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May 11 2012

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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New York Times Editorial The Human Cost of Ideology

For more than a year, House Republicans have energetically worked to demolish vital social programs that have made this country both stronger and fairer over the last half-century. At the same time, they have insisted on preserving bloated military spending and unjustifiably low tax rates for the rich. That effort reached a nadir on Thursday when the House voted to prevent $55 billion in automatic cuts imposed on the Pentagon as part of last year’s debt-ceiling deal, choosing instead to make all those cuts, and much more, from domestic programs. [..]

House Democrats offered an alternative bill that would replace the $109 billion sequester by raising taxes on the wealthy, ending oil company tax loopholes and cutting farm subsidies, but it was rejected. Republicans are determined to protect millionaires and defense contractors, no matter the costs to the country.

Paul Krugman: Easy Useless Economics

A few days ago, I read an authoritative-sounding paper in The American Economic Review, one of the leading journals in the field, arguing at length that the nation’s high unemployment rate had deep structural roots and wasn’t amenable to any quick solution. The author’s diagnosis was that the U.S. economy just wasn’t flexible enough to cope with rapid technological change. The paper was especially critical of programs like unemployment insurance, which it argued actually hurt workers because they reduced the incentive to adjust.  

O.K., there’s something I didn’t tell you: The paper in question was published in June 1939. Just a few months later, World War II broke out, and the United States – though not yet at war itself – began a large military buildup, finally providing fiscal stimulus on a scale commensurate with the depth of the slump. And, in the two years after that article about the impossibility of rapid job creation was published, U.S. nonfarm employment rose 20 percent – the equivalent of creating 26 million jobs today.

Amy Goodman: Coal, Foreclosures and Bank of America’s ‘Extraordinary Event’

Shareholder meetings can be routine, unless you are Bank of America, in which case it may be declared an “extraordinary event.” That is what the city of Charlotte, N.C., called the bank’s shareholder meeting this week. Bank of America is currently the second-largest bank in the U.S. (after JPMorgan Chase), claiming more than $2 trillion in assets. It also is the “too big to fail” poster child of Occupy Wall Street, a speculative banking monstrosity that profits from, among other things, the ongoing foreclosure crisis and the exploitation of dirty coal.  [..]

Those gathered inside and outside the Bank of America shareholder meeting this week-homeowners fighting foreclosure, environmentalists, Occupy Wall Street activists-will take note of the president’s change. They are sure to continue their struggles, right through the Democratic National Convention, making it truly an “extraordinary event.”

Robert Sheer: Hope and Hesitation in Obama’s Sudden Conversion

Once again President Barack Obama has come tantalizingly close to being terrific. But his failure of courage on the gay marriage issue, in the end, undermined the point he hoped to make Wednesday. As with his prior rhetorical flashes of principle in denouncing torture, commiserating with the victims of Wall Street fraud and resolving to end unjustifiable wars, he quickly waffled and the result was a continuation of that which is fundamentally wrong.

There is only one essential point to be made about gay marriage: To acknowledge one’s own sexual being and to define the relationships that follow is a basic human right. How dare anyone intrude on a life choice that is not his to make for others? Whether the president’s family knows gay couples who are monogamous and nice to their children has no more to do with the issue than the old argument of enlightened racists in the American South that there were many fine Negroes who were not at all uppity.

Amanda Marcotte: The Real Reason Romney is Struggling with Women Voters

Back in February, things started to look dire for the Romney campaign’s ability to attract female voters. Every day brought another story about Republican attacks on reproductive rights: attacks on insurance coverage for contraception, transvaginal probes, all-male panels called in Congress to discuss contraception, attacks on Planned Parenthood’s funding, and the candidate himself increasingly afraid to say a positive word about contraception when asked directly in the debates. A gender gap opened up between the candidates in the polls, with Obama outpacing Romney with women by 19 points. The Romney campaign responded by trying to change the subject, to jobs and the economy. But if Romney wants to close the gender gap, he should rethink that strategy. After all, the polling data suggests that his stance on economic issues – specifically the size of the safety net and amount of economic support the government provides to citizens – is what’s really hurting him with female voters.

The real war between the sexes may not be over feminism or sex so much as whether or not our tax dollars should go to social spending. Research conducted by Pew in October 2011 showed women support a strong, activist government in much larger numbers than men. On the question of whether the government should offer more services, women said yes by 9 more percentage points than men. The gender gap on social spending remained when pollsters asked about specific interest groups. Women wanted more spending on the elderly than did men by 11 percentage points, more spending on children by 10 percentage points and more spending on the poor by 9 percentage points.

Michael T. Klare: The Energy Wars Heat Up

Conflict and intrigue over valuable energy supplies have been features of the international landscape for a long time.  Major wars over oil have been fought every decade or so since World War I, and smaller engagements have erupted every few years; a flare-up or two in 2012, then, would be part of the normal scheme of things.  Instead, what we are now seeing is a whole cluster of oil-related clashes stretching across the globe, involving a dozen or so countries, with more popping up all the time.  Consider these flash-points as signals that we are entering an era of intensified conflict over energy.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Argentina to the Philippines, here are the six areas of conflict-all tied to energy supplies-that have made news in just the first few months of 2012 [. .    .]