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Mar 19 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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Joseph E. Stiglitz: Singapore’s Lessons for an Unequal America

Inequality has been rising in most countries around the world, but it has played out in different ways across countries and regions. The United States, it is increasingly recognized, has the sad distinction of being the most unequal advanced country, though the income gap has also widened to a lesser extent, in Britain, Japan, Canada and Germany. Of course, the situation is even worse in Russia, and some developing countries in Latin America and Africa. But this is a club of which we should not be proud to be a member. [..]

Singapore has had the distinction of having prioritized social and economic equity while achieving very high rates of growth over the past 30 years – an example par excellence that inequality is not just a matter of social justice but of economic performance. Societies with fewer economic disparities perform better – not just for those at the bottom or the middle, but over all.

Dean Baker: Worms, Pond Scum, and Economists

The effort to blame the awful plight of the young on Social Security and Medicare is picking up steam. In the last week there were several pieces in the Washington Post and New York Times that either implicitly or explicitly blamed older workers and retirees for the bad economic plight facing young people today. There is now a full court press to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, ostensibly out of a desire to help young workers today and in the future. [..]

There is no doubt that this is not a pretty picture, but this story has nothing to do with Social Security and Medicare. There is a simple and obvious cause of the dire economic conditions of the nation’s young: the downturn created by the collapse of the housing bubble. This downturn caused the high unemployment rate and weak labor market that has made it impossible for most young people to secure decent jobs with rising wages.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Cyprus Bank Panic: It Can’t Happen Here — Can It?

There was panic in Cyprus today as ordinary citizens learned that the government was about to take nearly seven percent (6.75 percent) of the money in their bank accounts as part of a package to bail out reckless banks.

The outrage was justified, predictable, and immediate. Then, in a move reminiscent of the Great Depression, banks were closed in a government-mandated ‘holiday’ while lawmakers and financial authorities scrambled and tried to figure out what to do next.

Putin’s mad. Observers like Paul Krugman are predicting bank runs in other troubled European countries. There’s only one saving grace for American observers:

It Can’t Happen Here

… Or can it?

William K. Black: The SEC Embraces Irony — its Enforcement “Inflection” “Point”

Many readers doubtless shared my doubt that the SEC was capable of exercising the critical self-examination and sense of humor about itself as a flawed institution that would make it capable of deliberate irony. When I accessed the Wall Street Journal‘s home page I found the most delicious example of SEC (and WSJ) irony. The WSJ synopsis of its article on the SEC reads: “The SEC is filing significantly fewer civil fraud cases this year, as its efforts to punish misconduct related to the financial crisis start to ebb.” [..]

Actually, at full tide there were zero prosecutions of elite bankers for the accounting control frauds that drove the financial crisis. And there were zero civil or enforcement cases by the SEC against the elite officers who grew wealthy through the frauds that drove the financial crisis that actually left the officers suffering a net loss from their frauds and required them to admit their frauds. The last time the SEC “tide” of enforcement actions against elites resembled even a pale imitation of the Bay of Fundy was a decade ago in response to the Enron-era frauds. Even then, Eliot Spitzer, then the Attorney General of New York, put the SEC to shame with his far greater success with far fewer resources.

Josh Barro: The Supreme Court Can Save Republicans From Gay-Marriage Mess

In his pro-gay marriage op-ed last week, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio repeated a common argument against the idea that the Supreme Court should find a constitutional right to gay marriage: “An expansive court ruling would run the risk of deepening divisions rather than resolving them.”

This is exactly wrong. An expansive court ruling would settle the gay-marriage issue for good, eliminating the need for 20 years of state legislative fights that will be painful for gays and hugely politically damaging to the Republican Party. [..]

Gay marriage opponents are going to lose the fight; the only question is whether they will lose it in a way that is quick and painless or long and ugly. If Anthony Kennedy or John Roberts vote to strike down all the state bans on gay marriage, Republicans will be furious with them, but the justices will in fact have done the party a huge favor.

Wendell Potter: Getting Sick and Getting Purged

On Friday I was one of three witnesses to testify before a House committee hearing on whether the cost of health insurance will be higher or lower for people who cannot obtain it through their employer when important provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect in a few months. [..]

One of the reasons for the congressional hearing was the industry’s massive PR and lobbying campaign to try to get Congress to change Obamacare so that states can decide how much insurers can charge people based on age. That would enable them to maintain the very profitable status quo. By restricting the amount insurers can charge older Americans, however, the Affordable Care Act will foil their attempts to deny coverage to people they want to avoid by charging exorbitant premiums. People who need medical care the most. People like Leslie Elder.

This new restriction is one of the most important consumer protections in the reform law. It would be a tragedy if Congress guts it.