Daily Archive: 11/20/2012

Nov 20 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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Dean Baker: The Shrill and the Serious

Washington policy debates are primarily about being admitted to the club of participants rather than about logic and evidence. Until the public understands this fact, there is little chance that the vast majority of people will have much ability to influence the course of policy.

The budget deficit is the current obsession in Washington. You can get big bucks spinning scare stories of huge budget deficits that will bankrupt the government and sink the economy. However, the indisputable reality is that the large budget deficits of recent years are due to the economic downturn following the collapse of the housing bubble.

But the people who make this point are not invited to take part in the discussion. Pointing out this fact makes one shrill; you have to say that the deficit is a huge problem to be a serious person in Washington.

William K. Black: The Republican Campaign to Convince Missouri to Join in a Fiscal Suicide Pact with Kansas

I have written previously to describe Kansas Republicans’ unholy war against moderate conservatives of their own Party. Governor Brownback and Secretary of State Kobach led the successful purge in the primary elections of any Republican official who did not back dramatic changes in taxation and measures against “undocumented workers” or “illegal immigrants.” The Kansas fiscal plan will end most income taxes, adopt highly regressive taxes that will not provide equivalent revenue, and sharply cut social programs such as education. [..]

The Republican Tea Party effort to convince Missouri to join Kansas in a fiscal suicide pact reveals how little the Party has learned from the 2012 elections. The Tea Party’s leverage over the Republican Party continues to wound the Party, the infra-red states, and the nation. The Missouri legislature is predisposed to enter into the suicide pact with Kansas. We will soon see whether it can be convinced by the folks who chose Akin to choose to make Missouri a low-skill, low-pay, and low-service Tea Party paradise. The Missouri Republican Party’s wealthiest donor believes that the best way to convince Republican legislators to sign on to the Kansas fiscal suicide pact is an ad campaign that calls for protecting our tax base and teachers by adopting the Kansas plan that would gut our tax base and require us to fire thousands of teachers. He thinks our legislators are so dumb that his literally childish ad composed of self-contradictions will sweep them up like lemmings. (Lemmings don’t really commit mass suicide. Only legislators are that stupid.) God help us if Missouri’s legislators take their guidance from Kansas.

Arun Gupta: Don’t Let Obama Cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security

If you voted this election, whether for Barack Obama, Jill Stein or even Mitt Romney, you did not vote for austerity. But that’s of little consequence to Obama and the Republicans. The two parties are currently drafting measures that will undermine Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare as the economy approaches the “fiscal cliff” at the end of this year when more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will kick in absent a new budget deal. [..]

Trusting a Democratic president with protecting the general welfare is ill advised when the last one gave us NAFTA, welfare “reform” and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Not only has Obama been gunning for retirement programs since 2008 (I’ll explain), he’s so hell bent on reducing deficits that he’s willing to damage the economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimates (pdf) if the economy plunges over the cliff, recession will hit in 2013. Interestingly, the CBO calculates that if all the tax cuts are left in place and no spending cuts are enacted the economy will grow by 4.4 percent next year and add 2.3 million full-time equivalent jobs. This would be the highest rate of growth since the late 1990s.

Wendell Potter: The Usual Suspects Who Will Benefit From Gutting Obamacare Now Want You to Worry About ‘Disruption’

Disruption.

Get ready to hear that word many times in the coming weeks, especially if you hang out inside the Washington beltway.

“Disruption” will be the new buzzword in an upcoming advertising campaign aimed at scaring us. The campaign is selling the idea that millions of Americans will face higher premiums and possibly be forced into health plans with skimpier benefits — i.e., disrupted — if Congress doesn’t repeal a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that raises money to pay for expanding coverage for the uninsured.

The greed of the health insurance industry knows no bounds. Insurance companies will get billions of dollars in new revenue every year as a result of the health act’s requirement that, starting in 2014, we will have to buy coverage from private insurers if we’re not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

Peter Diamond: Down With Supercommittees

Instead of wide-ranging, politically motivated panels, we need narrowly targeted commissions, without sitting members of Congress, modeled on the successful Base Closure and Realignment Commissions of recent decades.

Compare the successes of five consecutive base-closing commissions, which were charged with shuttering or shrinking military facilities, and the failures of both the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the deficit “supercommittee.”

In all of these cases, Congress recognized the difficulty in addressing an important issue, and committed itself to a no-amendments, up-or-down action on a possible commission report.

Each report from the base-closing commissions resulted in closures. In contrast, the Simpson-Bowles report did not receive enough votes to prompt Congressional action, and the supercommittee did not even finish a report.

John Nichols: Vulture Capitalism Ate Your Twinkies

“Wall Street investors first came onto the scene with Hostess about a decade ago, purchasing the company and then loading it with debt. All the while, its executives talked of investments in new equipment, new research and new delivery trucks, but those improvements never materialized,” explains AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

“Instead, the executives planned to give themselves bonuses and demanded pay cuts and benefit cuts from the workers, who haven’t had a raise in eight years,” said the AFL-CIO head. “In 2011, Hostess earned profits of more than $2.5 billion but ended the year with a loss of $341 million as it struggled to pay the interest on $1 billion in debt. This year, the company sought bankruptcy protection, the second time in eight years. Still, the CEO who brought on the latest bankruptcy got a raise while Hostess demanded that its workers accept a 30 percent pay and benefits cut.”

When BCTGM workers struck Hostess, they did not do so casually.

They were challenging Bain-style abuses by a private-equity group – Ripplewood Holdings – that had proven its incompetence and yet continued to demand more money from the workers.

Nov 20 2012

Disaster Capitalism and Climate Change

Naomi Klein, author of Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,, joined Bill Moyers to discuss how the the destructive force of Hurricane Sandy and climate change can alter politics and the economy.

The full transcript can be read here.

Lambert Strether, posting at naked capitalism, thought this part of the interview particularly interesting.

   NAOMI KLEIN: So one of the things that you find out in a disaster is you really do need a public sector. It really important. And coming back to what we were talking about earlier, why is climate change so threatening to people on the conservative end of the political spectrum? One of the things it makes an argument for is the public sphere. You need public transit to prevent climate change. But you also need a public health care system to respond to it. It can’t just be ad hoc. It can’t just be charity and goodwill.

   BILL MOYERS: When you use terms like “collective action,” “central planning,” you scare corporate executive and the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation because they say you want to do away with capitalism.

   NAOMI KLEIN: Well, first of all, I don’t use a phrase like “central planning.” I talk about planning, but I don’t think it should be central. And one of the things that one must admit when looking at climate change is that the only thing just as bad or maybe even worse for the climate than capitalism was communism. And when we look at the carbon emissions for the eastern bloc countries, they were actually, in some cases, worse than countries like Australia or Canada. So, let’s just call it a tie. So we need to look for other models. And I think there needs to be much more decentralization and a much deeper definition of democracy than we have right now.

   BILL MOYERS: Decentralization of what, Naomi?

   NAOMI KLEIN: Well, for instance, you know, if we think about renewable energy, well, one of the things that’s happened is that when you try to get wind farms set up, really big wind farms, there’s usually a lot of community resistance that’s happened in the United States. It’s happened in Britain. Where it hasn’t happened is Germany and Denmark. And the reason for that is that in those places you have movements that have demanded that the renewable energy be community controlled, not centrally planned, but community controlled. So that there’s a sense of ownership, not by some big, faceless state, but by the people who actually live in the community that is impacted.

What Yves said: “These pesky issues of governance, the nature of the state, and legitimacy seem to popping up all over these days.”

Nov 20 2012

On This Day In History November 20

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

On this day in 1945, Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.

The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

Origin

British War Cabinet documents, released on 2 January 2006, have shown that as early as December 1944, the Cabinet had discussed their policy for the punishment of the leading Nazis if captured. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had then advocated a policy of summary execution in some circumstances, with the use of an Act of Attainder to circumvent legal obstacles, being dissuaded from this only by talks with US leaders later in the war. In late 1943, during the Tripartite Dinner Meeting at the Tehran Conference, the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, proposed executing 50,000-100,000 German staff officers. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, joked that perhaps 49,000 would do. Churchill denounced the idea of “the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country.” However, he also stated that war criminals must pay for their crimes and that in accordance with the Moscow Document which he himself had written, they should be tried at the places where the crimes were committed. Churchill was vigorously opposed to executions “for political purposes.” According to the minutes of a Roosevelt-Stalin meeting during the Yalta Conference, on February 4, 1945, at the Livadia Palace, President Roosevelt “said that he had been very much struck by the extent of German destruction in the Crimea and therefore he was more bloodthirsty in regard to the Germans than he had been a year ago, and he hoped that Marshal Stalin would again propose a toast to the execution of 50,000 officers of the German Army.

US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., suggested a plan for the total denazification of Germany; this was known as the Morgenthau Plan. The plan advocated the forced de-industrialisation of Germany. Roosevelt initially supported this plan, and managed to convince Churchill to support it in a less drastic form. Later, details were leaked to the public, generating widespread protest. Roosevelt, aware of strong public disapproval, abandoned the plan, but did not adopt an alternate position on the matter. The demise of the Morgenthau Plan created the need for an alternative method of dealing with the Nazi leadership. The plan for the “Trial of European War Criminals” was drafted by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and the War Department. Following Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, the new president, Harry S. Truman, gave strong approval for a judicial process. After a series of negotiations between Britain, the US, Soviet Union and France, details of the trial were worked out. The trials were set to commence on 20 November 1945, in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

Nov 20 2012

Candace- Give Up

ek, you are very silly.

Yes, I get that a lot.