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Dec 07 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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New York Times Editorial Board: Work and Rewards

The employment report for November shows why fast-food workers across the nation are striking for higher pay and why workers are pushing for a higher minimum wage at the federal, state and local levels. [..]

Unfortunately, job creation remains concentrated in low-income work, including in retail, restaurants and bars. It is little surprise that fast-food workers have been organizing and agitating for better pay. Their employers are adding jobs and earning profits, but pay is stuck around $9 an hour. A recent study found that more than half of fast-food workers rely on public assistance. A wage increase – the strikers are asking for $15 an hour – would clearly help them, and everyone else, because the public aid they require costs taxpayers an estimated $7 billion a year.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: What’s the Best Way to Remember Nelson Mandela?

After democracy came, they tore down the prison where freedom fighters were held and used the bricks to build the nation’s first Constitutional Court.

Visitors to South Africa are often struck by the depth and breadth of that country’s affection for Nelson Mandela. I still have the newspaper I bought at a supermarket checkout counter there on the day of Mandela’s planned release from the hospital. The headline uses Mandela’s clan name and reads, “Madiba expected to return home today.”

20 years ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine kind words about an ANC leader, much less the use of an African clan name, in a supermarket tabloid. Times change.

But Nelson Mandela wasn’t a “personality” politician. He was the leader of a movement and a model for the world. We’ll be learning from his example long after the eulogies have ended.

Eugene Robinson: Raise the Minimum Wage

Now that President Obama has outlined the crisis in economic mobility, he should begin by pressing his demand that Congress raise the minimum wage-and not by a little, but a lot.

Obama’s speech Wednesday about the need to redress growing inequality was sweeping and comprehensive-perhaps to a fault. In outlining solutions, he talked about the minimum wage. But he also mentioned immigration reform, rewriting the corporate tax code, eliminating the “sequester” budget cuts, holding down tuition costs for higher education, providing universal preschool, retraining the long-term unemployed, creating “Promise Zones” in poor communities … the list goes on.

All are worthy goals, but what chance is there of getting such an ambitious agenda through Congress? The Republican majority in the House disagrees with Obama philosophically and opposes him reflexively; if he’s for it, they’re against it.  

Jared Bernstein: No, a Decent Jobs Report Does Not Mean We No Longer Need an Extension of Unemployment Insurance!

Okay, there were too many negatives in that title. Let me say it more positively: We positively must extend UI benefits, lest 1.3 million UI recipients lose needed UI benefits in a job market that is improving, but still slack.

Here’s the argument: The Senate and the House are working on a budget deal, and key Democrats, including the White House, are arguing that the deal should include another extension of UI benefits. Opponents say, “been there, done that.” We’ve already extended benefits a bunch of times and now that the job market’s getting stronger, we don’t need to do so again.

Not so. As I wrote this morning, “Policymakers must not conflate an improving labor market with a healed job market. Until job opportunities are more robust, the extension is needed, both for the sake of the long-term jobless and the macro-economy (since UI has a large multiplier).”

David Sirota: Eating Like There’s No Tomorrow

Right around now, many Americans are picking at the last few chunks of leftover turkey. This annual ritual is a reminder that stripped of its pilgrim mythology, Thanksgiving is an extended paroxysm of meat consumption. Oh, sure, we go out of our way to pretend it isn’t really about that to the point where the president of the United States makes a public spectacle out of pardoning a bird. Yet, this particular holiday is our culture’s grandest celebration of flesh eating-and therefore, it has become a microcosmic example of our willingness to risk self-destruction.

I can already hear your inner monologue-the one saying that such apocalyptic language is irresponsible hyperbole. But take a moment away from those leftovers to consider just two scientific realities.

Jow Conason: Why Republicans Can’t Address Rising Inequality

So far, the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s historic address on economic inequality has not veered from the predictable cliches of tea party rhetoric. It was appropriately summarized in a tweet from House Speaker John Boehner, complaining that the Democrat in the White House wants “more government rather than more freedom,” ignoring his challenge to Republicans to present solutions of their own.

But for Republicans to promote real remedies-the kind that would require more than 140 characters of text-they first would have to believe inequality is a real problem. And there is no evidence they do, despite fitful attempts by GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to display their “empathy” for the struggling, shrinking middle class.