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Sep 21 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 vanden Heuvel: Fighting Poverty Now

Last week the US Census Bureau released new data on poverty in 2010. The damaging impact of the Great Recession and weak labor market is stark: 46.2 million Americans lived below the poverty line-less than $22,314 annually for a family of four-which translates to nearly one in six Americans. This is the highest number on record in fifty-two years of poverty estimates. More than every fifth child in this country is now mired in poverty, and a record 20 million people are living in deep poverty-less than about $11,000 for a family of four-including an astonishing 9.9 percent of children.

The media has had to pay attention to these numbers-they are too dramatic to ignore. But with unemployment expected to remain high through 2012, the coverage is filled with an almost fatalistic helplessness when it comes to reversing this crisis.

Yet there are many good people and groups which have been fighting to end poverty for decades. They offer concrete, savvy and strategic ideas about “what works”-ideas too often overlooked in a capitol corroded by money, and by media that seem to only discover poverty when the new census numbers roll around.

Here are ten ideas that can make a real difference right now in the lives of people who are poor or near poor.

“First, Do No Harm”

Glenn Greenwald: Jose Padilla, Troy Davis and how American Justice Functions

The story of Jose Padilla, continuing through the events of yesterday, expresses so much of the true nature of the War on Terror and especially America’s justice system.  In 2002, the American citizen was arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, publicly labeled by John Ashcroft as The Dirty Bomber, and then imprisoned for the next three years on U.S. soil as an “enemy combatant” without charges of any kind, and denied all contact with the outside world, including even a lawyer.  During his lawless incarceration, he was kept not just in extreme solitary confinement but extreme sensory deprivation as well, and was abused and tortured to the point of severe and probably permanent mental incapacity (Bush lawyers told a court that they were unable to produce videos of Padilla’s interrogations because those videos were mysteriously and tragically “lost”).

Needless to say, none of the government officials responsible for this abuse of a U.S. citizen on American soil has been held accountable in any way.  That’s because President Obama decreed that Bush officials shall not be criminally investigated for War on Terror crimes, while his Justice Department vigorously defended John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld and other responsible functionaries in civil suits brought by Padilla seeking damages for what was done to him.

Sarah Anderson: Obama Supported Financial Transactions Taxes – Before Summers Nixed It

The hot new book in Washington, Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men, shines a bit of new light on the Obama administration’s lack of support for financial transactions taxes.

According to the book, based on 700 hours of interviews with high-level staff, President Obama supported the idea of placing a small tax on trades of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments. But, as with many other progressive policy proposals, it was blocked by Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary who was serving as Obama’s Director of the National Economic Council.

A major theme of the just-released book is how Summers dominated daily morning economic policy meetings with Obama. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag reportedly told Suskind that Summers would often tell the President “I’ll make my argument first; you can go after me.”

Robert Reich: A Good Fight

So the really big fight – perhaps the defining battle of 2012 – won’t be over Medicare. It won’t even be over Obama’s jobs program.

It will be over whether the rich should pay more taxes.

The President has vowed to veto any plan to tame the debt that doesn’t increase taxes on the rich. The Republicans have vowed to oppose any tax increases on the rich.

It’s a good fight to have.

In a Rose Garden ceremony yesterday, Obama proposed new taxes on the wealthy – including a special new tax for millionaires, the closing of loopholes and deductions for people making more than $250,000 a year, and an end to the portion of the Bush tax cut going to higher incomes.

Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz: America’s Costly War Machine

Fighting the war on terror compromises the economy now and threatens it in the future.

Ten years into the war on terror, the U.S. has largely succeeded in its attempts to destabilize Al Qaeda and eliminate its leaders. But the cost has been enormous, and our decisions about how to finance it have profoundly damaged the U.S. economy.

Richard Wolff: The Truth about ‘Class War’ in America

Republicans claim, in Orwellian fashion, that Obama’s millionaire tax is ‘class war’. The reality is that the super-rich won the war

Republicans and conservatives always fight back against proposals to raise taxes on corporations and rich individuals by making two basic claims. First, such proposals amount to un-American “class warfare”, pitting the working class against corporations and the rich. Second, such proposals would take money for the government that would otherwise have been invested in production and thus created jobs.

Neither logic nor evidence supports either claim. The charge of class war is particularly obtuse. Consider simply these two facts. First, at the end of the second world war, for every dollar Washington raised in taxes on individuals, it raised $1.50 in taxes on business profits. Today, that ratio is very different: for every dollar Washington gets in taxes on individuals, it takes 25 cents in taxes on business. In short, the last half century has seen a massive shift of the burden of federal taxation off business and onto individuals.

Maureen Dowd; The Re-election Tango

Whether Bill Clinton is being mischievous or helpful is never entirely clear. But the former president often manages to show the current president just how the game should be played.

When Barack Obama was languishing by the phone in July, yearning to hear from John Boehner on the elusive Grand Bargain, the Big Dog advised blowing off the obstructionists in Congress and invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling.

Clinton will often forcefully – and feelingly – frame the argument for Obama policies that would help the working class in a way that Obama himself, once hailed as a master communicator, can’t seem to muster.