May 13 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: Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream

A CERTAIN drama has become familiar in the United States (and some other advanced industrialized countries): Bankers encourage people to borrow beyond their means, preying especially on those who are financially unsophisticated. They use their political influence to get favorable treatment of one form or another. Debts mount. Journalists record the human toll. Then comes bewilderment: How could we let this happen again? Officials promise to fix things. Something is done about the most egregious abuses. People move on, reassured that the crisis has abated, but suspecting that it will recur soon.

The crisis that is about to break out involves student debt and how we finance higher education. Like the housing crisis that preceded it, this crisis is intimately connected to America’s soaring inequality, and how, as Americans on the bottom rungs of the ladder strive to climb up, they are inevitably pulled down – some to a point even lower than where they began.

New York Times Editorial Board: Who Can Take Republicans Seriously?

It is time for President Obama to abandon his hopes of reaching a grand budget bargain with Republicans.

At every opportunity since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in reaching a compromise with the White House. For two years, they held sham negotiations with Democrats that only dragged down the economy with cuts; this year, they are refusing even to sit down at the table.

Mr. Obama hasn’t given up inviting the Republicans to join him in making the hard choices of governing, but he has been rebuffed each time. This year, in hopes of getting some support for modest tax increases on the rich, he even proposed a reduction in the cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients. The events of the last few weeks should make it clear to him why that offer should be pulled from the table immediately.

Robert Kuttner: Munich on the Potomac: The Republican Take-No-Prisoners Strategy — and Obama’s Conciliation

Republicans in both Houses of Congress are becoming more and more flagrant in their strategy of holding the governing process hostage for far-right demands not shared by most voters. And the pity is that the strategy is mostly working.

The more that the Obama Administration tries to meet the Republicans half way, the more extreme and implacable their demands become. [..]

Obama’s term still has more than three and a half years to run and Democrats still have a 55-45 majority in the Senate, but the Republicans are treating him like the lamest of lame ducks. It should be clear by now — meeting these people halfway only whets their appetite.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Will Bankers at JPMorgan Chase Finally Pay for Their Misdeeds?

Will California Attorney General Kamala Harris hang tough in her new lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase, the first to target individual bankers accused of defrauding the public? If so, it would be the first time in five years that executives at a major bank have personally paid a price for their misdeeds. [..]

And if this is merely another publicity stunt, she needs to know that a choreographed cave-in will be very poorly received by her constituents.

Harris therefore deserves strong expressions of support, along with statements that citizens expect her to see this action through — at least far enough to ensure that the malefactors involved pay some personal penalty for their misdeeds.

Mary Bottari: Ghost in the Machine: Pete Peterson Haunts College Campuses

An odd couple made an appearance on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus recently: Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson and Madison’s progressive Congressman Mark Pocan. The two were invited to participate in a conversation about the national debt hosted by a local student organization and a bevy of national groups, including  the Comeback America Initiative, the Concord Coalition, the Can Kicks Back, and The Campaign to Fix the Debt. On the agenda: debt, deficits, and the economy. [..]

But the most telling sentence of the meeting was one of the first. The student sponsors thanked Mark Graul and Stephanie Kundert of Arena Strategy (a local PR firm) for their help in setting up the event.

No one in the room appeared to catch the fact that they all were participating in an elaborate public relations ruse, set up by well-known Wisconsin spinmeister (Graul) whose claim to fame is a racist attack ad on a sitting judge, and orchestrated by a Wall Street billionaire whose name was never mentioned in the two-hour “teach-in.”

Take a bow, Pete Peterson — $500 million can buy you a lot of good feelings and positive press.

Richard Reeves: We Are Family

In sifting through the election returns of last year, some of the clueless Republicans and conservatives did get some clues. Losing focused their minds for a bit.

Last week, one of the stars of the “soft” right, David Brooks of The New York Times, wrote a wake-up column with implications for readers who not only do not much like dark-skinned immigration, but are also hostile to such kindling issues as gay marriage and abortion. They seem incapable of understanding, once more, that these are family issues. Gays and women who choose abortion are our relatives. They are in our families. We love them-even Republican senators with gay children love them-and we don’t like seeing them pushed around by our government. The Republicans like to talk about “family values,” but they certainly don’t appreciate some of them.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: ‘Slow-Motion Mass Murders’

Public officials are very selective about when violence and death matter.

Massacres and terrorist incidents cannot be ignored, but the day-to-day toll from gun violence is often swept aside. Politicians who tout themselves as advocates of law and order don’t want to be unmasked as caring even more about their ratings from gun lobbyists.

And opponents of the most moderate gun reforms engage in a shameless game of bait-and-switch. Because measures such as background checks would not stop every murder, they’re declared useless even though they’d still save lives. Then the gun lobby turns around and opposes other measures, such as a ban on high-capacity magazines, which could prevent some of the killings that background checks might not.