“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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Paul Krugman: Battles of the Budget
The centrist fantasy of a Grand Bargain on the budget never had a chance. Even if some kind of bargain had supposedly been reached, key players would soon have reneged on the deal – probably the next time a Republican occupied the White House.
For the reality is that our two major political parties are engaged in a fierce struggle over the future shape of American society. Democrats want to preserve the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – and add to them what every other advanced country has: a more or less universal guarantee of essential health care. Republicans want to roll all of that back, making room for drastically lower taxes on the wealthy. Yes, it’s essentially a class war.
The fight over the fiscal cliff was just one battle in that war. It ended, arguably, in a tactical victory for Democrats. The question is whether it was a Pyrrhic victory that set the stage for a larger defeat.
Why do I say that it was a tactical victory? Mainly because of what didn’t happen: There were no benefit cuts.
New York Times Editorial: Misplaced Secrecy on Targeted Killings
For years, President Obama has been stretching executive power to claim that the authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda gives him the unilateral authority to order people killed away from any battlefield without judicial oversight or public accountability – even when the target is an American citizen.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Manhattan came down on the side of preserving secrecy regarding how this dangerous view of executive power gets exercised. Judge Colleen McMahon refused to require the Justice Department to disclose a memorandum providing the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. [..]
President Obama, who pledged more government transparency in his first campaign and early days in office, should heed those sentiments and order the legal memo released along with other information that would shed light on the government’s legal reasoning and the evidence leading to Mr. Awlaki’s killing.
It is past time he did so.
Imagine a nation with a terrible problem – one its leaders refuse to discuss. The problem will needlessly drain trillions of dollars from its economy in the next ten years.
Now imagine that this problem also robs that nation’s citizens of life itself, draining years from their lifespans while depriving them of large sums of money. Imagine that it sickens and disables countless others, drives many people into bankrupcty, and kills more than two newborn infants out of every thousand born.
Imagine that fixing this problem would make result in a dramatic decline in publicly-held debt. It wouldn’t just “help” the debt problem, mind you – it would cause that debt to plunge.
And now imagine a national “deficit debate” which completely ignores this problem.
Eugene Robinson: Our Clown-Around Congress
To say that Congress looked like a clown show this week is an insult to self-respecting clowns.
Painful though it may be, let’s review what just happened. Our august legislators — aided and abetted by President Obama — manufactured a fake crisis. They then proceeded to handle it so incompetently that they turned it into a real one.
The bogus “fiscal cliff” — and please, let’s never, ever use those words again — was designed as a doomsday mechanism to force Congress and the president to make tough decisions. But resistance to the very concept of decision-making was so fierce that our leaders could only manage to avoid hurtling to their doom, and ours, by deciding not to decide much of anything.
Richard D. Wolff: Fiscal Cliff Follies: Political Theater Distracts From Key Problems With the Fix
Extremely unequal distributions of wealth and income continue to enable the richest and largest individuals and enterprises to manipulate the economy and control the political parties. The result is an economic structure disinterested in a democratically focused way out of crisis and decline.
The last-minute deal reached in the final hours of 2012 continues the sham political theater that dominated the mass media for months. One phony issue was “stalemate” between the parties. In fact, they achieved and sustained consensus all year. Both parties agreed to raise taxes and cut government spending. The fiscal cliff did that and so did the last-minute deal. In Europe that policy is called “austerity.” Republicans and Democrats merely bickered over details of austerity: who would be taxed how much more and who would obtain how much less government spending.
Europe’s austerity policies since 2010 worsened the economies of Greece, Britain, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy and so on. They likewise provoked the most massive and coordinated protests of the last half-century. Capitalism itself is among the protests’ targets. The US in 2013 thus looks set for perhaps Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Round 2.
David Sirota: The Truth Behind the Fiscal Cliff’s Reality TV Show
During the halcyon 1990s, we labeled annual congressional temper tantrums for what they were: standard, if boring, budget impasses. Now, though, in a hilariously non-ironic flail for ratings, news outlets have taken Nigel Tufnel’s famous line from “Spinal Tap” seriously, turning the volume up to 11 by portraying the latest standoff as a harrowing “fiscal cliff,” replete with doomsday countdown clocks, gaudy NFL-quality graphics, and endless Twitter hashtags.
If anyone outside the Beltway was paying attention (a big “if”), they probably thought the title referred to an old episode of “Cheers” in which the goofy mailman does his taxes. After all, replaying reruns would have been more compelling content than this latest installment of “Real World: U.S. Capitol.”
Reality TV, of course, is this moment’s perfect metaphor. That schlocky format’s foundational oxymoron – it is “real” but not real – also defines contemporary politics.