“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: Austerity, Italian Style
Two months ago, when Mario Monti stepped down as Italy’s prime minister, The Economist opined that “The coming election campaign will be, above all, a test of the maturity and realism of Italian voters.” The mature, realistic action, presumably, would have been to return Mr. Monti – who was essentially imposed on Italy by its creditors – to office, this time with an actual democratic mandate.
Well, it’s not looking good. Mr. Monti’s party appears likely to come in fourth; not only is he running well behind the essentially comical Silvio Berlusconi, he’s running behind an actual comedian, Beppe Grillo, whose lack of a coherent platform hasn’t stopped him from becoming a powerful political force.
New York Times Editorial: Defense and the Sequester
The arbitrary budget cuts known as the sequester will exact a toll on not only domestic programs but military spending as well. Hence the howls in Washington from the Pentagon chieftains and their ardent Congressional supporters. But the truth is that the military budget not only can be cut, but should be cut, though not with this kind of political machete and not in the way the service chiefs say they plan to wield it.
If and when the sequester comes into play on March 1, it will force cuts totaling $85 billion in discretionary government spending over the next seven months. This includes $43 billion from defense programs, or 8 percent. Over the next 10 years, defense cuts are supposed to total $500 billion.
President Obama and his advisers are wagering that Republicans will take the political blame if the sequester of $85 billion in automatic budget cuts is actually executed March 1. The president’s public remarks keep emphasizing the risk to the recovery, the loss of jobs, the inconvenience to the public and the generally obstructionist posture of Republicans in Congress.
He is certainly right — in the short run. But the potential for damage to Obama and the Democrats is far greater in the years between now and the next mid-term (2014) and presidential (2016) elections.
Why are Democrats more at risk?
Richard (RJ) Eskow: Washington’s Stupid, Destructive Game
It’s Monday morning in America. That means we’re about to endure another week of pointless debate over the precise methods by which our federal government will impose more needless misery on the hapless population, instead of addressing its eminently fixable economic problems.
Readers of our nation’s newspapers might be forgiven for believing that the citizens of our nation have been condemned to some sort of quotidian hell as punishment for our collective crimes, where we must suffer the pangs of deprivation while listening to endless debates about how best to compound our misery.
Robert Fisk: War on Terror is the West’s New Religion
But all the crusading and invading simply plays into al-Qa’ida’s hands – just ask the French
Mohamed al-Zawahiri, younger brother of Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman, made a particularly intriguing statement in Cairo last month. Talking to that wonderful French institution Le Journal du Dimanche about Mali, he asked the paper to warn France “and to call on reasonable French people and wise men not to fall into the same trap as the Americans. France is held responsible for having occupied a Muslim country. She has declared war on Islam.” No clearer warning could France have received. And sure enough, one day later, suicide bombers attacked occupied Gao, while, exactly 10 days later, France lost its second soldier in Mali, shot dead by rebels in a battle in the Ifoghas mountain range. That’s where, according to the tired old rhetoric of President Hollande, there had been a battle with “terrorists” who were “holed up” in the area during an operation which was “in its last phase”. The phraseology is as wearying – you could listen to the same old wording in almost every US pronouncement during the Iraqi war – as is the West’s incomprehension of the new al-Qa’ida.
Robert Reich: Why Customers Are Disappearing, Why Higher Unemployment Is the Likely Result, and Why Many in Washington Don’t Have Half a Brain
Can we just put aside ideology for one minute and agree that businesses hire more workers if they have more customers, and fire workers if they have fewer customers?
There are two big categories of customer: One is comprised of individual consumers. The other is government.
We tend to think of the government as a direct employer — of teachers, fire fighters, civil servants.
But government is also a major customer of the private sector. It buys school supplies, pharmaceuticals, military equipment, computers. It hires private companies to build roads and bridges, dredge ports, manage data.
One out of every five Americans works for a company whose customer is the government.
Here’s the problem: Both categories of customer are buying less.