“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: Bits and Barbarism
This is a tale of three money pits. It’s also a tale of monetary regress – of the strange determination of many people to turn the clock back on centuries of progress.
The first money pit is an actual pit – the Porgera open-pit gold mine in Papua New Guinea, one of the world’s top producers. [..]
The second money pit is a lot stranger: the Bitcoin mine in Reykjanesbaer, Iceland. Bitcoin is a digital currency that has value because … well, it’s hard to say exactly why, but for the time being at least people are willing to buy it because they believe other people will be willing to buy it. [..]
The third money pit is hypothetical. Back in 1936 the economist John Maynard Keynes argued that increased government spending was needed to restore full employment. [..]
But don’t let the fancy trappings fool you: What’s really happening is a determined march to the days when money meant stuff you could jingle in your purse. In tropics and tundra alike, we are for some reason digging our way back to the 17th century.
Joseph E. Stiglitz: In No One We Trust
In America today, we are sometimes made to feel that it is naïve to be preoccupied with trust. Our songs advise against it, our TV shows tell stories showing its futility, and incessant reports of financial scandal remind us we’d be fools to give it to our bankers.
That last point may be true, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving for a bit more trust in our society and our economy. Trust is what makes contracts, plans and everyday transactions possible; it facilitates the democratic process, from voting to law creation, and is necessary for social stability. It is essential for our lives. It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round.
We do not measure trust in our national income accounts, but investments in trust are no less important than those in human capital or machines.
In his final press conference as Federal Reserve chair, Bernanke squarely blames Congress for slowing economic recovery
On his way out of the Federal Reserve for good, chairman Ben Bernanke just gave Congress a big kick in the rear, using his final press conference to blame congressional budget battles for slowing down the economy and increasing unemployment.
Bernanke pulled back on the Federal Reserve’s $85bn-a-month stimulus, turning it into a $75bn-a-month stimulus. In any other year, the Fed’s pullback on a major, multi-trillion-dollar stimulus after four years should indicate that the economy is better and can stand on its own.
Yet, that is not why the Fed is throttling back on the bond-buying program known as quantitative easing. Bernanke’s statements have been so cautious on the economy that one journalist asked him if the Fed is pulling back because it is simply “giving up” on finding a way to create economic growth.
It’s a good question.
Richard (RJ) Eskow: ‘Green Shoots’: The Year in Wall Street Reform
One year ago a good argument could have been made for cynicism and despair, at least when it came to financial reform. More than four years after an epidemic of Wall Street fraud took down the economy, there had been no indictments of financial executives. Bank CEOs were still treated like royalty in Washington and New York. We still lacked comprehensive regulatory reform. The president’s much-hyped task force on foreclosure fraud had negotiated a cushy, bank-friendly settlement aimed more at placating the public than in restoring justice to ripped-off homeowners.
Twelve months later, things are still tough. The only bank indictments we’ve seen are of low-level officials. We still don’t have meaningful reform. And yet there are unexpected and promising signs.
Call them “green shoots.” True, it’s a problematic phrase, it’s been used so often to raise false economic hopes since 2008. These shoots could wither and die. But there’s something in the air we wouldn’t have predicted one year ago: Hope.
Robert Kuttner: More About a New Freedom Summer
Last week, in this space, I proposed a “Freedom Summer 2014”, aimed at ensuring that nobody would be prevented from voting next fall due to the lack of a government-issued photo ID card. The 5-4 ruling of the Roberts Supreme Court last June in Shelby County v. Holder, overturning major sections of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, permitted all sorts of mischief by Republican state officials aimed at raising obstacles to the right to vote.
My thought was that an army of volunteers, making sure that everyone had the necessary ID, would shame rightwing officials trying to suppress the right to vote and mobilize lots of voters in an off-year that is likely to be difficult for progressives.
In the week since I wrote that post, I’ve gotten a lot of email. Nobody thinks this is a bad idea. The only question is whether a new Freedom Summer could be pulled off at the necessary scale, and whether it could make a real difference.
In the course of digging deeper into those questions, here’s what I’ve learned.
Washington’s Wedding Album From Hell
The headline — “Bride and Boom!” — was spectacular, if you think killing people in distant lands is a blast and a half. Of course, you have to imagine that smirk line in giant black letters with a monstrous exclamation point covering most of the bottom third of the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post. The reference was to a caravan of vehicles on its way to or from a wedding in Yemen that was eviscerated, evidently by a U.S. drone via one of those “surgical” strikes of which Washington is so proud. As one report put it, “Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the road.” [..]
And were a wedding party to be obliterated on a highway anywhere in America on the way to, say, a rehearsal dinner, whatever the cause, it would be a 24/7 tragedy. Our lives would be filled with news of it. Count on that.
But a bunch of Arabs in a country few in the U.S. had ever heard of before we started sending in the drones? No such luck, so if you’re a Murdoch tabloid, it’s open season, no consequences guaranteed.