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Dec 01 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 L. Borsage: On the Fiscal Extortion; Just Say No

Pressure for a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year is building. Even minor tremors in the stock market are treated as auguries of the panic that will attend a failure to act. A multi-million dollar campaign funded by Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson and Corporate CEOs demands action to “fix the debt.”

The president has put forth a comprehensive $4 trillion-dollar plan, including ending the Bush tax breaks for the top 2 percent, $400 billion in savings from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years, as well as extension of the payroll tax cut, and creation of an infrastructure bank to help sustain the economy. House Speaker John Boehner scorns this, arguing that the price of defusing the austerity bomb is a deal that combines far more significant cuts in “entitlements” — that is Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — with smaller amounts of revenue coming from lowering top rates and closing loopholes. As the end of the year approaches, the hysteria will build.

Easily lost in the tumult is simple common sense. No deal is a far better alternative than a bad deal — and the grand bargain now being discussed is a very bad deal. Here are the reasons citizens should be skeptical about the rush to agree.

Jill Filpovic: Justice Ginsburg’s distant dream of an all-female supreme court

Women graduate in law and enter legal practice in parity with men. But instead of getting on the bench, they end up benched

When will there be enough women on the United States supreme court?

Supreme court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says when all nine seats are filled by female judges: [..]

Ginsburg’s comments, which were made last month, ruffled some feathers – but she’s right. As she herself pointed out, for most of the supreme court’s history, all of the justices were men and no one “ever raised a question” about that. The court isn’t like Congress or a corporation where there are hundreds of people serving and female-only representation would suggest a serious (and probably intentional) imbalance. There are only nine justices on the supreme court. It’s not unreasonable to think that, at some point, nine of the finest legal minds in the country would belong to women.

Unfortunately, an all-female supreme court is a long ways off. And not because women aren’t just as smart as men, don’t achieve as highly or aren’t as ambitious. But because, socially, we set men up to succeed and set women up to fail.

Robert Reich: Organizing McDonald’s and Walmart, and Why Austerity Economics Hurts Low-Wage Workers the Most

What does the drama in Washington over the “fiscal cliff” have to do with strikes and work stoppages among America’s lowest-paid workers at Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Domino’s Pizza?

Everything.

Jobs are slowly returning to America, but most of them pay lousy wages and low if non-existent benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that seven out of 10 growth occupations over the next decade will be low-wage — like serving customers at big-box retailers and fast-food chains. That’s why the median wage keeps dropping, especially for the 80 percent of the workforce that’s paid by the hour.

It also part of the reason why the percent of Americans living below the poverty line has been increasing even as the economy has started to recover — from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2011. More than 46 million Americans now live below the poverty line.

Ralph Nader: The Gift of a Sustainable Economy

As the end of the year approaches, so does the biggest consumer rush of the year, as millions flock to the stores and online vendors for the latest TVs, gadgets, trendy toys, clothes and more. The Friday after Thanksgiving, now popularly known as “Black Friday” has, in recent years, been hyped beyond the bounds of decency by marketers hoping to motivate thousands of people across the country to line up outside of stores in the wee hours of the morning in hope of securing discounts on big ticket items. One could even make the case that Thanksgiving is now overshadowed by the next-day shopping extravaganza — in some communities, stores even opened on Thursday night, so intrepid shoppers could leave their holiday festivities and get right to it. And don’t forget about “Cyber Monday” just days later, for those inclined to get their deals online.

The holidays, once considered a sacred time for family and celebration, have been hijacked by big companies sending out a message to the American people, playing on an endless loop from as early as November 1st all the way to the New Year: “Buy, buy, buy!” Think of all of those products that millions of Americans are purchasing as gifts for their friends and family. Where were they manufactured? Who profits from their sale? What happens to them when they break or become obsolete?

George Zornick: Why Raising the Eligibility Age is the ‘Single Worst Idea’ for Medicare Reform

Most of what’s happening now in the fiscal cliff saga is just posturing-each side is trying to appear open to compromise while at the same time assuring its base that sacred principles will be respected.

But this morning, Politico reported what could be the early contours of an actual deal that’s taking shape behind the scenes. There’s a huge caveat to this story, written by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, because it couldn’t be any more vaguely sourced. Allen and VandeHei refer only to “top officials,” “veterans of this budget fight,” and so on, so it’s impossible to discern who is feeding them this information and why.

But assuming for a moment it’s true, there are some details sure to give progressives indigestion. In exchange for Republicans agreeing to tax increases-including rate hikes-on the top two percent of earners, this is what is allegedly being talked about for entitlement reform: [..]

John Nichols: Sorry, Erskine, America Rejected Simpson-Bowles

Erskine Bowles, who is sort of a Democrat, met Wednesday with House Speaker John Boehner to help Republicans promote proposals to cut entitlements, as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

This is the right place for Bowles, who has long maintained a mutual-admiration society with House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. The former Clinton White House chief of staff has always been in the corporate conservative camp when it comes to debates about preserving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

It’s good that he and Boehner have found one another. Let the Republicans advocate for the cuts proposed by Bowles and his former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, his Republican co-conductor on the train wreck that produced the so-called “Simpson-Bowles” deficit reduction plan.

After all, despite the media hype, Simposon-Bowles has always been a non-starter with the American people.