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Apr 29 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 Story of Our Time

Those of us who have spent years arguing against premature fiscal austerity have just had a good two weeks. Academic studies that supposedly justified austerity have lost credibility; hard-liners in the European Commission and elsewhere have softened their rhetoric. The tone of the conversation has definitely changed.

My sense, however, is that many people still don’t understand what this is all about. So this seems like a good time to offer a sort of refresher on the nature of our economic woes, and why this remains a very bad time for spending cuts.

Let’s start with what may be the most crucial thing to understand: the economy is not like an individual family.

Jared Bernstein: This FAA Sequester Vote Doesn’t Smell Right

Well, well. It appears that both the Senate and House have voted to end sequester-imposed furloughs of air traffic controllers, just in time for the weekend.

You choose: Is this bipartisan support to mitigate one of the noxious effects of sequestration, which I and others have been tracking? Or is it papering over the high-visibility stuff that affects the affluent while lots of other budget bleeding goes on beneath the radar?

I choose the latter. While the annoyance of flight delays caught the attention of elected officials, businesspeople and other frequent flyers, lots of other, less advantaged Americans will continue to feel the pain of the sequester due to cuts in a variety of programs.

Leslie Harris: CISPA Changes Show Power of Internet Advocacy

Last week CISPA, the cybersecurity information-sharing bill, passed the House. Though fundamentally flawed, the bill is very different from when it passed the House a year ago, demonstrating the power of a growing Internet advocacy community that sometimes underestimates its own influence. Two game-changing achievements stand out.

When CISPA was reintroduced this year, CDT and others pointed out that, once again, the bill allowed information shared with the government for cybersecurity purposes to be used for national security purposes unrelated to cybersecurity. In the face of criticism that this loophole would turn CISPA into a backdoor intelligence-gathering operation, the House Intelligence Committee amended the text to clearly prohibit such uses. Chalk up one significant victory for Internet advocacy.

Robert Kuttner: Reality 1, Austerity 0

It’s been a very bad week for the merchants of austerity.

In Europe, the just-released statistics on first quarter performance show EU nations sliding deeper into recession. In Spain and Greece, unemployment rates are approaching a staggering 30 percent. In Britain, the Tory government took as good news the fact that the UK managed to eke out 0.3 percent growth. Even Germany, the prime sponsor of these policies, is on the edge of recession. [..]

And Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt had a really terrible week. Their now infamous 2010 claim that nations get into economic trouble when their debt ratios exceed 90 percent of GDP was blown to hell by a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts. For three years, critics have been pressing R&R to share their raw data. When Thomas Herndon and colleagues Michael Ash and Robert Pollin finally got hold of the research and reworked R&R’s numbers, it turned out that they had selectively used data and made basic errors of arithmetic.

Vijay Prashad: Made in Bangladesh: The Terror of Capitalism

On Wednesday, April 24, a day after Bangladeshi authorities asked the owners to evacuate their garment factory that employed almost three thousand workers, the building collapsed. The building, Rana Plaza, located in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, produced garments for the commodity chain that stretches from the cotton fields of South Asia through Bangladesh’s machines and workers to the retail houses in the Atlantic world. Famous name brands were stitched here, as are clothes that hang on the satanic shelves of Wal-Mart. Rescue workers were able to save two thousand people as of this writing, with confirmation that over three hundred are dead. The numbers for the latter are fated to rise. It is well worth mentioning that the death toll in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City of 1911 was one hundred and forty six. The death toll here is already twice that. This “accident” comes five months (November 24, 2012) after the Tazreen garment factory fire that killed at least one hundred and twelve workers. [..]

In the Atlantic world, meanwhile, self-absorption over the wars on terror and on the downturn in the economy prevent any genuine introspection over the mode of life that relies upon debt-fueled consumerism at the expense of workers in Dhaka. Those who died in the Rana building are victims not only of the malfeasance of the sub-contractors, but also of twenty-first century globalisation.

Robert Reich: Earth to Washington: Repeal the Sequester

Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good. Most had forecast growth of at least 3 percent (on an annualized basis) in the first quarter. But we learned this morning (in the Commerce Department’s report) it grew only 2.5 percent.

That’s better than the 2 percent growth last year and the slowdown at the end of the year. But it’s still cause for serious concern. [..]

So what is Washington doing? Worse than nothing. It has now adopted the same kind of austerity economics that’s doomed Europe — cutting federal spending and reducing total demand. And the sequester doesn’t end until September 30. It takes an even bigger bite out of the federal budget next fiscal year.

Earth to Washington: The economy is slowing. The recovery is stalling. At the very least, repeal the sequester.