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Sep 08 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”.

Katrina vnder Heuvel: Who Will the Super Committee Fight For?

While President Obama’s highly anticipated jobs speech seems to be all political junkies are paying attention to today (that is, if you’re not a football junkie), attention must also be paid to the first meeting of the infamous super committee.

Today these 12 men and women begin the business of finding $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in new revenues and spending cuts over the next decade. What this committee comes up with might go a long way towards determining the kinds of resources that will be available (or not) for any lasting economic recovery.

Before embarking on a GOP “cuts only” approach that too many Democrats seem willing to buy into, the super committee members-six from the House and six from the Senate, evenly divided between the parties-should look homeward to their own districts and states and see how their constituents are doing. That should serve as a reminder of just whom it is they were elected to serve-it’s not K Street and the nearly 100 registered lobbyists who used to work for super committee members and now expect to be “heavily involved” in this debate, according to the Washington Post. It’s their constituents back home.

John Nichols: Rule No. 1: Do Not Use the Word “Stimulus”

Barack Obama is often a great communicator. But when it comes to discussions about the sorry state of the economy, he has failed to connect.

Obama, who proved so remarkably agile when it came to discussing America’s place in the world, and whose ability to add a few grace notes to the country’s stilted dialogue about race made even his critics begin to see him as presidential, has since January 20, 2009, struggled to connect with Americans who worry not about the job they lost but about whether they will ever work again.

The current jobs crisis — and, make no mistake, from Toledo to Tulsa to Tarpon Springs, this crisis is real, and getting more real by the minute — has weighed on Obama from the first day of his presidency. And he has never been able to find the right words.

Paul Krugman: Facts That Strain Personal Incredulity

Somewhere in his writings Richard Dawkins, the British evolutionary biologist, talks about anti-evolution types who argue from personal incredulity – they say, “I just can’t believe that chance could create something as complex as an eye,” and think that they have scored an important point. All they’ve actually done, of course, is rehash their prejudices. (Simulations show, by the way, that chance plus selection can indeed create an eye, in a relatively short time as evolutionary history goes.)

I’m getting the same kind of thing a lot on issues macroeconomic. People write and say, “I can’t believe that you are asserting that X. You must be an idiot.”

Here X might be the paradox of thrift, the claim that a rise in desired saving leads to lower investment (which is closely linked to the case for fiscal stimulus, which in turn is closely linked to the argument that wars and other bad things can be expansionary). Or it might be the paradox of flexibility, which says that under current conditions a fall in wages would lead to lower, not higher, employment and output.

Peter Rothberg: Tell President Obama: Jobs, Not Cuts

This Thursday, September 8th, President Obama will give a speech laying out his plan to combat stagnant job growth and create new economic opportunities for millions of hurting Americans. He is also expected to ask the Congressional Super Committee to sign on to his plan to reduce the deficit by four trillion dollar.

The danger is that the President will sacrifice the integrity of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid on the alter of deficit reduction and in the interests of getting other elements of his plan passed. But no deal would be worth it. It’s no understatement to call Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid the foundations of our economic security. Social Security does not contribute a penny to the deficit. Its already thin benefits are absolutely critical for many people’s survival. Medicare is a sacred trust. Medicaid is crucial for seniors, women, children and people with disabilities and an literal lifesaver for the poor.

Jamelle Bouie: Bloodlust at the Republican Debate

Even with the participation of Texas Governor Rick Perry, yesterday’s Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library in California was a standard-issue affair. Candidates traded barbs on everything from the individual mandate-they hate it, in case you were wondering-to climate change and economic growth.

There was one moment in the evening, however, that went beyond the usual grandstanding of primary debates and became something a little more disturbing. Sometime toward the end of the debate, moderator Brian Williams noted the 234 inmates that sit on death row in Texas prisons-more than any other state in the country. This, oddly, prompted immediate applause from the audience. Williams’ question, directed to Rick Perry, was this, “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?” Perry’s answer? “No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process.”

Again, the crowd went wild with applause, and when asked to account for the audience response, Perry told the moderators that he thinks “Americans understand justice.”

David Sirota: The “Shock Doctrine” Comes to Your Neighborhood Classroom

Corporate reformers use the fiscal crisis and campaign contributions to hype an unproven school agenda

The Shock Doctrine, as articulated by journalist Naomi Klein, describes the process by which corporate interests use catastrophes as instruments to maximize their profit. Sometimes the events they use are natural (earthquakes), sometimes they are human-created (the 9/11 attacks) and sometimes they are a bit of both (hurricanes made stronger by human-intensified global climate change). Regardless of the particular cataclysm, though, the Shock Doctrine suggests that in the aftermath of a calamity, there is always corporate method in the smoldering madness – a method based in Disaster Capitalism.

Though Klein’s book provides much evidence of the Shock Doctrine, the Disaster Capitalists rarely come out and acknowledge their strategy. That’s why Watkins’ outburst of candor, buried in this front-page New York Times article yesterday, is so important: It shows that the recession and its corresponding shock to school budgets is being  used by corporations to maximize revenues, all under the gauzy banner of “reform.”