Dec 31 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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Ezra Klein: The Republican Party in one tweet

This is pretty much the Republican Party in one tweet:


You can see why these negotiations aren’t going well.

Paul Krugman: Brewing Up Confusion

Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks, has a reputation as a good guy, a man who supports worthy causes. And he presumably thought he would add to that reputation when he posted an open letter urging his employees to promote fiscal bipartisanship by writing “Come together” on coffee cups. [..]

First of all, it’s true that we face a time-sensitive issue in the form of the fiscal cliff: unless a deal is reached, we will soon experience a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that might push the nation back into recession. But that prospect doesn’t reflect a failure to “fix the debt” by reducing the budget deficit – on the contrary, the danger is that we’ll cut the deficit too fast.

How could someone as well connected as Mr. Schultz get such a basic point wrong? By talking to the wrong people – in particular, the people at Fix the Debt, who’ve been doing their best to muddle the issue. For example, in a new fund-raising letter Maya MacGuineas, the organization’s public face, writes of the need to “make hard decisions when it comes to averting the ‘fiscal cliff’ and stabilizing our national debt” – even though the problem with the fiscal cliff is precisely that it stabilizes the debt too soon. Clearly, Ms. MacGuineas was trying to confuse readers on that point, and she apparently confused Mr. Schultz too.

New York Times Editorial: A Broken System for Tracking Guns

As President Obama looks to reduce gun violence after the Connecticut massacre through reforms like reinstating the assault weapons ban, he and supporters of sane gun laws in Congress need to be equally serious about strengthening the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the beleaguered agency charged with enforcing federal firearm regulations. [..]

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, President Obama reiterated his commitment to lay out a package of gun reforms quickly and put his “full weight behind it.” In addition to a tough assault weapons ban, he should be pushing to bar sales of high-capacity ammunition clips and to close the loophole that allows felons and other buyers to evade background checks at gun shows. Empowering the A.T.F. is another step that clearly needs to be part of his agenda.

Robert Kuttner; New Year, New Low for Republicans

Four years ago Barack Obama prepared to take the oath of office as a Democratic president, at a moment when free market ideology and Republican incumbency were disgraced by events. But a year that should have marked the end of the laissez-faire fantasy and the resurgence of effective government instead began an era of muddle through. [..]

Obama wanted to be the president who would change the tone in Washington, meaning a more collaborative relationship with the Republicans. That was not to be. The Republicans would not allow it. Now, history invites Obama to change the tone in Washington by dispatching an extremist Republican Party to the far fringes of public discourse where it belongs.

Peter Dreier: New York Times’ Xmas Present to Corporate Lobby Group Fix-the Debt: A Puff Piece

The New York Times should be embarrassed. On December 24 it gave a Christmas present to the corporate-backed lobby group Fix the Debt with its front-page Business section puff piece about the organization, which is pushing to balance the federal budget by slashing social programs while cutting taxes for the rich.

The 1149-word piece, “One Woman’s War on Debt Gains Steam,” by reporter Annie Lowrey, is a fawning profile of the group’s public face, Maya MacGuineas. The article makes it appear that the Fix the Debt group was hatched last year at a dinner party at Senator Mark Warner’s house, when in fact it is simply the latest incarnation of Pete Peterson, the billionaire Wall Street financier who over many years has invested tens of millions of his money in his long-term crusade to reduce the federal debt on the backs of the poor and middle class, including the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which Peterson funded and where MacGuineas once worked. Peterson is also the largest funder of Fix the Debt, but he isn’t mentioned in Lowrey’s article. The launching of Fix the Debt was announced on the Peter Peterson Foundation website. Lowrey could easily have found dozens of articles on the web about Fix the Debt that reveal Peterson’s crusade and his role in the group, including an investigative article in New York magazine. Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik exposed Peterson’s long-term crusade to forge an elite consensus to slash social spending in pieces last October 2 and October 9. Bob Kuttner performed a similar service in an article for American Prospect.

Indeed, Times columnist Paul Krugman mentioned Peterson’s close ties to the organization in his column “Maya and the Vigilantes” two days before Lowrey’s article appeared.

Ralph Nader: Make Civic Engagement a Priority in the New Year

Many people view the New Year as a time for resolutions — losing weight, exercising more, staying in better touch with friends, taking up a new hobby. Here’s something you don’t often hear of when considering New Year’s resolutions — devoting more time to civic life. Our nation has millions of runners, gym goers, bird watchers, collectors, sports fans and musicians. But one area that is often overlooked when it comes to one’s free time and quality of life is the “democratic arts.”

A practitioner of the democratic arts can rally others informally or through civic groups to stand up against the power brokers who act against the interests of local communities or national interests; a practitioner of the democratic arts will dedicate time and ability to watching over institutions such as Congress, government agencies and multinational corporations; a practitioner of the democratic arts will not just grumble at injustices, but rather seek out and challenge injustices. In short, a practitioner of the democratic arts is an active citizen.

Politicians of all stripes can promise “hope and change,” but real change will only come when more Americans decide to try their hand at civic action. There is an old saying: “Eternal vigilance is the price for liberty.” An update may be — if you don’t have a say, you’ll pay, pay and pay.