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Aug 14 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: Romney/Ryan: The Real Target

So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is – as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand – about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000. [..]

So, a memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn’t seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he’s betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we’ll see if it works.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Happy Birthday, Social Security! Now About Your Gift …

Today, August 14, is Social Security’s 77th birthday. That presents us with a difficult challenge: What do you give a government program that has everything … except a secure future of its own?

Let’s take a look at the options for this year’s celebration.

The Gift Pile

Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Look what Social Security can already list among its gifts. It’s got:

Hundreds of millions of people who love it. Polls consistently show that Social Security, along with Medicare, is one of our most popular government programs.

The best balance sheet in the entire government. Despite all the scare talk (which we’ll get to shortly), no program in US history is on a firmer financial footing than Social Security. It’s a stand-alone program which isn’t allowed to contribute to the overall government deficit, and is absolutely solvent until the mid-2030’s.

No other program can say that.

New York Times Editorial: A Question of Improper Money Flows

Standard Chartered, the London-based bank, may soon reach a settlement with bank regulators to resolve charges that it violated American banking rules that restrict transactions with Iranian clients. The rules are intended to impede money flows that might finance terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The bank has said it “strongly rejects” allegations that it improperly processed $250 billion of transactions for Iranians. The claims were leveled last week by New York’s Department of Financial Services, a regulatory agency recently formed by merging the state’s banking and insurance departments. But if the bank does not settle the charges, its officials will have to rebut them this week at a meeting called by Benjamin Lawsky, the former federal prosecutor who leads the department. It seems a safe bet that the officials would rather settle than have to defend the bank’s actions, with specificity, before the authorities. [..]

While authorities usually act together in such cases, the feds have been on the Standard Chartered case for years without bringing charges or reaching a conclusion.  [..]

Mr. Lawsky’s challenge is to work cooperatively with federal regulators, while standing his ground.

Robert Dreyfuss: Obama’s Regime-Change Policy in Syria

The Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA are making war plans for Syria. And they’re pretty much announcing them.

Over the weekend, on a visit to Turkey, a NATO member, to meet with Syrian opposition leaders and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explicitly declared that Washington’s policy toward Syria is now in what she called the “operational” phase. “We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning,” she said adding: “Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play, so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that.”

Make no mistake: this is regime change by force. It’s not exactly like Iraq, and it’s not exactly like Libya (yet)-but it’s regime change by force anyway.

Ari Berman: Romney-Ryan Economic Plans Would Increase Unemployment, Deepen Recession

Much has been written in recent days about Paul Ryan’s plans to privatize Medicare, dismantle Social Security, massively cut taxes for the wealthy and drastically redistribute income from the bottom to the top.

Yet perhaps the most disturbing feature of Ryan’s budget is that, in the midst of a prolonged recession, it would cost the US economy millions of jobs. Ryan’s 2011 budget plan proposes what the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calls “the most severe and wrenching budget cuts in US history-two-thirds of which would come from programs for people of low or moderate incomes” (Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps and low-income housing). According to the Economic Policy Institute, “the shock to aggregate demand from near-term spending cuts would result in roughly 1.3 million jobs lost in 2013 and 2.8 million jobs lost in 2014, or 4.1 million jobs through 2014.”

Robert Kuttner: Food and the Fed

The record drought and crop failures will create shortages, especially of corn, and will increase the prices of many foods that either contain the stuff or use it to feed livestock. That, in turn, will cause an uptick in the rate of inflation. And higher prices will give the inflation hawks in the Federal Reserve more ammunition in their insane campaign for higher interest rates.

At the most recent meeting of its policy-setting Open Market Committee, Aug. 7, the Fed declined to lower interest rates further, under pressure from inflation hawks. The vote to keep rates at their present level was only 7-3, with the dissenters favoring tighter money. [..]

It’s also clear that the insane weather is a clarion call to get far more serious about global climate change. Readers of my stuff will note that, like columnist Gail Collins on the subject of Mitt Romney’s dog-on-the-roof, I never pass up an opportunity to point out that World War II cured the Great Depression; and that today we need massive social investment to cure slumping demand.