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Aug 13 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: United States vs. Europe: Who Is Worse Off?

In recent online commentary for The New York Times, Simon Johnson, the former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, considered who is in worse shape – America or Europe?

“In the near term, the Europeans have the bigger problem – and this will only be compounded by slower growth in the United States (home to about one-quarter of the world economy),” Mr. Johnson wrote on July 28. “Over the longer haul, it remains to be seen when and how politicians in the United States will take up the real budget issues.”

Basically I agree with his assessment: Europe has more fundamental problems in sheer economic terms, because it adopted a single currency without the necessary institutions to make it workable. The United States has a long-run budget problem, but our current mess is entirely political. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to solve.

New York Times Editorial: Magical Unrealism

There was nothing particularly surprising about the shrill skirmishing at the ideological edges of Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa. What was shocking were the antics in the center.

In full public view, the party’s mainstream jumped the tracks of reality on issues of spending and taxes, brightly illustrating the ruinous magical thinking that has led to a downgrade of the nation’s credit and invited a double-dip recession. When asked if they would reject a deal to cut the deficit that had 10 times the amount of spending cuts as it had tax increases, the hands of all eight candidates went up. Even a tincture of new revenue, though mixed with huge cuts in government spending, would be too much for the modern Republican Party.

Jacqueline Marcus: Why Did Obama Choose Oil Money Over Struggling Polar Bears Facing Extinction?

At some point, there has to be a line drawn between corporate profits and the sanctity of life.  True, these are extremely hard times for the majority of jobless Americans, and the harder it gets for them financially speaking, the easier it becomes for the oil and coal executives to get their way, which doesn’t take much when they’ve successfully corrupted legislators to such a far-reaching extent that it’s easy to prove there is no distinction between the U.S. government and the oil and coal industries.  They put down the big piles of cash-and they get what they want.  

Operating in a corrupt political system explains why this president cares about one thing and one thing only: getting re-elected and making sure that he gets plenty of corporate money to compete against the Republican candidate who will also receive millions of dollars from the same industrial polluters.  As journalist Travis Smiley and Princeton University Professor Cornel West explained to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! : “Obama is associated much more with the oligarchs than with poor people.”  If starving children in America don’t sway the heart, will dying polar bears?

This is a president who threw his own people under the bus in order to please the billionaire oligarchs.  For example, the Obama White House refused to be associated with Wisconsin’s union protesters as reported in the New York Times “when West Wing officials discovered that the Democratic National Committee had mobilized Mr. Obama’s national network to support the protests, they angrily reined in the staff at the party headquarters.”

Charles M. Blow: Genuflecting to the Tea Party

I must confess that every time Representative Michele Bachmann uttered the phrase “as president of the United States” during Thursday’s Republican presidential debate I blacked out a little bit, so I’m sure that I missed some things.

But one thing that I didn’t miss was the moment when all the candidates raised their hands, confirming that they felt so strongly about not raising taxes that they would all walk away from a hypothetical deficit-reduction deal that was as extreme as 10 parts spending cuts to one part tax increases.

That moment should tell every voter in America everything about this current crop of Know-Nothings – no person who would take such a stance is fit to be president of the United States or any developed country.

William Rivers Pitt: Next Stop: Train Wreck

And so here we are, at the next stage of this comic opera/disaster movie/smash-and-grab robbery known as the “debt-limit crisis.” Leadership in both the House and Senate have tapped the twelve members who will make up the so-called “Super-Committee,” which will be responsible for coming up with a plan to cobble together $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by Thanksgiving.

It is a motley crew, to be sure.

The Republican side of the equation is comprised of Senators Rob Portman (Ohio), John Kyl, (Arizona), and Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania), along with Representatives Fred Upton (Michigan), Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Dave Camp (Pennsylvania). To a man – and note well that Republican leadership selected a racially and sexually homogenized crew for this – they are hard-liners who will likely not budge when it comes to tax revenues. Kyl is a boon companion of GOP Senator Mitch McConnell, Toomey was once president of the far-right group Club for Growth, and Portman used to be budget director for none other than George W. Bush. Each and every one of these men has taken Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, which bodes very ill for any revenue enhancements making it into the deal.

Joe Nocera: Boycott Campaign Donations!

Howard Schultz, the chairman and chief executive of Starbucks, has always been the kind of boss who wears his heart on his sleeve. So it came as no surprise to Starbucks employees when, on Monday, he sent out a long, passionate, companywide e-mail entitled “Leading Through Uncertain Times.”

In it, he wrote about his frustration over “the lack of cooperation and irresponsibility among elected officials as they have put partisan agendas before the people’s agenda” – creating an enormous crisis of confidence in the process. He said that Starbucks had a responsibility “to act in ways that can ease the collective anxiety inside and outside the company.” It needed to continue creating jobs. It had to maintain its generous package of employee benefits. And it was critical, Schultz wrote, for employees “to earn our customers’ trust by being respectful of their own life situations – whatever it may be.”

Mary Bottari: Recall Walker? It’s Up to Feingold

For the first time in the state’s history, Wisconsin recalled two sitting State Senators simultaneously. While it was a difficult and historic achievement in two districts that voted for Scott Walker in 2010, it fell short of the three seats needed to flip the Senate from Republican to Democratic control and put the brakes on Governor Scott Walker’s radical agenda.

While Walker’s collective bargaining bill sparked the recalls, voters were also worried about the state budgetary moves which cut almost a brillion from local schools, while giving out $200 million in tax breaks for big corporations. No jobs plan (other than tax breaks) has been proposed and, contrary to spin from the Governor, joblessness is growing in this state at twice the rate of the federal level.