“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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Robert Reich: The True Price of Great Holiday Deals
The most important website last weekend and in weeks to come — on which the hopes and fears of countless Americans are focused (and the president’s poll-ratings depend) — is not HealthCare.gov. It’s Amazon.com. [..]
Online retailing is the future. Amazon is the main online shopping portal this holiday season but traditional retailers are moving online as fast as they can. Online sales are already up 20 percent over last year, and the pace will only accelerate.Target and many other bricks-and-mortar outlets plan to spend more on technology next year than on building and upgrading new stores.
Americans are getting great deals online, and they like the convenience. But there’s a hidden price. With the growth of online retailing, fewer Americans will have jobs in bricks-and-mortar retail stores.
Dean Baker: Everyday Low Wages at Walmart: Brought to You by Government Policy
There is a large and growing movement to pressure Walmart to raise its workers’ wages. This has taken the form of direct action by workers, efforts to pass higher minimum wage or living wage laws, and implicit threats of consumer boycotts if Walmart does not raise wages and benefits.
This drive is encouraging, and often inspiring, as many workers have bravely risked their jobs and their livelihoods to try to get a better deal for themselves and their co-workers. But an important part of the story is missing in the way it usually gets presented.
The standard story is that Walmart workers, left to the mercy of the market, are unable to earn a high enough wage to support themselves and their families. There have been numerous accounts of Walmart workers being forced to turn to food stamps and other forms of government support to make ends meet. It is extremely difficult for a single person to survive on a Walmart wage. There is no way that a typical Walmart worker could support one or two children without help from the government.
The spin-masters are already at work putting all of the sugar coating on it, but the reality is shocking and revealing. The world as a whole didn’t come up with a measly $5 billion a year for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. $5 billion was a bare minimum needed to maintain momentum in the fight against these diseases. Yet the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, China, Singapore, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, John Paulson, Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, 1,600 billionaires (with combined net worth of at least $5.5 trillion), and the rest of humanity couldn’t find the money. They came up with $4 billion instead, $1 billion short.
The world has told the poor and dying to drop dead.
Dave Johnson: Want to Cut Food Stamp Spending? Raise the Minimum Wage
Wednesday President Obama will give a speech on his plan to grow the economy and the middle class. Thursday fast-food workers will strike in 100 cities and stage protests in 100 others to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union without interference from employers. Here’s something to consider: raising the minimum wage cuts government spending on food stamps and other programs. [..]
If minimum wage workers receives a raise, and that increase ripples up through the ever-growing low-wage end of our economy, the need for government assistance will decrease and therefore so will the spending on the programs. The right way to cut spending on assistance for Americans is to decrease the need for that assistance, not decrease assistance for those in need.
Don’t cut programs for the people who need them, cut those people’s need for the programs. It’s the right thing to do and it also makes money sense.
Chris Arnade: Looking for fraud? Don’t look at food stamp recipients, look at Wall Street
Food stamps keep 47 million people from going hungry, so cuts hurt. Congress should focus on where the real abuse happens
Hunger will drive kids to do crazy things. Like stay at school.
A few weeks ago South Bronx public schools had a half-day, with dismissal at noon. Yet almost all the kids stayed an extra hour, waiting in the cafeteria to eat the schools’ free lunch.
Teachers even got calls from parents of children who hadn’t stayed, asking them why they let their children leave without a meal. The teachers explained that this had never been an issue before. Kids had always left when they could. The parents responded, “That was before the cut in food stamps. We get $45 less a month now”.
The cuts to food stamps had come two weeks earlier, on the first of November, a result of Congress failing to renew the increase to the program in the 2009 stimulus package. That increase was included as a small attempt to blunt the pain of a recession that was disproportionally affecting the poor.
Christopher M. Barnes: Should We Blame the Engineer for Falling Asleep at the Train Controls?
Preliminary indications are that the Metro-North train derailment was caused by the train operator falling asleep at the controls, and waking up too late to stop the speeding train from derailing. This is similar to other events in the transportation industry, including air traffic controllers sleeping on the job, truck drivers and boat captains falling asleep at the wheel, and pilots sleeping while at the stick.
Our first inclination is often to blame the transportation employees for falling asleep while they were supposed to be conducting important tasks. We express outrage at their indolence, question their professionalism, and consider them to be weak for not toughing it out through their drowsiness. After all, many of us have experienced sleepiness, and we didn’t fall asleep on the job, right? How dare these transportation employees do so!