“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.
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Paul Krugman: Obstruct and Exploit
Does anyone remember the American Jobs Act? A year ago President Obama proposed boosting the economy with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases, aimed in particular at sustaining state and local government employment. Independent analysts reacted favorably. For example, the consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimated that the act would add 1.3 million jobs by the end of 2012. [..]
But the bill went nowhere, of course, blocked by Republicans in Congress. And now, having prevented Mr. Obama from implementing any of his policies, those same Republicans are pointing to disappointing job numbers and declaring that the president’s policies have failed.
President Obama “talked the talk” about renewing the American manufacturing sector and the broader economy at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Now, he faces a “walk the walk” challenge.
The Obama administration’s trade representative continues to engage in secretive meetings with multinational corporations as part of the process of negotiating a “new NAFTA” known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The secretiveness mirrors negotiations the led to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals that have been devastating to the American manufacturing sector. These are precisely the sort of agreements that take away the “level playing field” both Obama and Mitt Romney say they want for American workers. Yet they keep being negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations because they are not just favored by Wall Street and the multinationals, they top priorities of the CEOs, hedge-fund managers and speculators who form the donor class of American politics.
” NAFTA on steroids” is the term Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, uses to describe the direction behind-closed-door negotiations for the TPP appear to be headed.
Together Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have put human faces on how the super-rich game the tax system to pay less, pay later and sometimes not pay at all. Both want to expand tax favors for the already rich, like themselves.
Their approach favors dynastic wealth with largely tax-free (Romney) or completely tax-free (Ryan) lifestyles, encouraging future generations of shiftless inheritors. What we need instead is a tax system that encourages strivers in competitive markets, not a perpetual oligarchy.
Romney and Ryan say that lowering tax rates and reducing or eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends, while letting huge fortunes pass untaxed to heirs, will boost economic growth and mean prosperity for all.
We already tried parts of that, starting with Ronald Reagan in 1981 and doubling down with George W. Bush in 2001. Empirical result: Flat to falling incomes for the vast majority, weak job growth, but skyrocketing incomes for the top one percent of the top one percent, including Romney.
Mark Weibrot: Assange Case: Sweden’s Shame in Violating Human Rights
It was like a scene from a Hollywood movie, where the kidnapper walks up from behind, with a gun protruding from his trench coat pocket. “Keep walking, and don’t say anything,” he warns.
Such was the U.K. government’s threat three weeks ago to Ecuador, that British police could invade the Ecuadorian embassy if necessary to arrest WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. But Ecuador’s foreign minister didn’t keep walking, and said something, to the great embarrassment of the U.K. Foreign Office. The Foreign Office tried to say it wasn’t a threat-although it was now available to the world in writing – and then took it back.
But the unprecedented threat to violate the Vienna convention that protects diplomatic missions brought serious criticism from the Union of South American Nations, and then – despite being watered down by Washington – another rebuke from the Organization of American States.
As their once core demographic diminishes, Republicans are going to any lengths to capture and keep the white vote
As Republicans were promoting themselves as a multiracial party from the platform in Tampa two weeks ago, an ugly incident on the convention floor suggested not everyone had got the memo. From the podium a range of speakers of Haitian, Mexican, Cuban and Indian descent spoke of how their parents had overcome huge barriers so they could succeed in the US. In the audience, a successful black woman who works for CNN was being [pelted with peanuts v] by a convention-goer, who said: “This is how we feed the animals.”
The tension between the projection of a modern, inclusive, tolerant party and the reality of a sizeable racially intolerant element within its base pining for the restoration of white privilege is neither new nor accidental. Indeed, it in no small part explains the trajectory of the Republican party for almost the last half century. In his diary, Richard Nixon’s chief-of-staff, Bob Haldeman, described how his boss spelled out the racial contours of a new electoral game-plan to win southern and suburban whites over to the Republican party in the wake of the civil rights era. “You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” Nixon told him. “The key is to devise a system that recognises that while not appearing to.”
Bill McKibben: A Summer of Extremes Signifies the New Normal
Just as the baseball season now stretches nearly into November, and the National Football League keeps adding games, so the summer season is in danger of extending on both ends, a kind of megalomaniac power grab fueled by the carbon pouring into the atmosphere.
In fact, you could argue that the North American summer actually started two days before the official end of winter this year, when the town of Winner, South Dakota turned in a 94-degree temperature reading. It was part of that wild July-in-March heat wave that stretched across two-thirds of the country, a stretch of weather so bizarre that historian Christopher Burt called it “probably the most extraordinary anomalous heat event” that the nation has ever seen. International Falls, “the icebox of the nation,” broke its heat records 10 straight days, and Chicago nine. In Traverse City, Michigan, on March 21, the record high was 87 degrees. But the low was 62 degrees, which was 4 degrees higher than the previous record high. The technical word for that is, insane.
And it wasn’t just the U.S. – new March records were set everywhere from Perth to Reykjavik, not to mention (this is the gun on the wall in Act One) Summit Station at the top of the Greenland Ice Cap.