“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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Robert Kuttner: Social Security and the Obama Cave-In
The deal between the White House and congressional Republicans includes changes to the cost-of-living formula that amount to needless cuts for seniors.
Once again, President Obama seems to be on the verge of folding a winning hand. [..]
Obama, the reports say, will now settle for as little as $1.2 trillion in tax increases on the rich rather than the $1.6 trillion that he had originally sought. The difference, in effect, will come out of the pockets of workers, retirees, the young, and the poor.
Especially foolish is the cut in Social Security benefits, disguised as a change in the cost-of-living adjustment formula. Before getting to the arcane details of the formula, here’s the bottom line. The proposed change will save only $122 billion over ten years, but it will significantly cut benefits for the elderly.
Richard (RJ) Eskow: This Is Not America’s Deal
Our leaders in Washington heard from the voters last month. They may need to hear from them again.
According to news reports a budget deal is coalescing around some very unattractive and unwise ideas. The deal’s centerpiece is reportedly the “chained CPI,” a back-door tool for gutting Social Security benefits that also raises taxes on all levels of income — all levels, that is, except the highest.
This deal would make voters very unhappy. It reflects neither their wishes, their needs, or their values. They’ve already said so — to pollsters like ours and in the voting booth on Election Day. Instead of responding, this looks like another “insider deal” — another agreement that suggests the public’s values and concerns vanish once you cross the Beltway.
President Obama on Wednesday gave Vice President Joe Biden Jr. a month to complete a job that he could have finished that afternoon. It is time to come up with, as Mr. Obama put it, “a set of concrete proposals” to make the nation safer from guns. The ways to do this are well-known because the nation has grappled with gun massacres many times before. It is Congress that hasn’t. [..]
Many of the good ideas, some expressed on this page this week, involve sensible limits on who can buy guns and how they can be sold. Mr. Obama should also focus on the weaponry itself, starting with restoring – after toughening – the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. Assault weapons are versions of military rifles that are meant to kill people, not paper targets, clay pigeons or deer. They account for only a fraction of the guns sold and used in the United States, but they play a hugely outsize role in the national slaughter; rampage killers love them.
Gail Collins: Revolt of the Cliff Dwellers
Attempts to avert the infamous “fiscal cliff” are like a super-high-stakes card game. But you have to imagine a game in which one player needs to go into a back room before he makes his bet and get the approval of a herd of rabid ferrets.
That would be Speaker John Boehner. Across from him at the card table sits the president. When Barack Obama won his big Senate race in 2004, his pals in the Illinois Legislature celebrated with one last evening of poker, in which they took the senator-elect for every dollar in his wallet.
So perhaps it was not surprising that in the negotiations, the president gave up quite a bit. You will remember that Obama had campaigned on keeping the Bush-era tax cuts only for the American middle class: families making $250,000 a year or less. O.K., possibly not all truly middle-class. Still, that was his line in the sand. There were long stretches this fall when tax-hike-for-over-$250,000 seemed to be his only specific plan for the next four years. But, this week, he let Boehner move the line. Pushed it up to $400,000. Plus, Obama gave way on entitlements by agreeing to change the cost-of-living adjustments on Social Security. Then, all eyes turned to the House speaker. And the rabid ferrets.
Peter van Buren: Torture: An All-American Nightmare
Why ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Won’t Settle the Torture Question or Purge Torture From the American System
If you look backward you see a nightmare. If you look forward you become the nightmare.
There’s one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we’re going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen, either passively or with guilty (or guiltless) gusto. If not, torture won’t go away. It can’t be disappeared like the body of a political prisoner, or conveniently deep-sixed simply by wishing it elsewhere or pretending it never happened or closing our bureaucratic eyes. After the fact, torture can only be dealt with by staring directly into the nightmare that changed us — that, like it or not, helped make us who we now are.
Uhmm. Don’t look now, Mr. President, but you’re taking a mandate and turning it into mush.
Ordinarily that might not matter much. The importance of the goings on inside the Beltway are notoriously overestimated.
But as you yourself said, this election was an unusually clear and important choice between two fundamentally different views of government. And as you noted, the stakes were high.
You pointed out that that the prescriptions Republicans were pushing to fix the economy were those that caused the economic collapse.
And guess what? Being the only sane candidate on the issue became a political asset.
And you won.
Yet one week after the election, you warned progressives to be prepared for “bitter pills.” Really? Why not just tell McConnell, Bohner and the tea crazies we’re ready to fold?