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”.

New York Times Editorial: A Clear Warning From the Jobs Numbers

This week’s economic news was mixed, but the employment report on Friday was unmistakably weak. The economy added only 115,000 jobs in April, versus 154,000 in March and 200,000-plus in each of the three months before that. Even taking into account that unusually warm winter weather probably distorted the recent results, the underlying trend shows an economy that has been creating about 175,000 jobs a month – enough to keep the recovery crawling along, but too weak to appreciably raise hiring or wages.

Nor is it clear where more growth will come from. Manufacturing picked up last month, but activity in the larger service sector slowed. Recent auto sales were up, and home sales have been slowly, if fitfully, improving, but home prices continue to fall. Consumer spending, in general, rose in the first quarter, but it appears to be driven by people who are profiting from a rising stock market. Increased market volatility, like Friday’s 168-point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average, would make them nervous and less inclined to spend.

Paul Krugman: The Rise of Orwellian Economics

These past few years have been lean times in many respects – but they’ve been boom years for agonizingly dumb, pound-your-head-on-the-table economic fallacies.

The latest fad – illustrated by a recent commentary article in The Wall Street Journal – is that expansionary monetary policy is a giveaway to banks and plutocrats generally. Indeed, that screed, titled “How the Fed Favors the 1 Percent” and written by the hedge-fund founder Mark Spitznagel, actually claims that the whole 1 versus 99 thing should really be about reining in or maybe abolishing the Federal Reserve. “The relentless expansion of credit by the Fed creates artificial disparities based on political privilege and economic power,” Mr. Spitznagel wrote.

What’s wrong with the idea that running the printing presses is a giveaway to plutocrats? Let me count the ways. First, the actual politics is utterly the reverse of what’s being claimed.

Robert Reich: The Stall Has Arrived

As I feared, the economy has stalled.

Friday’s jobs report for April was even more disappointing than March. Employers added only 115,000 new jobs, down from March’s number (the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the March number upward to 154,000, but it’s still abysmal relative to what’s needed). At least 125,000 new jobs are necessary each month just to keep up with an expanding population of working-age people.

That means the hole is getting even deeper.

Most observers pay attention to the official rate of unemployment, which edged down to 8.1 percent in April from 8.2 percent in March. That may sound like progress, but it’s not. The unemployment rate dropped because more people dropped out of the labor force, too discouraged to look for work. The household survey, from which the rate is calculated, counts as “unemployed” only people who are actively looking for work. If you stop looking because the job scene looks hopeless for you, you’re no longer counted.

Howard Feinman: Kentucky Derby: As in Politics, You Need a Horse, and a Theory

LOUISVILLE — Once you come back here, as we did Thursday night, you remember what you used to know when you lived here but forgot: that everybody has to have a theory and a horse.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Louisvillian, or a regular visitor, or a first-timer. You are required to pick a horse, preferably a semi-obscure one, and have at the ready a plausible explanation — either impressively informed or simply wacko — for your cool choice.

There are 20 horses in the Derby, and already I’ve heard tips and touts about a half-dozen of them. Soon I will no doubt have heard an argument for each and every one.

The Derby is like politics in so many ways. Someone runs. Someone wins. People contribute money and get their hopes up. There is a weird sense that somehow all of your problems will be solved and the world will right itself if only you find the right contender.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Geithner’s World, Part 1: Three Years Of Immunity

Here’s a walk down memory lane that’s worth taking, even if it makes your blood pressure spike a little: Three years ago Tim Geithner was in the position of having to explain why the Federal government wasn’t going to nationalize the nation’s failing banks. In 2009 many people expected that to be part of the government’s bank rescue plan.

Only three years. It seems so long ago, doesn’t it?

In 2009 there was a very compelling argument for a Federal takeover over these failing institutions, which had been so negligently (and very possibly criminally) mismanaged could no longer survive on their own. And while nationalization wasn’t the only course worth considering, this snapshot from our national past reflects the gravity of the crisis caused by bankers.

It’s also a useful reminder of the extent to which bank CEOs failed to pass even the most basic test of executive competence – namely, not destroying your own corporation.

Charles M. Blow: Teaching Me About Teaching

Next week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t get nearly enough.

On Tuesday, the United States Department of Education is hoping that people will take to Facebook and Twitter to thank a teacher who has made a difference in their lives. I want to contribute to that effort. And I plan to thank a teacher who never taught me in a classroom but taught me what it meant to be an educator: my mother.

She worked in her local school system for 34 years before retiring. Then she volunteered at a school in her district until, at age 67, she won a seat on her local school board. Education is in her blood.