the right in the debt ceiling negotiations.

Unfortunately, it was wrong. Not just morally wrong. Not just politically wrong. Not just economically wrong. It was wrong with regard to the cherished markets.

Robert Naiman: A Historic Opportunity to Cut Military Spending

The agreement in Washington to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts has made a lot of people very unhappy. But the agreement had one important positive aspect: it created a historic opportunity for significant cuts in projected military spending.

Under the agreement, a joint House-Senate committee is supposed to propose, by Thanksgiving, $1.5 trillion of debt reduction (expenditures less revenues) over ten years. Significant cuts in projected military spending are on the table. Indeed, if the joint committee doesn’t agree on a plan or Congress doesn’t enact it, $1.2 trillion in cuts in projected spending over 10 years will be triggered, of which half must come from the military.

If the military cuts in the trigger mechanism take place, when added to the projected military cuts announced by the White House as part of this week’s deal, total cuts in projected military spending would amount to $884 billion. This is very close to the $886 billion in military cuts agreed by the plan of the Senate’s “Gang of Six,” a plan endorsed by President Obama. It’s in the ballpark of – but less than – the $960 billion in proposed military cuts of the Frank-Paul Sustainable Defense Task Force, the trillion dollars in proposed military cuts of the report of President’s deficit commission, the $1.1 trillion reduction in projected military spending proposed by the Domenici-Rivlin task force, and the $1.2 trillion in military cuts recommended by the Cato Institute. Conservative Republican Senator Tom Coburn says cutting the projected military budget by a trillion dollars over ten years is “not hard” and is “common sense.”

In other words: cutting projected military spending by a trillion dollars over the next ten years has become politically plausible.

Jill Richardson: ALEC Exposed: Protecting Factory Farms and Sewage Sludge?

As suburbs engulfed the rural landscape in the boom following World War II, many family farmers found themselves with new neighbors who were annoyed by the sound of crowing roosters, the smell of animal manure, or the rumble of farming equipment. In defense of family farming, Massachusetts passed the first “Right to Farm” law in 1979, to protect these farmers against their new suburban neighbors filing illegitimate nuisance lawsuits against them when, in fact, the farms were there first. Since then, every state has passed some kind of protection for family farms, which are pillars of our communities and the backbone of a sensible system of sustainable agriculture.

However, in the past few decades, intensive corporatization of farming has threatened both the future of family farming and the ability of neighbors to regulate the development of industrial agricultural operations that have transmogrified many farms into factories. Small-scale farms that resembled Old MacDonald’s farm (with an oink oink here and a moo moo there) have increasingly disappeared or been turned into enormous livestock confinements with literal lagoons of liquified manure and urine, super-concentrated smells that could make a skunk faint, or vast fields of monoculture crops grown with a myriad of chemicals and pesticides and sometimes even sewage sludge. For example, the decade before the first right to farm law was passed, it took one million family farms to raise nearly 60 million pigs but by 2001, less than ten percent (80,000 farms) were growing the same number of pigs.

Ray McGovern: Obama on the Backs of the Poor

What are we to make of the Obama-brokered deal on debt and spending? It was certainly what the Germans call eine schwere Geburt (a difficult birth); it was one of the few times I would have favored abortion.

I am reminded of a sermon that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave during the turbulent 1950s, in which he peered into the future and issued a prescient warning:

“A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.”

In promoting and then signing the so-called “deficit reduction” legislation, President Barack Obama has definitively confirmed that he stands in the ranks of those spiritual-death-dealing, “soft-minded” men about whom Dr. King warned so ominously.

Charles M. Blow: The Decade of Lost Children

One of the greatest casualties of the great recession may well be a decade of lost children.

According to “The State of America’s Children 2011,” a report issued last month by the Children’s Defense Fund, the impact of the recession on children’s well-being has been catastrophic.


We risk the creation of an engorged generational underclass born of a culture that has less income equality and fewer prospects for mobility than the previous generation.

It’s hard to see how we emerge from this downturn and its tumult a stronger nation if we allow vast swatches of our children to be lost. My fear is that we may not.