Apr 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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Paul Krugman: The Excel Depression

In this age of information, math errors can lead to disaster. NASA’s Mars Orbiter crashed because engineers forgot to convert to metric measurements; JPMorgan Chase’s “London Whale” venture went bad in part because modelers divided by a sum instead of an average. So, did an Excel coding error destroy the economies of the Western world? [..]

What the Reinhart-Rogoff affair shows is the extent to which austerity has been sold on false pretenses. For three years, the turn to austerity has been presented not as a choice but as a necessity. Economic research, austerity advocates insisted, showed that terrible things happen once debt exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P. But “economic research” showed no such thing; a couple of economists made that assertion, while many others disagreed. Policy makers abandoned the unemployed and turned to austerity because they wanted to, not because they had to.

So will toppling Reinhart-Rogoff from its pedestal change anything? I’d like to think so. But I predict that the usual suspects will just find another dubious piece of economic analysis to canonize, and the depression will go on and on.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Why the ‘Spreadsheet Scandal’ Should Kill Obama’s Social Security Cut

A recent “Spreadsheet Scandal” has rocked the economics world. It also seems to have eliminated the last remaining technical argument in support of the president’s “chained CPI” Social Security cut.

Not weakened it. Eliminated it.

I believe the president proposed the chained CPI in good faith. I don’t know if the same can be said about his campaign pledges on that subject, but I think he genuinely believed these cuts were needed. I think his economic advisors thought they were doing the right thing by proposing them.  And I think that this now-discredited spreadsheet helped convince them.

Dean Baker: Did a Spreadsheet Error Cost You Your Job?

Did an Excel error cost you your job? This is what people around the world should be asking after researchers at the University of Massachusetts uncovered a serious calculation mistake. The mistake was in an enormously influential paper by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, two prominent economists, which purports to show that high levels of government debt lead to slow economic growth.

This paper has been widely cited by political figures around the world who have been pushing the case for cutting back government spending and raising taxes. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan famously cited Reinhart and Rogoff when he laid out his budget earlier this year. So have many of the politicians now pushing for cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

Tony Bennett: A Battle for the American People

After Sandy Hook I called my son Danny and we both said, “Enough is enough.” And those three words say a lot about the need for common sense gun laws but there are three words that I feel are even more important… We The People. It always serves to remind ourselves that the government works for us — they should be doing what we tell them to do — not the other way around. What happened in the Senate with the vote for stricter gun laws ignored the voice of the American people. It also defied common sense. Over 200 years ago Thomas Paine, an American patriot, ignited the American Revolution when he wrote his pamphlet called “Common Sense.” Somehow along the way we have lost our common sense. When it is harder to obtain a library card than it is to buy a gun in this country, something is terribly wrong. I mean, would you let your neighbor drive 100 miles an hour in their car through your children’s school zone? I hope you wouldn’t, but regardless everyone has the right to own a care but the safety or our community comes first and foremost. It’s just common sense. We must always balance our rights and responsibilities as responsible citizens. This is the same common sense gun legislation that was proposed to the Senate. It is clear that this is a public safety issue and it’s about keeping guns out of the wrong hands. And when I say the wrong hands, I include our children. It’s simply common sense.

Ralph Nader: Time for a Sales Tax on Wall Street Financial Transactions

Here are some questions to consider: What do the Wall Street firms do that is so vital for the national interest? How does speculation contribute to our society? It’s time for Wall Street to step up and provide some answers.

The reckless actions of Wall Street institutions led to the collapse of the the U.S. economy and the deep recession of 2008-09. The Wall Street firms looted and gambled trillions in worker pensions and mutual fund savings. The Wall Street traders made billions of dollars in speculative money — bets on bets — holding hostage the real economy where money is made by providing goods and services. And the actions of Wall Street resulted in the loss of more than 8 million jobs.

New York Times Editorial Board: The Constitution and Blood Testing

Drunken driving kills someone every 53 minutes – 9,878 times in the United States in 2011. But the problem, however grave, should not be solved by policies that violate constitutional rights. The Supreme Court was correct when it ruled Wednesday that a Missouri policy requiring a blood test, even without a search warrant, of anyone arrested on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol violated the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches – unless circumstances demand immediate action and justify a warrantless test. [..]

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in an opinion joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and, for the most part, Anthony Kennedy, said that drawing blood to test its alcohol concentration is “an invasion of bodily integrity” that involves an individual’s “most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy.”