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Jul 27 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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Paul Krugman: Money for Nothing

For years, allegedly serious people have been issuing dire warnings about the consequences of large budget deficits – deficits that are overwhelmingly the result of our ongoing economic crisis. In May 2009, Niall Ferguson of Harvard declared that the “tidal wave of debt issuance” would cause U.S. interest rates to soar. In March 2011, Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of President Obama’s ill-fated deficit commission, warned that unless action was taken on the deficit soon, “the markets will devastate us,” probably within two years. And so on.

Well, I guess Mr. Bowles has a few months left. But a funny thing happened on the way to the predicted fiscal crisis: instead of soaring, U.S. borrowing costs have fallen to their lowest level in the nation’s history. And it’s not just America. At this point, every advanced country that borrows in its own currency is able to borrow very cheaply.

New York Times Editorial: Candidates Cower on Gun Control

At a moment when the country needs resolve and fearlessness to reduce the affliction of gun violence that kills more than 80 people a day, both presidential candidates have kicked away the opportunity for leadership. On Wednesday, reacting to the mass murder in Colorado last week, Mitt Romney and President Obama paid lip service to the problem but ducked when the chance arose to stand up for their former principles.

That’s not terribly surprising in the case of Mitt Romney, who has built an entire campaign around an avoidance of specifics and a refusal to take unpopular positions. The governor who once showed mettle by banning assault weapons in Massachusetts told Brian Williams of NBC News that he now believes the country needs no new gun laws and no government action at all. [..]

In a way, President Obama’s remarks were even more disappointing because he fell far short of offering a solution even though he clearly demonstrated an understanding of the problem.

Manuel Pérez Rocha and Stuart Trew: Don’t Expand NAFTA: A Warning Against TPP

The United States recently announced that Canada and Mexico will join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)-a secretive U.S.-led multinational trade and investment agreement currently being negotiated with eight other countries in the Pacific Rim region.

On the other side of the Pacific, Japanese legislators are defecting in droves to try to stop the country’s entry into the negotiations. But the situation is much different in Canada and Mexico, which were admitted to the table with much fanfare during the G20 summit in June. The Japanese response is justifiable, and a recent statement of solidarity against the TPP by North American unions offers a good building block for resisting an agreement that for Mexicans and Canadians amounts to a neoliberal expansion of NAFTA on U.S. President Barack Obama’s terms.

Jessica Mason Pieklo: Why Dark Money in Politics Is Bad for Women

With a voting public largely disgusted by the new freedom of corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, supporting a modest version of reform like the version of the DISCLOSE Act working its way through Congress would, in normal times, be an easy political win for Republicans.

But these are not normal times. For the second time this year Senate Democrats tried to advance a bill that would have forced disclosure of unlimited secret campaign spending and the second time Republican leaders blocked a vote on the DISCLOSE Act.

Republican lawmakers have a host of weapons at their disposal in the battle over women’s reproductive rights, but no weapon may have as much impact as unlimited campaign spending. How do we know that dark money is a key to a Republican anti-woman, anti-family agenda? Just look how hard they are fighting to protect it.

Mark Hertsgaard: Feel the Burn: Making the 2012 Heat Wave Matter

There have been two, maybe three, landmark heat waves in the history of man-made global warming. The first was in 1988. Then as now, the eastern two-thirds of the United States was broiling while relentless drought parched soil and withered crops across the Midwest. But in Washington, the underlying problem was being named for the first time. On June 23, NASA scientist James Hansen testified to the Senate that man-made global warming had begun. The New York Times reported his remarks on Page 1, and the rest of the media at home and abroad followed suit. By year’s end, “global warming” had become a common phrase in news bureaus, government ministries and living rooms around the world.

The second landmark heat wave occurred in 2003. It escaped many Americans’ notice because it took place in Europe, which suffered the hottest summer on record. By August, corpses were piling up outside morgues in Paris. Initial estimates suggested a death toll of 15,000. But a comprehensive study by the European Union later concluded that, in fact, there had been 71,449 excess deaths.

Bill Boyarsky: The Poverty Epidemic Hits the Suburbs

Why is this presidential campaign so centered on the middle class? What about the poor people? Their numbers are growing, but their fate hasn’t made it into the debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Of course, the Democratic candidate and his Republican opponent don’t have the same vision of where America should go. The president favors an activist government. He bet his political future on an Affordable Care Act that makes a big start toward assuring the availability of health care. Romney favors the crimped vision of the Republican economic leader Rep. Paul Ryan, and his plan to reduce taxes for the rich, eventually privatize Medicare and dismantle Medicaid for the poor.

But little, if anything, is said about the disastrous phenomenon of rising poverty, which, as Hope Yen of The Associated Press reported this week, is “on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century. … Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor.” Census figures that will be released in the fall, she wrote, are expected to show that poverty has exceeded the level it was at in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s launched his War on Poverty.