Dec 16 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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Paul Krugman: Why Inequality Matters

Rising inequality isn’t a new concern. Oliver Stone’s movie “Wall Street,” with its portrayal of a rising plutocracy insisting that greed is good, was released in 1987. But politicians, intimidated by cries of “class warfare,” have shied away from making a major issue out of the ever-growing gap between the rich and the rest.

That may, however, be changing. We can argue about the significance of Bill de Blasio’s victory in the New York mayoral race or of Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of Social Security expansion. And we have yet to see whether President Obama’s declaration that inequality is “the defining challenge of our age” will translate into policy changes. Still, the discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal.

They’re wrong.  [..]

First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.

Robert Kuttner: Needed: Freedom Summer 2014

For more than a decade, progressive Democrats have placed their hopes on demographic changes. The electorate is becoming blacker, browner, younger, and more welcoming of diverse immigrant groups — people who tend to be more liberal on a broad range of social issues, people who also rely on affirmative government.

Serious political scientists such as Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, among others, have written numerous well-documented articles and books on this emerging progressive majority. All it will take is for Democrats to survive mishaps such as the recession and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act — and Republican views will increasingly be the minority. [..]

But these projections of demography-as-destiny left out one detail — increased voter suppression. The emerging electorate will produce reliable Democratic majorities only if people in these demographic groups, many of them poor, are able to vote.

Robert Reich: When Charity Begins at Home (Particularly the Homes of the Wealthy)

It’s charity time, and not just because the holiday season reminds us to be charitable. As the tax year draws to a close, the charitable tax deduction beckons.

America’s wealthy are its largest beneficiaries. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $33 billion of last year’s $39 billion in total charitable deductions went to the richest 20 percent of Americans, of whom the richest 1 percent reaped the lion’s share.

The generosity of the super-rich is sometimes proffered as evidence they’re contributing as much to the nation’s well-being as they did decades ago when they paid a much larger share of their earnings in taxes. Think again. [..]

But a large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America’s wealthy are for donations to culture palaces – operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters – where they spend their leisure time hobnobbing with other wealthy benefactors.

Another portion is for contributions to the elite prep schools and universities they once attended or want their children to attend.

Rebecca Peters: When will the US learn from Australia? Stricter gun control laws save lives

After our own mass murder, Australia didn’t ban guns, but we passed stronger regulations. Gun deaths dropped dramatically

Every country is unique, but Australia is more similar to the US than is, say, Japan or England. We have a frontier history and a strong gun culture. Each state and territory has its own gun laws, and in 1996 these varied widely between the jurisdictions. At that time Australia’s firearm mortality rate per population was 2.6/100,000 – about one-quarter the US rate (pdf), according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the US Center for Disease Control. Today the rate is under 1/100,000 – less than one-tenth the US rate (pdf). Those figures refer to all gun deaths – homicide, suicide and unintentional. If we focus on gun homicide rates, the US outstrips Australia 30-fold.

The 1996 reforms made gun laws stronger and uniform across Australia. Semi-automatic rifles were prohibited (with narrow exceptions), and the world’s biggest buyback saw nearly 700,000 guns removed from circulation and destroyed. The licensing and registration systems of all states and territories were harmonised and linked, so that a person barred from owning guns in one state can no longer acquire them in another. All gun sales are subject to screening (universal background checks), which means you cannot buy a gun over the internet or at a garage sale. [..]

Australia didn’t ban guns. Hunting and shooting are still thriving. But by adopting laws that give priority to public safety, we have saved thousands of lives.

Ralph Nader: The Wild and Cruel Gap Between Debtors and Creditors

The word “inequality” is much in vogue these days. We hear almost daily about the inequality of wealth, income and wages between the richest top 2 or 3 percent of people and the majority of the country’s wage earners. But not attention is given and not many marches and other protests are addressing the huge inequalities between creditors and debtors.

Of course the aforementioned inequalities, especially of wages and income, worsen the plight of individual debtors. One more distinction needs to be made – that between corporate debtors who receive many favored legal entitlements (even in bankruptcy) and individual debtors who are slammed and harassed by debt collectors.


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  1. MO Blue

    “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended,” the Pope said. “There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church.”

    “The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the ‘trickle-down theories’ which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world,” he added.

    “The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger, nothing ever comes out for the poor.”


    The glass definitely needs to get bigger to hold the funds that our corporatist government and the “Fix the Debt” CEOs plan to steal from the poor and the middle class. To them there is no such thing as too much greed and permanent underclasses work to their advantage.  

  2. MO Blue

    wants to take credit for the Pope becoming Time’s Man of the Year.

    While pretending to laugh it off, he utilizes the humblebrag to imply there might be something to listener suggestions that TIME named the pope their “person of the year” to spite old Rush. Because the librul media exists only to taunt His Magnificence, and it couldn’t possibly be that the pope earned the honor for being an inspiring spiritual leader! S&

    Wish people like Limbaugh and Ashcroft were natives sons of another state. People believe Missouri is crazy enough without having these blots on humanity list Missouri as their place of birth.

  3. MO Blue

    Democrats Now Own a Troubled Health Care System

    A new AP-GfK poll found almost half of the people with employer provided coverage say their plans are changing next year, mostly for the worse with things like higher deductibles and/or premiums.

    Among this group 76 percent blame the ACA for these changes. These increases are mainly the result of the trends that pre-dated the ACA, but Democrats are in a very difficult place politically, because the ACA is not entirely blameless. New regulations and taxes have played some role in increasing cost-sharing for many. This really hurts because when President Obama was trying to sell his plan he was promising regular people they would see a large cut in their premiums.

    Of course, since this is Obama supporting a overpriced Republican plan to prop up the insurance industry, nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Democratic supporters during the run up to the actual legislation as well as now were great models of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Those who tried to point out the discrepancies in what was being said and what had to happen based on how the legislation was written and the very nature of private insurance were vilified.  

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