“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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Paul Krugman: Obama Gets Real
Much of the media commentary on President Obama’s big inequality speech was cynical. You know the drill: it’s yet another “reboot” that will go nowhere; none of it will have any effect on policy, and so on. But before we talk about the speech’s possible political impact or lack thereof, shouldn’t we look at the substance? Was what the president said true? Was it new? If the answer to these questions is yes – and it is – then what he said deserves a serious hearing.
And once you realize that, you also realize that the speech may matter a lot more than the cynics imagine. [..]
What struck me about this speech, however, was what he had to say about the sources of rising inequality. Much of our political and pundit class remains devoted to the notion that rising inequality, to the extent that it’s an issue at all, is all about workers lacking the right skills and education. But the president now seems to accept progressive arguments that education is at best one of a number of concerns, that America’s growing class inequality largely reflects political choices, like the failure to raise the minimum wage along with inflation and productivity.
Dean Baker: Pension Theft: Class War Goes to the Next Stage
In the past two days we’ve seen a federal judge rule that Detroit can go bankrupt, putting its workers’ pensions in jeopardy, and we have seen Illinois’ legislature vote for substantial cuts in its retirees’ pensions. Undoubtedly these two actions are just the tip of the iceberg. We have opened up a new sport for America’s elite: pension theft.
The specifics of the situations are very different, but the outcome is the same. Public employees who spent decades working for the government are not going to get the pensions that were part of their pay package. In both cases we have governments claiming poverty, and therefore the workers are just out of luck. [..]
It may turn out to be the case that the rich and powerful can just rewrite the rules as they go along. But at least the people should know that theft is now in style when it’s their property at stake.
: One Answer to Low-Wage Work: Redistributing the Gains
The President’s speech yesterday on inequality avoided the “R” word. No politician wants to mention “redistribution” because it conjures up images of worthy “makers” forced to hand over hard-earned income to undeserving “takers.”
But as low-wage work proliferates in America, so-called takers are working as hard if not harder than anyone else, and often at more than one job.
Yet they’re still not making it because the twin forces of globalization and technological change have reduced their bargaining power and undermined their economic standing — while bestowing ever greater benefits on a comparative few with the right education and connections (and whose parents are often best able to secure these advantages for them).
Better education and training for those on the losing end is critically important, as will several of the other proposals the President listed. But they will only go so far.
David Cay Johnston: A Hard Lesson from Motown: They Will Steal Your Pension
Anyone in a public-sector job looking forward to retiring in comfort should look carefully at what is going on in Detroit and Springfield, Ill. Sherlock Holmes would call it the case of the missing pension money.
News leaking out this week from the Motor City tells how the enormous gap between the pensions workers earned and the money set aside to pay for them will be closed. By stealing from the workers.
Courts, legislatures, and corporations are all working in concert not to pay the full benefits owed. For decades, political and business leaders failed to set aside the right amount of money each payday to cover the pensions workers earned and, in some cases, covered up the mismanagement of pension fund investments.
This is nothing short of theft, as pensions are simply deferred wages, that is, money that workers could have taken as cash in their regular paychecks had they not opted to set it aside.
Norman Solomon: Under the Global Shadow of Big Brother, Journalism Must Light Up the Political Sky
Every new revelation about the global reach of the National Security Agency underscores that the extremism of the surveillance state has reached gargantuan proportions. The Washington Post just reported that the NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden have forced top officials in Washington to admit the indefensible while defending it. One of the main obstacles to further expansion of their Orwellian empire is real journalism.
Real journalism is “subversive” of deception that can’t stand the light of day. This is a huge problem for the Obama administration and the many surveillance-state flunkies of both parties in Congress. What they want is fake journalism, deferring to government storylines and respectful of authority even when it is illegitimate.
In motion now, on both sides of the Atlantic, are top-down efforts to quash real journalism when and how it matters most. In the two English-speaking countries that have done the most preaching to the world about “Western values” like freedom of the press, the governments led by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron are overseeing assaults on real journalism
John Nichols: Detroit Bankruptcy Bankrupts Democracy
Detroit elected a new mayor November 5 and he will take office in less than a month. But the future of this great American city and its citizens isn’t being defined by decisions made by voters on Election Day. It is being defined in federal bankruptcy court-and by an “emergency manager” who has no democratic legitimacy.
With a ruling Tuesday by US Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, Detroit officially becomes the largest US city ever to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Despite a determination that negotiations with creditors outside of bankruptcy court had not satisfied good-faith requirements, the judge cleared the way for the emergency manager and his law firm to advance a “plan of adjustment” that is likely to include deep cuts in pension guarantees for retired city employees and a “fire sale” of city assets that could result in public utilities and the Detroit Institute of Arts collection being bartered off to private bidders.