“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.
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Chris Hedges: Our Invisible Revolution
“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”
Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.
The New York Times Editorial Board: The White House on Spying
The White House response on Monday to the expanding disclosures of American spying on foreign leaders, their governments and millions of their citizens was a pathetic mix of unsatisfying assurances about reviews under way, platitudes about the need for security in an insecure age, and the odd defense that the president didn’t know that American spies had tapped the German chancellor’s cellphone for 10 years.
Is it really better for us to think that things have gone so far with the post-9/11 idea that any spying that can be done should be done and that nobody thought to inform President Obama about tapping the phone of one of the most important American allies?
Frankly, it is time that Congress started listening to the ordinary people. Recently, the Republican Party learned a hard lesson when the American people stated loudly and clearly that it was wrong to shut down the government and not pay our bills because some extreme right-wing members of Congress do not like the Affordable Care Act. Well, there’s another lesson that my Republican colleagues are going to have to absorb. Poll after poll make it very clear that the American people overwhelmingly do not want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, according to a recent National Journal poll, 81 percent of the American people do not want to cut Medicare at all; 76 percent of the American people do not want to cut Social Security at all; and 60 percent of the American people do not want to cut Medicaid at all. Meanwhile, other polls have made it very clear that at a time of growing income and wealth inequality, Americans believe that the wealthiest among us and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.
It is time to develop a federal budget which is moral and which makes good economic sense. It is time to develop a budget which invests in our future by creating jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure improvement and expanding educational opportunities. It is time for those who have so much to help us with deficit reduction. It is time that we listen to what the American people want, and not just respond to the billionaire class and major campaign contributors.
Richard (RJ) Eskow: A Four-Point “Scorecard” for the Budget Talks
The House-Senate budget negotiations, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, are an opportunity for our leaders to finally have a meaningful discussion about healing our damaged economy. That’s the discussion Washington should have been having all along, but which it hasn’t had yet. How will we know whether that’s finally changed, or which politicians are genuinely looking out for the public’s interests?
This four-point document, “Principles for Debate on the Budget in the Economy,” is an excellent place to start. It provides a baseline for reasonable negotiations, and represents the interests of the millions of Americans who belong to the organizations which signed it. We’ve adapted its four points to serve as a scorecard for grading your representatives during these budget talks.
Secrecy is anathema to a democratic republic. If we ever had one, it is long gone. The only real question left is what the unelected fourth branch of government, created inadvertently by Harry Truman, is really up to. It is clearly involved in a great deal of industrial espionage, but how are its discoveries transferred to US corporations? Who do the mostly right wing NSA bureaucrats really report to if not to Obama? And, what are they really doing with our cell phone records, which reveal to whom we speak, how often, and where exactly we are? How are these being data-mined and for what purposes?
How much of our society and politics are shaped by selective leaks about individuals gained from this surveillance? Did the 2008 Wall Street Crash occur in part because the Bush administration had removed pro-regulation New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, using information gathered from his bank accounts, cell phone and personal computer? How many Iraq War critics were, like myself, targeted for surveillance? How many seemingly minor scandals that force decision-makers from office are actually a conspiracy of shadowy intelligence operatives? How many of the vocal defenders of the NSA, or of those politicians too timid to demand reform, fear revelation of personal secrets? Do we have a government or a Mafia extortion racket? These questions may seem outlandish, but they are evidence of the corrosive impact of covert government on a Republic? One can never know what politics is legitimate and what is the result of manipulation. NSA denials that they are using this material gathered on US citizens are not very credible given their officials’ repeated lies and also given their hiding of their activities from the President of the United States.
With his impending re-election in “Blue Jersey” evidently assured and his national profile rising, Chris Christie is a formidable presidential hopeful. If not always a voice of reason, the blustering governor usually sounds sane in a Republican Party where conspiracy, paranoia and extremism reign. His decision to abandon the state’s legal appeal against gay marriage exemplified the canny pragmatism that worries Democratic strategists looking forward to 2016.
But for those enjoying the current civil war within the GOP as a spectator sport, the prospect of a Christie presidential candidacy is promising indeed. Moving toward the center, he is plainly preparing for combat with the herd of politicians-mostly legislators like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan-whose aspirations depend on mobilizing the tea party base. And there will be nothing “moderate” about Christie when he sets to work taking those opponents apart.