Dec 27 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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Alan Grayson: Legislation Constipation

It’s been 10 months since the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board coined the term “fiscal cliff” when he called attention to the “massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases” that will go into effect less than a week from now. Ten months. But in all of that time, there has been nothing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives even remotely resembling a line-by-line vote on whether each one of those spending cuts and tax increases, individually, is good or bad. Just John Boehner holding his breath until the Democrats “agree” to extending tax breaks for the rich, and cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

It’s the worst case of legislation constipation that I’ve ever seen. But that’s what happens — what ought to happen — when the folks in charge say over and over again, “I’m in favor of X, but I won’t vote for X, or even allow a vote for X, unless I get Y.”

We’re going to need some kind of patch to get through this. But I hope that the Powers That Be learn from this mistake. Slice it all into little pieces, and then vote each piece up or down. It works. And it’s a lot more practical than hoping that John Boehner, or Barack Obama, pulls a rabbit out of his hat.

Dan Baker: There Is No Santa Claus and Bill Clinton Was Not an Economic Savior

The truth is often painful but nonetheless it is important that we live in the real world. Just as little kids have to come to grips with the fact that there is no Santa Claus, it is necessary for millions of liberals, including many who think of themselves as highly knowledgeable about economic matters, to realize that President Clinton’s policies sent the economy seriously off course.

In Washington it is common to tout the budget surpluses of the Clinton years as some momentous achievement, as though the point of economic policy is to run budget surpluses. Of course the point of economic policy is to produce an economy that improves the lives of the people in a sustainable way. Clinton badly flunked this test. [..]

The big difference is that, unlike the Republicans, the Rubin-Clinton crew believes that the rich should have to pay their taxes. That’s something, but until there is someone in this debate who isn’t pushing policies that redistribute before-tax income upward, the vast majority in this country can only lose.

John Atcheson: Christmas, Winter Solstice, A Time of Renewal, and the Beginning of End of the World As We Know It

Scholars agree that the timing of Christmas has more to do with the end of winter than the birth of a savior.

The evidence that people celebrated the death of winter is literally everywhere.  Five thousand year old structures designed to track the sun can be found in England,  Ireland, and the Americas; the ancient myths of the Druids, Japan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Crete, Greece, and Rome all speak of and celebrate the rebirth of sun as the days lengthened.

It’s not surprising that early humans were so concerned with the comings and goings of the sun, and that they viewed its return with a joy and reverence reserved for the gods.  We were – and are – completely dependent upon our star and the climate we evolved in for our survival.

Each annual return meant that crops could be grown, animals bred, game and nature’s bounty renewed.  With the whole cycle of birth and life and renewal once again assured, light banished darkness, warmth swept away cold, life vanquished death.

Joy to the world, indeed.

William K. Black: Obama Should Listen to Obama About Avoiding Self-Inflicted Wounds

Reporters need to ask Obama two series of questions. Who insisted on creating the fiscal cliff, threatened Republicans in Fall 2011 when they wanted to eliminate or reduce it, and after the “failure” of the November 2011 “super committee” to reach a deal to inflict even greater austerity on the nation, made a veto threat to block a Republican proposal to eliminate or delay the fiscal cliff? The answer is: Obama. “The White House wanted a ‘trigger’ that would automatically raise taxes on the wealthy and cut health spending, an idea the Republicans opposed.” Obama’s “trigger” became the “fiscal cliff.” I have explained how he then kept the “fiscal cliff” alive by blocking Republican efforts to eliminate or delay it. [..]

The second question Obama should be asked is: given your warning that the fiscal cliff’s austerity would cause a recession, why are you demanding a Grand Bargain (sic, actually the Grand Betrayal) that would inflict austerity for a decade and likely cause multiple recessions and larger deficits?

Consider the incoherence of Obama’s statement: “‘Everybody’s got to give a little bit in a sensible way’ to prevent the economy from pitching over a recession-threatening fiscal cliff, he said.” That statement makes no sense. Austerity is the problem. Obama and the Republicans agree that it is a self-destructive policy that would cause a recession, just as it did in the eurozone. The solution is (1) not to raise overall taxes and (2) not to cut overall spending.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: For Wall Street It’s “Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Remington”

Despite an epidemic of gun deaths, the river of gun cash never stops flowing. If you follow that river upstream you’ll see that its source lies very close to Wall Street. And the river’s mouth speaks with the voice of politicians, whose campaign fundraising is undoubtedly taking place even on this supposedly holy day for most of them.

‘Tis the season to be lobbied.

“More than 50 firearms-related companies have given at least $14.8 million” to the National Rifle Association, Bloomberg News reports — and that’s just the money we know about. The NRA spent nearly $25 million in the last election cycle alone. True to form, the NRA’s chief said this week that we need more guns in the schools to end the killing of our children.

That’s like spreading a flu virus to stop an epidemic.

Robert Reich: Cliff Hanger: Obama’s Last Stand and the Republican Strategy of Fanaticism

President Obama is cutting his Christmas holiday short, returning to Washington for a last attempt at avoiding the fiscal cliff. But he’s running headlong into the Republican strategy of fanaticism.

It’s a long-established principle of game theory (see Thomas Schelling’s classic 1956 essay in the American Economic Review) that a fanatic who restricts his freedom to avert a disaster puts maximum pressure on his opponent to give ground. [..]

The real problem with this gambit is it doesn’t change the game. Even down the road, Boehner’s hands will still be tied and the fanatics will remain in charge — which will give Republicans the stronger position in negotiations leading to a “grand bargain.” Compromise would have to be almost entirely on the Democrats’ side.

That’s why I’d recommend going over the cliff and forcing the Republicans’ hand. It’s a risky strategy but it would at least expose the Republican tactic and put public pressure squarely on rank-and-file Republicans, where it belongs.