07/01/2013 archive

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: War On the Unemployed

Is life too easy for the unemployed? You may not think so, and I certainly don’t think so. But that, remarkably, is what many and perhaps most Republicans believe. And they’re acting on that belief: there’s a nationwide movement under way to punish the unemployed, based on the proposition that we can cure unemployment by making the jobless even more miserable. [..]

So what’s going on here? Is it just cruelty? Well, the G.O.P., which believes that 47 percent of Americans are “takers” mooching off the job creators, which in many states is denying health care to the poor simply to spite President Obama, isn’t exactly overflowing with compassion. But the war on the unemployed isn’t motivated solely by cruelty; rather, it’s a case of meanspiritedness converging with bad economic analysis.

Dean Baker: The Social Security and Medicare Cutters are Very Unhappy

Who can blame them? The vast majority of people across the political spectrum oppose their plans to cut these programs. Furthermore, improved budget projections (partly because of cuts that are very bad news) have drastically reduced both current deficit projections and projections for longer term deficits. Finally, one of their main props for the urgency of deficit reduction turned out to be nothing more than a Harvard Excel spreadsheet error.

No, things have not gone well for those wishing to ax Social Security and Medicare, but they are not about to give up. And with the money and access to the media they enjoy, why should they?

Hence we have Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler from Third Way giving the Washington Post’s house view in a column headlined, “the left needs to get real on Medicare, Social Security and the deficit.” The proximate cause for Cowan and Kessler’s ire is a column by Neera Tanden and Michael Linden from the Center for American Progress which argued that we should focus on fixing the economy’s current problems by improving infrastructure and creating jobs.

New York Times Editorial Board: Stuck in Purgatory

President Obama’s new regulatory agenda on climate change will face inevitable legal and political challenges. But in all fields – not just energy and the environment but health, safety and labor – one of the most formidable obstacles to reform has been the administration’s own resistance to finalizing new rules, even when it has expressed support for the causes those rules would address. [..]

The backlog has more to do with politics than economics. In 2012, a presidential election year in which Republicans hammered the administration for its allegedly “job killing” regulations, the number of rules receiving final approval hit a historic low (in data going back to 1993), while the time OIRA took to vet proposals hit new highs.

Even though Mr. Obama won, delays persist. It is as if the White House were still driven by election-year motives: defuse Republican taunts and placate industry. Or worse, its commitment to new rules is suspect.

Glen Ford: The Obamas Do Africa

he President and his family are spending a week in sub-Saharan Africa, with Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa on the itinerary. The focus of the trip, if you believe the White House, is trade, an arena in which the United States has been eclipsed by China since 2009. China, by some measurements, now does nearly twice as much business with Africa as the U.S., and the gap is growing. It is now commonly accepted that the Chinese offer far better terms of trade and investment than the Americans, that they create more jobs for Africans, and their investments leave behind infrastructure that can enrich their African trading partners in the long haul.

No one expects Obama to offer anything on this trip that will reverse America’s declining share of the African market. That’s because the U.S. is not in the business of fair and mutually beneficial trade – it’s about the business of imperialism, which is another matter, entirely. The Americans ensure their access to African natural resources through the barrel of a gun.

Robert Kuttner: Why Voter Suppression Will Backfire

Ever since the election of George W. Bush, the Republican strategy has been to keep a growing Democratic majority at bay by repressing the votes of people and groups likely to vote Democratic. [..]

With Hispanics and Asians as the fastest growing demographic groups, black turnout surpassing white turnout in some jurisdictions, and equal LGBT rights now the overwhelming majority position, the Republican Party just keeps alienating voters.

Voter suppression only underscores that reality. For two centuries, the American story has been about expansion of democracy. Today’s Republicans would narrow it, abetted by the most nakedly partisan High Court ever.

Steve Rattner: An Orphan Jackpot

ONE sure sign that federal regulations and policies are out of whack is when companies start making a business model out of gaming them. That’s particularly true in two areas of government rule making – drug regulation and corporate taxes.

Consider the success of Jazz Pharmaceuticals.

Just four years ago, this little-known company was struggling: its share price was measured in pennies, and Jazz had missed a string of interest payments on its debt. Today, its stock has levitated to $68 per share.

Jazz accomplished that $4 billion enrichment of its shareholders thanks to well-intentioned federal regulations that deterred competition for its principal product, compliant health insurers, and a Swiss-cheese corporate tax regime.

On This Day In History July 1

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 1 is the 182nd day of the year (183rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 183 days remaining until the end of the year. The end of this day marks the halfway point of a leap year. It also falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in a leap year.

On this day in 1997, Hong Kong returned to China.

At midnight on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverts back to Chinese rule in a ceremony attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles of Wales, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand Hong Kongers protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful.

Hong Kong is one of two special administrative regions (SARs) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China’s south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Hong Kong’s population is 95 percent ethnic Chinese and 5 percent from other groups. Hong Kong’s Han Chinese majority originate mainly from the cities of Guangzhou and Taishan in the neighbouring Guangdong province.

Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839-42). Originally confined to Hong Kong Island, the colony’s boundaries were extended in stages to the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories by 1898. It was occupied by Japan during the Pacific War, after which the British resumed control until 1997, when the PRC acquired sovereignty. The region espoused minimum government intervention under the ethos of positive non-interventionism during the colonial era. The time period greatly influenced the current culture of Hong Kong, often described as “East meets West”, and the educational system, which used to loosely follow the system in England until reforms implemented in 2009.

Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from mainland China. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. The Basic Law of Hong Kong, its constitutional document, which stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign relations and military defence, governs its political system. Although it has a burgeoning multi-party system, a small-circle electorate controls half of its legislature. An 800-person Election Committee selects the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the head of government.

As one of the world’s leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the ninth most traded currency in the world. The lack of space caused demand for denser constructions, which developed the city to a centre for modern architecture and the world’s most vertical city. The dense space also led to a highly developed transportation network with public transport travelling rate exceeding 90 percent, the highest in the world. Hong Kong has numerous high international rankings in various aspects. For instance, its economic freedom, financial and economic competitiveness, quality of life, corruption perception, Human Development Index, etc., are all ranked highly.

Sunday Train: Sustainable Real Estate Development is Good for the Economy and Other Growing Things

cross-posted from Voices on the Square

As a member of the WorldWide Transit Cabal (not to be confused with the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal, since of course their membership is secret, though at times my blogging is as active as there’s), I have long argued that development of sustainable transport will be good for the economy as well as other growing things (to paraphrase the National Lampoon).

Recently, a study by Professor Gary Pivo has been released that demonstrates that this is not just a forward looking statement. Sustainable Transit-Oriented Development is presently good for home values and are associated with lower risk of foreclosure. How good? To quote Ped Shed’s summary of the research results:

The second hypothesis was that default risk was reduced by sustainability features (or conversely, risk was increased by unsustainable features). This also turned out to be true. The effect of the variables was substantial:

  1. Commute time: Every 10-minute increase in average commute time increased the risk of default by 45%.
  2. Rail commute: Where at least 30% of the residents took a subway or elevated train to work, the risk of default decreased by 64.4%. New York City was omitted from this calculation because it skewed the results.
  3. Walk commute: Every increase of 5 percentage points in the percent of residents who walk to work decreased the risk of default by 15%.
  4. Retail presence: Where there were at least 16 retail establishments nearby, the risk of default decreased by 34.4%.
  5. Affordability: For properties with some units required to be affordable, the risk of default decreased by 61.9%.
  6. Freeway presence: Where properties were located within 1,000 feet of a freeway, the risk of default increased by 59%.
  7. Park presence: Where properties were located within 1 mile of a protected area, the risk of default decreased by 32.5%.

And this does not seem to be just “fishing for results”: adding these factors to a model used by other researchers, including “characteristics of the loan, property, neighborhood and location, and regional and national economies” improved the accuracy of the model on four measures of goodness of fit.