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May 17 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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Robert Reich: The Dog That Didn’t Bark: Obama on JPMorgan

The dog that didn’t bark this week, let alone bite, was the president’s response to JPMorgan Chase’s bombshell admission of losing more than $2 billion in risky derivative trades that should never have been made.

“JPMorgan is one of the best-managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got and they still lost $2 billion,” the president said on the television show The View, which aired Tuesday, suggesting that a weaker bank might not have survived.

That was it.

Not a word about Jamie Dimon’s tireless campaign to eviscerate the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill; his loud and repeated charge that the Street’s near meltdown in 2008 didn’t warrant more financial regulation; his leadership of Wall Street’s brazen lobbying campaign to delay the Volcker Rule under Dodd-Frank, which is still delayed; and his efforts to make that rule meaningless by widening a loophole allowing banks to use commercial deposits to “hedge” (that is, make offsetting bets) their derivative trades.

Jeff Madrick: Germany’s Attempt to Beat Greece Into Submission Won’t Work

Treating Greece like an incorrigible child won’t improve its economy or the future of the eurozone.

“German Patience with Greece Wears Thin,” says the New York Times headline. My patience with the mainstream media also wears thin. Like a bad parent, Germany scolds Greece for something its constant beatings basically forced it to do. The media buys into Germany’s logic. Were high-pressure tactics to adopt punishing austerity cutbacks ever going to encourage Greek solidarity and social peace? Is the parent who beats the child ever going to encourage obedience and healthy behavior? Psychology has taken us a long way past the value of spankings to instill constructive attitudes. It seems not so for the Germans, although it should be said that not all of them agree with their prime minister, Angela Merkel, and government officials.

Are the Germans actually trying to get Greece to leave the euro? If so, they are probably underestimating the turmoil that would cause. On the other hand, it may be getting to the point where it is a better option for the Greeks to incur the possible closing of financial markets should they adopt a new drachma, which will quickly fall in value. They will not pay their debts to German banks and others in full-fledged euros. But they can start to determine their own fate and work with what industries they have. Their export sector is not as weak as people seem to think.

Dean Baker: Deficit Reduction: The Great Distraction

This is the week of the third annual Deficit Fest, the event sponsored by Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson. At this event, many of the people most responsible for the current downturn come together to tell us why we should be worried about the deficit at a time when 25 million people are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work altogether and millions face the prospect of losing their homes.

Past deficit fests included exchanges where Peter Peterson and former Treasury Secretary and Citigroup honcho Robert Rubin mused about their comparative net worth. We also got to witness President Clinton bemoan the fact that the Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress teamed up to prevent him from cutting Social Security. Had Clinton gotten his way, millions of seniors would be getting by on Social Security checks that are more than 10 percent smaller than what they now receive.

Peterson is also known for his sponsorship of the “Economic Sleepwalk” tour, which was officially billed as the “Fiscal Wakeup” tour. This involved sending a group of policy wonks around the country to complain about the budget deficit at a time when the housing bubble was growing to ever more dangerous levels. While some of us were doing our best to warn of the imminent disaster, Peterson was using his money and political connections to dominate media space at a time when the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio was actually falling.

New York Times Editorial: JPMorphing

When he disclosed a stunning $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase last week, Jamie Dimon, the bank’s chief executive, insisted that the trades had not violated the Volcker Rule, a crucial part of the Dodd-Frank reform law that is supposed to bar banks from doing risky trading for their own account.

This week, however, the story changed. On Monday, a JPMorgan official told The Times that the trades – which have since ballooned to at least $3 billion – started out as allowable, but had “morphed into something” that crossed the line. On Tuesday, at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting, Mr. Dimon echoed that statement, calling for rules to ensure that permitted trades don’t “morph into something different.”

Gail Collins: Fun Plans for Summer Vacation

John Boehner wants to restart the debt-limit debate. This is big news. Remember all the fun we had last time: threats, brinkmanship, wobbling financial markets, torpedoed Grand Bargain? You can certainly understand why he misses it.

The weather’s getting nice. Maybe this time we could do it outdoors.

“Let’s start now!” the House speaker said during a “fiscal summit” in Washington on Tuesday. This is an annual event in which honchos from all political persuasions get together and agree that the national debt is too big.

We are getting into election season, people. We are going to be hearing a lot about the national debt. (Which is very big. Really, at that fiscal summit meeting they were totally in agreement on the bigness.)

E. J. Dionne: Romney’s Clintonesque Moment

Mitt Romney was against Bill Clinton before he was for him.

There was Romney, campaigning Tuesday in Iowa, praising the nation’s last Democratic president and casting him as far superior to the current incumbent.

“Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over,” Romney declared. “Clinton was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.” President Obama, he said, “tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas.”

So you might assume that Romney likes Clinton. But that would be wrong. Scrambling during the GOP primaries this year to explain why he had voted in the 1992 Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary for the late Sen. Paul Tsongas, Romney invoked that old GOP standby: Clinton hatred.