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Jan 01 2013

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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Paul Krugman: Perspective on the Deal

To make sense of what just happened, we need to ask what is really at stake, and how much difference the budget deal makes in the larger picture.

So, what are the two sides really fighting about? Surely the answer is, the future of the welfare state. Progressives want to maintain the achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society, and also implement and improve Obamacare so that we become a normal advanced country that guarantees essential health care to all its citizens. The right wants to roll the clock back to 1930, if not to the 19th century.

There are two ways progressives can lose this fight. One is direct defeat on the question of social insurance, with Congress actually voting to privatize and eventually phase out key programs – or with Democratic politicians themselves giving away their political birthright in the name of a mess of pottage Grand Bargain. The other is for conservatives to successfully starve the beast – to drive revenue so low through tax cuts that the social insurance programs can’t be sustained.

New York Times Editorial: A Tepid Fiscal Agreement

For the first time since President George W. Bush began the country’s long slide into debt by cutting taxes in 2001, an agreement was reached late Monday in the Senate to raise income taxes on the rich. That’s what makes the deal significant: assuming it is approved by the House, it begins to reverse the ruinous pattern of dealing with Washington’s fiscal problems only through spending cuts. [..]

The White House argues that it achieved 85 percent of its revenue goals, raising $600 billion over a decade, a third of which comes by phasing out exemptions and deductions for people with incomes greater than $250,000 a year. And Republicans achieved none of the draconian spending cuts they wanted.

But that battle is far from over. Negotiators have yet to work out a deal to stop the arbitrary spending cuts known as the sequester, which are scheduled to slash $110 billion from the defense and domestic budgets beginning this week. And Republicans are waiting for the Treasury to hit its debt limit in a few weeks, hoping to once again extort more spending cuts.

Robert Reich: Lousy Deal on the Edge of the Cliff

The deal emerging from the Senate is a lousy one. Let me count the ways: [..]

Yes, the deal finally gets Republicans to accept a tax increase on the wealthy, but this is an inside-the-Beltway symbolic victory. If anyone believes this will make the GOP more amenable to future tax increases, they don’t know how rabidly extremist the GOP has become.

The deal also extends unemployment insurance for more than 2 million long-term unemployed. That’s important.

But I can’t help believe the president could have done better than this. After all, public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. Republicans would have been blamed had no deal been achieved.

More importantly, the fiscal cliff is on the president’s side as well. If we go over it, he and the Democrats in the next Congress that starts later this week can quickly offer legislation that grants a middle-class tax cut and restores most military spending. Even rabid Republicans would be hard-pressed not to sign on.

John Nichols: Social Security Is Off the Table… For Now

Preserving Social Security should never have been all that difficult.

But it took Harry Reid to settle the issue – at least as regards the miserably long and absurdly inappropriate debate of 2012.

“We’re not going to have any Social Security cuts,” the Senate majority leader said on the floor of the chamber Sunday. “It’s just doesn’t seem appropriate at this time.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had attempted Saturday to use the “fiscal cliff” fight to advance a proposal to adopt a chained consumer price index-“chained CPI”-scheme (pdf) that would slash cost-of-living increases for Americans who rely on Social Security and other government programs. The Obama administration had entertained the “chained CPI” switch earlier in December. But as the critical point when a deal to cut Social Security might have been made, Reid said “No.”

John Atcheson: Reality’s Revenge: Will 2013 Be the Year Climate Change Deniers Get Hoisted on Their Own Petard?

n 2007, then Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chairman, Rejendra Pachauri said:

“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

Well, don’t look now, but 2012 just whizzed past, and thanks to a well-organized and well-funded denier movement, once again, we took no action on climate change.

Ironically, by stalling action, climate change deniers are bringing about the end they’ve been struggling to prevent.

Bottom line: deniers hate big government.  As ClimateProgress editor Joseph Romm pointed out, that’s the main reason many conservatives oppose action on climate change.

Of course there is a second reason: money.

Ralph Nader: Compare the 1912 Elections with the 2012 Elections

Before the electoral year of 2012 slinks into history, it is worth a comparative glance back to the electoral year of 1912 to give us some jolting perspective on how degraded our contemporary elections, voter performance and election expectations have become.  

One hundred years ago, workers were marching, picketing and forming unions. Eugene Debs, the great labor leader and presidential candidate that year, spoke to outdoor labor rallies of 100,000 to 200,000 workers and their families gathered to protest low wages and working conditions.

Farmers were flexing their muscle with vibrant political activity in progressive parties and organizing farm cooperatives, through their granges, and pushing for proper regulation of the banks and railroads.