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Feb 07 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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New York Times Editorial; To Kill an American

On one level, there were not too many surprises in the newly disclosed “white paper” offering a legal reasoning behind the claim that President Obama has the power to order the killing of American citizens who are believed to be part of Al Qaeda. We knew Mr. Obama and his lawyers believed he has that power under the Constitution and federal law. We also knew that he utterly rejects the idea that Congress or the courts have any right to review such a decision in advance, or even after the fact.

Still, it was disturbing to see the twisted logic of the administration’s lawyers laid out in black and white. It had the air of a legal justification written after the fact for a policy decision that had already been made, and it brought back unwelcome memories of memos written for President George W. Bush to justify illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention, kidnapping, abuse and torture.

Duncan Black, aka Atrios: 401Ks are a disaster

Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes.

Over the past few decades, employees fortunate enough to have employer-based retirement benefits have been shifted from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. We are now seeing the results of that grand experiment, and they are frightening. Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.

Frankly, that’s an optimistic way of putting it. Let me be alarmist for a moment, because the fact is the numbers are truly alarming. We should be worried that large numbers of people nearing retirement will be unable to keep their homes or continue to pay their rent.

Dean Baker: Tax Games and Redistributing Income Upward

The corporate profit share of national income is near a post-World War II high. The share of income going to the richest 1 percent is almost at its pre-Depression peak.

These would seem like impressive accomplishments but the process of upward redistribution, from Joe Sixpack to Joe Six Houses, is a never-ending struggle. Toward this end, Louisiana Governor and Republican wunderkind Bobby Jindal has just proposed replacing the state’s income tax with a sales tax.

Sales taxes will generally be more regressive than income taxes for the simple reason that low- and moderate-income people will spend a larger share of their income than upper-income people. That means that the portion of income that wealthy Louisianans save will escape taxation, imposing a larger burden on low- and middle-income families in any revenue neutral shift.

Amy Goodman; Brennan and Kiriakou, Drones and Torture

John Brennan and John Kiriakou worked together years ago, but their careers have dramatically diverged. Brennan is now on track to head the CIA, while Kiriakou is headed off to prison. Each of their fates is tied to the so-called war on terror, which under President George W. Bush provoked worldwide condemnation. President Barack Obama rebranded the war on terror innocuously as “overseas contingency operations,” but, rather than retrench from the odious practices of his predecessor, Obama instead escalated. His promotion of Brennan, and his prosecution of Kiriakou, demonstrate how the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.

Robert Reich: The Real Debate Over American Citizenship

Sometimes we have a national conversation without realizing it. We talk about different aspects of the same larger issue without connecting the dots.

That’s what’s happening now with regard to the meaning of American citizenship and the basic rights that come with it.

On one side are those who think of citizenship as a matter of exclusion and privilege – of protecting the nation by keeping out those who are undesirable, and putting strict limits on who is allowed to exercise the full rights of citizenship.

On the other are those who think of citizenship inclusively – as an ongoing process of helping people become full participants in America.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Why the Government’s Lawsuit Against Standard & Poor’s Matters

Before we begin, let’s take a moment to ponder the absurdity of a system in which:

a) for-profit corporations are allowed to call themselves “agencies”;

b) the government — that is, us — has given these for-profit companies trillion-dollar influence over the financial system; and

c) these “agencies” are paid by the very financial institutions whose work they’re expected to review objectively — institutions who will take their business elsewhere if their products aren’t rated highly .

We gave these “agencies” all this power, along with a huge financial incentive to rate garbage as if it were roses. Then we, in the form of government regulators, looked the other way. And now we’re shocked — shocked! — that these for-profit companies were behaving… well, like for-profit companies.