Jan 06 2014

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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Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Generations Should Fight Their Retirement Battles Together

This recent piece by Ayobami Olugbemiga has much to recommend it, but the most striking thing about it may be this:  Mr. Olugbemiga manages to discuss the retirement crisis faced by Millennials for seven paragraphs without once blaming older generations for their woes. The author’s photograph suggests he’s too young to be a Boomer. He nevertheless manages to observe that older Americans are also facing a retirement crisis, and cites an AP story which notes that this is a global phenomenon. [..]

The generational war is a hoax. In this global economy the fight for retirement security should unite us, not divide us, across barriers of age and race. The generations share a common agenda: for job creation, stronger Social Security, and economic equality; and against job-killing and wage-suppressing trade deals, usurious debt, and runaway banks.

It’s going to take all of us, young and old, to fight for an agenda like that.

Mohamed A. El-Erian: Extending Unemployment Benefits Makes Good Economic Sense, Too

Our lawmakers will be debating this week the emergency benefits received by the long-term unemployed. There are solid economic and social arguments in favor of restoring these important benefits that lapsed on December 28 for 1.3 million Americans.

The social case is clear.

The long-term unemployed are among the most vulnerable segment of society today. They are also part of two problems whose size and duration are unprecedented in modern American history, and worrisome: the growing threat of high structural unemployment and the curse of excessive societal inequalities of income, wealth and opportunities.

For any given opportunity, the long-term unemployed face much greater difficulties in securing a job than others who have been unemployed for less time. (And, unfortunately, there are still quite a few of the latter too.)

Finally, the country can afford to pay these benefits without undermining other programs and priorities. And in no way does the monetary burden of these benefits threaten overall national wellbeing and financial soundness.

Dan Gillmor: My 2014 resolution: stop my country from becoming a surveillance state

This will be a vital year in the fight for privacy and an open internet. All Americans should join the cause before it’s too late

Our New Year’s resolutions tend to be well-meaning and hard to keep. That’s because we resolve to change our lives in fundamental ways – get fit, etc. But inertia and habit are the enemy of change, and we usually fall back into old patterns. It’s human nature.

Despite all that, I’ve made a resolution for 2014. It is to do whatever I can to reverse my country’s trajectory toward being a surveillance state, and to push as hard as possible for a truly open internet.

I realize I can’t do much on my own, and hope many others, especially journalists, will join in. This year may be pivotal; if we don’t make progress, or worse, lose ground, it may be too late.

Robert Reich: The Year of the Great Redistribution

One of the worst epithets that can be leveled at a politician these days is to call him a “redistributionist.” Yet 2013 marked one of the biggest redistributions in recent American history. It was a redistribution upward, from average working people to the owners of America. [..]

For years, the bargaining power of American workers has also been eroding due to ever-more efficient means of outsourcing abroad, new computer software that can replace almost any routine job, and an ongoing shift of full-time to part-time and contract work. And unions have been decimated. In the 1950s, over a third of private-sector workers were members of labor unions. Now, fewer than 7 percent are unionized.

All this helps explain why corporate profits have been increasing throughout this recovery (they grew over 18 percent in 2013 alone) while wages have been dropping. Corporate earnings now represent the largest share of the gross domestic product – and wages the smallest share of GDP – than at any time since records have been kept.

Hence, the Great Redistribution.

Mark Weisbrot: NAFTA: 20 Years of Regret for Mexico

Mexico’s economic growth stalled since the ‘free trade’ deal was signed with the US, and its poverty rate is about the same

It was 20 years ago that the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico was implemented. In Washington, the date coincided with an outbreak of the bacteria cryptosporidium in the city’s water supply, with residents having to boil their water before drinking it. The joke in town was, “See what happens, NAFTA takes effect and you can’t drink the water here.”

Our neglected infrastructure aside, it is easy to see that NAFTA was a bad deal for most Americans. The promised trade surpluses with Mexico turned out to be deficits, some hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, and there was downward pressure on US wages – which was, after all, the purpose of the agreement. This was not like the European Union’s (pre-Eurozone) economic integration, which allocated hundreds of billions of dollars of development aid to the poorer countries of Europe so as to pull their living standards up toward the average. The idea was to push US wages downward, toward Mexico’s, and to create new rights for corporations within the trade area: these lucky multinational enterprises could now sue governments directly before a corporate-friendly international tribunal, unaccountable to any national judicial system, for regulations (eg environmental) that infringed upon their profit-making potential.

Robert Kuttner: Obamacare: Republican Obstruction or Needless Blunders?

Two words that strike fear into the hearts of insurers are Adverse Selection. That’s insurance-speak for the tendency of the sickest people to gravitate to the most generous insurance policies. The flipside is that young and healthy people, whose premiums are needed to subsidize the care of the sick, tend to avoid insurance that they think they can’t afford or won’t need. An insurance pool that includes only the sick will be astronomically expensive. [..]

But, unless everything breaks just right, the odds are that more voters will feel grumpy than grateful, due to dislocations, price hikes, and plain frustrations with healthcare.gov. Yes, much of this is the result of Republicans blocking cleaner and simpler legislation and the Supreme Court blocking mandatory expansion of Medicaid. Yet some of the blind spots were plainly the administration’s own.

There are many good features in President Obama’s health reform. Political prescience wasn’t one.